Convict 13 (1920)
“Convict 13” is a silent short film directed by and starring the legendary comedian Buster Keaton.
Released in 1920, it is a prime example of Keaton’s masterful use of physical comedy and visual gags. In this 20-minute comedy, Keaton’s character finds himself in a series of absurd and comical situations, making it a classic of silent film comedy.
The film begins with Keaton’s character, a golfer, teeing off at a golf course. However, his ball ends up in a nearby cemetery, leading to a series of unfortunate events. When he goes to retrieve his ball, he is mistakenly identified as a prisoner who has just escaped from a nearby prison. From this point on, Keaton’s character is hilariously mistaken for an escaped convict.
The slapstick humor in “Convict 13” is characterized by its reliance on physical comedy. Keaton’s deadpan expression and precise timing contribute to the film’s humor. As he navigates a cemetery, a prison, and various escapades, he encounters numerous obstacles and absurd situations, including a dangerous electric chair.
One of the most memorable sequences in the film involves Keaton being pursued by a group of convicts who are convinced that he is an escapee. The chase leads to a series of comic mishaps, including a memorable scene in which Keaton disguises himself as a guard by wearing a guard’s uniform backward. The absurdity of the situation is central to the humor of the film.
“Convict 13” also showcases Keaton’s knack for visual gags. The film is filled with inventive and clever sight gags that take advantage of the unique capabilities of silent cinema. Keaton uses physical props, sets, and camera angles to create humor, and his creativity in this regard is a testament to his skill as a filmmaker.
Despite the film’s reliance on physical humor and slapstick, there is a level of sophistication in the way it is executed. Keaton’s character remains remarkably calm and collected, even in the most chaotic situations, which becomes a recurring theme in many of his films. This contrast between the chaos of the circumstances and the stoicism of the character is a defining feature of Keaton’s comedy.
“Convict 13” is a testament to Buster Keaton’s comedic genius and his ability to create timeless and universally entertaining comedy. His contributions to the world of silent cinema have left an indelible mark, and this film is a prime example of his comedic brilliance. It continues to be celebrated as a classic in the realm of silent film comedy, delighting audiences with its timeless humor and inventive gags.
Release Date: October 27th, 1920
Main Cast Members
Buster Keaton (Golfer Turned)
Sybil Seely (Socialite)
Joe Roberts (The Crazed Prisoner)
Edward F. Cline (Hangman)
Joe Keaton (Prisoner)