Buster Keaton can’t help but be in the shadow of Charlie Chaplin, the latter’s mustache and cane looking as cute as a kitten while the former’s face looks melancholy yet versatile. But not only is his expressive face one of his assets but his body. What my friend said about him is that he was the Steve-O of his generation although yes, it should be the other way around that Steve-O should be hailed as the Buster Keaton of his generation.
The comparison makes sense, as he would do his own stunts and forsake his physical well-being. I can’t remember the first movie I saw of his, but it involved him running the top of a demolished brick building – that and this movie, Sherlock Jr., makes me wonder if insurance exited back then and if they worried about his safety as I was. Here he would organize cluster fucks of enviable production value and would literally slip on clichéd banana peels and jump into a lake to make his audience laugh.
Slapstick humour is sadistic, even in its more ‘optimistic’ examples. Most of the time we watch Keaton fall and be in a generally disadvantageous situation, but my best shot involve him taking on physical feats and instead of failing, he does something awesome. This is the first of ‘awesome’ stunts and I guess the first one always sticks in my head.
Here he’s the titular Sherlock Jr., a dreamed up, more suave, movie-within-a-movie version of himself perfectly landing on a suspect’s Model T. I know it’s a wide shot and we only see an ant version of himself but he’s humble enough, like most silent comedy actors, to let us see his place in the big picture and how he can move within it. With finesse. And that stunt show the upper body strength we though he didn’t have.
- The Way We Link (thefilmexperience.net)