johnlink ranks SHERLOCK JR. (1924)

Here is another Keaton feature which, at 49 minutes, would not be considered a feature by today’s standards. Having seen this in film school, I knew it was one of his better offerings. However, I remember seeing it on VHS, and there being a low quality grain issue. I was looking forward to see Kino’s remastered cut. How does it stand up against the best of Keaton?

I watched SHERLOCK JR. (1924) on 10.14.11. It was my second viewing of the film.

I forgot just how many classic Keaton moments permeate this little splendor of a film. The close-walking ‘shadow’ scene is a marvel, capped off by a train-top bit which is all time classic. The walking-into-the-movie sequence is splendid, allowed to be outside of any sense of reality because it is part of a dream sequence. The pool-playing bit is hilarious. The second chase, which mirrors the first in many ways, is perfection. This film just gives you beat after beat of genuinely extraordinary silent comedy gold.

There are moments of genius filmmaking in this as well. The meticulous care in the ever-changing scene where the scenary around Buster (inside the movie) continuously changes is barley trickery. Yes there is an edit, but the film was perfectly shot to make it appear seamless. The disappearing act Keaton and his sidekick pull is jaw-dropping, even today. The woman’s dress set-up and knock down and the 13 ball set-up and knock down are classic. The dangerous stunts are usually the showpieces in these films. Though they do shine here, they actually serve to supplement the wonder of the rest of the film. I would argue that the best moments in this film are camera tricks, and camera work. The stunt work is amazing, but merely a compliment.

This is the most surrealistic I remember a Keaton film being. Far from forcing the picture into a corner, it frees the antics to exist in a hyper-real place that does not pull from the enjoyment of the film. I also love the last beat with Keaton learning how to treat a girl by watching how movie characters do it. Yes the love bits of this film are secondary, but they do play into that last little piece of social criticism nicely.

Can’t believe I didn’t regard this movie higher after the first viewing. That’s what craptastic VHS will do. Sure, some of the written scenarios are barely tacked on plot devices. The writing here is not as good as THE GENERAL. But I would put forth that this film is MORE entertaining than THE GENERAL, and that the filmmaking is at least as good.



The bonus is for this movie’s editing, which is absolutely flawless.


~ by johnlink00 on October 14, 2011.

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