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Kino on Video presents
Slapstick Symposium: The Harold Lloyd Collection Volume 2 (1918-1921)

"Let's find a Vegetarian minister and be married."
- Harold Lloyd in The Non-Stop Kid

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: September 21, 2005

Stars: Harold Lloyd, Bebe Daniels, Mildred Davis
Other Stars: Snub Pollard, Fred Newmeyer, Helen Gilmore, Peggy Courtwright, Roy Brooks, Wallace Howe, Mark Jones, Charles Stevenson, Aggie Herring, James Kelly, Vera White, William Gillespie, Anna Mae Bilson
Director: Hal Roach, Alfred Goulding, Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (slapstick violence, mild ethnic humor)
Run Time: 03h:39m:57s
Release Date: September 13, 2005
UPC: 738329036720
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+B+A D

DVD Review

Harold Lloyd, resigned to oblivion for decades as a result of his own short-sighted suppression of his films, is suddenly making a major resurgence with the issuance of several fine collections of his comedy works. While a large set of his silent features and sound comedies is forthcoming from New Line later this year, Kino on Video continues to issue the earlier silent shorts. This second two-disc set collects ten films from 1918 through 1921 that Lloyd did for the Hal Roach studios, and one can visibly see his comedy art grow to fruition in this roughly-chronological set. By 1918 he had discarded once and for all his Chaplin knockoff characters Willie Work and Lonesome Luke, and had arrived at the "Glass Character" that would bring him to his greatest fame, an always-going Everyman with tortoise shell glasses and a toothy smile.

Four one-reel films from 1918 and 1919 open the set. In these, there's hardly time to establish a situation and milk it for a few gags before the film runs out, but Lloyd does some good work here, with Bebe Daniels as the inevitable romantic interest and comic veteran Harry "Snub" Pollard as various sidekicks and foils. In Two-Gun Gussie (1918), Harold is a piano player in a Western dive. Mistaken for a tough outlaw, he decides to act the part. It's a pretty cute little picture that starts things off with a bang. In The City Slicker, Harold comes to modernize a hotel in the mill town of Punkville, while attempting to engage the interests of society belle Bebe. The film is full of creative Rube Goldberg type gadgets that are amusing in their wildness and inevitable malfunctioning. The picture seems to end in awfully abrupt fashion; perhaps there's some footage missing from the end?

The Non-Stop Kid (1918) puts Harold into increasingly wild situations. Bebe's father has arranged a marriage for her with Professor M.T. Noodle; when Harold learns of this he disguises himself as the Professor and gets himself involved in a disastrous tea party. The finale is the model for the Three Stooges' Micro Phonies as Harold attempts to fake singing through use of a gramophone, which works pretty well until valet Snub breaks the record and puts on another one with a female vocalist. The silent version doesn't quite have the impact of the later sound variety, but one has to wonder if the Stooges remembered this sequence. In Ring Up the Curtain (1919), Harold is a stagehand and Bebe is a snake dancer. The film has a facile playfulness with stage conventions, with backdrops, settings and props recast into a variety of different uses that meddle with the viewer's perspective at length. showreview.php3?ID=4462 The two-reel comedies on the set begin with Captain Kidd's Kids (1919), a quite weird tale that involves Harold being hung over on his wedding day; valet Snub tries to get him ready to no avail. Bebe's battleaxe mother (Helen Gilmore) learns of the bachelor party and calls off the wedding, taking Bebe on a cruise to the Canary Islands. Harold pursues, with the expected seasickness gags, but then things get bizarre when Harold and Snub fall overboard and are rescued by a gang of girl pirates. The only other free man aboard is Chinese cook Ah Nix (director Fred Newmeyer), since the male pirates are all tied below. When they escape, mayhem ensues. It's hardly the sort of thing one expects in a Harold Lloyd film and it's pretty amusing just from its sheer audaciousness. The film ends on a freeze frame that again seems to signal missing footage at the tail. Both this and the following film feel like they just have too much plot stuffed into a mere two reels, lending them a frenzied character that will shortly relax a bit. It was during 1919 that Lloyd suffered a terrible injury, when what he believed was a prop bomb for a still photo shoot turned out to be the real thing, burning him badly and blowing off his right thumb and forefinger. The balance of the shorts here generally feature him wearing Mickey Mouse gloves to help disguise the injury.

From Hand to Mouth (1920) features Harold in Chaplin territory, anticipating The Kid by a couple years. Lloyd is a tramp starving on the street, with the aid of a little waif (Peggy Courtwright). Meanwhile, new romantic interest Mildred Davis has to get proofs of her right to inherit under a will by midnight and Snub is hired to kidnap her. Mildred helps Harold out when he unintentionally passes some counterfeit cash, but he's soon pursued by the police, leading to some entertaining manhole gags. When Mildred falls into Snub's clutches, Harold can't find a cop at all, until he finds more than he wants in a veritable police stampede that looks like a dry run for Keaton's Cops. One wonders whether some of the scenes should have been tinted blue to signify night time; on some occasions Snub and his gang are attempting to skulk in what looks like broad daylight (though it's possible that is a subtle gag on the practice of night-tinting in the first place). Bebe Daniels had left Roach at the end of 1919 to join Paramount, and Mildred Davis made a good substitute, with a pleasant demeanor and Mary Pickford curls. She would be Lloyd's leading lady in all his films through 1923 and he would marry her in real life as well.

