Daydreaming Stunts

The American dream is in Sherlock Jr.. Buster Keaton plays a projectionist with two bucks in his right pocket, and in the other, a book on becoming a detective. He’s reading a guidebook to his future, a high-dollar, in-demand profession so he can mingle with the upper classman of society – an improvement from long shifts in a heated projection booth.

He fails though. Keaton’s character isn’t as smooth as a detective needs to be, falsely accused of stealing a watch and punted from the house where his lover lives. So, he does what any logical person does – dreams he’s in the movies, stepping literally into the screen while in reality snoozing through his dull job.

For 1924, Sherlock Jr. captures what makes movies special, long before they received such wide public sentiment. Keaton’s character becomes a movie star, slick, adept, and able. What that means is doing the impossible, including a motorcycle ride so obscenely perfect as to blow the mind of any modern stuntperson who hasn’t seen it. Movies reflect us. They project more than images, but ourselves at our best and worst, or most fantastic. Sherlock Jr. was likely the first to understand that.

Sherlock Jr., a 45-minute compilation of screen insanity about a man chasing fame, and in real life, earning it too

There’s an obvious sentimentality when looking back on Sherlock Jr.. The movie theater looks so innocent. Silents beam onto the screen while the small orchestra plays along. It’s so simple, yet grandiose. That style never aged – it’s a period of time where the totality of movie-going mattered.

With Keaton, he elevates that further, using the screen as a blank slate for all manner of imagination. Creative power sees the star wiping out on concrete benches and staring down lions during a frenzy of editing. Pratfalls draw laughs, yet the mystery comes later as Keaton dives through windows, nearly shatters his neck after climbing a reservoir (really), sits up on the handlebars of a motorcycle dodging all manner of hazards.

It’s a dream to be that perfect. It’s a dream to be flawless. It’s a dream to be rich and successful. Keaton embodies all of that in Sherlock Jr., a 45-minute compilation of screen insanity about a man chasing fame, and in real life, earning it too. Keaton’s antics speak to people – go all out at everything you do, and the American dream falls into place. Sherlock Jr. gets that.

Video

Newly restored from an interpositive (with additional prints filling in missing parts, according to the opening text), the results certainly impress. Nicely handled and resolved grain sits over a pure image, the master struck with limited damage. Light scratches barely qualify as harm.

Contrast becomes the only struggle. Clipping is common and harsh, leaving Sherlock Jr. without depth and some loss of detail. Gray scale faded with time.

Still, the shots of cities from the ‘20s and other exteriors capture a time with marvelous attention to sharpness. Resolution stands high enough to draw out texture and fidelity likely unseen for decades until this release.

Audio

A pleasant (and new) score is offered in DTS-HD stereo. It’s well rendered and clean with minor channel separation.

Extras

Doubled up with Keaton’s The Navigator, the disc offers two bonuses, neither specific to a film. Credit The Great Stone Face to Sherlock Jr.. This pulls clips from Cohen Film’s The Great Buster, featuring interview clips from Quentin Tarantino, Bill Hader, and others. It runs a bit under five minutes. There’s also a trailer for this restored release.

Sherlock Jr.
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Buster Keaton stumbles, falls, and recovers with style in the daydream story Sherlock Jr., a film with one of the silent era’s wildest finishes.

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