English intertitles DirectorEdward F. Cline
Buster Keaton WriterEdward F. Cline, Buster Keaton Release dateOctober 27, 1920 (1920-10-27) DirectorsBuster Keaton, Edward F. Cline ScreenplayBuster Keaton, Edward F. Cline CastBuster Keaton (Unlucky Golfer / Golfeur malchanceux), Sybil Seely (Sibil), Joe Roberts (Prisoner / Prisonnier), Edward F. Cline (Hangman / Bourreau), Joe Keaton (Prisoner) Similar moviesPacific Rim, Paperman, Feast, The Ballad of Nessie, The Pointer, Tugboat Mickey
Convict 13 is a 1920 short comedy film starring comedian Buster Keaton. It was written and directed by Keaton and Edward F. Cline.
Buster, a particularly untalented golfer plays golf one morning with a group of friends. After a disastrous start he drives his ball into a nearby river but retrieves it after it is consumed by a fish. Meanwhile a convict escapes from a nearby prison and makes his way towards the golf course as the prison guards give chase. Buster's ball is once again stolen, this time by a dog who takes it a long way from the court. Buster accidentally knocks himself after his ball ricochets off of an equipment shed and while he is unconscious, the prisoner switches clothes with him. The guards give chase and Buster attempts to escape by jumping into a passing car but it turns out to belong to the warden. Though he hastily jumps into another car, he ends up going into the jail himself.
Reading the prisoner number on Buster's clothes he deduces that he is convict 13 who is scheduled to be hanged that very morning. Luckily Buster's girlfriend replaces the hangman's noose with a long elastic rope from the gym so that Buster bounces several times after the trapdoor is opened and he survives. The other prisoners are livid that they will not get to see an execution but the warden promises to hang two prisoners in the morning to make up for today's botched execution. Later that day Buster accidentally knocks out a prison guard whilst smashing rocks and steals his uniform in order to escape. At the same time a rowdy prisoner revolts in the prison yard and knocks out each of the guards one by one. Buster accidentally stumbles into the prisoner's path whilst escaping and the prisoner believes him to be another guard. Buster temporarily restrains the prisoner by closing the gate leading into the other yard but the prisoner quickly bends the bars of the gate and pursues Buster to the gallows where Buster restrains him by tying him up using the same elasticated noose used on him earlier.
Buster is "promoted" to Assistant Warden for his bravery but the now furious prisoner instigates a riot throughout the prison. The prisoner knocks out Buster, kidnaps his girlfriend and takes her out to the yard where the prisoners have completely overpowered the guards. Buster recovers and using a punching bag which he attaches to the elasticated rope, knocks out all of the rioting prisoners by swinging it around his head as they run around the yard. Buster celebrates but he accidentally knocks himself out when he leans on a sledgehammer which propels up and hits him in the head. However the scene then cuts back to Buster lying outside the equipment shed where he first knocked himself out being woken up by his girlfriend, the events of the short are all revealed to have been nothing more than a dream.
In the film, Buster performs one of the most dangerous sight gags that he performed in vaudeville. In the words of Marie Dressler: Buster would "stand on a table in back of his father twirling a basketball tied to the end of a rope, while his father was trying to shave himself with a straight razor. And that ball kept getting closer and closer, all the sudden, BANG!"