Buster Keaton in THE GOAT (1921) – A dead-shot-perfect comedy

DeadShotDan

(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

In appearance, The Goat is the story of a vagabond (Keaton) who gets mistaken for an escaped murderer named Dead Shot Dan. In actuality, the movie is but a warm-up for Keaton’s epic two-reeler Cops.

Indeed, Keaton the “scenarist” (as they called movie-story men in the 1920’s) drops the “Dead Shot Dan” angle into the story pretty quickly and then abandons it for half the movie. Buster is on the run from the cops, all right, but it all starts because he throws a horseshoe over his shoulder for good luck, only to bean a street cop. From there, the movie glides into one of Keaton’s (and maybe cinema’s) funniest chases ever. You’d never guess there could be so many variations on a chase motif, but the best of them are definitely presented here.

When the “Dead Shot Dan” part of the story resumes, the chase mostly narrows down to Buster and a private detective. From there it gets a tad routine, though “routine” for Keaton entails running endlessly up and down the same flight of stairs to avoid his hunter. As if that wasn’t triumph enough, he even gets a girl at the end. Quite a feat for a guy who began the movie being unable to wrangle even a free loaf of bread from a food line.

Meanwhile, Dead Shot Dan is still at large.

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