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 »
Though a lot of older films tend to be neglected, Sherlock Jr. definitely isn't a film that could be called obscure. I imagine most people at least know OF this movie with its famous movie-in-a-movie surrealist scene.
Still, having previously heard over and over again about the brilliance of this film, I never really understood until I saw it myself. It's not just the dream-story and the surreality, it's what Keaton does with it and the importance he places on cinema. This film is even rather unique in using montage in a new way, or showing how much film appeals to the imagination as much as an artistic endeavor.
Thus, this film itself becomes both wildly imaginative and brilliantly artistic... and best of all, it's FUNNY! Thus, it becomes a film for everyone. There's no hard-found artistic conceit that leads to cries of "Pretentious!", but still people can say "It's amazing." There's no comedic conceit that says, "Bah, just simple slapstick, it's low-culture!" because it's rather intelligently done. And it's creative in a way that isn't like an opium-dream. It can appeal to anybody of all ages. It's one very well-done film.
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