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not all great DVDs are in 5.1

Silent DVD Archive


The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection and an interview with Suzanne Lloyd
A column on the world of early cinema by DVDTalk reviewer John Sinnott

The wait is finally over!  The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection is being released November 15th and with it, the last of the great silent comedians will finally have his work available on DVD.  I've been a fan of Harold Lloyd's ever since I saw his films on PBS in the 70's, and this set is everything I could have hoped for.  Wonderfully clear and clean restored prints with orchestral scores make this a must-buy for any silent film fan or anyone who enjoys good comedies.  We have our review of the set this issue but that's not all.

I also had the pleasure to talk with Suzanne Lloyd, Harold's granddaughter who was instrumental in creating this set.  It's obvious from talking with her that she cares a lot for her grandfather and his legacy. You can read the interview where she talks about what her grandfather was like, how he felt about his fans, and why a couple of Lloyd's features aren't included in this boxed set.  She also talks about state of Welcome Danger, Lloyd's first sound feature, which was started as a silent movie.

Next month I should have review of the Image double features, Don't Change Your Husband/Golden Chance and Why Change Your Wife/Miss Lulu Bett.


Upcoming Silent Film DVDs


Title (* denotes new additions)
click on the title to purchase at Amazon.com
Studio
Release Date
MSRP
The White Hell of Pitz Palu [review]
Kino
November 15, 2005
29.95
Chang! [review]
Milestone
November 15, 2005
29.99
The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection
New Line
November 15, 2005
 89.85
Grass [review]
Milestone
November 15, 2005
29.99
Why Change Your Wife/Miss Lulu Bett
Image
Noverber 29, 2005
24.99
Industrial Strength Keaton
Mackinac Media
Febuary 14, 2006
29.95

Recent Silent Film Releases


Title
click on the title to purchase at Amazon.com
Studio
Release Date
MSRP
The Blue Bird (1918) directed by Maurice Tourneur [review]
Kino
September 6, 2005
29.95
Lorna Doone (1922) directed by Maurice Tourneur [review]
Kino
September 6, 2005
29.95
The Garbo Silents: The Temptress, Flesh and the Devil, The Mysterious Lady (TMC Archives) [review]
Warner
September 6, 2005
39.92
 Charley Chase Collection II [review]
 Kino
 September 13, 2005 
 24.95
 Harold Lloyd Collection II 2 disc set [review]
 Kino
 September 13, 2005
 29.95
 Oliver Hardy Collection [review]
 Kino
 September 13, 2005
 24.95
Charlie Chaplin:  The Forgotten Years [review]
Hart Sharp Video
October 18th, 2005
24.99
Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film [review]
Image
October 18th, 2005
99.99
Don't Change Your Husband/Golden Chance
Image
October 25th, 2005
24.99


An Interview with Suzanne Lloyd

Suzanne Lloyd with her grandfather.

Silent DVD:  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.

Suzanne Lloyd:  Oh, it's my pleasure.  I have been waiting for a long time to get these films put out on DVD so it's really my pleasure to talk to you.  Thank you for taking the interview and spreading the word about Harold.

SD:  I've been waiting a long time to get these film on DVD myself, so I'm just giddy about the fact that these are being released.

SL:  Thank you very, very much.  I've been working on this for eight years trying to get them in the right place and in the right hands.  Luckily I was very fortunate to have New Line embrace it, really step to the plate and allow me to have a pretty free hand in producing this package.  Their enthusiasm and the amount of creativity that they were able to put into it is really amazing.

SD:  I have to apologize in advance for starting off with a question that you are probably asked a lot.

SL: (laughs) It's okay.

SD:  You are Harold Lloyd's granddaughter and co-wrote a biography about him (Harold Lloyd, Master Comedian) as well as compiling a book of his 3-D photographs (Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3-D), so you obviously know a lot about him, but how well did you know your grandfather while he was alive?

SL:  My grandparents, Mildred and Harold, they actually raised me.  I was like their third daughter.  I lived with them at Greenacres from the day I was born till the time that they passed away.  So I was their child.  They raised me as their daughter.  I traveled with them, Harold taught me how to drive a car.  Thank God he did my algebra homework or I never would have gotten through that class.

SD:  (laughs)

SL:  My grandmother was a hands-on Mom, she went to PTA meetings and had birthday parties for me and they were just my parents.  I lived with them my whole life and so I never knew another home except living with my grandparents.  My mother, Gloria, who is in the DVD with me in two interviews, is their eldest child.

SD:  I've heard that on the set, Harold was a very hard worker and that he paid a lot of attention to detail and was very concerned about making his films the best that he could.  How does that compare to his private life?  What was he like as an individual?

