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A rich Yank docks his yacht in Mexico and steps ashore for adventure. Meanwhile, Conchita, the local beauty, accepts an engagement ring from the hot-headed Martino, who promises to kill any man who gains her favors. Conchita already has another boyfriend, Ferdinand the bull fighter. They conspire to find a gull, she'll pretend he is her new boyfriend, Martino will kill him and be arrested, and she'll be free to be with Ferdinand. Their mark is none other than our rich gringo who's already fallen for Conchita. He's an innocent abroad; what chance does he have?Written by
"The Pest from the West" has the honor of being considered the best of the short subjects that Buster Keaton starred in for Columbia Pictures. Perhaps that's partially because it was released first and got a lot of exposure, but while I'm not sure it's so many lightyears ahead of the other Keaton Columbia shorts, it it very funny, and allows the gags and comic situations to build throughout the short.
While the material gets to build in a satisfactory way, though, this is somewhat oddly contrasted with the fact that the short seems a little contextless as a whole. Buster plays some kind of odd, moneyed man who seems to travel around the globe in a small boat with a large collection of local costumes and three loyal servants, and then falls instantly in love with a Mexican waitress. Maybe it feels like we're missing a good bit of what is going on here because much of the material for "The Pest from the West" was pulled from an earlier Keaton feature film.
It certainly LOOKS the best of all the Columbia shorts, with sets nicely dressed up as Mexico, and plenty of location shots at a dock. The outdoor scenes at the water accent the humor of the great rule-of-three gag with Buster's sailors pushing off when he's only gone back to the boat to fetch something. There's the subtle advantage too of some background music -- rare in Columbia shorts but, like it did in a lot of great Hal Roach films, enhancing the pleasant, comedy atmosphere -- coming from the Mexican band in the café. Unfortunately, the supporting players in this film are quite terrible and wooden, especially Richard Fiske as Ferdinand the Bullfighter, who it's almost shocking to think was ever allowed to deliver a line again.
This all isn't too much of a problem, though, since Buster himself gets most of the material. He handles it very well, of course, with his standout physical bit involving trying to dance while his shoes are stuck to the ground. Also the novelty of hearing Buster Keaton sing is certainly, well, a rare one -- and it is part of a well-timed gag sequence.
There's a lot of very funny material here, though slightly let down by the weak support Buster has to play off of, and the setup leaves us a little bewildered.
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