We really see Lloyd come into his own with High and Dizzy (1920). The pacing slows down a bit and there's more attention to character gags and less to violent activity that doesn't always ring the bell. Most importantly, it contains a memorable tall-building sequence that clearly anticipates the classic Safety Last (1923). Harold is a young doctor unable to get patients until Mildred comes in for help with her sleepwalking. Harold's friend (Roy Brooks) has been making some homemade booze out of raisins, but when the tops start blowing off the bottles they have to drink them all in order not to waste any, setting up a long string of Prohibition gags. Although drunk humor is a long tradition going back at least to Shakespeare, if it's well done it can still be entertaining, and Lloyd really does some marvelous stuff with a tired situation, becoming increasingly obnoxious until he winds up on a ledge with a sleepwalking Mildred. While he's quite funny during the first phase, as he stumbles about completely oblivious to his situation, he becomes uproarious as he recognizes where he is and tries desperately to cling to the ledge he had had no trouble navigating moments before. This is and the succeeding film are definitely the gems of the set.

That next two-reel comedy, Never Weaken (1921) appears out of order on the discs. This was actually his last short, for Lloyd thereupon moved to features for good. The third of his thrill comedies (the first being Look Out Below (1919) and the second the aforementioned High and Dizzy), it's by far the most ambitious of the short films. After attempting to help Mildred save her job in a doctor's office by causing a series of accidents and thereby creating new patients, Harold believes that she has jilted him for Roy Brooks. Despondent, he attempts suicide but bungles the attempts, and in the process ends up riding a girder high above city streets and clambering around an unfinished building. The daredevil work is even wilder than High and Dizzy, and the grand finale is an incredible set piece running nearly ten minutes with one creative gag after another. The laughs come fast and furious and accompanist Donald Sosin is particularly inspired during these sequences.

The set is concluded by two three-reel shorts from 1921. Among Those Present features Harold as a bellboy masquerading as an English lord. He ends up talking too much about his fox hunting prowess and gets sent out on a foxhunt himself, with an extended sequence involving his lost pants and a variety of animals causing him trouble. It's a vigorous and rapid-fire film that rattles along nicely. Now or Never features Harold trying to make good on a promise he had made to marry Mary (Mildred), now a nanny, when she turned 18. The bulk of the film is devoted to a series of misadventures of Harold, Mary and her charge Dolly (Anna Mae Bilson) on a train trip. Harold demonstrates some pluck by dealing with several antagonists, including conductors who want to throw him off the train. Two thrill set pieces are the most memorable bits: a tussle underneath the train as Harold tries to recover his money from a hobo, and then a sequence featuring Harold atop the train, trying to evade the conductor. These longer shorts seem like exercises in extended screen-writing, and no doubt are symptomatic of Lloyd's desire to move to the feature form. For those longer efforts youll just have to wait a bit more.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture generally looks quite fine; Lobster Films contributes some prints that are clearly early generation material, with tons of fine detail and texture. Grain is well-rendered and generally avoids a sparkly appearance. Greyscales are quite good, without the overly-contrasty look one often associates with silent film. The only serious issue is PAL/NTSC ghosting, which makes rapid action seem unnecessarily blurry,but it's not too noticeable most of the time. The detail is such that things that weren't meant to be visible, such as the wire holding Lloyd as he takes his wild horse ride in Among Those Present, are plain to see, so the end result is satisfactory if not quite what it could have been.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)no


Audio Transfer Review: Donald Sosin has done some truly exceptional work recently on silent comedies, and his piano scores for these ten shorts fit into that pattern. Lively, vivacious and always mood-appropriate, they add a lot to the enjoyment of the films. Seemingly effortless and improvisational, the scores flow merrily along with a fine Jazz Age inflection that keeps them firmly rooted in the era of the pictures. Recording quality is without any issues at all, making these scores a true delight from every aspect.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 41 cues and remote access
Packaging: Double alpha
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extras. Each disc contains a 'Play All' button as well as individual selections for each short. The films all have four stops (except the last and longest, which has five). That's overkill for one reel and far from enough for a three-reel picture, but at least it's much better than the usual one-stop-per-movie that one usually finds on such anthologies.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

A solid set of ten short comedies, with some of the great thrill work that made Lloyd a household name. Other than some PAL/NTSC conversion issues, the transfer is very nice and Donald Sosin's score is first rate. Just don't expect any extras.

 


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