The 'High Sign' - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The 'High Sign' Reviews

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September 7, 2016
first keaton film but shelved 4 a couple of months & released second
½ October 27, 2014
Keaton shelved this movie for quite a while because he wasn't satisfied with it as his first solo project. It's a hoot, though. Keaton's prop comedy is front and center here, climaxing with an extended chase through a house loaded with trap doors and secret passages.
September 6, 2014
Nearly a century later and the physicality to this man's humor still holds up. Looking for a job, our man (Buster Keaton) gets hired to be bodyguard, but also gets pressured to kill the same man by the local gang. I know all of my reviews haven't migrated over here, but if you've been following me for any length of time on previous media, you know how hard I geek out for Buster Keaton. In my opinion, this type of slapstick didn't really translate well into the talkies, but for the silent era, it has an endless amount of charm when executed correctly, and with Buster, it is almost always just that. The gags go places that you don't expect; it will present to you a setup, not take it, and then blindside you with something that you don't see coming. Another thing I love is how he is not afraid to sacrifice his body for a laugh, and while there isn't as much imminent danger here as there is in The General or Seven Chances, the finale with the customized house is vintage Buster and put a huge smile on my face. I've been getting a mixed bag as far as quality goes with these shorts, as Youtube is a bit of a crapshoot for what you're going to get, but the print I watched had a fantastic score, and that made me realize how much the music can make or break your experience. I would say that of the 9 Keaton shorts I've seen so far, this is in the upper echelon, and while it doesn't match the exuberance of the sidesplitting One Week, I would place it somewhere in the top five.
January 29, 2014
My first introduction to Keaton and I loved him running around the house at the end. It was brilliantly done. I wish I had a house to play in like that.
½ February 8, 2013
'The High Sign' was the first short that Keaton shot as a solo artist, and he wasn't fond of it; or maybe he didn't have confidence in it for some reason, or was shaky about how it would be received by Joseph M. Schenck, his producer; maybe he thought the public wouldn't like it. In any case, Keaton shelved it after making it, and his next film- 'One Week'- would be the first movie that audiences saw out of his new deal with Metro Pictures. It was later released when Buster suffered a minor crippling accident and needed a film to fulfill contractual duties, and to this day it is still looked at as "minor" Keaton. To me, it is major entertainment, and while it may not contain the same pathos that would become such a strong part of Buster's very best masterpieces (see the intensely compelling romantic comic edge in 'The General'), it does contain some of the funniest straight gags I have seen in a Keaton short. Critics point out that Keaton hadn't quite mastered the use of his "toys" here (Buster was famous for turning set-pieces into moving, transforming, dramatic and usually quite dangerous elements of his films), and on that point they are correct; yet the daredevil is most certainly there, and the final sequence, which involves Keaton dashing and darting through a house that functions as a veritable Rubik's Cube, has all the mad genius and manic stunt layering he would come to be known for.
½ March 6, 2012

The High Sign puts Buster trying to make some cash, and he inadvertently gets hired to both protect and murder the same man.

The High Sign is quintessential Buster Keaton. It's a great example at what makes Buster so great. It's got inventive jokes, impressive stunts, incredible technical inventions, and an interesting story.

There are so many fantastic moments that are simultaneously uproarious, technically impressive, and physically impressive that only exemplify how talented Buster really was. The newspaper gag, the shooting gallery, the shooting practice scene, are all brilliantly hilarious. And of course, the terrific chase scene through the booby trapped house in last five minutes of the film are just a feast of Buster's talent. His talent as an athlete, comedian, and writer just explode off the screen. The story is rather amusing too, and it works out fairly well, so much so that it puts a goofy smile on your face.

The High Sign is just a fantastically good time. Many of the jokes are so innovative and uniquely Buster, that it makes this film a must-see for any fan of Buster's or even any fan of classic cinema. There may not be anything life-altering about the film, but there's no denying it's the perfect film to showcase Buster's talent.
January 15, 2012
An entertaining short film where Buster Keaton again finds himself in the middle of an interesting situation. The 'trick house' at the end provides for several laughs.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2011
The "High Sign" was Buster Keaton's first two-reel independent film but was shelved for a year when he broke his ankle and had to release it to meet his contract, which is a lucky break for us Buster fans! The film demonstrates once again Keaton's acrobats and fitness as well as his mastery of the genre. It's nice knowing that even back in 1920/21 the legend already had a keen grasp on what he wanted to become. While brief at only 19 minutes, it's most certainly a fun and entertaining comedy that is loads of fun to watch. Getting into Buster Keaton by way of the Kino Short Films Collection is a fast and still enjoyable way to do so as all 19 films range between 17-23 minutes and contain Keaton's magic and some wonderful set pieces.
October 25, 2011
What a great short from Buster Keaton. Pure enjoyment and entertainment, in only 20 mins! Good things come in small packages!
October 24, 2011
Classic just classic!
½ October 15, 2011
One of my favorite short films of Keaton so far. It is incredibly funny. Loved the shooting gallery scene, and also the climax sequences. Pretty much all of the film. I also liked the shot showing 4 rooms at once. Keaton is terrific in this!
Super Reviewer
October 7, 2011
Earlier sections are a little slow, but the climax in the house with the secret trap doors is sheer genius.
½ September 20, 2011
Buster was at the top of his game even so early in his career. The gags are hilarious such as the over sized newspaper. Keaton even made fun of the age old banana peel trick when he walks right over it without so much as a flinch. The climax with the house full of passages, revolving walls, and trap doors make for a brilliant visual treat.
August 3, 2011
Keaton's first short, shelved for a year due to his frustrations with the simplicity of the gags, which reminded him too much of his Arbuckle days. Though the way he flips and flops through trap doors in the brilliant climax, there's nothing simple about it.
December 18, 2010
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December 3, 2010
The last three minutes (the house chase) are some of the most unforgettable chasing scenes in the history of cinema, period.
Super Reviewer
½ September 3, 2010
Keaton in an amusement park, makes for an amusing movie.
½ August 30, 2010
The high sign is a great performance that gets balled up into this short. This 20 minute work shows why Keaton was so great with everything that he did. Not only is he funny but the sets and everything come together to create an incredible short film.
½ April 16, 2009
My favorit Buster Keaton film to now. He have showed that his also are on the same level as Chaplin.
½ March 7, 2009
Buster Keaton's take on shoot em ups is pretty superb. Keaton's short films were every nit as accomplished as his full length features. Keaton was actually a favorite of surrealist(specifically Bunuel ) for revealing the common absurdities in life and I think this might be one of the best examples of that skill.
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