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New Line Home Cinema presents
The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Volume 3 (Speedy / Hot Water / Movie Crazy / For Heaven's Sake) (1920-1932)

"Why don't you leave that kid at home and stay with him?"
- Harold Lloyd in Hot water

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: December 15, 2005

Stars: Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy, Mildred Davis, Jobyna Ralston, Constance Cummings
Other Stars: Bert Woodruff, Babe Ruth, Byron Douglas, Brooks Benedict, Wallace Howe, Josephine Crowell, Charles Stevenson, Mark Jones, Micky McBan, Kenneth Thomson, Louise Closser Hale, Spencer Charters, Fred McPherson, Noah Young, James Mason, Paul Weigel, Roy Brooks, Aggie Herring, Dick Sutherland, James Kelly, Vera White, William Gillespie, Jackie Morgan, Jackie Edwards
Director: Ted Wilde, Fred C. Newmeyer, Alfred J. Goulding, Hal Roach, Sam Taylor, Clyde Bruckman

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (comic violence, racial stereotyping, attempted suicide)
Run Time: 08h:34m:33s
Release Date: November 15, 2005
UPC: 794043844829
Genre: comedy


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

DVD Review

This third volume of The Harold Lloyd Collection, like the first two, contains a wealth of films, with five features and six shorts resulting in a running time nearly an hour longer than the other volumes in the set. Six of the films appear on other DVD releases, but even if you own those there is plenty of reason to acquire this volume, if not the entire box.

The set starts off with a bang, presenting a beautiful print of Speedy, one of Lloyd's most entertaining features, and also his final silent film. Lloyd stars as Harold "Speedy" Swift, an ardent baseball fan who has trouble holding a job. His sweetheart Jane Dillon (Ann Christy) lives with her uncle, Pops (Bert Woodruff), who drives the last horse-drawn trolley in New York City. Speedy learns that tycoon W.S. Wilton (Byron Douglas) means to acquire the streetcar line to develop a monopoly. When Pops refuses to sell, Wilton arranges for a gang of thugs to disrupt service, or wreck or steal the streetcar, as needed, to get Pops to lose his franchise. But Harold has other ideas, aided by a little dog.

One of the fascinating things about this film is that parts of it were shot on location in New York City, as the city was in transition from the horse age (streets are cobblestone) to the skyscraper era. There's also some great Coney Island footage that will surely please nostalgia buffs. But it's also a comedic masterpiece, for it presents Lloyd with another organic plot that erupts in opportunities for humor. One of the great highlights of the film is the knockdown brawl against the thugs, when Harold enlists a gang of his own, even though they're aged Civil War veterans. Baseball fans will particularly enjoy this film, since it features none other than Babe Ruth as himself, being given a wild taxi ride to Yankee Stadium by Harold. Ruth turns in a decent performance himself, credibly terrified at the experience.

The three-reeler Never Weaken (1921) was his last short, for Lloyd that year moved on 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, but 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 it's an incredible set piece running nearly ten minutes with one creative gag after another. The laughs come fast and furious, and the suspense factor is heightened by some dizzying POV shots from high above the Los Angeles streets.

In Haunted Spooks (1920), Mildred Davis has inherited a Southern mansion on condition that she and her husband live in it for a year. Her uncle (Wallace Howe) schemes to prevent this, however, by making them and the servants think the house is haunted. Actually, this aspect is almost throwaway, getting only a couple minutes of play at the end. More important is the classic sequence where Harold attempts to kill himself in a variety of ways, failing miserably each time, until he learns that Mildred wants to marry him. The short is plagued with racial stereotyping and humor, but putting that aside it's a very good picture. Due to its public domain status, it has already appeared on a myriad of other silent comedy compilations, but it's an important film in the Lloyd canon for the events behind the scenes, so one really can't fault its inclusion here.

Hot Water (1924) is one of the great comedies of domestic life. The first feature co-starring Jobyna Ralston as Harold's leading lady (Mildred Davis left films to become Mrs. Harold Lloyd in real life after Safety Last!). Harold plays a confirmed bachelor suddenly struck by love and marriage with Jobyna, but doesn't realize until too late that she comes attached to the in-laws from hell. Things start badly with a trip to the grocers and get even worse when Harold tries to show off his new car. To top it all off, Harold believes he has accidentally murdered his mother-in-law (Josephine Crowell).

