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The 'High Sign' (1921)

 |  Short, Comedy  |  18 April 1921 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 1,468 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 9 critic

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:
...
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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Comedy

Certificate:

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Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 April 1921 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El guardaespaldas  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

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 to 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

Leader of Buzzards: Do you know the nature of an oath?
Our Hero: Yes. I play golf.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Popcorn of Doom (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Our Hero came from nowhere – he wasn't going Anywhere, and got kicked off Somewhere"
7 January 2009 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

The entrance of Buster Keaton's unnamed character in 'The High Sign (1921)' is, in some ways, reminiscent of Chaplin's Little Tramp persona. The wandering vagrant, named only Our Hero, is booted off a moving train, and lands in an unknown town, the audience denied any back-story or unnecessary exposition. Wandering into a nearby theme park, Buster deftly snatches a newspaper from a moving carousel (done so casually that he doesn't look like he's even trying), and attempts to read the mammoth broadsheet. In search of a job, he happens upon an opening for a talented sharp-shooter, and, despite inadvertently gunning down a duck with his practice shots, Buster feels that he's qualified enough for the position. Chaplin's Tramp was never averse to breaking the rules if he wasn't hurting anybody who didn't deserve it, and Keaton's Hero is no different. By rigging an ingenious dog-powered bell-ringer to falsify the carnival stall, Buster fools his massive employer into believing that he is an ace with the rifle.

But, of course, if the plan had gone smoothly, then there wouldn't have been a story to tell. It seems that the employer is also a member of the Blinking Buzzards mob, a bold bad bunch of blood-thirsty bandits with a curious affinity for the letter "b." Buster is enlisted to assassinate one of the gang's enemies, and, by a curious turn of events, is also employed as that very same man's bodyguard (our hero, ever the hopeless romantic, accepts the latter job only to impress the target's pretty daughter, played by Bartine Burkett). When he steadfastly refuses to carry out the hit, Buster's reckless bid to escape the Buzzards' fists leads him on a farcical anarchic chase through concealed doorways and hidden compartments, a madcap comedic set-piece that never takes the time to slow down. Despite this memorable virtuoso finale, Keaton apparently felt unsure of the quality of his first independent two-reeler, and 'The High Sign' was shelved until the following year, when a broken ankle slowed the performer's output.


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