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SHERLOCK JR. (director: Buster Keaton; screenwriters: Clyde Bruckman/Jean C. Havez; cinematographers: Byron Houck/Elgin Lessley; editor: Buster Keaton; cast: Buster Keaton (Sherlock, Jr./Projectionist), Kathryn McGuire (The girl), Joe Keaton (Her father), Erwin Connelly (The butler/handyman), Ward Crane (The sheik/villain), Jane Connelly (The mother ); Runtime: 45; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph M. Schenck/Buster Keaton; Kino Video; 1924-silent)
“One of Buster’s superior silent comedies.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In Buster Keaton’s third feature film he plays a movie projectionist who dreams of being a detective. After finding and then returning the $2 found while cleaning the lobby, he buys from his own money his girlfriend (Kathryn McGuire) a small box of $1 chocolates and gives her a ring. But he has a rival (Ward Crane) who has stolen the watch of the girl’s father (Joe Keaton) in the hallway of her house and frames Buster for the theft by placing the pawn ticket he got for the watch in Buster’s jacket pocket. As a result of pawning the watch, the rival returns to give the girl a much bigger $4 box of chocolates. The girl’s father finds the pawn ticket in Buster’s pocket and tells him to get lost. Buster follows the villain when he leaves the girl’s house to no avail and returns to his day job, where he nods off and projects himself onto the screen as Sherlock Jr., the world’s greatest detective (one of cinema’s great scenes and imitated by Woody Allen in The Purple Rose of Cairo, 1985). His dream is played out on the onscreen movie and has the same characters from the stolen watch scene, as Buster is prettied up to be the detective on a case involving a missing pearl necklace stolen from the house of the beautiful girl by the villain and given to the butler (Erwin Connelly) to hide. The crooks try to eliminate the detective by first giving him a poisoned drink and then after that fails by placing an explosive 13 ball on the pool table. But that also fails as the detective keeps missing the 13 ball. It leads to an exciting chase scene (a great timing sequence where Buster lands on the handlebars of a motorcycle driven by a cop, who is no longer there, and rides blindly through many perils). The detective eventually rescues the girl from the crooks who kidnapped her and gets back the pearls, and winds up in a lake as their car is slowly sinking. Buster wakes up in time to find his girl in the projection room telling him she went to the pawnbroker and discovered the real culprit who stole her father’s watch, and that her father asks to be forgiven. Meanwhile Buster watches the end of the love story, that shows the hero and his girl with two babies. This leaves Buster scratching his head.

It’s one of Buster’s superior silent comedies that’s noted for his usual deadpan humor, frolicsome slapstick, the number of very funny sight gags, the many innovative technical accomplishments and that he did his own stunts (including the dangerous one where he was hanging off of a ladder connected to a high water basin as the water poured out and washed him onto the railroad track, fracturing his neck nearly to the point of breaking it. Keaton suffered from severe migraines for years after making this movie).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”