Directed by Buster Keaton and Eddie Cline
Release Date: January 22, 1963
Total Running Time: 19 minutes
Buster's surprise trip in a hot air balloon leaves him fending for himself and fighting for love against rivals and rushing rivers
Buster Keaton: Boy
Phyllis Haver: Girl
The leading lady for this film, Phyllis Haver, was a former Mack Sennette Bathing Beauty who went on to star in a number of films, including playing Roxie Hart in the 1927 silent version of Chicago.
In the House of Trouble, where horrors lurk behind every door; a skeleton, a devil, and a monster each threaten him. He drops through a trap door and lands in front of a carnival haunted house. A chubby woman buys her ticket and Keaton waits to see her slide out. Distracted by a pretty girl who snubs him, he's standing in front of the slide when the first woman zips out. He breaks her fall; people help her up and ignore Keaton. She buys another ticket and he escapes quickly.
He sees another pretty woman (Phyllis Haver) getting on a tunnel of love ride and he races over to join her. When the boat returns from its trip, he's got a black eye and his clothes are ruined. She gets out and drives away.
He sees a hot air balloon and runs to it. A workman asks him to attach a good luck banner to it, so he climbs up a nearby ladder. The balloonist gets in the basket, the ropes are cut, the balloon rises, but the balloonist remains: the bottom has dropped out of the basket. However, Keaton is on the webbing that holds the balloon to the basket. He notices how high he's getting and climbs down to the basket, almost falling through.
Later, Keaton has made himself at home. He washes out some socks, then lowers decoys for a little duck hunting. A birds lands on a rope by the balloon. Keaton fires, hits the balloon, and drops like a rock. He lands in a tree.
The next morning, Keaton has patched the balloon and is filling it with hot air from a fire. He assembles a three-piece canoe, then grabs his fishing tackle and head off to the river. Meanwhile, Haver is also fishing. He goes into the river up to his neck, the gets out and drains his hip waders by standing on his head. He has no luck in getting a bite until he herds the fish to a narrow part of the river, builds a dam, and picks them up out of the riverbed. His creel's bottom isn't shut, so they fall back into the water. When he notices, he stuffs fish in his pockets and down his waders.
Haver has landed a nice big fish and she changes into her suit for a swim.
Keaton's dam collapses and he's swept downstream. When the girl dives in she lands on him. They both stand up and she yells and throws rocks at him. In his hip waders he can only waddle away.
Next, Keaton loads his canoe (the Minnie-Tee-Hee) with a paddle, fishing rod, and two tennis rackets. He gets in and starts paddling, but the boat is tied to a branch and it separates. As Keaton puts it back together, Haver grills her fish. He sits in his boat and catches a fish. He builds a fire in the bottom of his canoe and uses his tennis rackets to hold the fish. They catch on fire and he throws it all into the water. Then the fire burns through the bottom of the boat, and Keaton must bail.
Haver drinks some very hot coffee and breathes smoke. She tosses the rest away.
Keaton sets off in his canoe. He sees a rabbit on the riverbank, stands up (his legs fit through the hole he burned) and grabs his gun. Then he sees some baby bunnies and he can't shoot. So he continues down river, reading a magazine and not noticing the upcoming small waterfall. It capsizes the boat. As Haver washes her dishes, she notices the upside-down boat and tries unsuccessfully to lasso it. It runs into a bank and she wades out to turn it over. Keaton has disappeared. He stands up beneath her, knocking her over. She's disgusted: him again.
Later, Keaton puts the finishing touches on his canoe improvements: a canopy and flags. A bull confronts Haver and she screams for help. Keaton picks up his gun and tries to swim across the river, but it's too shallow, so he walks. He tries to shoot, but it first squirts water on her, then it fires a bullet that lands a pitiful few feet from him. While he examines the gun, it goes off and frightens him. Haver finally has enough, and she takes the bull by the horns (literally) and wrestles him to the ground. She chases Keaton away.
He walks, followed by a bear. Haver is busy chopping down a tree, which falls on her. Keaton sees a squirrel and gets ready to shoot it. The bear chews on the seat of his pants, and Haver can't stand to watch. Another bear pops up in front of him. Keaton slowly stands and bops the bear in front of him with the butt of his gun. It fires, killing the bear in back. Haver is entranced by Keaton's bravery, and they flirt. When the bear comes to, he hurries her away to the canoe. They cozily float down river, straight to a tall waterfall. They go off, but they don't drop: the balloon is attached. They kiss, and the two ends of the canoe fall away.
Although The Balloonatic isn't much more than a minnie-tee-hee, Haver plays the most tough and competent female in a Keaton short. Sybil Seely never wrestled a bull to the ground, and Virginia Fox, in her many rejections of Keaton, never blackened his eye. It's a shame that there weren't more like her. — Lisle Foote