SL:  He was very humble, he was very kind.  He was very intrigued about anybody, very intrigued about life and enjoyed life.  He was always seeking knowledge, whether it was from a word game, or mathematics or the photography.  He loved 3-D photography.  He took over 300,000 3-D photographs.  Whether it was mastering paints, he came up with the secondary complimentary colors in oil paints; he was kind of a Renaissance man he was always pursuing a new goal or interest.  And he always wanted to be on top of it.  He bowled two 300 games in tournament play.  He was always very competitive.  But he was always very open for you to go talk to him, about a problem or anything.  He was good with kids; he was great with my friends.  He wasn't snobby, he wasn't nasty, he wasn't full of himself.  I can't say he wasn't temperamental, he didn't like losing at cards.

He was just an amazing person with a love for life.  He had an amazing love for life.

SD:  I'm glad to hear you say that your grandfather was so kind.  I've always loved the Kevin Brownlow anecdote about how he first Harold Lloyd.  As a young man he had sent Harold a letter and didn't hear back from him.  Then he got a phone call one afternoon.  Harold Lloyd was in London and called him and said "Let's meet for dinner."

SL:  Yep, that's right.   Kevin and I are really close.  I did that documentary with Kevin and David Gill…

SD:  Yes, Harold Lloyd the Third Genius.  (Suzanne Lloyd was an executive producer.)

SL:  One time when I was in London with Harold, Kevin invited us to his house.  Kevin took me aside and said "Sue, don't say a word.  You know how your grandfather feels about his films and his films getting out, whether they are pirated or copied.  I've got some Harold Lloyd movies here and I've stuck them under my bed in my bedroom.  I hope he doesn't start snooping around."  <laughs>  I just said "Okay Kevin, I won't say anything."

Dad (sic) was always saying "Now Kevin, how did you see those films?"  He loved Kevin and thoroughly enjoyed his time with him and was thrilled that he was very interested in his movies and documenting them.

He was very generous with his time with people.  He was generous with his time with a lot of actors too.  From Jack Lemon to Robert Wagner, Tyron Power, putting Lucille Ball in her first movie A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob.  He enjoyed doing that and helping.  He was a very generous person.

On the set, he was always open to his crew members coming to him and saying "You know Harold, I don't know if that worked or not."  He also mentored his crew especially Sam Taylor, to get the guys who were writers and make them into directors so they would move along in their career.  He also said to me "You know, I can be an actor and a producer, and I know what I want to see on the screen, but I can't stand behind a camera and know what I'm doing in front of the camera.  I need help I need somebody to talk to me and tell me how things look.  He always wanted people's opinions, for people to collaborate with him.  He wanted everything to filter through him, it was definitely his project, but he wanted input.

SD:  That's what I have always heard.  That he was most interested in making a great film, and that he didn't care where the ideas came from as long as it made the film better.

SL:  Yes that's what he wanted, a great film.  And he wanted to work with the people that he worked with.  He kept his crew together; he always kept them on staff at the studio.  He kept them because he wanted that collaboration and he comfortable with working with them.  That's why you see the same names [on his films]:  Walter Lundin the cinematographer, Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor, he liked working with these guys.  They knew what pace he was at and what he was getting to.  That gave him security I think.  He didn't have to break in new people and he could reach farther into what he wanted to do as a filmmaker.  Harold Lloyd really was a filmmaker.  He was an actor, granted, and he was a star, but he was actually an independent producer.  People have to realize that he was producing those films from 1924 on himself with his own money, his own studio, and he was a filmmaker. He was involved in every aspect from the camerawork to his stunts.  He was truly an independent filmmaker.

SD:  Oh yeah.  That's one of the reasons we have this DVD set.  Since he owned his films he was able to keep control of them and he kept the negatives and good prints.  Which brings me to another question I had:  Do you think he would be surprised to see how popular his films are?  I was at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival this past year and the line to see For Heaven's Sake stretched down the street and around the block.  Do you think your grandfather would be surprised to see that his films are still so popular so many years later?

SL:  I definitely know it would warm his heart.  He might be surprised.  He always had faith in his film for the pure entertainment.  He always used to say that if you deliver a film that will hold up, that people walk out and they are talking about it and they are happy; that will make a film live forever.

He was so modern in his approach to the glass character that he had.  He was always dealing in reality.  He made his comedies so it could happen to somebody.  It could happen to you, it could happen to your brother or your sister, or your dad.  It was all based on reality.

SD:  It was very easy to identify with his character too.

SL:  Yes, he was a person that you knew.  He was identifiable to who you were.  You felt that you were him.  Do you ever watch Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David?

SD:  Oh yes.

SL:  You sit there and you go "Oh my God Larry, where are you going with this?"  Then you think "I've been there, I've done that."

