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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)
Reviews
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

Taglines:

A comic of a weird secret society which will turn your theatre into a merry lodge of mirth! See more »

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: Guarding a man from danger and killing him at the same time is SOME job.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Film Preservation Associates copyrighted a version in 1995 containing a music score and sound effects, with a running time of 21 minutes. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Great Buster (2018) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Star Was Born
15 April 2006 | by Igenlode WordsmithSee all my reviews

Some people -- to paraphrase Mel Brooks -- call Buster Keaton a genius. But that's both too little and too much to give him credit; Einstein was a genius, Keaton... is incredible.

In the Fatty Arbuckle films he's amusing in what we tend to put down as a 'silent-comedy' way, a {by and large} straight-faced clown in a world of food fights, cross-dressing, clumsy cops and general anarchy. After exposure to a few hours of these I was, frankly, ready to write Keaton off as simply another sub-Laurel-and-Hardy slapstick act -- in the Arbuckle shorts he's reasonably funny but nothing to rave over. And then, suddenly, in the middle of the programme, came "The High Sign"... and it knocked me for six here, there, and into the middle of next week.

As a solo debut it's nothing short of astounding. It's the spectacle of a great talent emerging fully-formed and all at once into unique existence, like Athena from the head of Zeus. From the opening scene, the style, the humour, the devices, the sheer *intelligence* are instantly, blazingly original: this isn't just 'silent comedy' to be laughed at and over by the modern public with an air of faint condescension, it's surreal and hilarious and utterly gifted to side-splitting effect by anyone's standard. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. And the audience reaction -- from the former good-natured 'look-he's-dipped-the-bouquet-in-the-dirty-oil' laughter to the sudden roar of genuine surprise and delight -- was instant and electric. Suddenly, it was we who were eighty years behind the times, belated recipients of a moment of magic. Director, acrobat, actor, gag-writer, cinematographer, stuntman... for the first time Buster Keaton was set free into the universe of his own imagination, with confidence, grace and meticulous inventive brilliance, and before our eyes -- how could we not know it? -- a star was born.

Even more incredible to learn, and yet true, is the fact that Keaton himself rejected and suppressed this first film as insufficiently original, holding up release for a year: no-one ever saw it at the time. He knew he could do better and, unbelievably, he was right. But that's another story...


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