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A rich Yank docks his yacht in Mexico and steps ashore for adventure. Meanwhile, Conchita, the local beauty, accepts an engagement ring from the hot-headed Martino, who promises to kill any man who gains her favors. Conchita already has another boyfriend, Ferdinand the bull fighter. They conspire to find a gull, she'll pretend he is her new boyfriend, Martino will kill him and be arrested, and she'll be free to be with Ferdinand. Their mark is none other than our rich gringo who's already fallen for Conchita. He's an innocent abroad; what chance does he have?Written by
Buster, once more playing an "Elmer," struggles with uninspired material
Aside from an amusing sequence in which Buster serenades the leading lady, this talkie two-reeler suffers from weak, tired material. The atmosphere is seedy and and the gags are uninspired (e.g. Buster repeatedly falls off a boat). This short was a reworking of a feature-length comedy Buster made in England a few years earlier, variously known as "The Invader" or "An Old Spanish Custom," and although the remake represents an improvement over the original it nonetheless falls far short of what Keaton could achieve in his heyday. Poor Clyde Bruckman, author of the screenplay, fell back on some desperate ploys to perk things along, putting Buster in a procession of exaggerated ethnic costumes for laughs. I guess they figured if that shtick started getting old, Buster could always fall off the boat again. The story limps along to a flat, anticlimactic ending, and viewers who've never seen the star in anything else could be excused for wondering what his legendary reputation is based on.
The serenade gives us a hint of Buster's vaudeville past and is certainly the comic high point. In this sequence he attempts to perform "In a Little Spanish Town" for the leading lady, singing in his croaky voice while accompanying himself on a ukulele. Her exasperated neighbor (comedy stalwart Bud Jamison) pummels him with flower pots throughout the number, all dropped to the beat. It's a cute routine, seen to best advantage in the documentary "Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow."
For me, the biggest problem here is that Buster is once more stuck playing the hapless lunkhead character featured in the worst of his MGM features, another "Elmer" type who appears to be sleepwalking, unaware that the leading lady is playing him for a sucker. This sure isn't the attractive, resourceful guy who was the hero of THE GENERAL. Keaton was still fairly young at this point and capable of better work than we see here (as he would prove on TV in the '50s), but the people in charge at Columbia Pictures didn't know how to use his abilities properly or else they just didn't care.
Fans usually assert that this was the best of Buster's series of short comedies for Columbia, and unfortunately that seems to be the case: some of the others are downright painful to watch. Such a sad waste of talent. Masochistic Keaton buffs will watch the Columbia shorts anyhow, but everyone else should stick with his silent work to see the man at his best.
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