SD:  Oh yeah, most definitely.

SL:  It's that same type of thing.  It's reality based comedy.  He's really dealing with the people of here and now.  He worked on that, to make it that way, and to be a person who blended in the crowd.

SD:  I heard that he didn't have a problem going to restaurants and such when he didn't have his glasses on.  The he wouldn't be recognized.

SL:  Yes, he loved doing that.  And sometimes he'd say "I'm Harold Lloyd" and people would look at him and go "huh?"   He loved doing that when he was younger, when he was on top of the game making the movies.  He could slip in and out of places and nobody would know who he was.  The loved doing that, though some of his friends used to get really angry with him.  There's a story about concerning Fairbanks and Pickford on the DVD.   They used to pick on him because they used to get mobbed all the time.  They'd point him out.  "You want to meet a really big star, there's Harold Lloyd."  And they all run over.  Harold would just sit there and laugh.

SD:  (laughs)  That's great.

SL:  He was fine with his fans.  When I came along he was working for the Shriner's hospital for crippled children so he wasn't making movies, and so it took me a Fperiod of time before I realized that he was really a film star.  Then I'd go places with him, press previews or whatever, and people would really make a production and sometimes we'd get mobbed.  One time I got mobbed in New York with him coming out of a Broadway play and all these fans were there and they realized it was him.  I got pulled away from him and I was really angry.  I said "Oh my God, I've never seen people go after you like that for autographs and pictures and they just pushed me away from you and I couldn't get back to the car."  Luckily my uncle, Harold Jr., came grabbed me, but I was really annoyed.   He said "Sue, you have to realize those are the fans and those people are the people who care for you and support you.  Those are the people who come to the movies.  You have to extend yourself if you decide to become a public person and be in moves.  You have to be nice and kind and open most of the time.  You have to put yourself out there."  He didn't want to be rude.  It's almost like he's saying "Thank you for supporting me."

SD:  That's a very good attitude, and I know it's hard to keep a positive and upbeat opinion of your fans after being mobbed like that.

SL:  He did.  He was very grateful that they all came and saw his films and enjoyed them.  I think it made him feel good.  He used to get kind of annoyed with other actors and he'd say "Why do they not want to sign autographs?  Those are their fans, those people are really taking care of them."

SD:  Yeah, he was right.  I'd like to talk to you a little bit this set.  It's a great compilation, and includes all of the movies that I hoped to get on DVD.  But there are a couple of things that are missing, and wanted to know if there was any chance that they might see the light of day on a future set.  For example, the Lonesome Luke comedies:  I understand that there is still a couple in existence.  Does the Harold Lloyd Trust have access to them?

SL:  There are some in existence, and I have a lot of the glasses character one-reelers that are not out.  Hopefully we'll be able to get them out on the next set.  I also did not release Welcome Danger which I've just restored the silent version, and it has just been scored, with a brand new score, which will be shown theatrically starting early next year.

SD:  That's great news.  That was one of the films that I was going to ask you about.

SL:  Then I have the talking version, and the silent version.  They're similar but they're dissimilar.  He put in different cast members in the talking version verses the silent version, he reshot scenes, of course the dialog and the title cards are different.  There's a great difference between the two versions of that movie.

SD:  I would love to be able to see them back to back.

SL:  Hopefully New Line will put them out for you John.

SD:  Professor Beware also isn't included in the set either.

SL:  Well Professor Beware is actually owned by Paramount.  So we'd have to go and petition Paramount.

SD:  The other one that I assume rights would be a problem is The Sin of Harold Diddlebock/Mad Wednesday.

SL:  Yes, Universal.  The Sin of Harold Diddlebock I believe is public domain, but Mad Wednesday isn't.  There is a tie up there because that's Howard Hughes producing that.  I don't know.

SD:  It would be nice to see the two different versions of that.

SL:  Yes, it would be nice to see the two versions.

SD:  There's one last question that I'd like to ask:  When people talk about Harold Lloyd's films Safety Last! and The Freshman are always mentioned.  Are there any films in this set that you think are underrated, or that you think should get a little more attention?

SL:  (instantly) Speedy.  Definitely.  And Girl Shy where he is the writer who writes about the secrets of making love, but he's so girl shy that he can't speak to a girl.  And, also, it's very interesting he plays a millionaire, Harold Manners in For Heaven's Sake.

SD:  Oh yes!

SL:  And it's funny that nobody ever talks about Hot Water.  Well, you saw For Heaven's Sake.

SD:  Yes.

SL:  You probably hadn't seen that on a screen before had you?

SD:  No.  As a matter of fact, I saw most of these films on TV when PBS broadcast them in the 70's.  That's where I first encountered Harold Lloyd, and that's what really made me into a silent film buff.  They made me realize how well these feature length films can stand up so many years later.

