A meek and mild projectionist, who also cleans up after screenings, would like nothing better than to be a private detective. He becomes engaged to a pretty girl but a ladies man known as the Sheik vies for her affection. He gets rid of the projectionist by stealing a pocket watch belonging to the girl's father - which he pawns to buy her an expensive box of candy. He then slips the pawn ticket into the projectionist's pocket and subsequently is found by the police. He doesn't have much luck but in his dreams, he the debonair and renowned detective Sherlock Jr. who faces danger and solves the crime. In real life, the girl solves crimes quickly.Written by
When Sherlock Jr., escaping gangsters, leaps headfirst through the body of his assistant, Gillette (who is disguised as an old lady selling neckties) and disappears, Buster Keaton used an old magician's trick. Prior to the trick, Gillette is seen standing with his back against a wooden fence. A section of the fence was sawed out and placed on hinges, so that it opened up and back like a garage door. Ford West (the actor playing Gillette) was then strapped to the underside of the cutaway section, so that when it was opened, West's body was hanging parallel to the ground, but his head and arms stuck out through the upper part of the opening in the fence. The dress and open suitcase were then hung from West's shoulders, so that they hung down in front of the fence, concealing the opening. Both the dress and the suitcase had holes cut in them. With the cameras rolling, Keaton leaped headfirst straight through the hole in the suitcase, the hole in the dress, and the opening in the fence (he later recalled that he "landed face-first in the dirt" on the other side). The cutaway fence section was then swung down to close the opening, so that West's body landed perfectly inside the dress. Attendants on the other side of the fence cut the straps holding West's torso and feet to the cutaway section, and West stepped away from the fence as if nothing had happened. In the film you can see West reach behind his back to close the opening in the dress as he steps from the fence. If you look closely you can also see the outline of the cutaway section in the fence. See more »
After Sherlock Jr. spins the fence around, placing his pursuers behind it, he puts a crossbar across the gate to stop them from coming back. In the next shot, as he leaves the alley, the crossbar is no longer visible on the fence. See more »
This Keaton classic is both funny and extremely clever in its construction. Our hero is a cleaner but dreams of becoming a detective, always with his nose buried in a book on the subject.
The first third of the film is much like any other comedy. There are lost dollar bills, things sticking to other things, something stolen, mistaken identities. Our heroine is introduced in a charming scene where they seem terrified to hold hands. Her father is played by Buster's father Joe Keaton, who would appear in many of his son's films.
There's a mustachioed cad with slick hair and a sharp suit who is after the girl, a cartoon baddie who the audience instinctively knows deserves a hiss and not a cheer.
It is in Junior's other job as a cinema projectionist that the film comes alive. We are watching the film he has set up and then, suddenly, he is part of the action. In a sequence of great inventiveness, we see the film within a film changing scenes and watch with delight as the character adapts to each situation and surrounding.
Sherlock Jr is very funny but is also unusual and, in comparison with other comedies of the period, ahead of its time. It includes some excellent stunts that are the equal of anything done by Harold Lloyd in the same period, and, although it has a very short running time, manages to develop a good storyline throughout.
Justly feted as a masterpiece of silent comedy, Sherlock Jr represented one of the peaks of Buster Keaton's cinematic career. It is a film worth watching and has stood up well today.
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