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Safety Last! (1923) - Blu-ray Review

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Safety Last! Blu-ray Review

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5 stars

At long last, Harold Lloyd arrives in high definition.  Buster Keaton got his respect from Kino.  Charlie Chaplin continues to get his from Criterion and now, with the lovingly restored Safety Last, the bespeckled silent clown Harold Lloyd finally gets his time in the Blu-Ray spotlight.  Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor and produced by Hal Roach, Safety Last! almost single-handedly (pun intended) earns the bookish Lloyd his nickname "the King of Daredevil Comedy" with its final 20 minutes.  It is an extravaganza of the silent era of film comedy and pathos.  Full of wonderful visual gags and timeless elements, Safety Last! is the best introduction to Lloyd that a person can get.

Most remembered for its thrilling, hair-raising climax - a reckless, humorous stunt on the side of a twelve-story skyscraper above busy city streets, Safety Last! has Lloyd returning as the naïve Boy (he's good at playing the nice role) travelling to the big city from the small town Great Bend, promising to send for his Girl (Mildred Davis, Lloyd's real-life wife) after he has 'made good' with fame and fortune.  It’s a familiar set up but in Lloyd’s capable hands, the young man - offered $1,000 by the store's manager if he devises a successful publicity gimmick to attract crowds of people to the store – decides to use the twelve-story building as his own personal playground.

One after another, daredevil feats involving pesky pigeons and painters who thrust two by four paint platforms at him and a flagpole and a swinging window and an enormous clock are masterfully tackled by the straw-hat-wearing comedian.  The result is one of the best comedies you are likely to ever see.  The most famous sequence – the one of him dangling over the city by clock hands - was deliberately shot with most of the camera compositions including views of the perilous drop behind him.  In other words, it’s all real and he held on with ONE WORKING HAND.  Look closely and you’ll see that the other hand is rubber.  That’s right, folks.  Harold Lloyd had a damaged hand when he performed all the high-flying stunts of the movie.

Celebrating the 90th anniversary of this classic film, Janus Films, the preeminent U.S. distributor of foreign and classic films, present the film on Blu-ray.  This comes only months after re-releasing the film in theaters across the country for a limited time earlier this year.  The 2K digital transfer has been newly sourced from the original nitrate print (from 1923) and meticulously remastered and cleaned up.  Over 300 hours of work went into the restoration process.  The new transfer also gets the deluxe treatment as composer Carl Davis has re-synched his score to match the new print.

Okay, so I get it.  Silent movies are a tough sell to most audiences these days.  That being said, Safety Last! is such an exciting stunt film that it deserves its spot amongst such “required viewing” films as The General, Sherlock Jr. and The Kid. It’s one of those movies that is nothing short of a revelation and culturally significatnt.  Safety Last! is a brilliant death-defying comedy that lives outside of time itself.  Full of classic moments and a wonderfully beating heart, the new 35mm print on display here is certainly a treat for fans of the cinema and its history.

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Safety Last! Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Writer
: Hal Roach, Sam Taylor
Cast:
Harold Lloyd; Mildred Davis; Bill Strother; Noah Young; Westcott Clarke
Genre: Comedy | Classic
Tagline:
Safety Last!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I know it, Bill. I'll get the chain, all right the very first money I can scrape up."
Distributor:
Criterion
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 1, 1923
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 18, 2013

Synopsis: When a store clerk organizes a publicity stunt, in which a friend climbs the outside of a tall building, circumstances force him to make the perilous climb himself.

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Safety Last! Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 18, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: Intertitles
Audio:
Music: LPCM 2.0; Music: LPCM Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

Expect nothing less than greatness from that Cadillac of DVD/Blu-Ray labels, The Criterion Collection because this one is all about greatness.  The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080i transfer, and looks – for a 90-year-old film – simply stunning.  Depth is impressive and so is detail in the clothing, the buildings, and the streets below.  Many damage marks and debris have been removed with digital tools and they do not affect the integrity of the picture at all.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean and, trust me, you will marvel at the new clarity of the film.  Black levels are strong.  Grays and whites do their job.  Unlike Safety Last!, the three shorts - Take a Chance, Young Mr. Jazz, and His Royal Slyness - all come with 1080p transfers. All three films have been digitally restored.  There are two different scores for this release.  The first is Carl Davis' 1989 orchestral score (LPCM 2.0). The second is an alternate, improvised score by organist Gaylord Carter from 1969 (LPCM 1.0). The three short films included on this release arrive with Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Provided by Leonard Maltin and Lloyd archivist Richard Correll, this commentary should please hardcore Lloyd fans.  It’s detailed and full of wonderful information about the man, the stunts in the film, and the filming that took place in and around Los Angeles.

Special Features:

The Criterion edition sports a new, restored 2K transfer that, on blu-ray, presents a picture that appears as if the film was made yesterday. A 1989 score by Carl Davis is synchronized and restored in uncompressed stereo (and there’s an alternate score by Gaylord Taylor from the late 60s). Audio commentary by Leonard Maltin and Lloyd archivist Richard Correll is included. Excellent extras include an introduction by Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd; a superb two-hour documentary, Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius; documentary features on the photographic effects and music; and three restored Lloyd shorts from 1919 and 1920. Add a 22-page illustrated booklet featuring Ed Park's essay "High-Flying Harold” into the mix and you’ve a wonderful release from Criterion.

  • Take a Chance (11 min)
  • Young Mr. Jazz (10 min)
  • His Royal Slyness (22 min)
  • Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius (108 min)
  • Locations and Effects (21 min)
  • Carl Davis: Scoring for Harold (25 min)

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