By Chris Nashawaty
Updated July 09, 2010 at 08:28 PM EDT

Hollywood stuntmen don’t get a lot of respect these days. Most of their work is now done by nerdy guys drinking Mountain Dew in front of a computer screen at f/x houses. But there was a time when daredevils routinely put their lives on the line just so we might feel a few goosebumps. Legends like Yakima Canutt, Dar Robinson, and Terry Leonard. But before any of those guys fell from a 4o-story building or lit themselves on fire, there was one man who pushed the envelope on risking his neck on celluloid: silent-movie star Buster Keaton.

Keaton’s often overshadowed by his contemporary Charlie Chaplin (no slouch himself at abusing his body for a laugh) and his legacy has always been a little bit tarnished by the string of junky, beach-blanket-bingo-type movies he did in his later years. But in his heyday, Keaton was The Guy. All you need to do is check out the new Blu-ray of his 1928 classic Steamboat Bill, Jr., which came out this week. In the film, Keaton pulls off one of his most famous gags — standing in front of a house that collapses right on top of him. The only reason he survives is a well-placed window that manages to just miss him. It’s one of the most thrilling scenes you’ll ever see, especially when you think about how easily it could have all gone wrong and killed him. Actually, if you look at it closely enough you can see the building facade scrapes his arm. Talk about a close shave!

Take a look after the jump:

And then there’s this one:

And this: