BUSTER IN THE JUNGLE (1954)
aka The Gorilla Story
Article 4688 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Arthur Hilton
Featuring Buster Keaton and Fritz Feld
What it is: Episode of “The Buster Keaton Show”
Buster dreams that he goes to Africa to find the missing link.
Usually, I don’t cover episodes of TV shows, but the story behind this one is this. Walt Lee’s “Reference Guide to Fantastic Films” lists a Buster Keaton short from 1954 called THE GORILLA STORY which was released in England, and he mentions that it was probably an episode from a TV show. The TV show in question was most probably “The Buster Keaton Show”, and the details on the short match those of the episode called “Buster in the Jungle”, and amazingly enough, I had a copy of that episode. As for the episode itself, it’s a mixed bag. One of the things I liked best about Buster Keaton during his classic silent period was the precision of his gags. In comparison, much of the comedy in this episode is sloppy and messy, with only occasional hints of Keaton’s comic genius; a sequence where he is trying to straighten a tent is the best moment here. However, once the talking gorilla shows up, the episode takes a turn into deadpan absurdity that I find rather likable, though you will find yourself wondering why Buster decided to bring a ping-pong table into the jungle with him. It’s certainly not Keaton at his best here, but there is a certain charm to the proceedings.