The Electric House

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Directors: Buster Keaton & Eddie Cline
Writers: Buster Keaton & Eddie Cline

  • Buster Keaton
  • Virginia Fox
  • Joe Keaton
  • Louise Keaton
  • Myra Keaton
  • Joe Roberts
Associated - First National: 1922
black & white, silent; 27 minutes
January 2004


There was a time when the all-electric house, or at least a house enlivened with neat labor-saving electrical gadgets, was a gleam in the eye of many inventors, manufacturers, salesmen, and householders. Buster Keaton made The Electric House in 1922, near the beginning of that era of great electrical promise. This short film may reasonably be called science fiction, although made before that term was coined toward the end of the silent-film period. With more sophistication as to the gadgeteers' promises, and self-consciousness as to the process, and a lot more gadgets — we really still are developing within that era.

The Electric House starts with Buster Keaton's graduation ceremony as the first of his comic misfortunes, including a mix-up of diplomas so Buster mistakenly receives a diploma in electrical engineering. This naturally leads to a job opportunity: electrifying the family house of the girl he's sweet on. A great chance, so Buster studies hard and soon installs a useful and impressive set of electric appliances.

Escalator and dishwasher are useful; the electrified pool table is cute; and the electric toy train that carries plates with food out from the kitchen and conveys empty dishes back is the sort of thing that model-train enthusiasts dream of to justify setting up permanent track layouts in the house.

When the family returns from vacation to try out their new electrified house, all goes well at first. But the fellow graduate who was supposed to receive the electrical diploma shows up and decides to cross the wires and sabotage Buster's showplace, so all the gadgets begin acting unpredictably. Buster's efforts to understand what is going wrong, and then to cope are hilarious. Yet he does cope, with thoughtfulness and perseverance — including the actor's standard physical bravery as his own stuntman.

The Electric House is funny, imaginative, fast-moving. An excellent movie.


© 2004 Robert Wilfred Franson

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