Although it feels like four different shorts loosely stitched together, the thematic material is strong enough to give the film cohesion. The first bit is a little predictable as Harold struggles on a streetcar with far too many packages. The car sequence is fairly wild, with a conclusion that tugs at the heartstrings. Harold's dinner with his prohibitionist mother-in-law has quite a few laughs as he tries to conceal his inebriation. But the best segment is the last portion, as Lloyd believes he has chloroformed Mother to death. The combination of his guilt and echoes of the earlier sections makes this latter part laugh-packed even when it seems to be proceeding by the numbers. It's a fun gag comedy that has few dull moments.

Disc 2 opens with Movie Crazy (1932), easily the best of Lloyd's sound features. Harold Hall, a midwestern boy, is movie crazy and sends his picture to a Hollywood studio in hopes of being discovered. But his father (DeWitt Jennings) substitutes someone else's photo, which causes complications when Harold gets a letter inviting him to come to Hollywood and make a screen test. Harold tends to be accident-prone in his enthusiasm, leading to a series of disasters once he reaches the studio. But none of them quite compare to his romantic situation: he's simultaneously courting actress Mary Sears (Constance Cummings) and a Spanish senorita (also Cummings), not realizing that the Spanish girl is just one of Mary's roles.

It's been said that the Depression-era audiences had outgrown Lloyd's boyish enthusiasm, but I wonder whether it wasn't just the fact Harold was really starting to show his age; the callow youth can be funny in his innocent eagerness, but on a middle-aged man it just seems pathetic, not humorous. He was still able to get away with it in The Freshman (1925), but by 1932, as he was pushing 40, there was no way he could plausibly be taken for a youngster, which makes him seem brain-damaged. But the film does indeed have its moments. Key among these are Harold's hilarious attempts at getting through his screen test, and an upper-crust party that goes into mayhem when Harold accidentally puts on a magician's tuxedo coat, resulting in rabbits, birds and mice appearing at the most inopportune moments. Cummings is a quite capable female foil, playing the dual role to the hilt. The movie's essential theme is the illusory character of the movies, which is set forth in the inspired sight gag that opens the film: Lloyd appears to be riding in the back of a big car, but before long he's revealed to be riding his bicycle next to the automobile. The essential conflict between reality and illusion is economically stated here, and the variations on the theme make up the balance of the picture. It does a much better job of matching silent gags with dialogue than his earlier effort, Feet First (1930).

In Get Out and Get Under (1920), as usual for a Lloyd short, he's The Boy and Mildred Davis (whom he later married) is The Girl and there's The Rival (Fred McPherson). Most of the running time features Harold trying to get his precious flivver on the road and to the amateur theatrical production where he's to play across from Mildred. Complete with banana peels, this short will stoop to just about anything for a laugh. Note the brief bit of cocaine use, something that wouldn't be allowed after the Production Code came into being. Not a great Lloyd picture by any stretch, but it's interesting for its texture of 1920 style life. It's also notable for a closeup early on, where one can still see the scars on Lloyd's face from the explosion that blew off part of his right hand.

For Heaven's Sake (1926) is another gag comedy, the last of the handful that featured Lloyd as a wealthy man. Here he's a callous fellow who throws money around at will, J. Harold Manners, but he has a contempt for philanthropy. When he accidentally contributes to the support of a mission, he's outraged, thoughthat all changes when he meets the missionary's daughter, Hope (Jobyna Ralston). Before long he's rounding up the neighborhood toughs and getting them into the mission for services. The film concludes with a rollicking race to the rescue that's very well done indeed and features some good stunt work.

It wasn't too often that Lloyd would engage in class humor, but when he did he could do it with the best of them, puncturing the snooty with abandon. There are several great such scenes, many at Lloyd's own expense. Jobyna is terrific as usual, and Noah Young is reliably good as the leader of the roughnecks. Although Lloyd never much cared for the film, he did make it rapid-fire; cutting over a reel out before release, it's an economical piece of story-telling that moves with hardly a stop for breath during its hour-long running time.

