This very Kafka-esque film was filmed during the rape-and-murder trial of Fatty Arbuckle, a circumstance that may have influenced the short’s tone of hopeless ensnarement. Even though the central character’s intentions are good, he cannot win, no matter how inventively he tries. He gets into various scraps with police officers throughout the film. Eventually, he unwittingly throws a bomb into a police parade and ends up being chased by a horde of cops.
At the end of the film, Keaton’s character locks up the cops in the police station. However, the girl he is trying to woo disapproves of his behavior and gives him the cold shoulder. Therefore, he unlocks the police station and is immediately pulled in by the cops. The film ends with the title “The End” written on a tombstone with Keaton’s pork pie hat propped on it.
One of Keaton’s most iconic and brilliantly-constructed short films, Cops was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry in 1997.
Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons