Archive for silent comedy

Sherlock Jr.

Posted in Buster Keaton, Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 7 September, 2008 by Ally

Don't you miss the days when films were "attractions"?

Sherlock Jr is only 44 minutes long, including credits. Buster Keaton manages to cram so much into just five reels, it boggles the mind. Not a second is wasted, from small-scale gags involving lost dollar bills or poisoned drinks, to a nailbiting sequence in which Keaton unwittingly rides the handlebars of an unmanned motorcycle. The cycle miraculously dodges perilous obstacles, clearing an oncoming train and driving along a collapsing bridge before he finally realises the driver has fallen off. These stunts were genuinely performed by Keaton. He only once used a stunt double (for a pole vaulting trick in College), and he would frequently even stand in for the other actors. Throughout his career he risked his life countless times for the sake of a laugh. Years after filming Sherlock Jr, he would discover that one stunt fractured his neck – that very take is in the finished film!

Buster Keaton’s nameless character is the projectionist at a movie house, as well as an amateur detective. He is also rather fond of a young lady (Kathryn McGuire), but he has a rival suitor (Ward Crane). When the suitor steals and pawns a pocket watch belonging to the lady’s father (Joe Keaton), the evidence is planted on Buster and he is ejected from the family home. Heartbroken, he goes back to work in the projection room. Here he falls asleep and dreams of stepping into Hearts and Pearls, the film he has been projecting. He becomes Sherlock Jr, a detective hired to solve the mystery of the missing pearls, while the other characters take on the images of their real life counterparts. But as Sherlock Jr, Buster is able to outwit his enemies at every turn. Continue reading