« on: October 20, 2017, 02:09:49 PM »
Umbrella Sam, nice catch on the MUD AND SAND poster. All of these years watching this film and I never noticed that until you pointed it out. I of course noticed the Mary Pickford picture, but that's more front and center.
SHERLOCK, JR. is a very special film to me as it was my introduction to Keaton and got me into silent comedy in general. Before this, I saw four Chaplin Essanay shorts from 1915 on TCM and was not impressed. These days, I appreciate those Essanay shorts for what they are....early Chaplin and ahead of their time, but there's a huge difference between 1915 and 1924, so starting out with mature silent films (basically, the 20's) is best for the newbie. First viewing of SHERLOCK, JR. blew me away instantly. I was blown away by the creative gags, the dangerous stunts, the wit, and Keaton's demeanor in general. I've been on board ever since.
As far as the length, SHERLOCK, JR. is a short feature. Basically, anything 40 minutes or more and at least four reels is a feature. SHERLOCK, JR. just squeezes by. Since this week's film routinely is called a Keaton feature, I am consistent. Chaplin's first directed feature, in my eyes, is not THE KID, but SHOULDER ARMS, and I also count THE PILGRIM. They're the same length as SHERLOCK, JR.
The plot of SHERLOCK, JR. is really not the point of the film, so I do not consider the minimal plot a flaw. Yes, the plot is resolved early on. The point of SHERLOCK, JR.; besides being a great comedy, is that we can aspire to be what we're not in dreams and live out fantasy, and to dig even further, movies are also an avenue where we can live out fantasy. Not that I'm a fan, but how the Hell else do you explain all these super hero movies that are coming out today? The majority of Keaton's dream takes place in a movie, so the two are definitely intertwined.
Pre dream Keaton is a wanna be detective and lover, and he's not very good at either (staying true to the proverb at the beginning of the film). He gets outwitted with the pawned watch, overshadowed by his rival for his girl, and when he is with his girl, is hilariously too timid to make a move towards her. The scene where Keaton and Kathryn McGuire are next to each other and Keaton gives the ring and proves to be a timid love maker are the closest to Harry Langdon Keaton ever got....and I love Langdon.
OK, so Keaton's inept in real life, but in his movie/dream, he's always one move ahead of his rivals. He knows not to drink the poison liquor, he knows to grab away the explosive pool ball, he pre plans his escape when the rivals let down their guard and expose the pearls through that brilliant window gag, and he saves the girl nonchalantly and gets her in the end. When we return to real life, Keaton is again inept at making love to his girl, so what does he turn to for advice? The movie on the screen in front of him, impersonating, rather timidly, every move the leading man makes towards his lady. The very last gag which ends the film, which I won't give away for those who haven't seen it, is one of the most hysterical endings ever and takes the impersonation thing further than Keaton can go.
The physical comedy is wonderful and at times dangerous. Keaton really broke his next falling down from the water pipe by the train but didn't know about it until years later! The motorbike chase is awesome and that really blew me away first viewing....still does. The timing and mechanics of some of that stuff, like the stuff with the trucks and bridges especially, is breathtaking. I also love Keaton shadowing his rival early on, again, an act that must've taken great rehearsal and timing. Oh, and the transition scene into Hearts and Pearls where Keaton enters the movie screen and keeps transitioning into different surroundings is also brilliant, as is the ghost Keaton who enters the screen.
Really, one of the greatest movies ever made and a perfect introduction to silent film for any doubter. A very important film in my life.