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Author Topic: The Railrodder DVD
Steve Klare
Film Guy

Posts: 7016
From: Long Island, NY, USA
Registered: Jun 2003


 - posted June 28, 2018 09:44 AM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Railrodder

National Film Board of Canada, 1965

I have enjoyed this great little short since I first stumbled across it on You Tube. It’s a great adventure story and kind of a modern take on silent film. Getting to the point of being able to put it up on the big screen has been kind of an adventure all by itself.

Buster Keaton was 69 years old here, yet still his classic self. He goes through the whole adventure deadpan. He reads an ad. about seeing Canada in a London newspaper and literally dives in, wading up on the beach in Eastern Canada some time later, not only none the worse for wear but completely dry! He takes a seat on a vacant railroad speeder and the adventure begins!

This one is full of this kind of silent movie magic. Not only does he roll all the way across to the Pacific coast on just the gas in the speeder’s tank without any railroad intervening, but there is this storage box aboard that has everything he could ever need and much more: a bear skin coat, a glass plate camera, a tea set, a shotgun, a camp stove and pots and pans and of course his classic pork-pie hat. (It's as if the thing is about five feet deep instead of maybe just one!)

Aboard his tiny, mobile home he does all sorts of things:

He cooks his meals,

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He goes hunting for wild geese,

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When he gets out to the Rockies and the air turns cold he takes up knitting,

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He also does some glass plate photography, does a little rail speeder preventive maintenance, tidies the “place” up, has afternoon tea with a thunderstorm threatening and takes in the sights.

This is a silent film, and then again it isn’t. There is a soundtrack: synced sound and music, but then again the STAR is silent. All the way from London to the Pacific shore he doesn’t say a thing!

Buster Keaton was pushing 70 years old and in the early stages of the lung cancer that would take him two years later, yet there he is riding a rail speeder standing up with a map over his head crossing a railroad bridge 50 feet in the air! The people making the film who were half his age tried to slow him down, but the old pro that made The General would only do it his way!

This film was produced to encourage people to do (…in their own legal way) what Buster did: to see Canada. The scenery is wonderful and you get a fair smattering of great Canadian places. I think I picked up Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, the Great Plains out in Manitoba, the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Coast. You have to use your imagination here since these are all shown without any kind of commentary. (So if I am wrong here, your guess was just better than mine!)

As I said: getting this one on my big screen was a little bit of an adventure. A pristine Super-8 magnetic sound print would have worked out fine, but that’s a lot to ask. The National Film board of Canada is very, very lightly represented on 8. 16mm is more promising: for a long time this was their prime distribution format and back in the day there could have been hundreds of prints. I’ve looked, but so far no luck. Part of the problem too is a great many of these would be library prints and would be a little bit experienced.

So then we turn to my Epson VP and the silver disk. This is available on Amazon, but often it’s at some pretty astounding prices for a DVD. There was…another DVD I saw which seemed like kind of a bargain. When I got it turned out to be a transfer of some battle-worn 16mm print: lines, fade, schmutz.

This may be one of those cases where the pirates actually help out the legit guys! I knew I would never show this thing to company, but I really liked the film and I vowed to get the real deal.

I decided to bypass the middle man and go right to the source.

I’ve been buying video from the NFB for years. It used to be they had a sales office in New York and you called up, credit card in hand and talked to the nice person: couple days later you had a nice VHS in your mailbox. (Yes, THAT long ago.)

Until recently, buying DVDs on their website was a little bit too much of a process. My wife tried to buy me one for Christmas and actually gave up! (Considering my wife’s absolutely predatory shopping instincts, this is astounding!)

-yet I’m happy to say all is well. The National Film board of Canada has brought in an external media distributor to handle their DVD sales and it went very well. It was much cheaper than Amazon, too!

I’m also happy to say that my new Railrodder looks really good. They even threw in a couple of light base side scratches for a few seconds once, just so you remember where it’s from!

It also includes “Buster Keaton Rides Again”: kind of a “making of” documentary in black and white, which has a lot of interesting detail about both the Railrodder and Buster Keaton.

The joy of all this is if that 16mm print actually does come along some day, there’s still no reason I shouldn’t buy it, but even if it never comes I can still enjoy a great film.

The Railrodder at the National Film Board of Canada

NFB DVDs at Mcintyre Media

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Maurice Leakey
Film God

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 - posted June 28, 2018 10:25 AM      Profile for Maurice Leakey   Email Maurice Leakey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Haven't see it since the 60s when my Film Society hired it for free on 16mm from Canada House in London.
They probably hundreds of films on free loan, including a few features in French with English sub-titles.

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Maurice

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Osi Osgood
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 - posted June 28, 2018 11:17 AM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage   Email Osi Osgood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I LOVE this little film and it was a great one for Buster keaton to go out on, (I think it was either his last or next to last film that he was in).

