Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Buster Keaton’s would-be sleuth dreams himself into movie-heroic mastery in this dazzling, evergreen, meta masterpiece of silent comedy.

Buster Keaton’s third feature is a breathtakingly virtuosic display of every silent comedy technique imaginable, from his own formidable physical skills to some then-groundbreaking camera trickery. While there is endless debate as to which is the funniest of Buster Keaton’s 1920s features, there’s little doubt as to which is the cleverest. Anticipating Jean-Luc Godard and postmodernism by decades, the detective fantasy Sherlock Jr. largely takes place inside the head of a hapless and wronged cinema projectionist (Keaton) who – in a sequence that’s a technical marvel to this day – dreams himself into the screen only to be flummoxed by the film’s editing. But that’s merely one relatively early set-piece out of dozens, including a stunt so dangerous that it broke Keaton’s neck – something he wouldn’t discover until a routine medical examination over a decade later.

Always a fan of film technology, Keaton here pushes film special effects to their then limits, though some of the most effective moments make use of old-fashioned vaudeville stage mechanics – such as the moment when he leaps “through” his disguised assistant to evade pursuers.

“A clockwork machine of craftmanship, Sherlock Jr. is Keaton at his best. Precise gag construction, lots of laughs and a personal point of view make this film not only one of the best comedies of all time, but also an early reflection on the role of cinema and storytelling in our personal lives.” Paula Feliz-Didier

“Few captured the majesty of our cinema dream-life as well as Buster Keaton. Here, the movie is the movie is the movie. That each of us could enter and indulge in a redemptive dream life was the tacit promise of the medium and Buster made good on that promise with pathetic nobility.” Steve Seid

1924 USA
Directed by
Buster Keaton
Produced by
Joseph M. Schenck
Written by
Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph A. Mitchell
Featuring
Buster Keaton, Kathryn Mcguire, Joe Keaton
Running time
45 minutes

Ranked in The Greatest Films of All Time poll

Sight and Sound

Who voted for Sherlock Jr.

Critics

Thomas Allenbach
Switzerland
Michael Atkinson
USA
Nico Baumbach
USA
Claude Bertemes
Luxembourg
John Bleasdale
UK/Italy
Camille Blot-Wellens
France/Sweden
Ty Burr
USA
Josh Cabrita
Canada
Michael Campi
Australia
Monica Castillo
USA
Robbie Collin
UK
Sarah Cooper
UK
Philippe FAUVEL
France
Paula Felix-Didier
Argentina
Allyson Nadia Field
USA
Alfonso Garcia Calvo
Spain
Molly Haskell
USA
Laura Horak
Canada
Helen Hughes
UK
Jeff Lambert
USA
Dietrich Leder
Germany
Danny Leigh
UK
Todd McCarthy
USA
Frédéric Mercier
France
Bruno Mestdagh
Belgium
Mads K. Mikkelsen
Denmark
Luis Miranda
Spain
James Naremore
USA
Ian Nathan
UK
Michał Oleszczyk
Poland
Michael Omasta
Austria
Xavier Pérez
Spain
Michael Phillips
USA
Carrie Rickey
USA
José Maria Rodríguez Armada
Spain
Kat Sachs
USA
Regina Schlagnitweit
Austria
Louis Séguin
France
Steve Seid
USA
Jai Arjun Singh
India
Diego Trerotola
Argentina
Kyle Turner
USA
Jon Wengström
Sweden
Ramin Zahed
USA

Directors

Abel Ferrara
USA
Raya Martin
Philippines
Philippe Mora
Australia
Seungwan Ryoo
South Korea
Chaitanya Tamhane
India

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