SL:  Harold really converted you?  That's wonderful to know.

SD:  Well this is a wonderful set.  I'd like to thank you for working so hard to get it out to everyone.

 SL:  I'm just so happy now the fans won't hate me anymore.  (laughs.)  Believe me, there's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in that boxed set, and a lot of time.  A lot of time.  I had great help.  I have a guy who works for me, Chuck Johnson who has just been brilliant at this whole process.

Then there's more work to do.  Spreading the word is basically it.  I've never seen an audience go bad looking at a Harold Lloyd movie.  I used to be petrified of that.  I'd speak before a show and I'd be thinking "I hope it goes well, I hope it goes well." Finally somebody said "Don't worry Sue, go out and introduce and talk about the film.  Once it gets on the screen, Harold takes care of Harold.

SD:  (laughs) Yes, he certainly does.  Watching these films is such a treat.  They are so clear and clean.  I think fans will be very pleased with the set, and I'll bet you'll get a lot of new fans who are exposed to him for the first time.

SL:  I hope the fans really like this.  I did my best, I really did.

SD:  I've been very happy with what I've seen.  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.

SL:  Thank you John.


The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection

It's commonly acknowledged that there were three great comic geniuses in the silent era: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.  Kino released all of Keaton's features on DVD in the late 1990's with nice looking images.  Chaplin's most famous films have been restored and they were released in a pair of DVD boxed sets within the last couple of years.  Now, with the release of The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection, the third genius finally has his best work persevered on DVD in from glorious looking restored prints.  This lovely boxed set includes nearly all of Lloyd's feature films as well as several of his early shorts, 28 films in all.  A wonderful set that is sure to please silent movie fans.

Background:

Harold Lloyd started his comedy career working for his friend Hal Roach.  Roach had inherited some money and used it to create a movie studio in the early teens.  Together they came up with a character named Willie Work, a tramp and obvious attempt to cash in on Chaplin's success.  These films did poorly, at one point Lloyd said that none of them were ever sold and distributed, and by 1928 no prints were still in existence.

After a brief stint with Mack Sennett at Keystone, Lloyd returned to Roach and together they created another Chaplin impersonation, Lonesome Luke.  This time the films were immensely popular and the distributor, Pathé, couldn't get enough of them.  Lloyd never liked the character however, since he wasn't original.  After mulling some ideas over, he came up with what he called the "Glass Character" a young ordinary looking man with glasses.  Roach and Pathé didn't want to make films with this new character since the Lonesome Luke films were doing so well, but Lloyd finally convinced Roach to give the character a shot.  The glass character started out in one-reelers (Lonesome Luke had been featured in two-reelers for a while, so this was a step backwards), and Lloyd alternated characters in his films.  One week he'd do a Lonesome Luke comedy, and the next he'd do a glass character.  His new persona quickly gained a following though, and by 1918 Lloyd retired Lonesome Luke and was only playing his glass character.

It took Lloyd a while to come up with a personality to go with the character in glasses, but he eventually did hit upon the right temperament and created some of silent film's greatest comedies with it.  Unlike the Chaplin's down-on-his-luck Tramp or Keaton's acrobatic screen persona, the glass character usually played an everyday regular guy.  He was someone the audience could relate too.  If he got into tough situations, it wasn't that he went looking for trouble, it was just bad luck.   When he does find himself in trouble, it is his boundless optimism and ingenuity that gets him through it.  He's the All-American boy made good.  Even more than that though, he was truly likeable character.  Someone that it was easy to cheer for.

If one image can capture this spirit and enthusiasm if has to be the justly famous picture from Safety Last:  Harold hanging from the hands of a clock a dozen stories above the pavement.  From the look on his face, you can tell that Harold knows he's in trouble and he's concerned, but not terrified like you or I would be.  He's optimistic and knows he'll get out of it, if only he has the time to think of a solution.  That single image also illustrates just how far Lloyd would go for a laugh.  This isn't someone doing a prat fall, he's risking his all for comedy.  (Or so it seems.)

This image, one that people who have never seen a silent film will recognize, is also largely responsible for Lloyd's reputation as a daredevil comic and someone who derived comedy from dangerous situations.  Some critics have even unfairly written him off as not much more than a guy hanging off of a building.  Though these were some of his most memorable films, the thrill pictures are relatively few in number, and not really representative of his entire body of work.  As this set illustrates, Harold Lloyd was a fine comic and filled his movies with many types of gags, but also cared a lot about the plot and characterization.

