Speedy receives a lovely presentation on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection, who presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new high-definition 1080p/24hz presentation is taken from a new 4K scan and restoration of a safety fine-grain master positive.
”Stunner” doesn’t even begin to describe what we get here. Yes, some damage remains in the source and I don’t think this should come as too big of a surprise; the film is almost 90-years old after all. But the fact that the damage is really just limited primarily to fine scratches and some bits of debris, along with some print fluctuations and some softer scenes, is really astonishing.
The digital transfer itself is also top-notch. Detail is extraordinarily high when the source allows (some softer moments can more than likely be attributed to the source), depth looks decent, and textures can pop at times. Film grain is also rendered nicely, looking clean and natural, and compression isn’t a concern. Contrast looks pretty good with excellent tonal shifts in gray levels and fairly rich blacks, and there is a nice sense of depth to the image. The framerate also appears to be very smooth.
It looks really good. Other than some obvious signs in setting and location one could possibly be hard-pressed in telling that the film is almost 90-years old. So far I’d say it’s the best looking of the Lloyd films Criterion has released. 8/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Criterion packs a few great supplements, starting with a new audio commentary by Bruce Goldstein and Scott McGee. It’s a fairly packed and brisk track, the two talking about the film’s production and sharing what they enjoy about the film, as well as providing history to the various locations that appear in the film, offering some context for a few gags and settings. They also talk quite a bit about preview screenings and a scale called a “Laugh-O-Graph,” which studios used to measure audience reactions to gags. I also rather enjoyed moments where the two reference reviews from the time of the film’s release. It’s a great track, proving to be both informative and entertaining.
Goldstein then appears again, expanding on certain topics he touched in the commentary by offering analysis of the locations used for sequences in Speedy with In the Footsteps of Speedy. The film takes place in New York but was filmed in both New York and Los Angeles and the 31-minute feature is fun in pointing out the locations and how one is able to tell where each shot was taken, like the different lamp posts and how New York didn’t have above-ground telephone poles, which show up in some scenes. It was also amusing to watch as Goldstein deconstructs sequences that do literally cut between individual shots of New York and L.A. He also goes over the production troubles the film ran into while shooting in New York, which called for closing some of the busier streets. He also talks about accidents on set, including the buggy crash that is featured in the film, which was, more than likely, not intentional, and then another that is only mentioned in newspaper clippings. In the end the feature offers a terrific amount of detail about the production, while also pointing out how the film acts as a time capsule in capturing New York (and L.A.) of the 1920s. An unexpectedly fun feature.
Following this is more archival footage, this time of Babe Ruth (who of course has a cameo in Speedy), presented by David Filipi, director of Film and Video at Wexner Center for the Arts. Filipi mentions that unfortunately a lot of the known footage taken of Ruth is lost, but here he has compiled 40-minutes’ worth of this favourite footage from the era, from actual game footage to simple PR and newsreel footage, like when Ruth donated shoes to a local orphanage. The footage is rather great (and in remarkably decent condition), with sound footage thrown in. As the footage plays Filipi talks to great length about Ruth’s career, his celebrity at the time (having him and Lloyd together was particularly sensational), and the popularity of baseball. It’s a wonderfully thought out and edited together piece.
Goldstein yet again shows up, this time to go over a number of deleted scenes. Predictably this footage is lost but at the very least there are still photographs from these scenes that still do exist. Goldstein narrates over these stills, explaining the scenes and giving them some context, but admits to not being sure about a couple, like how one scene, which looks to take place at the dentist, fits in with the rest of the film. There’s also a couple of little plot points that were excised, including a sequence where Pop is roughed up.
Criterion next includes 18-minutes’ worth of home movies taken of Lloyd and his family, with narration by Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd. Most of the footage appears to have been taken during various parties or family gatherings, with a lot of it focused on Lloyd’s daughter, Suzanne’s mother, with footage of Lloyd’s newborn son, Harold, Jr. appearing near the end of the compilation. Suzanne Lloyd explains the footage, identifies various people that appear, and talks about her grandfather from a very personal perspective. Mixed in with some sound footage it admittedly doesn’t offer any real insights into the film it does provide a more personal and wonderful look at the entertainer outside of his work.
Finally, Criterion includes another short film (though only one in this case, sadly), his early two-reeler Bumping Into Broadway. The amusing 26-minute short features Lloyd as a struggling stage writer who is trying to land a job at a local theater. The first half of the short involves his character trying to get out of his apartment without the landlady catching him (he owes back rent and he gave the last of his money to help out a neighbour in a similar predicament) while the second half finds him first at the local theater and then at what appears to be a speakeasy that is being raided by the police. It’s a fast paced film, filled with a high number of sight gags, some familiar, some new and rather clever. It’s an enjoyable one, probably one of the better shorts from Lloyd.
The short is also in decent shape, though does feature very glaring tram lines in a number of places.
The release then features a standard fold-out insert, which provides an essay on the film by Philip Lopate. He goes over the film, its gags, and Lloyd’s “everyman” appeal.
It might not look like much but Criterion has put together an incredibly satisfying set of supplements and I was surprised at what they were still able to put together since their previous Lloyd releases have managed to also provide so much in term of supplements. A nice job on Criterion’s part. 9/10