Love is a funny thing and, in the hands of master comedian Buster Keaton, it is celebrated as a fantastic riot of elaborate setpieces and outrageous stunts. Seven Chances, from 1925, is Keaton’s sweet answer to the subtleties that sometimes escaped his more adventurous yarns. Often overlooked because it is less ambitious, Seven Chances is also the film whose storyline is the most copied. From the Three Stooges (who borrowed the story twice) to 1999’s The Bachelor, its reworking knows no bounds. Yet, it flourishes most in Keaton’s hands.
Loosely based on a play written by Roi Cooper Megrue, Keaton plays Jimmy Shannon, a financial broker teetering on the edge of financial ruin, who is unable to express his feelings to the woman (Ruth Dwyer) he loves. In the humorous three-minute (and Technicolor proud) opening, Keaton establishes the weakness of his character’s lack of eloquent expression through a series of fantastic sight gags. He just can’t tell her how he feels.
He has to, though. That very night, it seems, or this business is doomed. His grandfather’s will promises that he will be rewarded $7 million dollars if he’s married by 7 p.m. on his 27th birthday and, after blundering the first proposal, he and his business partner (T. Roy Barnes) must race to get him to the church - with any woman - on time.
Guided by their lawyer (Snitz Edwards), Keaton and Barnes survey the Country Club for any eligible female…a list that, humorously enough, includes minors and the elderly. Yet, Keaton’s such a flub at expressing his feelings that he can’t get a “yes” and the time is running out.
Cue the chaos.
What follows is a flip-flop of situational comedy when word gets out about the money to be earned by simply saying “I do” to this meek character and, quite suddenly, Keaton finds himself being chased by the ugliest collection of women ever assembled on film. Frightened by their homely looks and aggressive nature, Keaton outruns them and cops and, in the fantastic climax, even boulders.
Yes, Keaton runs the gamete of the storyline’s inherent zaniness; we go from a leisurely stroll through some gentle comedic beats (where the best gags are in camera effects of the passing of time and distance) and end the picture with a dazzling display of Keaton’s continuous gravity-defying stunts. Inheritance be damned, Keaton’s stone-faced expression seems to say to the screen, a man’s still got to have some pride!
Keaton pushes the comedy to the breaking point with tight chase sequences and lightning fast visual gags that practically whir by during his gallop across Los Angeles. There’s also, on display before its time, a masterful approach to the timing of lapse sequences that prove Keaton’s genius was not limited solely to comedy but to cinematic creativity, too. Seven Chances isn’t Keaton’s best work. It doesn’t have to be; not every outing has to be a grand slam. Seven Chances, however, is a certifiable homerun and should be celebrated by those unfamiliar with Keaton’s legacy and his dedicated fans alike.
MPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director: Buster Keaton
Writer: Clyde Bruckman
Cast: Buster Keaton; T. Roy Barnes; Snitz Edwards; Ruth Dwyer; Frances Raymond; Erwin Connelly
Genre: Classic | Comedy
Tagline: Seven Chances
Memorable Movie Quote: "Who bats next?"
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corporation
Home Video Distributor: Kino International
Release Date: March 11, 1925
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 13, 2011
Synopsis: A man learns he will inherit a fortune if he marries. By 7 p.m. Today.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - December 13, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region A
Kino International continues to bring home the silent hits with great respect and pride. Seven Chances is no different. One man has assembled – from three different existing prints – the best possible print (and three minutes of Technicolor) for 1080p HD presentation. There is no possible way for this film to look any better than it does now unless a new and unused print is discovered in someone’s attic somewhere. The black-and-white frames are strong and clear and well-defined. The Technicolor opening is impressive, but still shows its limitations. The sound – provided by composer Robert Israel – is presented in both an uncompressed PCM 2.0 option and in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Both tracks are incredible clear and charming.
- Film historians Ken Gordon and Bruce Lawton provide the commentary track and, while it sounds a bit too scripted, there is a ton of great information about the film, Keaton, and the making of the film to make it completely worthwhile. They also trace Seven Chances and its influences in popular film and fiction.
Seven Chances isn’t major in the Keaton canon but don’t tell Kino that. They’ve loaded this release with great supplemental material that both transports you in time back to the 20’s and bombards with information about Keaton’s influence. There are two extra films that show the influence of the film: Edison’s short How A French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the New York Herald Personals Columns and the Three Stooges in A Brideless Groom. There’s also a strong visual essay from John Bengston that highlights how the locations seen in the film have changed through the ages. Rounding out the supplementals are 16 stills from the filming of the movie and a dissection of the three-minute Technicolor opening.
- How A French Nobleman Got a Wife… (10 min)
- A Brideless Groom (15 min)
- Silent Echoes: ‘Seven Chances’ (10 min)
- Analysis of the Technicolor Reconstruction (10 min)
- 16 Photographic Stills