Buster Keaton: Sherlock Jr.

The great Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton

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  1. Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton was not only a filmmaker and actor, but also a vaudevillian, comedian, stunt performer, and writer. Born into a family of stuntmen's, he was introduced to performing in front of an audience at a young age. It was during these performances that his trademark pokerface began. By 1921, he already had his own production company--Buster Keaton Productions. He became a very well known silent film actor who did all of his own stunts. In 1924, his slapstick comedy Sherlock Jr. was produced.
  2. While Buster may be known for his one deadpan expression, he made sure that his audience experienced many while watching his films. He brought out elements of surprise, humor, romance, and much more in his famous film Sherlock Jr.
  3. This film is about a young man who so desperately wants to be a detective, but is stuck at a boring day job. He is also in love with a girl but doesn't have enough money to buy her nice gifts. The only problem was that another man was also fighting for the attention of this young lady. When the other man, who plays the villain, sees that Keaton's character, Sherlock, has wooed the girl he decides that he needs to take drastic measures in order to win her over. The villain steals the girl's father's pocket watch and pawns it in order to buy her a present. He then proceeds to frame Sherlock for everything. After being banned from their home, he returns to his job and begins to daydream about being an actual detective, busting the villain, and saving his damsel in distress. In reality, the girl actually proves Sherlock innocent and they get their happily ever after with a humorous ending.
  4. This movie was one of Keaton's best-loved films. As said in this article, it's because it "may offer the best lesson in the core principles of silent story-telling, thanks to the expressiveness of the actors’ bodies, the iron-clad logic of the plot, and Keaton’s selection of scenes." It was pleasing for both aficionados and newcomers to silent films. Even to this day people still enjoy it because the humor and acting appeals to different generations. That is what makes his films so amazing, because they are timeless and could be understood in the 1920's as well as today.
  5. Sherlock Jr. is shorter than Keaton's other films, with only 5 reels (about 44 minutes). Because of this, it is very fast paced. There's humor and action thrown to you with each cut scene.
  6. One thing that really makes you appreciate Keaton's films is that he does all of his own stunts. In Sherlock Jr. the stunts are all played out in real time with no camera tricks involved. "Half a century before Christopher Nolan was born, and long before CGI, Keaton created a vivid world with its own laws and internally consistent logic." The tricks he pulled in the film were astonishing for that time and maybe even now, considering the fact that there were no special effects or a stuntman to pull off the difficult scenes.
  7. Although it was highly dangerous, Keaton executed all of his stunts perfectly. One example was the scene when he was escaping from the moving train. He grabs onto a drawstring connected to a waterspout and gets sprayed with enormous force. To viewers watching, it seems harmless because he just gets up to run away from the villains chasing him, but this scene was actually extremely risky. One film article stated that, "many years later, a routine exam with X-rays revealed that he had actually fractured his neck in the incident."
  8. The link below show more examples of Buster Keaton's crazy stunts. Some so dangerous he could've ended up dead.
  9. Keaton really took comedy to the next level for his era and even today. It is not easy to create a successful silent film, nonetheless Keaton could do that and add ample amounts of humor to it. He used simple gags and tricks to toy with our mind. His play with cross-cutting and close-ups really connect with the audience by instilling humor and sometimes even fear.
  10. The way Keaton seamlessly takes Sherlock from the real world to the dream world , he broke the boundaries for other films in that time. "By staging the narrative within a dream like world, Keaton can push the cinematic boundaries further than many comedians before him".
  11. Buster Keaton enters into the movie
  12. "The cross-cutting between the house steps, garden, street, mountain ledge, jungle, desert, beach, snowbank and forest in this opening sequence is sublime and it's all framed within the nickelodeon proscenium, which Keaton proceeds to abandon as the projectionist acclimatises to his new surroundings and adopts the sleuthing persona he will require to find the loot." It's amazing how perfectly he executed each cut scene. Although it isn't what we would call perfect cross cutting today, just getting Keaton to stand in almost all of the correct spots for each take was astounding for his time. It took his audience on an adventure and certainly intrigued them, not knowing where he would end up next.
  13. In the scene where the villain and his butler are trying to kill Sherlock, Keaton does a great job of using close-ups. Each item that they are going to use gets a close-up so that the audience could understand that they were trying to murder Sherlock. For instance, the fake pool ball that's actually a bomb, or the poison that's inside of the butler's pocket. These close-ups were used to intensify the fear in the audience and perhaps to show them exactly what was going on in case they couldn't catch on.
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