Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Black and White, Silent Movie
Rated: unrated
Length: 45 min.
Age: 4 and up.

Scary Factor: nothing to speak of. A little uneasiness perhaps regarding an explosive billiard ball that never quite gets hit… more suspenseful than scary.

Interests: detectives, mysteries, history, silent movies

Next: other silent movies: The Gold Rush, Safety Last! ; more Buster Keaton: Steamboat Bill Jr. (6+), The General (7+), shorts

A mild-mannered movie projectionist (and wannabe detective) is shyly wooing the girl of his dreams when a rival suitor frames him in the theft of her father’s pocketwatch. Banished from the house, he sadly returns to his job in the movie theatre, falls asleep during a detective film and dreams that he is a world famous detective. In his dream he solves a jewel heist with flamboyant panache (and some hair-raising chases). When he awakes the girl has arrived to tell him they learned the truth about the watch and she apologizes for suspecting him. Buster gets the girl!

A rollicking good time, centred around the king of the poker face, the stony Buster Keaton. The title cards will have to be read to the youngest viewers, of course, and some explanation may be required, ie. the jockeying over the purchase of expensive chocolates for the girl, the gag of the found dollar, not to mention what a pawn shop is, just to name a few instances.) Some of these concepts were a little tricky for my four-year-old, but she was loudly guffawing during the action sequences, especially the runaway motorcycle bit. And the sequence where he enters the movie he’s projecting, only to be tripped up by the scenery changing around him is brilliant. (Shades of Duck Amuck by Chuck Jones!)

A great film for all ages – the older kids will require less explanation and better understand the nuances of Buster’s awkward courting. Sherlock Jr. is also the best introduction I know to the world of silent movies, as it’s the most suitable for the youngest ages. Astonishing stunts and slapstick gags rule the day – and none of it is mean-spirited or overly violent. (I tried watching some Chaplin shorts with my daughter one time, but his bad guys are really scary looking and the pratfalls looked like they would really, really hurt – she found it a little too upsetting.)

NB. The greatest and most baffling stunt is explained on imdb.com.

Besides the sheer entertainment balue, which is considerable, this is also a fascinating look at times gone by, retaining in its flickering black and white images some of the mystery and charm of the distant past. (The clothes! The cars! The language! The hairstyles!!)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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