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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Musical score by composer Carl Davis from 1989, synchronized and restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray edition
  • Alternate score by organist Gaylord Carter from the late 1960s, presented in uncompressed monaural on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary featuring film critic Leonard Maltin and director and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll
  • Introduction by Suzanne Lloyd, Lloyd's granddaughter and president of Harold Lloyd Entertainment
  • Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius, a 104-minute documentary from 1989
  • Three newly restored Lloyd shorts: Take a Chance (1918), Young Mr. Jazz (1919), and His Royal Slyness (1920), with commentary by Correll and film writer John Bengtson
  • Locations and Effects, a new documentary featuring Bengtson and special effects expert Craig Barron
  • New interview with Davis

Safety Last!

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Starring: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis
1923 | 84 Minutes | Licensor: Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #662
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 18, 2013
Review Date: June 9, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

The comic genius of silent star Harold Lloyd is eternal. Chaplin was the sweet innocent, Keaton the stoic outsider, but Lloyd-the modern guy striving for success-is us. And with its torrent of perfectly executed gags and astonishing stunts, Safety Last! is the perfect introduction to him. Lloyd plays a small-town bumpkin trying to make it in the big city, who finds employment as a lowly department-store clerk. He comes up with a wild publicity stunt to draw attention to the store, resulting in an incredible feat of derring-do on his part that gets him started on the climb to success. Laugh-out-loud funny and jaw-dropping in equal measure, Safety Last! is a movie experience par excellence, anchored by a genuine legend.

Forum members rate this film 8.5/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Safety Last! makes its Blu-ray debut from Criterion, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. The film is also presented in the variable frame rate of 22 frames per second. Because of this the new high-definition transfer is presented in 1080i/60hz.

Though the transfer is technically interlaced it’s not at all an issue. Going through it frame by frame you’ll notice a few frames for every second that present noticeable interlacing issues as they’ve obviously blended two frames together to compensate for the odd frame rate. But the remaining frames, which make up the majority of the transfer, are perfectly clean. Because of how it has been done it’s near-impossible to notice any issues while the film is in motion and I did at first assumed it was a progressive transfer.

Getting past what would be the one technical concern (which turns out not to be a concern) the rest of the transfer is absolutely glorious. There is damage present to be sure, primarily limited to tram lines and some bits of debris and scratches. There are some quick moments where fine scratches get very heavy and rain through the frame, but they’re quick and they’re gone by the time they’ve grabbed your attention. In these cases I’m guessing the damage was too heavy to do a decent restoration. Thankfully Criterion at least didn’t soften the image to hide these scratches as they have done on some DVD editions (Twenty-Four Eyes for example.) Because they’ve left it alone the transfer delivers an incredibly crisp image, and I don’t think I recall a moment where it ever goes soft. Edges are crisp and clearly defined, and film grain is perfectly rendered.

Other than the interlacing the transfer doesn’t present any other artifacts. The transfer as a whole is clean, free of noise, and looks smooth in motion. For a film now 90-years old it looks exceptional here.

8/10

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AUDIO

The film is silent but Criterion includes two lossless music tracks. The default track is a linear PCM stereo track presenting Carl Davis’ 1989 orchestral score, along with an organ score by Gaylord Carter, created in the ‘60’s, which is presented in linear PCM 1.0 mono.

Since they’re both newly recorded they both sound excellent in terms of quality, but Davis’ score is certainly the livelier one, far more dynamic with excellent range and volume levels, helped but its jazzy beat. Carter’s is a simple organ score, suiting for sure, but lacking much in the way of depth or range.

Ultimately it is up to the viewer which one they view the film with, but neither present any issue.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion packs on a number of supplements, starting with the audio commentary recorded for the New Line DVD, featuring film critic Leonard Maltin and director/Lloyd archivist Richard Correll. This was my first time with the track and I found it surprisingly underwhelming. Maltin’s covered silent era comedy before and always appears to have a passion for it, so I was looking forward to anything he had to say about Safety Last! but he plays second fiddle to Correll, who has most of the show. It’s a fairly standard track, by-the-numbers in nature, with the two simply talking briefly about a scene, admiring Lloyd’s comic timing, and going over locations or performers as they appear. The discussion is surprisingly superficial in nature, only livened occasionally by Correll, who was friends with Lloyd, recalling stories he heard from the man, or when the two talk about the archiving, preservation, and restoration of his work. It’s good when Criterion carries over features from other releases but in all honesty I don’t think I would have been too sad if they had dropped this one.