Like Keaton, Lloyd didn't overact and is able to get a laugh just with a look.  For example, in The Freshman when Harold, who is acting as the tackling dummy for the football team, see the line of people who are going to tackle him double in size he just stares.  His look is a mixture of resignation and exasperation and it's priceless.  He resisted the temptation to go with a broad wide-eyed shocked look and the scene is much more enjoyable due to his underacting.

Lloyd's comedies are different from the other popular silent comics too.   They don't have the emotion of Chaplin's or the surrealistic quality of Keaton's but they do have more laughs.  Lloyd previewed his movies several times before they were released and tweaked and fine tuned them till the laughs were coming at a good rate.  This makes Lloyd's film some of the most laugh filled movies of the silent era.

Another thing that set Lloyd apart from his contemporaries is that he wasn't funny in and of himself.  When you see a picture of the glass character, he doesn't seem humorous as Chaplin's tramp, Stan Laurel's blank eyed stare, or the stone-faced Keaton.  The key to Lloyd's comedy is that he did funny things.  He crafted humorous scenes and gags, put himself in the middle of them, and made it look easy to do.  It was his ability to make it all seem natural that made his character so likeable and the comedy so funny.

The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection:

This set has some incredibly funny movies.  Laugh-out-loud funny films.  I really enjoyed them all, there's not a dud in the bunch.  Not only did I like them, but so did my family.  My children (aged 13 and 9) both roared with laughter at all of the films that they saw.  These are very accessible to people who haven't seen a lot of silent comedies.  They don't come off as hokey or dated, just as good solid entertainment.

My only gripe is that the films are not presented in chronological order.  For marketing reasons, they are releasing each two disc set individually also, and they wanted to spread out the features and shorts so that each volume is of equal quality.  They did do a great job too.  I can't recommend one volume over another, they all have excellent films.

This set contains all of Harold Lloyds feature films with three exceptions (Welcome Danger, Professor Beware, and The Sin of Harold Diddlebock.  The last two are not owned by the Harold Lloyd Trust.  The first has just been restored, both the silent and sound versions.  Hopefully it will be released soon.)

The highlight of volume one is Lloyd's most famous film, Safety Last!.  This 1923 feature has Harold in the big city working in a department store as a clerk.  When his girl comes to visit him from the country, he is in trouble.  He's told her that he's an executive with the firm and she's sure they'll soon have enough money to marry.  When Harold overhears his manager pledge $1000 to anyone who can bring more customers into the store, the young go-getter realizes that this is his only chance to make good.  He convinces a friend who is a human fly to climb up the outside of the building the store is located in and publicizes the stunt.  When the day arrives a crowd has gathered but the friend has a problem, the cops are chasing him and he needs Harold to climb up just a few stories till they can switch places...

If this was the only film that Harold Lloyd ever made, people would still be talking about it.  It's one of those movies were everything comes together perfectly.  The gags are all sprinkled evenly through the film and the pace of the movie is just right.  The comedy reaches a climax with the climbing scene which is masterfully done.  In this scene Lloyd mixes comedy and suspense wonderfully and gives cinema one of the best sequences ever filmed.  A very funny film, and one of Lloyd's best.

This volume also has one of Lloyd's best sound features, The Milky Way.  This mad-cap comedy was admirably directed by Leo McCarey (Duck Soup, Bells of St. Mary), and has Lloyd in top form.
 


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.

Though Lloyd is famous for his silent work, this film shows that he can successfully handle fast paced comic dialog as well as slapstick comedy.   He is  also smart enough to not hog the lime light and the rest of the cast really shines.  Menjou is wonderfully comic as Speed's manager, and Helen Mack doesn't get upstaged by her more famous co-stars.

The first volume also has the most atypical of Lloyd's films; the sound feature The Cat's Paw.  The weakest film in the set, this was the first time Lloyd had purchased a written work for adaptation.  Based on a story by Clarence Budington Kelland a writer for the Saturday Evening Post, Lloyd plays Ezekiel Cobb, a young man who was raised in China and follows the teachings of the Eastern philosopher Ling-Po.  Cobb arrives in Stockport California in order to seek a bride.  Totally naive and unfamiliar with American customs Cobb is soon convinced to run against the crooked mayor of the town.  It's expected that he'll lose and mayor will be in office for another term.  When he unexpectedly wins, Cobb realizes how corrupt the town is and sets about cleaning it up.
 

Cat's Paw was a decidedly different film for Harold Lloyd.

Made in the depression, this is a much more political film than Lloyd had made before.  The comedy doesn't come from slapstick of gags, it's more of a situational comedy and doesn't have the charm of  Lloyd's earlier work.  The film is an interesting experiment, and shows that Lloyd was trying to change with the times.  While not as funny as his other films, it does have some good moments.  The climax scene where Cobb convinces the crooks in the town to change their ways is funny (though the fascist overtones are a little troubling), and his inscrutable Eastern personality also has some humor to it.  Technically the film looks very good, and had another comedian made it, this movie would be above average.  It's only when you compare it to his earlier works that this film falls short.

Lloyd's most commercially successful film, and arguably his funniest, The Freshman, is featured on the second volume.  This is another one of those films where the various pieces of the film all fit together perfectly.

Harold plays Harold 'Speedy' Lamb (Speedy was Harold's nickname in real life), a freshman at college who's fondest desire is to be one of the popular kids on campus.  When he first arrives though, the upperclassmen play a series of tricks on him.  He never realizes that they are teasing him and soon is known as the class boob.  Totally oblivious, Harold goes about with a cheerful upbeat attitude, and thinks he's well liked.  When the truth finally reveals itself he's crushed, and his only hope is to play well in the big football game against his school's rivals.  That'll be a little hard to do though, since he's only the water boy.

An uproariously funny film, The Freshman has a lot going for it.  Viewers instantly feel sorry for the underdog Harold, and the fact that he doesn't realize he's being teased makes him even more pitiful, and the situations more humorous.  The "Fall Frolic" when Harold has spent the last of his money on a new suit, only to have it not be completed in time and only loosely stitched is a riot.  Viewers laugh and feel nervous at the same time, realizing that more of Harold's clothes will fall of and not sure how he's going to get out of it.   The best scene in the film is the last of course, the big football game.   Director Preston Sturges had vivid memories of that scene and incorporated it into Lloyd's last film, which he directed, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock.  (That is one of the few Lloyd features not available in this set, another company owns the rights.)

This disc also has Harold's second 'thrill picture'; High and Dizzy.  Lloyd plays a doctor who has to cure a patient (Mildred Davis) of sleepwalking.  Before he goes over to see her though, he drops by a friend's house (Roy Brooks) who has just finished his latest batch of moonshine.  They both sample a bit, then a bit more, and by the time Harold arrives at the girl's hotel, he's wildly inebriated.  Of course she starts sleep walking, and walks out onto the window ledge, several stories up.  Harold goes right after her and manages to get her back inside, where she promptly closes the window on him.  Harold sobers up quickly when he realizes how high up he is, but he's still got to get off the side of the building.

This is a fun and exciting comedy.  There were some good gags in the first section but the ending of the film where Harold is hanging off the side of a building was especially entertaining.

This also has the first credited appearance of Roy Brooks in a film.  Roy was a good friend of Mildred Davis.  After his film career failed to take off he became Harold's personal secretary and lived on Harold's estate for forty years until his death.  Openly homosexual, Roy also served as a companion to Mildred while Harold was spending long hours filming.

The final volume in this set has some outstanding films too.  It starts off with Speedy, Lloyd's last silent feature and another outstanding film.  This movie hasn't been circulated as much as some of his other films, but this one ranks up there with The Freshman and Safety Last! as a comic masterpiece.

Harold plays Speedy, a baseball fan who can't seem to hold a job.  His sweetheart, Jane (Ann Christy) helps out her grandfather, Pop, who owns a small trolley route in New York City, the last trolley that's still pulled by horse.  A big company is trying to consolidate all the smaller lines and wants to buy up Pop's train and tracks, but they aren't offering much so he won't sell.  The only problem is that his agreement with the city states that the trolley has to run at least once every 24 hours or else he loses the lease.  When Speedy overhears that some thugs are going to sabotage the trolley so it can't run, he offers to drive it for Pops.  If the crooks think it'll be easy stealing the trolley from Speedy, they've got another think coming.

This was Lloyd's final silent picture and he went all out for this one.  They filmed on location in New York City, and the movie opens with some lovely shots of the Big Apple the way it looked in 1928.  There's also an extended scene that takes place in Coney Island where viewers get to see what that amusement park was like when it was one of the hot spots of the country.

In a lot of ways, this film was like a series of good two reelers strung together with common characters.  The film can be divided into several sections that feel a little disconnected from each other but still come together to form a funny film.  I actually liked that, since it made the movie feel new and fresh.  Every 20 minutes Harold would be in a new setting with new problems and that was a lot of fun.  The large fight scene was a hilarious, but I enjoyed the taxi cab sequence the most.  That bit ends with Harold picking up Babe Ruth (played by the Bambino himself) in his cab and giving the slugger a harrowing drive to Yankee Stadium.  Of course, like all of Lloyd's films, he leaves the funniest and most exciting scenes for last.  The race against time at the end is a great climax to Lloyd's silent career.

Another fun film on this volume is the short Never Weaken.  It's one of Harold's greatest shorts.  The object of Harold's affection, Mildred Davis, is the receptionist at a doctor's office.  When Harold hears that she's been fired because of a lack of patients, he sets out to drum up some business for the doctor.  He manages to fill the doctor's office, but then overhears Mildred talking to another man and falsely thinks she's in love with another.  Not wanting to live without her, he tries to kill himself only to end up out on a girder stories above the ground.

