Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Navigator


Buster Keaton liked huge props, and he found his biggest one here. In other films he employed a locomotive, a house built on a turntable and then moved onto railroad tracks, a steamboat, and a hurricane. But The Navigator tops them all. That’s the name of a passenger ship that was about to be scrapped and he was able to buy cheaply. The story is pretty thin, and involves a man and a woman set adrift, alone, on this huge boat. Unlike in, say, The General, the ship pretty much exists just as a backdrop for Buster’s usual manic physical comic invention. It includes an underwater scene that was very difficult to film with the technology of the day. Not his best feature, but I don’t think he made any bad ones, at least not until the sound era. The DVD is a triple feature, including two other nautical two-reelers:

The Boat (1921) He builds a small boat that is too big to get out the door of his house. After destroying the house and sinking his car, he loads his family into the boat and they set out to sea. Another thing Buster liked was rotating sets, which can be seen in several of his films. Here it is the interior of his boat, which rolls over and over with him and his family inside it. The boat is called the Damfino, which provides the punch line for two jokes.

The Love Nest (1923) Again, this is the name of a boat, like in The Navigator. (I always thought The Navigator would be dealing with a man who navigates.) The whaling ship The Love Nest is captained by a man who throws his crew overboard for the tiniest offenses. He keeps a supply of funeral wreaths handy to toss after them. Naturally Buster falls afoul of this guy, and has to think and move fast to keep out of the drink.