#67. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Directed by: Buster Keaton
Written by: Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph A. Mitchell
Starring: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Ward Crane
The very best of Buster Keaton’s many incredible comedies, Sherlock Jr. combines everything lovable about the man and his movies into one quick, hilarious, and innovative film. While it may not feature the grand set pieces of The General, or the barrage of hilarity of Seven Chances, Sherlock Jr. features enough heart and soul to rival even Charlie Chaplin’s best films. The 1924 comedy classic sees Buster Keaton as a film projectionist studying to be a detective, who is vying for the affections of a beautiful woman (Kathryn McGuire). The Projectionist isn’t alone in his feelings for the beautiful girl, as he is forced to compete with the handsome, well-to-do “local sheik” (Ward Crane). One day while screening a film about the heist of a pearl necklace, the Projectionist falls asleep and dreams of entering into the film as “Sherlock Jr.”, a detective who is going to crack the case. Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. is an incredible display of early movie special effects, with the Projectionist’s dream self stepping out of his physical body in an impressive sequence, stepping into a variety of different scenes before finally setting into the story of the film being projected. Another impressive instance of these effects is a moment when Keaton jumps into a suitcase and disappearing – using a trapdoor and some trick camera techniques. Buster Keaton himself delivers his usual brilliant deadpan comedic performance, never letting anything taking place phase him. Often Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. is completely oblivious to the actions of those trying to harm him, ramping up the laughs and taking advantage of Keaton’s deadpan nature. The story is very simple (the film only runs somewhere around 45 minutes), but manages to be as sweet and satisfying as its full-length contemporaries. No scene is wasted, but almost every minute of Sherlock Jr. features some great laughs. If you’ve never had the opportunity to see a silent comedy, I can’t possibly think of a better starting place than Sherlock Jr.