Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)


Kathryn McGuire (The Girl), Joe Keaton (The Girl’s Father), Erwin Connelly (The Hired Man), Buster Keaton (Projectionist). Directed by Buster Keaton. Rating: U. Running time: 45 minutes.

Another top, typically hilarious effort from Keaton, and this time I’d go so far as to say that in my eyes at least, it’s even better and more innovative than The General. Here he plays a movie theatre projectionist that, in his spare time, is studying to be and often dreams of being the next Sherlock Holmes. The latter element provides the opportunity for what must have easily been one of America’s first surrealist comedies (this is 1924, remember), as Keaton fantasises that he’s actually one of the characters solving a mystery in the film he has to screen, a detective so shrewd that he spots his drink’s being spiked by his target, knows amusingly but ridiculously that a chair he’s asked to sit on would send an axe crashing down to execute him, and even omnisciently clocks that a snooker ball is loaded with an explosive – one he skilfully avoids as he chips the white over it and pots everything else surrounding it. This all being before he returns to ‘reality,’ (the link is shown to us by him actually walking out of the screen, and it looks darn good. How? I have no idea), where he goes on a mad Generalesque chase across the countryside, yet this time on a motorbike rather than a steam train as he fights off a competing man after the woman he loves. Why she loves him back, I’m not sure. Not only is he as clown-like as Mr. Bean, but he’s even less expressive than him and probably provided the inspiration for the latter’s wedding ring trick – get a flashy box, but not have anything too special inside it. All of this is even set to surprisingly original and bizarrely chosen but somehow suitable music – seeing Keaton fool around to the sound of Muddy Waters-style Southern blues guitar twanging works a treat. The only down side is it goes on for no longer than three quarters of an hour. Enjoy it while it lasts.

One Response to “Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)”

  1. 1 Keaton shorts. « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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