You're definitely right, Steve, an incredibly charming film. It would be a GREAT candidate for a super 8 release! Personally, I would love to see it released on black and white film stock personally, (keeping it in "homage" to all of his great B/W classic films), but i suppose film purists would want to see it in the color it was shot on.

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"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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Steve Klare
Film Guy

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 - posted June 28, 2018 11:26 AM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It's 25 minutes: a nice 600 footer! Back in Derann days this would have been a sure bet for "6 months, no interest" if I was feeling broke!

-it's also a great general-audience film, I've never shown it to anybody who didn't really enjoy it. It's full of surprises: you keep with it just to see what happens next.

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Joe Caruso
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 - posted June 28, 2018 12:49 PM      Profile for Joe Caruso   Email Joe Caruso   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Never viewed it, naturally I'd buy a 16mm (yes, 16mm mind you!), if a print was around in Super 8, oh joy as well - Thanks for the great review, Steve - I caught some of it on BUSTER KEATON; A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW, and the off-screen discussions with the producers - Of course he did the film the way it was supposed to be without a lot of useless chatter. This easily could have been a silent short of his in 1920 (just thinking of course) - He was the last surviving practioner of film art still working literally till the end - Shorty

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Steve Klare
Film Guy

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From: Long Island, NY, USA
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 - posted June 28, 2018 12:53 PM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
-Really!

If we could just do (for example) Wedding Receptions in this style: get in, eat, leave! No useless chatter!

I've never attended a wedding reception I wanted to be at longer than 25 minutes anyway!

Yes, yes: Let the Bride eat the cake on her OWN time!

Here it is in all it's YouTubeness:

Railrodder

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Mathew James
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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 - posted June 28, 2018 02:56 PM      Profile for Mathew James   Email Mathew James   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Steve,
This is one of our family favourites! We watch it from time to time and have watched it about 3 or 4 times in the last year. It is fantastic.
Do you think this is completely silent?
I always wondered myself how much post effects they used, or if they layered a mixture of fx and real ambient sound.

Like the birds at 23:24 for example, real or added? If it is completely silent, they did an amazing job on subtle nuances as well.
Great stuff.

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--
Cheers,
Matt 📽

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Steve Klare
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 - posted June 28, 2018 03:16 PM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Matt,

We throw it on screen quite a bit at home too. A maybe a year ago I did a Buster Keaton double feature with my Super-8 Blackhawk scored "Cops" and the first Railrodder DVD I had.

From what I've learned it was shot without sound on location and everything was later dubbed in.

-this makes a lot of sense given what I saw in "Buster Keaton Rides Again": there was no sound equipment in evidence.

Besides, capturing sound in locations where for example there is a lot of wind or other uncontrollable ambient noise is a headache!

I remember in the NFB Song of The Paddle, they shot lip-sync footage of a conversation the Mason family was having inside their tent, so they did location sound.

-you can hear the camera throughout the scene. I guess it was the lesser evil compared to dubbing in 4 people (including two kids) later on.

Hey!

Let's do a little Buster Keaton trivia!

-he appears in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World".

Describe the scene.

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Graham Ritchie
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 - posted June 28, 2018 08:20 PM      Profile for Graham Ritchie   Email Graham Ritchie   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Steve

That reminded me of this two disc DVD I bought years ago and still come across copies second hand locally going for about $10.

The DVD discs were a ALL Region Pal 4:3, in full frame original ratio, very good quality transfers and were released by Madman.

Took a couple of photos of the TV. Disc one has the "The General" by the way and has a outstanding 5:1 soundtrack by Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra.

Front cover of the two disc edition
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Back cover
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A quick couple of shots from the TV
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Steve Klare
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 - posted June 28, 2018 08:45 PM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'd like a copy of The General, Graham, and my preference would be Blackhawk!

(-yet, push comes to shove I would be flexible rather than never see it...)

OK, here is the answer to our trivia Quiz:

"Jimmy"

It seems that Captain Culpepper was supposed to have an accomplice: "Jimmy", played by Buster Keaton. There was more of Jimmy in the original cut of the movie, but by the time they whittled it down to the mere shadow of itself it became, this was all that was left of him!

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Graham Ritchie
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 - posted June 28, 2018 11:04 PM      Profile for Graham Ritchie   Email Graham Ritchie   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Steve

Would you like a copy? I could keep an eye out for one, during my weekly visit to that second hand store. If you do then your player needs to be able to play Pal. It wont cost you anything, they are cheap enough [Smile] ...let me know. You certainly wont have any problem with the Epson, that thing will do just about everything [Cool] [Smile]

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Panayotis A. Carayannis
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 - posted June 29, 2018 03:22 AM      Profile for Panayotis A. Carayannis   Email Panayotis A. Carayannis   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have an older DVD from the NFBC, which includes both The Railrodder and the documentary of its filming Buster Keaton Rides Again.I see in Amazon it sells for $ 100! Barry Wiles did distribute NFBC shorts,mainly Norman McLaren pixillations and also A Wild Ride(1967), a live action short comedy,also by Gerald Potterton,which was originally intended for Keaton.

