Sherlock Jr.
Zach Davis

Directed by: Buster Keaton

Starring: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Ward Crane, Erwin Connelly, and Joe Keaton

Buster Keaton is definitely known for his amazing vaudeville routine, but his real calling card should be his innovation as a director.  In his film Sherlock Jr., Keaton employs many techniques that were new at the time.  For example, Keaton’s character appears to walk down the aisle in the movie house and climb right into the movie being played.  Beyond the technical feats for the time, this is a direct acknowledgement by a character that they're in a film.  That kind of self-awareness was novel during that time.  Other great techniques he used were his famous one shot takes, meaning everything was done in one shot.  Multiple camera angles were not used, which ultimately meant that everything had to work just right on set.

Sherlock Jr. is the story of a local projectionist (Buster Keaton) who works at a movie house and is very taken by the girl (Kathryn McGuire).  He wants to buy her a fancy box to win her over, but he has some competition from the local sheik (Ward Crane).  While both men present their gifts to the girl, the sheik steals her father's (Joe Keaton) watch from the hired man (Erwin Connelly) and frames the projectionist for the robbery.

Broken hearted, the projectionist returns to his job where he falls asleep and enters the role of Sherlock Jr. who is solving a similar case.  The Villain (Ward Crane) and the Butler (Erwin Connelly) do their best to stop Sherlock from solving the case of the missing artifact, but nothing can seem to stop this sleuth who relies on cunning and blind luck.

The train shots used in Sherlock Jr. are simply amazing, especially given the timing needed to pull them off.  I don’t think any of the stunts and shots could be pulled off with ease even today despite the vastly improved technology at the fingertips of filmmakers nowadays.

In terms of acting everyone did a great job.  Just as Chaplin had his tramp, Keaton was his emotionless self.  McGuire did fine as the charming girl whose heart was being fought over.  Crane served well as both the sheik and the villain of the dream; he gives us a truly dastardly fellow in both roles.  Connelly must also be commended for his reversal of roles from the innocent hired man to the devious butler.

It wouldn’t hurt to goose up a little to get more laughs out of Keaton jumping through a window and into a dress, but no alcohol is required to enjoy this film.  Sherlock Jr. gets a sober rating.