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The 'High Sign' (1921)

Not Rated | | Short, Comedy | 18 April 1921 (USA)
A drifter at an amusement park finds himself both the bodyguard and hit man of a man targeted by a criminal gang.

Directors:

Edward F. Cline (as Eddie Cline), Buster Keaton (as 'Buster' Keaton)

Writers:

Edward F. Cline (as Eddie Cline), Buster Keaton (as 'Buster' Keaton)
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Buster Keaton ... 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:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 April 1921 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El guardaespaldas See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

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.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Goodies: The Goodies and the Beanstalk (1973) 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 ackstasisSee 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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