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Steve Klare
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 - posted June 29, 2018 05:45 AM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes,

I saw that $100 on Amazon and I was kind of amazed by it: is anybody buying at that price?

At NFB's retailer, I paid something like $19.99 (Canadian) plus shipping. (That's more like it!)

Graham, thanks but I am not rigged for PAL here.

-The joy of it is Super-8 is basically just Super-8 everywhere! If not I wouldn't have even half the films I own!

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Joe Caruso
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 - posted June 29, 2018 11:31 AM      Profile for Joe Caruso   Email Joe Caruso   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
After Culpepper has his hot fudge sundae, he calls Jimmy at the boathouse, Keaton was trying to get a goat to cooperate (really), four minutes into the phone call, he agrees to Culp's plan - I saw this in '63 when I was a little shaver, remember it all quite well - Shorty

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Osi Osgood
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 - posted June 29, 2018 11:46 AM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage   Email Osi Osgood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
For those who have bnot had the good pleasure to see this, here is a link to it ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYmcN12M97o

Best wishes [Smile]

although the music certainly enhances the experience, this could even be released as a silent super 8!

Oh, by the way, here is a link to the documentary that was made at the time that the above film was made!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HOWv7Ce69E

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"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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William Olson
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 - posted June 29, 2018 08:40 PM      Profile for William Olson   Email William Olson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I first saw this in junior high. Our school showed us a 16mm print. I love it!

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Steve Klare
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 - posted June 30, 2018 05:05 AM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There was a 16mm print on Ebay recently: 9 bids, $33, quite red.

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Bill Phelps
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 - posted June 30, 2018 01:18 PM      Profile for Bill Phelps     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This is a very good film. I was surprised to see Buster Keaton living so dangerously but that was just his nature I guess. I screened this once in 16mm but it was faded and scratched up. Still enjoyed though. [Smile]

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Maurice Leakey
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 - posted July 05, 2018 07:03 AM      Profile for Maurice Leakey   Email Maurice Leakey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Many thanks to Graham for his details on the 2-disc Buster Keaton DVD.
I have just received a copy bought from American eBay.
It's great. [Smile]

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Maurice

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Graham Ritchie
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 - posted July 05, 2018 02:21 PM      Profile for Graham Ritchie   Email Graham Ritchie   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Your welcome Maurice [Smile]

I called into the second hand store this week and had a look for a copy for Steve, but nothing at the moment but will keep an eye out.

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Steve Klare
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 - posted July 05, 2018 03:16 PM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I watched mine again over the weekend.

(It's that good!)

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Maurice Leakey
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 - posted July 18, 2018 10:00 AM      Profile for Maurice Leakey   Email Maurice Leakey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Just watched "The Railrodder" on my Australian 2-disk set of "The General".
The railway track, at times, has what appears to be another track in the middle.
Is it perhaps for a narrow gauge railway which uses part of the same route?

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Maurice

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Steve Klare
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From: Long Island, NY, USA
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 - posted July 18, 2018 10:16 AM      Profile for Steve Klare   Email Steve Klare   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Maurice,

Odds are what you saw were a set of guardrails. These are usually installed in places like bridges to hold derailed equipment (sort of) in the alignment of the track so the train can come to halt without it heading over the side or hitting the structure and taking the whole thing down. (The filmmakers seemed very fond of bridges and there are some nice ones in the movie.)

Guardrails kind of work at low speeds. Above a certain point physics takes over and whatever happens happens!

Canada had a great dual gauge operation on Newfoundland. The island's railway was Cape Gauge (42 inches). In order to try to integrate it better with the national standard gauge network, Canadian National ferried standard gauge cars over to a dual-gauge yard they had, swapped the trucks for narrow gauge ones and ran them all over the island this way. Unfortunately they continued to lose money and they closed down and scrapped it in the late 80s.

-what a shame THIS wasn't in the movie! [Wink]

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All I ask is a wide screen and a projector to light her by...

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Maurice Leakey
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 - posted July 18, 2018 11:08 AM      Profile for Maurice Leakey   Email Maurice Leakey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thank you, Steve
Obviously the latter, as the narrow rails are quite some distance from the outer rails.

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Maurice

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Gordon G. Ellis
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 - posted July 18, 2018 01:33 PM      Profile for Gordon G. Ellis   Email Gordon G. Ellis   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Gerald Potterton, the film's director, attended one of the very first Damfino (Buster Keaton Society) conventions back in the 1990s. The Railrodder is fun, although for me the real gem — and much more re-watchable — is the BK Rides Again documentary (included on the DVD). It chronicles the making of Railrodder, and is as close as any of us will ever get to spending an hour in the company of Buster and Eleanor Keaton. It's a joy.

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