In Number, Please? (1920), Harold is again vying with Roy Brooks for the affections of Mildred. The first section includes a wild chase after her dog, General Pershing, through an amusement park. She tells Harold and Roy that she will marry whichever one can get her mother's consent, leading to a race to reach mother. Harold opts for the phone booths, setting up just about every telephone gag imaginable. The final section is a rather pedestrian bit of foolishness about Mildred's purse being stolen and Harold trying to keep it from being found on his person. There are certainly some good moments here, and one can see the development of the 1919 short Ask Father in the central conceit. The phone comedy that give the short its name is the best bit of this two-reeler, however, culminating in Harold finally reaching mother only to be stuck with a caterwauling infant. The Glass Character is really nailed here, and it wouldn't take long for Lloyd to venture into feature films.

In fact, that happened just the next year, with A Sailor-Made Man (1921). Lloyd plays another member of the idle rich, in love with Mildred. But her father demands that Harold make a man of himself, so he joins the navy. While on a cruise to a fictional Middle Eastern country, Khairpura-Bhandanna, Mildred catches the eye of the Maharajah (Dick Sutherland) and is seized by him. But luckily for her, Harold is stationed there and is in a position to rescue her. The film concludes with a lengthy series of comic chases through the Maharajah's palaces. It's a bit short for a feature, at only four reels, but it proved once and for all that the Glass Character was substantial enough to carry a longer picture, and Lloyd never looked back. There are plenty of good gags and a few tastes of the character humor that would mark his best work. Robert Israel's score is particularly inspired on this film, not only by making nautical themes its own, but in a clever and perfectly-timed borrowing of Beethoven's dramatic Coriolan Overture.

Among Those Present (1921) 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. The character of James Kelly, as Mildred's father, seems to be lifted from the comic strip Bringing Up Father, a similar saga of the nouveau riche. In fact, both Kelly and Harold are enormous fakers here, pretending to be part of the upper crust when they're really more comfortable eating ham and eggs. This feature gives the film a solid working-class grounding that also supplies plenty o the humor. Harold's tales of fox and lion-hunting are particularly hilarious.

The final film on this massive set, I Do (1920), was the last of Lloyd's two-reel films. He and Mildred star as newlyweds who get roped into taking care of her brother's two children, four-year-old Jackie Morgan and infant Jackie Edwards. Harold isn't quite up to the task, however, and the house is soon a disaster. The second reel features Noah Young as a burglar intent on breaking into the house. The film is fairly rote stuff, livened up by the child actors, and hardly what you'd call a big finish. But after sitting through all 24 hours of the three volume set, perhaps one really can't take anything stronger than a harmless domestic comedy.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Speedy is another gorgeous print, with plenty of detail and texture throughout. It's a delight to see a silent film in such lovely shape. The combing problem that appears on the other volumes of the set crop up again in a few films, such as Never Weaken, Among Those Present and Hot Water. A Sailor-Made Man suffers from shrinkage and warping in spots, which makes the picture rattle about uncomfortably in spots.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only), Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Carl Davis contributes an orchestral score for Speedy that is particularly fine, and Robert Israel scores the rest of the pictures. Hot water features an alternate organ score by the great Gaylord Carter (who goes uncredited once again, in a snub of monumental proportions). The sound quality is quite fine, with no significant noise or hiss and good range and presence. The organ in particular goes deep into the bass range.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 90 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (Movie Crazy), Spanish with remote access
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Annette D'Agostino Lloyd, Suzanne Lloyd and Richard Correll
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Production galleries
Extras Review: Archivist Richard Correll, granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd and writer Annette D'Agostino Lloyd present commentaries on Speedy and Haunted Spooks. Although they have plenty of information to impart, they once again stoop far too often to narration and reading the title cards, which isn't exactly useful. The commentary for Haunted Spooks is particularly interesting, since it was during the shooting of this film that Lloyd suffered the bomb blast that cost him the thumb and index finger on his right hand; they analyze the film to point out which scenes were shot before the accident and which were shot after, a unique perspective on the way that the short films were constructed. The only other feature are sets of production galleries including nearly fifty stills from the various films on this set.



Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

While this volume only features one of Lloyd's best-known features, it's packed wall-to-wall with classic comedy in lesser-known shorts and features. Excellent entertainment value all the way around, and it should go a long way towards putting Lloyd's star back in its rightful place.

 


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