A drifter at an amusement park finds himself both the bodyguard and hit man of a man targeted by a criminal gang.

Directors:

(as Eddie Cline), (as 'Buster' Keaton)

Writers:

(as Eddie Cline), (as 'Buster' Keaton)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Our Hero (as 'Buster' Keaton)
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Storyline

Buster is thrown off a train near an amusement park. There he gets a job in a shooting gallery run by the Blinking Buzzards mob. Ordered to kill a businessman, he winds up protecting the man and his daughter by outfitting their home with trick devices. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

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Short | Comedy

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Release Date:

18 April 1921 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El guardaespaldas  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Buster Keaton's first independent two-reeler. He didn't consider it funny enough and had it shelved upon its completion in 1920. It was released the following year when his film output was slowed by a broken leg. See more »

Quotes

Narration Card: The brutal bungalow of the Blinking Buzzards, a bold bad bunch of blood-thirsty bandits who would break into a bank, blow a battleship to bits or beat up a blue eyed baby blonde.
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User Reviews

 
Keaton Komedy Klassic
20 October 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This has to be my favourite Buster Keaton short, and it just so happens to be the first independent film Keaton produced, giving birth to his iconic unnamed character. However Keaton himself was disappointed with the film and didn't release it until the following year, instead making "One Week" his first solo short. I question why though, as I feel the premise of The 'High Sign' is one of Keaton's most inspired and possibly even worthy of being used as a set up for a feature. It's true what they say, the artist is often wrong about their own work.

The opening prologue of The High Sign states, "Our hero came from Nowhere- he wasn't going Anywhere and got kicked off Somewhere". Considering his superhuman stunts, he's like an alien who just landed on Earth. This opening prologue reminds me of a statement Roger Ebert made in his review of The General; "(Keaton) seems like a modern visitor to the world of silent clowns"

The 'High Sign' packs in so much humor and gags into its 20 minutes, such as his set up with the dog, meat and string (it's hard to explain); it's like something Mr Bean would come up with. The short also features the earliest example I've seen in film of a recurring gag with the high sign itself, a secret signal between gangsters. Keaton even messes with the audience's expectation for comic effect by having himself walk past a banana peel on the ground, only to not slip on it. The short's finale is a real "How did they do that?" sequence. The house with its traps and secret hatches is an astounding piece of set design, and when all the rooms appear on screen at once which Keaton jumping between them; it reminds me of a 2D video game. I was laughing, in awe and even shocked (when the gangster's neck is closed on the door) all at once. There is even a customer at one point who has quite a resemblance to Charlie Chaplin.

I'll say it now and I'll say it again; the genius of Buster Keaton will never cease to amaze me.


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