A meek and mild projectionist, who also cleans up after screenings, would like nothing better than to be a private detective. He becomes engaged to a pretty girl but a ladies man known as the Sheik vies for her affection. He gets rid of the projectionist by stealing a pocket watch belonging to the girl's father - which he pawns to buy her an expensive box of candy. He then slips the pawn ticket into the projectionist's pocket and subsequently is found by the police. He doesn't have much luck but in his dreams, he the debonair and renowned detective Sherlock Jr. who faces danger and solves the crime. In real life, the girl solves crimes quickly. Written by
For the scene where Sherlock Jr., escaping gangsters, leaps headfirst through the body of his assistant, Gillette (who is disguised as an old lady selling neckties) and disappears, Buster Keaton used an old magician's trick. Prior to the trick, Gillette is seen standing with his back against a wooden fence. A section of the fence was sawed out and placed on hinges, so that it opened up and back like a garage door. Ford West (the actor playing Gillette) was then strapped to the underside of the cutaway section, so that when it was opened, West's body was hanging parallel to the ground, but his head and arms stuck out through the upper part of the opening in the fence. The dress and open suitcase were then hung from West's shoulders, so that they hung down in front of the fence, concealing the opening. Both the dress and the suitcase had holes cut in them. With the cameras rolling, Keaton leaped headfirst straight through the hole in the suitcase, the hole in the dress, and the opening in the fence (he later recalled that he "landed face-first in the dirt" on the other side). The cutaway fence section was then swung down to close the opening, so that West's body landed perfectly inside the dress. Attendants on the other side of the fence cut the straps holding West's torso and feet to the cutaway section, and West stepped away from the fence as if nothing had happened. In the film you can see West reach behind his back to close the opening in the dress as he steps from the fence. If you look closely you can also see the outline of the cutaway section in the fence. See more »
After Sherlock Jr spins the fence around placing his pursuers behind it, he puts a crossbar across the gate to stop them coming back. In the next shot as he leaves the alley, the crossbar is no longer visible on the fence. See more »
Not only is this Buster Keaton's best film, but it is among the greatest achievements in the history of cinema, period. While it is not a feature-length film--and thus barred from most critics' lists of great films--it invented just about every single basic special effect known to movies (except for morphing). The story itself, about a film projectionist who desires to become part of the movies, and then does, by walking right onto the screen, made palpable the desire that we all have to be in the movies: To get the girl, to be an action hero, to outsmart the bad guys. Keaton invented meta-cinema before anyone even had a phrase for it.
This movie has entered our dreams.
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