Out West (1918)
“Out West” (1918) is a comedic gem directed by and starring Roscoe Arbuckle, featuring the talents of Buster Keaton and Al St. John.
This silent film, set against the backdrop of the Wild West, weaves together slapstick humor, memorable characters, and a dose of frontier mayhem.
The narrative kicks off with Arbuckle’s character, a resourceful drifter, hitching a ride on a train by hiding in its water tank. However, his attempt at a stealthy journey is short-lived when he’s exposed pilfering food from fellow passengers. Arbuckle’s knack for physical comedy shines in this sequence, showcasing his ability to evoke laughter through expressive gestures and hilarious antics.
As the drifter is unceremoniously thrown off the train, the plot takes a humorous turn as he finds himself pursued by a group of Indians with culinary intentions. This sets the stage for Arbuckle’s arrival in Mad Dog Gulch, a town brimming with colorful characters and ripe for comedic potential.
The accidental heroics of the drifter come to the fore when he inadvertently thwarts a robbery led by Wild Bill Hickup, portrayed by Al St. John. The classic comedic trope of mistaken identity unfolds as the town sheriff, played by the stone-faced Buster Keaton, appoints the drifter as the new bartender of “The Last Chance Saloon.” This twist sets the stage for a series of comedic escapades and confrontations.
St. John’s portrayal of Wild Bill Hickup adds another layer of humor to the narrative. His drunken antics and chaotic behavior in the saloon provide ample opportunities for slapstick moments. The physicality of the comedy, a hallmark of silent films, is evident as characters engage in bottle-breaking attempts and even resort to shooting without much success.
One standout sequence involves the drifter and the sheriff attempting to eject the inebriated Hickup from the saloon. The unsuccessful and comically exaggerated methods, including bottle-breaking and shooting, add to the film’s comedic charm. However, the ingenious solution of tickling Hickup into submission introduces a delightful element of absurdity, showcasing the creativity of silent-era humor.
The narrative takes an unexpected turn as Hickup seeks revenge by kidnapping a character named Salvation Sue, played by Molly Malone. The ensuing chase and confrontation between the drifter, now the bartender, and Hickup form the climax of the film. The use of tickling as a humorous and unconventional weapon adds a unique touch to the physical comedy, culminating in the comedic pushing of Hickup’s shack off a hill with him inside.
Arbuckle’s directorial and comedic prowess is evident throughout “Out West.” His ability to orchestrate chaotic and amusing scenarios, coupled with the ensemble cast’s impeccable timing, results in a film that stands the test of time. The Wild West setting provides a perfect backdrop for the comedic misadventures, and the film’s enduring appeal lies in its timeless humor and the chemistry between its lead performers.
In conclusion, “Out West” is a silent film classic that exemplifies the brilliance of Roscoe Arbuckle as a director and comedian. The film’s blend of physical comedy, mistaken identity, and frontier chaos, enhanced by the talents of Buster Keaton and Al St. John, makes it a delightful and enduring piece of cinematic history. The laughter-inducing moments and inventive use of humor ensure that “Out West” remains a beloved classic in the silent film canon.
Release Date: January 20th, 1918
Main Cast Members
Roscoe Arbuckle (Train Rider, Bartender)
Buster Keaton (Sheriff, saloon owner)
Al St. John (Wild Bill Hickup)
Alice Lake (Salvation Army Woman)
Joe Keaton (Man on train)