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  Three Ages Everlasting Love
Year: 1923
Director: Buster Keaton, Edward F. Cline
Stars: Buster Keaton, Margaret Leahy, Wallace Beery, Lillian Lawrence, Joe Roberts
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: No matter which period in mankind's history you consider, one thing is constant and that is love. To illustrate this we travel back in time to the prehistoric caveman era, to the height of the Roman Empire, and up to date in modern times: the nineteen-twenties. In each of these ages of man, there is a little guy (Buster Keaton) vying for the hand of a pretty girl (Margaret Leahy), yet finding the path of true love does not run smooth, especially when you have a more successful rival (Wallace Beery) to contend with...

Three Ages has a small place in cinema history, as it was the first feature-length work from one of the top screen comedians of the day, and indeed of all time, Buster Keaton. He designed it as being able to be cut into three separate shorts should the film be a flop as a whole, but this was not the case and Keaton mainly concentrated on hour long, or over, films from then on until his star hit its inevitable waning. It may not be the best material he ever presented, but it has charm for all that.

In fact, this works as a neat spoof of D.W. Griffith's epic Intolerance more than anything else, although if you've never seen that there's no reason why you won't find Three Ages amusing. It sets its stall out from the beginning, with a trio of variations on a theme, so our introduction to each Buster takes the form of him entering the story on some kind of appropriate transport: a stop motion brontosaurus for prehistory, a chariot with some sorry-looking horses and mules pulling it for Rome, and an old banger for the twenties that promptly falls to pieces.

Time and again, Buster finds his amorous intentions foiled by rival Beery, who is bigger, stronger and richer than he is depending on the plotline. Every time, Buster gets into a contest situation with his opponent, which usually ends up with, say, him not doing so well and getting tied to the back of an elephant and dragged offscreen (this happens in the caveman one, not the twenties one). The caveman one might well remind you of an episode of The Flintstones, as it's about the same level of humour, while there's something of the Asterix about the Roman section.

The modern bits are all Keaton, though, as he gets drunk in a restaurant when his water is accidentally spiked - that's right, your of-their-time Prohibition gags are all here. There are a few instances of the star's accustomed acrobatics, but mainly he plays it safe, although the sequence where he runs from the cops is masterfully handled. If there's a drawback to our up to date eyes, it's that Leahy's love interest barely has a personality at all, and in each segment she is merely a plot point, a trophy for Buster to win after some degree of effort. Elsewhere though, invention was high, and if this was not the best of Buster, he displayed his reliable skill with a set up and unlikely leading man charisma.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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