Much better is a 17-minute introduction by Suzanne Lloyd, Lloyd’s granddaughter and the president of Harold Lloyd Entertainment. She fondly recalls her grandfather and talks about life on his estate, goes over his relationship with Mildred, meeting Richard Correll and the preservation of his films, while also talking a little bit about Safety Last! She somewhat blames her grandfather’s tight control over his films for why he isn’t as well-known as Keaton and Chaplin today, despite his success during the silent period, but she seems intent on remedying that.

Criterion also includes three short films, two one-reels including Taking a Chance and Young Mr. Jazz, both running about 10-minutes, and then a two-reeler, His Royal Slyness running about 22-minutes. Scratches are unsurprisingly heavy in all three, but otherwise damage isn’t too bad and the films are still in decent condition, all things considered. Each transfer is also presented in 1080p. The shorter ones feature Lloyd with Bebe Daniels, trying to win her over in each short, whether it be some other suitor or getting her away from her over-protective, obviously upper class (because of his top hat!) father. Slyness has a sort of Prince and the Pauper storyline, with Lloyd, the look-alike of a Prince (played at one point by Lloyd’s brother,) going back to his home country in his place, only to fall in love with Mildred Davis.

The three shorts, all of which are great, also come with optional commentaries featuring Correll and writer John Bengston, which appear to have been recorded for Criterion. Unfortunately they’re of little use and pretty terrible. Correll again is obviously in charge, constantly speaking over Bengston who sounds like he may have something interesting to say. Basically the track is limited to pointing out where everything was shot and how things have changed 90+ years later. Bengston will get something in only to have Correll, who appears to not be really listening, more or less respond “uh huh. Oh, look! Isn’t this gag amazing!” All three tracks offer very little. For those that are still interested they can be accessed using the Audio button on your remote.

Criterion then throws in the 1989 two-part television documentary Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius, narrated by Lindsay Anderson and featuring interviews with those who knew him and archival interviews featuring Lloyd. You also get a few surprise interviews, like one from Jack Lemmon. The first half covers his early silent film career, from playing a Chaplin knock off to Lonesome Luke, and then playing his famous “Glasses Character”, culminating with Safety Last!. The second half begins with The Freshman and then moves through his “disappointing” sound film career, with great detail about working with Preston Sturges on the ill-fated The Sin of Harold Diddlebock. Complete with home movies and much more, it’s a comprehensive examination of the man and his work, packing a lot into its 108-minutes.

John Bengston yet again appears in the Locations and Effects piece Criterion made exclusively for this edition, with effects man Craig Barron also appearing. Bengston talks about the locations in Safety Last! with special attention paid to the climatic building climb, which was shot in three different locations. Barron, similar to what he did on Criterion’s edition of Chaplin’s Modern Times, explains how the effects, including the building climb, were done. They visit the actual locations to give a better sense of the set-up for the stunt, and Barron even makes a computer animation showing how they created the illusion of height. All of it proves rather fascinating.

Criterion then provides an exclusive 24-minute interview with composer Carl Davis, who talks about scoring Lloyd’s films, the many techniques used, and he breaks down many sequences, really showing the level of thought that went into every little moment. He even explains how he had to consider how to handle title cards, the speed of the film, and jokes about some of the unorthodox things in the score (like actually writing a “Brown Paper Bag” into the score.) It’s a rather eye-opening interview, exposing all the difficulties in creating a new score for a silent film.

The release then closes with a booklet featuring an excellent essay on Lloyd and the film by Ed Park, though admittedly most of the material in here is covered on the disc features.

Though the commentaries disappointed me Criterion has provided and even created some fantastic material for this edition, delivering a perfect introduction to the work of Harold Lloyd.

8/10

CLOSING

With some excellent features and an astounding video transfer, Criterion’s new edition of Safety Last! comes with a very high recommendation, and I am excited about their future Lloyd releases.


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