Starring: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire
Director: Buster Keaton
No Must See list would be complete without a little Buster Keaton. A master pf physical comedy, along with the much maligned Fatty Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin, he was a prolific film maker and performer in the days of silent film, and he did all his own stunts to boot.
In this film he plays a young cinema projectionist, who reads Sherlock Holmes and dreams of being a famous detective. In love with a candy store sales girl, he must put his amateur sleuth skills to use when his rival frames him for the theft of a pocket watch. (It’s funny to think that Sherlock Holmes books were contemporary with this film!)
It’s A Must See Because: it’s arguably Keaton’s best and is a wonderful example of how film in the 20’s was a lot richer than we might think today. Don’t be put off by it being a silent film, or that it’s black and white. It’s a lot more accessible, I think, than other silent films, and the subject matter hasn’t dated too much either.
The way that fantasy and reality intersect in this film is echoed years later in comedies like those of Woody Allen, and the action sequences and comedy were all practical effects, which is quite amazing. It’s quite a fun, sweet, innovative film, and Buster is a delight, a small figure, and underdog with imagination and heart. Silent films were not so silent in their own day, the cinema would have a live piano player or musician, and a lot of them even did sound effects. It’s a fascinating era in film history, and this is quite a good entry point for new comers.
See It If: you like physical comedy, or if you like to see the little guy get the girl. Delightful.