Sherlock, Jr. – 1924
Directors – Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Buster Keaton
Starring – Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, and Joe Keaton
The strength of any Buster Keaton performance is his supreme physicality. The man’s ability to use props, his co-stars, as well as his own body to carry out extremely fun and inventive sight gags and stunts is second to none.
Especially considering the fact that his subject of his derring-do often revolves around moving vehicles (trains and cars are what I’m thinking of specifically), it is made only that much more dangerous, and consequently impressive. The weak area of the Keaton films that I’ve seen thus far (The General, and this), are the parts where he has to carry the parts in between the major stunt set-pieces. While far surpassing a lot of the action sequences in most movie of his day, Keaton is trumped when it comes to the dramatic acting. In that arena he is bested by other comedians like Chaplin, and the Marx Brothers.
Sherlock, Jr. is a short film, lasting only about 35 minutes, which I think works in the film’s favor. If it were too much longer, it would drag, and if it were feature length it would eventually become agonizing! As it is, I was more than entertained by film the entire time, and caught myself checking my watch only because I was watching some food in the oven.
The music for this production, just like in The General, serves the purpose of helping pace the film. During the action sequences, the piano music is peppy and lively. Likewise when the story wants us to dwell on the Keaton’s love interest, the music slows down and we know what’s going to happen. This tendency of using the music this way helps to keep the slower parts interesting, but allows for no surprises in the plot. We know immediately what the tone of the scene is going to be. That being said, I don’t think anyone really watches a Buster Keaton movie wondering if he’ll actually get the girl, they watch to see him do what he does best…perform.
Now I realize that Buster Keaton is a pioneer in the movie industry, but he has so many films in this book of 1001, yet some who have carried on in his name like Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung are not recognized at all in this list. While I am looking forward to seeing whatever else Mr. Keaton has in store for me in his other films, it seems only right that other performers get recognition too. So if you liked Sherlock, Jr. check out Dragons Forever, Eastern Condors, or Armor of God (also known as Operation Condor 2: Armor of God).