Seven Chances [1925]

The reputation of Buster Keaton's Seven Chances rests almost solely on its outrageous finale, a brilliant cascade of comic invention that begins with a church full of blushing brides and builds to a surreal chase of epic proportions. The hapless groom is pursued by a angry mob of women clad in white lace and veils and ends up dodging rolling stones and massive boulders while fleeing an avalanche, never once losing his trademark deadpan. Buster plays a struggling lawyer who will inherit a fortune if he marries by 7 p.m. of his 27th birthday--the very day he receives notice of the potential windfall. When his longtime sweetheart turns him down, he frantically searches for someone--anyone--to wed. While Seven Chances doesn't have the sustained inspiration of his best films, Keaton fills the picture with inventive moments and clever ideas, notably a sustained series of desperate proposals (the "seven chances" of the title) that lead to the climactic swarm of aggressive brides. The biggest weakness is an embarrassing blackface performance that has only become more offensive with the years. Jean Arthur briefly appears as a switchboard operator. The film was remade in 1999 as The Bachelor with Chris O'Donnell. The DVD also features two short films: "Neighbors," the story of young lovers who flirt across the fence that separates their houses and their bickering families, and "The Balloonatic," which despite the presence of a hot air balloon is actually a gag-filled camping comedy. --Sean Axmaker

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