Sherlock Jr: Sleuthing for Dummies

The next movie on our list is Sherlock Jr, a 1924 silent film starring Mr Buster Keaton.  Who is a film projectionist moonlighting as a detective.  Bring on the lulz!

Buster Keaton plays a young man who is learning from a book how to be a detective.  Presumably he thinks it mostly entails running around with a magnifying glass, smoking a pipe, and saying things like, "Elementary!"

But the shit really hits the fan when a watch is reported missing.  The sneak thief who stole it panics, and slips the pawn shop receipt for the watch into Buster's pocket, who is then publicly shamed and beaten with rocks.  Not really.  But he is given a stern talking to and his girlfriend cries.  Regardless, he decides that it's up to him to be a real detective and clear his name.  There's only one problem...he's a really terrible detective.

So poor Buster heads back to his day job and dreams that he's a suave, intelligent investigator in the film playing in the theater.  Through a series of outrageous hijinks, he catches a pearl thief and brings him to justice.  He's pretty much James Bond, if James Bond spent his time investigating petty theft instead of foiling Cold War era plots to take over the world.

And then he wakes up.  But luckily, his sweetheart (who ironically is a much better detective than him) shows up at the theater to tell him that she knows he didn't steal the watch.  With a little help from the actors in the film, he and his girlie make up.

Random Musings:

For some reason, young Buster Keaton reminds me of what would happen if Sheldon Cooper and Buster Bluth has a love child.

Like seriously, someone should do a DNA test.

  • When I see someone in an old timey movie, like Buster Keaton in this one, use the old banana peel gag, it makes me wonder exactly how old that joke is?  What's the first recorded instance of someone slipping on a banana peel?  Was it meant to be a joke, or was it a genuine accident?  Deep thoughts, my friends.  Deep thoughts.

  • Where in the wide world of sports did the butler come up with the ax chair and the exploding 13 ball?  I mean, I realize he's a butler and it's part of his stereotypical responsibility to teeter violently between slavish devotion to his employers and total mental instability, but still.  This guy's got some seriously off-putting hobbies.

  • I'm actually pretty impressed by Buster Keaton playing pool, and the way he makes all those shots while nonchalantly missing the exploding 13 ball.  Am I easily impressed because I'm terrible at pool? Possibly.

  • And I love that after all that, he shoots the 13 ball into the corner pocket and nothing happens.  Classic.

  • I'm also ridiculously amused that Buster Keaton did most of his own stunts, and many of the stunts of the other actors.  You have to admire his physicality and willingness to get his hands dirty.  I mean, the dude fractured his neck while making this movie.  That's commitment.

  • How adorable is it that he watches the final romantic scene in the film at the theater and reenacts it in the projectionist's booth with his girlfriend?  Pretty freaking adorable, is the correct answer.

So I actually really liked this movie.  It's cute, funny, uses a lot of inventive techniques, and is only 44 minutes long.  What's not to like?  I think Buster Keaton is showcased at his best here, and he's got a lot of solid gags that haven't aged badly just because of how well-played they are.  It's a certain style of humor, and it might not work for everyone, but it's hard to deny that it's being done perfectly here.  The film shows a lot of different facets to the star, how he can play both the pathetic wannabe detective who really just needs a good hug, as well as his more heroic film counterpart.  In terms of film style, there's some great stuff being done for 1924, especially the sequence where Buster first climbs up into the's seamless and pretty innovative.  Well done, team!

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