Classic Movie Review: Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Title: Sherlock Jr.
Release Date: April 21, 1924
Director: Buster Keaton
Production Company: Metro Pictures Corporation

I’m getting close to the end of my Classic Movie project, and for the most part I’ve been reviewing these movies in chronological order.  For the month of March I will be reviewing 4 “bonus” classic movies out of chronological order.

Sherlock Jr. stars Buster Keaton as a young man who works as a movie theater projectionist and studies to become a detective.  I expected a pastiche on Arthur Conan Doyle stories but it is more of a comedy of manners.  After watching The General, I was surprised by the lack of stunts in the first third of the film (on the other hand, there was no effort to make a slavocracy look heroic, so bonus!).

Keaton’s character seeks to woo a young woman (Kathryn McGuire), but can only afford a $1 box of chocolate (which he edits to read $4).  Another suitor (Ward Crane) drops by the girl’s house, steals her father’s pocket watch, pawns it, and returns with a $3 box of chocolate.  The projectionist uses his detective instruction book to try to solve the crime of the missing pocket watch.  He suggests everyone be searched, but the villain uses the opportunity to place the pawn ticket in Keaton’s pocket.  Framed from the crime, he is banished from the girls’ house.

And here’s where the fun part begins! Keaton’s character falls asleep while projecting a detective movie.  He dreams about jumping into the screen and in a hilarious sequence he has to react to a series of quick cuts to different settings.  Then he dreams that the characters in the mystery are the people from his real life and he is a great detective.  First he has to avoid the several attempts by the villain and his butler (Erwin Connelly) to kill him.  Then there’s a chase scene with all the amazing stunts we’ve been waiting for (including one that literally broke Keaton’s neck, although it didn’t stop him from filming).

This movie is full of laughs and stands that test of time for fans of slapstick comedy.

Rating:  ***1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 7

Afropop Worldwide :: Remembering Johnny Clegg

A tribute to Johnny Clegg, who died last year, reviewing his genre-defying career of blending Zulu music and dance with pop in apartheid South Africa.

Futility Closet :: If Day

The true story of an effort to sell Canadian war bonds by staging a Nazi invasion of Winnipeg.  (This was dramatized in the weird and wonderful Guy Maddin film My Winnipeg).

Hub History :: Remembering the Boston Massacre

250th years ago this week, British soldiers fired into a rowdy crowd in Boston, killing 5.  Nat Sheidly reflects on the deeply personal tragedy for the people involved and how the incident has been reinterpreted in popular memory.

This American Life :: Everyone’s a Critic

Stories about white tourists observing Black church services, a Chinese journalist investigating coronavirus, and a woman who love the movie musical Cats.

Throughline :: Public Universal Friend

A glimpse into transgender identity in American history through the story of a Revolutionary War Era leader of a Quaker sect known as the Public Universal Friend.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Satanic Panic

The history of backmasking in popular music and the moral panic that ensued.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Appearances in 2020