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Buster is the eldest son in a family of hillbillies who manage a hotel. When Ma announces that the bank is about to foreclose on the mortgage, Buster attempts to raise the necessary $350 by selling a trailer which was left behind by a former guest. Complications ensue when it is found that a pregnant cow has taken up residence in the trailer, but, eventually, Buster is able to relocate cow & calf, sell the trailer to a honeymooning couple, and save the hotel.Written by
Tarnation, Ma, them dang hillbillies sure is funny
There are some Buster Keaton fans who are so fascinated with the man's work that they'll watch him in absolutely anything, even the most half-hearted, depressing potboilers he cranked out at the nadir of his career. And I guess I qualify as one of those obsessive Keaton die-hards, because I've seen Love Nest on Wheels twice.
Actually, masochists in search of Buster's Most Pathetic Comedy will find several other candidates more worthy of the title. This movie does offer a few points of interest and even a chuckle or two, that is, if you can get past the seedy production values, lethargic pacing, and pervasive atmosphere of defeat. As it happens lethargy is central to this film's shtick: the basic premise here is that rural folk are profoundly lazy, and can barely rouse themselves to action even in an emergency. That's the whole joke, really, so if you have a taste for pseudo-rustic, Li'l Abner-style white trash humor, then by all means tune in. What keeps this from being offensive is that the tone is so cartoon-y the stereotypes can be shrugged off.
Our setting is a dilapidated hotel run by a family of hillbillies. When the bank threatens to foreclose on the mortgage, Buster must raise the cash to save the hotel -- if, mind you, he can sufficiently rouse himself from his state of narcolepsy in order to do so. The familiar plot serves as an excuse to re-stage some tried-and-true comic routines which Keaton fans will recognize from his silent work. Points of interest: Buster's kin are portrayed by his real-life mother, sister, and brother. Myra Keaton, Buster's mom, was a vaudeville veteran with an unforgettable face and good comic delivery. She could easily have found steady work as a character actress outside of her son's films. Myra's performance might remind some viewers of Irene Ryan from "The Beverly Hillbillies," though she lacks Ms. Ryan's charisma. Buster's siblings register less strongly as personalities, but if you want to see what they looked like, well, here they are.
Also on hand is Al St. John, who so often played The Rival in earlier, happier days with Buster and Roscoe Arbuckle. Watching him interact with Buster in this film, in such sadly reduced circumstances, is like watching ghosts. This is especially the case when they re-enact two routines from The Bell Boy, a silent comedy from 1918 that was one of the very best Arbuckle/Keaton collaborations. The gags played beautifully in the earlier film and still get laughs when The Bell Boy is screened today. Here, with the unnecessary addition of sound, those same routines come off as labored, but nonetheless represent this film's high point.
I can only recommend Love Nest on Wheels to my fellow die-hard Keaton buffs, but I can heartily recommend The Bell Boy to anyone who would prefer to appreciate Keaton's (and Arbuckle's) comic genius in full bloom.
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