There aren't a lot of Harold Lloyd films available on DVD. Kino
has released a collection of his short films, and his rather poor last
movie, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, has a couple of releases from
budget studios. Aside from that there really isn't much. That's
why I was excited when I heard that Roan was releasing Lloyd's best talking
movie, The Milky Way. Not only that, but they include a WWII
era East Side Kids feature, Kid Dynamite, along with it. These
two films make a very enjoyable double feature and are well worth the retail
The Milky Way
Harold Lloyd is best known for his silent comedies of course, but also
had a successful career in the talking movies too. Though none of
his later films had the same comic genius as his silent movies, some of
them were actually very good. The Milky Way was arguably his
best; a mad-cap comedy admirably directed by Leo McCarey (Duck Soup,
Bells of St. Mary.)
Lloyd stars as Burleigh Sullivan, an everyman underdog who gets into
a situation that rapidly spirals out of control. When
Burleigh's sister Mae (Helen Mack) is harassed by a couple of drunk men
one evening, he steps in to defend her honor. They pick a fight and
in the confusion it appears that Burleigh knocks one of the guys out.
Unfortunately the man turns out to be Speed McFarland (William Gargan,)
the middle weight boxing champion of the world. This causes no end
of embarrassment to the champ, so his manager Gabby (Adolph Menjou) comes
up with a plan: They'll make a boxer out of Burleigh and have him fight
in some rigged bouts. After he gets a reputation as a tough customer,
he'll fight Speed who will clean his clock, thereby regaining his reputation.
Of corse, this isn't easy to pull off, especially since Burleigh has no
interest in ever getting into the ring.
This was a funny and enjoyable mad-cap comedy. It was filled with
fast-paced banter and witty dialog. There wasn't any physical comedy,
and Lloyd doesn't end up on the side of a building, but this is still a
funny film. A lot of the credit goes to Lloyd, who shows that he
can handle dialog based comedy, but also is smart enough to not hog the
lime light. The supporting cast is very good. Menjou is wonderfully
comic as Speed's manager, and Helen Mack doesn't get upstaged by her more
This is a wonderful comedy with several laugh out loud moments.
It's too bad that Lloyd didn't make more films in this vein. His
career might have lasted a few more years.
This East Side Kids film is a good example of the franchise. Muggs
(Leo Gorcey) is the best fighter on the east side and he's scheduled to
fight the west side contender for the championship. When a local
book maker decides to improve his odds, he has a couple of thugs take Muggs
for a ride so that he'll miss the fight. His friend Danny (Bobby
Jordan) takes his place in the ring and manages to win, which causes Muggs
no end of irritation. The rest of the film is taken up with Muggs
getting even with the guys that caused him to miss the fight, and competing
with his pal.
This was a good installment of the series. It has the typical
mixture of boxing, and harmless street-fighting along with some corny jokes
and set ups. Made during WWII, the film also has a strong undercurrent
of patriotism that is a little heavy handed when viewed today, but fits
with the times. Muggs comes across as being much more abrasive than
he usually does in the series, but they all make up by the end of the film.
The humor is typical for the series; old fashioned, but still able to
bring a smile to your face. One such exchange that takes place early
in the film:
[Muggs] is so tough he told Joe Louis where to get off." "He did?" "Well,
they were both on the same streetcar at the time."
While not as funny as The Milky Way, this is still an amusing
film that fits well with the other film on the disc.
Both films were presented with a two channel mono soundtrack which sounded
pretty good. There was a slight hum that was barely audible at normal
levels, but the dialog was clear. Some of the louder parts distorted
a bit, and there wasn't a lot of dynamic range, but the soundtrack was
appropriate for the film.
The full frame image on The Milky Way was on the soft side with
fine lines being a little indistinct, but looked very good for a public
domain title. The lines weren't very tight, but there wasn't much
frame damage. The print was unusually clean, with only minimal spots
or scratches. There was a fair amount of grain in some scenes, but
it wasn't distracting. A nice looking unrestored film from the 30's.
Kid Dynamite also looks good. It is tighter than Milky
Way, with a little bit better contrast, but there was some edge enhancement
that was pretty heavy handed. There was also some cross colorization
and minor aliasing that wasn't evident in the other picture. The
print was pretty clear and there wasn't much print damage. Another
good looking unrestored film.
Roan is one of the only public domain companies to put extras on their
discs, and this release includes some good bonus material on it.
The disc starts off with a five-minute introduction by film historian
Lou Lumenick in which he gives a brief introduction to both films on the
disc. He introduces the stars and talks about the supporting actors
in the films.
There is also a 6-minute interview with Rocky director John G.
Avildsen who talks to Lloyd Kaufman about boxing movies, and another longer
interview with Avildsen where he discusses his career.
One bonus item I really enjoyed was the 1st chapter to The New Adventures
of Tarzan serial. This introductory chapter runs 41 minutes in
length, and is pretty entertaining. The entire serial is available
from Roan, and this gives you a good idea of the quality of that disc.
Roan does it again. Easily the best producer of public domain
films on DVD, they've released another good disc. Both of the films
were good, but the disc is worth picking up for The Milky Way alone.
This movie is a wonderfully funny mad-cap comedy that is laugh out loud
funny. Harold Lloyd's best sound film. The East Side Kids film
was also amusing, though not as out and out funny as the first feature.
The prints for both films looked good, and at this retail price, it is
easy to tell fans of 30's comedies to run out and pick this one up.