Sherlock Jr. (1924)
May 21, 2022 4:19 PM - Subscribe

A film projectionist longs to be a detective, and puts his meagre skills to work when he is framed by a rival for stealing his girlfriend's father's pocketwatch.

A kindly movie projectionist (Buster Keaton) longs to be a detective. When his fiancée (Kathryn McGuire) is robbed by a local thief (Ward Crane), the poor projectionist is framed for the crime. Using his amateur detective skills, the projectionist follows the thief to the train station -- only to find himself locked in a train car. Disheartened, he returns to his movie theater, where he falls asleep and dreams that he is the great Sherlock Holmes.

Mabel McElliott : Even if Mr. Keaton is Mr. Schenck's brother-in-law, that is no good reason for thinking him funny. He is not my brother-in-law, and he seems to me as mournful an object as a second cousin once removed. But that, as someone has removed before me, is neither here not there. Lots of people must find Buster's conduct laughable, else he would not continue making comedies. (Or so I must suppose, until I find an audience of diehards who turn faces as immobile as the star's own to the screen.) I have not found one yet. Therefore, Buster must have charm. Perhaps he is caviar to the general, and I am one of the latter class.

"Sherlock Jr." has a few situations funny in themselves. Buster's dream of a thousand one movie perils, each melting into the other, has the stamp of cleverness. He find himself marooned on Gibraltar in the sea, and plunges deep, only to discover he is thrashing about in three feet of snow. In this sleepy fun, too railroad trains dash through a cactus ridden desert, and an automobile sets sail with the winter top for a canvas. Maybe Buster thought to rival the fantastics of "The Thief of Bagdad."

The coy gingham girl of the story is Kathryn McGuire, a pretty ovie type. Ward Crane impersonates a villain, both rural and citified. Bombs are through and walls crashed through, but Buster is unmoved to the end.

Oh, well, if you like him, you do. And if you don't, you don't.

Robert E. Sherwood: Fortunately for the poor critic whose spiritual digestion is poisoned by such as “Cytherea,” there is an antidote in Buster Keaton and his fellow clowns. One can always look to the low-brow slap-stickers for honesty and artistic integrity.

“Sherlock, Jr..” is one of Buster's longer efforts, being considerably more coherent and evener in its pace than his two previous productions. He starts out with a definite object in mind, and even though he does make a few highly comical detours, he never loses sight of his ultimate goal.

Like all Keaton comedies Sherlock, Jr.,” is constructed with amazing ingenuity. The sniffers may dispose of his gags with the withering word ‘mechanical,’ but they can not dampen the merriment that these gags evoke. These same sniffers would consider “Cytherea” elegant because the name of Joseph Hergesheimer is attached to it.

Amanda Mazzillo: Sherlock Jr. is a remarkable film, which captures the medium of cinema in unique and passionate ways, while maintaining a truth in its characters. A film so enriched in the history of cinema deserves a restoration which shows just how beautiful cinema can be when presented in the best way possible. While watching this restoration, I was blown away by how clean and crisp it is in every frame. I have seen far too many very poor transfers of silent films, ones where the color is too high on contrast and almost too blurry to focus, so seeing Sherlock Jr. presented in a way that looks just as clean and clear as any modern blu-ray made me more appreciative of restorations, as well as making my excitement for future releases that much stronger.

This restoration brought my attention towards the use of close-up shots and inserts, in addition to inter-titles, in Buster Keaton’s work. I absolutely loved seeing these inserts of pieces of paper, signs, and much more, in a quality which makes every word pop against any background, no matter the shade. Sherlock Jr. is a film which explores cinema, and the beauty of projection, losing yourself in the world of a film on screen. This makes the new restoration from Cohen Film Collection feel that much more special.

Sherlock Jr. explores cinema in an especially memorable scene where Buster Keaton flickers across a multitude of different films within the screen of a theater, before landing on the one where most of the film takes place. This scene is beautiful, and touches on the beauty found within different types of films.

posted by Carillon (2 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This was a lot of fun generally! The dollar gag with the trash was funny, ending up with less than he started. I was also pretty blown away by the scene that I think everyone talks about, with the quick flip flip flip between the ocean, snow etc. The pool shooting scenes were fun but a lot the mystery didn't make much sense. Which is likely intended, but still.
posted by Carillon at 5:50 PM on May 21, 2022

Now THIS is MORE like it.

I heard that Keaton used a surveyor to get the flip-flip-flip scenes lined up right; think about how hard that must have been to line everything up.

The thing that blew everyone away at the time was the bit where he jumped into the briefcase; in an interview he said that other cameramen were coming to see the film a few times a week to figure out how the hell he did it.

He also legit broke his neck when he was filming the scene with the waterspout in the trainyard - when he rode it down, the force of the water slammed him against the tracks, and during one take he landed face-up with his neck slamming against the steel part of the track. They stopped filming for the day, of course, and Buster insisted on going back to work the next day to stay on schedule He had bad headaches over the course of the next couple weeks but kept going, and the headaches went away eventually and he thought all was well. It wasn't until a decade later when a doctor found a weird patch in the bones in his neck and asked him about it. "Usually we only see this when there's been a broken bone...."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 PM on May 21, 2022

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