This picture has it all, some great comic gags, spectacular thrills, and a great ending.  Harold has his glasses character down pat by this time and really understood what would and wouldn't work in his comedies. One of the best shorts, and a personal favorite.

For Heaven's Sake is another fantastic comedy that my whole family enjoyed.  This was the first feature Lloyd made for distribution by Paramount, and he wanted to create a good film to please his new partners.  He filled this movie with nonstop gags and stunts that keeps the audience laughing.

J. Harold Manners (Harold Lloyd) is a member of the idle rich.  When his chauffeur wrecks his brand-new car, he walks into a dealer and buys another one.  When that one also gets totaled in short order, the papers have a field day reporting on the spendthrift.

Through a series of accidents and miscommunications, Harold unknowingly supplies the start up funds for a store-front mission to be run by Brother Paul.  It is in the city's poorest and toughest neighborhood and Brother Paul naturally names the mission after his benefactor.   When Harold gets wind the mission and its name, he assumes they are trying to cash in on his prestige and goes down to the mission in a rage.  That is until he sees Brother Paul's daughter, Hope (Jobyna Ralston.)  Then it is your proverbial love at first sight.  Harold falls hard for the poor working girl, but he needs to impress her somehow.  When she mentions that the men in the pool hall down the street never come to the sermons, Harold decides that he'll get the thugs and toughs from the pool hall into the mission one way or another.  This leads to a great chase sequence, the first of two, that left people's sides sore from laughter.

This was a very funny film.  Lloyd liked to alternate character comedies with gag films, and this is one of the later.  This is a gag-a-minute film that has solid laughs all thorough it.  Though the chase scenes are the main attractions there are little gags sprinkled throughout the movie, and many of these are just as funny as the more elaborate jokes.  The expression on Harold's face when he pops a dirty sponge in his mouth thinking it's a treat that Hope has made is great, and the way he gets it out of his mouth even funnier.

While not as famous as Safety Last! or The Freshman, this film show Lloyd at his creative and comic peak.  A wonderfully funny film.

There are many more great films in this set too: Why Worry?  is so funny that Universal stole a lot of the gags and scenes for their film The Night ClubAmong Those Present, Harold's second three reel comedy is just as good as his features.  It has Harold having to impersonate a British aristocrat, with horrible results.  Basically, this is all good.  Even the weaker films such as Cat's Paw and Feet First are entertaining (and they are much better than Chaplin's and Keaton's worst films.)  An absolutely wonderful set.

Volume 1

Disc 1:

Girl Shy (1924)
Safety Last! (1923)  w/ commentary by Leonard Maltin and director Richard Correll
An Eastern Westerner (1920)
Ask Father (1919)
From Hand to Mouth (1919)

Disc 2:

The Milky Way (1936)
The Cat's Paw (1934)
Why Worry? (1923)
Featurette Harold's Hollywood: Then and Now

Volume 2

Disc 1:

Kid Brother (1927) w/ commentary by Harold Lloyd's granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd, author Annette D'Agostino Lloyd, and Rich Correll
The Freshman (1925)  w /commentary by Leonard Maltin, Richard Correll and author/film historian Richard W. Bann
Bumping Into Broadway (1919)
Billy Blazes, Esq. (1919)

Disc 2:
Feet First (1930)
Grandma's Boy (1922)
Dr. Jack (1922)
Now or Never (1921)
High and Dizzy (1920)
Scoring for Comedy featurette

Volume 3

Disc 1:

Speedy (1928) w/ commentary by Suzanne Lloyd, Annette D'Agostino Lloyd and Richard Correll
Hot Water (1924)
Never Weaken (1921)
Haunted Spooks (1920) w/ commentary by Suzanne Lloyd, Annette D'Agostino Lloyd and Richard Correll

Disc 2:
Movie Crazy (1932)
For Heaven's Sake (1926)
I Do (1921)
Among Those Present (1921)
A Sailor-Made Man (1921)
Get Out and Get Under (1920)
Number Please? (1920)
Greenacres featurette
 

The DVD:

This set consists of three volumes, each available individually, and a bonus disc that is only available with this boxed set.  Each volume consists of two DVDs: a single-sided disc and a double sided one all contained in a single width keepcase.  All four discs come in an attractive slipcase.

Audio:

New scores were composed and recorded for the silent features and the talkies have had the sound restored.  Everything sounded excellent.  The new scores were preformed by orchestras and were scene specific.  They had a few sound effects (bells, whistles and such the like) and these were done by the musicians.  The stereo recordings were very clear and really worked well with the films.

