Buster Keaton heads out west and finds work on a cattle ranch. He tries his best, but he runs into a lot of mistakes on his road to being a cowboy. The rancher’s daughter takes notice of him, but more importantly a cow by the name of Brown Eyes becomes his faithful sidekick.
When he’s left all alone to deliver a thousand steer into the city….well things get a little bit madcap and out of control.
While watching Go West it’s hard not to be reminded of the similarities between Keaton’s tenderfoot and the 1991 film City Slickers. The premise of an inexperienced character or characters venturing out to the west to live the cowboy life has been told many times since 1925, so there are many of movies you can draw comparisons to Go West’s story.
However, City Slickers really started to ring loudly once I saw the lovable cow Brown Eyes befriend Buster and how protective they were of each other. It really made me wonder if this had an influence on Billy Crystal and Norman decades later.
Anyway, we have our story setup and it’s just time to execute it. And director/writer/star Keaton does it with his usual inventiveness, quirky style, physical comedy, satirical gags, with a large scale finish.
Buster ends up on a ranch and so begins him trying his best to be a ranch hand – and it’s a learning experience every step of the way. There’s a lot of predictable troubles that he encounters – getting on his horse, roping steer, milking a cow. Simple little gags, but Keaton makes the most out of them. Most of the time they are funny.
The recurring running gags I enjoyed much more. Him always trying to fumble with the pee-shooter of a gun he has. Keaton is constantly late for meal time, so in perfectly choreographed scenes he arrives, sits at the table just as the rest of the cowboys stand up and go back to work.
His scenes with Brown Eyes and how they become attached play much less sentimental as you might think. Suddenly Keaton finds himself his protector, running to save him from getting branded or making sure a pack of wolves won’t harm him. It’s amusing to see the Great Stone Face give Brown Eyes a quick pat on the head making sure he’s ok. The cow becomes his leading lady of sorts!
The finale of a herd of cattle loose the streets of Los Angeles with Keaton having to control them all on his own is the big ending. The spectacle of it is a lot of fun. The craziness and how the situation to such an absurd level is built up to in as much of a believable way possible. Some of the loose cattle scenes starts to drag and gets repetitive. There are only so many times I can see shocked store owners run for cover. But it’s entertaining seeing Buster acting pretty calm in the middle of this madness.
It’s not my favorite of Keaton’s films, but it’s an amusing less talked about one of his that is an entertaining and has some great laughs.