1924, Movies

Sherlock Jr. (1924, Buster Keaton)

This is a pretty classic Buster Keaton film about a film projectionist’s dreams of a better life. It’s got at least one pretty wild stunt (well, a group of stunts) in the dream sequence and it is also just notable for that whole dream sequence, which is pretty wild for 1924.

SPOILERS though it’s 100 years old…

As with most of these movies, the story is pretty simple: a poor guy is trying to win a woman’s love. This plot is basically done to death in American silent films. But this one is full of the usual fun Keaton stuff prior to the dream sequence and then, once the dream sequence starts, it really takes off.

The dream sequence is justly famous. It begins with Keaton leaving his body. I don’t know if this is the first time this has ever happened in film, but it’s among the first times I’m aware of it. The most famous part is likely (and justly) the part at which he walks into the movie he is screening. The movie then goes completely off the rails and tries to kill him in one of the more elaborate sequences in Keaton’s career. It doesn’t really make any sense if you think about it, but it’s still one of the more original gags of the era.

Keaton emerges from the film as the titular hero. The stuff in the house is mildly amusing but it’s really the motorcycle stunt(s) that ranks among his very best. I continue to be amazed that he never died doing a stunt. Though this is a sequence, with each set up individually, it’s spliced together as one and it’s full or pretty crazy stuff. The thing about these old movies is that it’s really happening. Yes, there are some precautions we can’t see but that’s really him on the handlebars and it’s just absolutely nuts. (Maybe not quite as nuts as the house door gag but it’s close.)

I think the movie is worth it for the dream sequence, but either individual highlight of the dream sequence is worth it too. (I had actually seen the movie entrance in a documentary once.) It’s a pretty classic Keaton film and it’s nice and short.


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