Video:

All of these films have been restored from original elements held by the Harold Lloyd Trust, and they look absolutely fantastic.  This is the way that silent films were meant to be seen, with crystal clear images and fine details.  There were a very few minor instances of damage, the beginning of Speedy had some scratches during the first few seconds, most probably on the camera negative itself, but that was the rare exception rather than the rule.  Spots of dirt which I expect to see even in restored films were almost totally absent.  The image had excellent contrast and wasn't jittery.  On top of that, this set wasn't created from PAL masters like the Charlie Chaplin sets so the defects associated with that (blurred frames and a 4% increase in speed) aren't a worry.  One of the best looking silent restorations ever.

Extras:

Each of the volumes in this set has it's own set of extras.  All of them contain production galleries of stills and commentaries, and each volume also has a featurette.  The commentaries were all good.  Leonard Maltin does two (for Safety Last! with Richard Correll and The Freshman with Richard Correll and film historian Richard W. Bann) and these were my favorites, though the ones with Suzanne Lloyd (Harold's grandaughter), Annette D'Agostino Lloyd (Lloyd fan and scholar) and director Richard Correll are also fun to listen too.  Though some information is repeated between the commentaries, they are all filled with interesting anecdotes and stories about Harold as well as the film and Lloyd's costars.  A fine set of commentaries that don't become boring or dull.

The first disc also has Harold Lloyd's Hollywood: Then and Now.  This 8½-minute film features Annette D'Agostino Lloyd visiting some of the locations that Lloyd filmed and comparing what they looked like then with how they appear now.  It was okay, but not really my area of interest.

Scoring for Comedy appears in the second volume and looks at how the various composers wrote scores for these films.  Robert Israel and Carl Davis are interviewed in this 15 minute documentary and they talk about their scores as well as the music that originally accompanied silent films.

My favorite featurette on these discs was on Greenacres, Harold's luxurious estate in Beverly Hills.  Suzanne Lloyd, who grew up in the house, gives a tour of the house and grounds.  The contemporary footage is intercut with home movies that Harold and his crew took over the years.  A very nice featurette about a magnificent home.

The boxed set also includes an extra bonus disc that isn't available separately.  This disc has a wealth of information for both the novice fan and scholar.  The material covers not only Harold Lloyd, but also his leading ladies, directors, and others involved in making his films.

This bonus disc is set up a little differently than most other discs.  Instead of a couple of features, there are many short clips (most of them being 2-5 minutes) that can be accessed from different places on the disc.  The disc has a nice overview hosted by Leonard Maltin, and then the viewer can explore the disc based on what topic they are most interested in.  The disc is arranged by chronologically and by movie.

While the format of this disc seemed a little odd at first, it is easy to get used to.  There is also an index which is very helpful when you want to find a particular clip.  As for the content, I was very pleased with it. There are some great short interviews including ones with Kevin Brownlow, Debbie Reynolds, and John Landis.

There are a couple of featurettes that are a lot of fun to watch too. Keep 'em Rollin': Making Movies in the Silent Era is a 15-minute introduction to silent film production.  This is a great short.  In a very short time they cover just about all of the material used in making a silent film, how it worked, and what the advantages and disadvantages were.  From carbon arc lights to panchromatic stock to Pathe cameras and cinematography, this is a very complete and concise film.  An excellent feature.

Another featurette that was longer than average is Remembering Harold.  This 12-minute interview with Gloria Lloyd, Harold's daughter, and Suzanne Lloyd, his granddaughter, was touching and interesting.  The interview was conducted by Leonard Maltin, and he asks about the glove that Harold wore (he lost the thumb and first finger in an accident early in his career and wore specially made glove that hid the damage in all of his films) and what it was like growing up the child of a movie star.

That's not all though.  In addition to the wealth of new interviews, there are short biographies of the people that Harold worked with from Hal Roach to Snub Pollard.  There is a very comprehensive filmography listing not only Lloyd's films, but also his TV and radio appearances.

Harold Lloyd liked working with the talented crew that he managed to bring together, so he kept them on salary year round whether he was filming or not.  When one of his children was having a birthday party, he'd call up his crew and have them come out and film it.  Naturally, these home movies are very professional and polished looking, and there are several available on this disc, including footage of the Lloyd's at Greenacres.

Harold was an avid photographer, and this disc has many stills of he and his family, including a gallery of the 3-D photography that he experimented with.  A pair of glasses to view the 3-D images are included.  When viewing these on my CRT TV, the effect was okay, but I did have some trouble with the 3-d effects.  They looked much better on my computer screen.

Lastly, there is film of several appearances by Harold at various functions.  The USC's Delta Kappa Alpha tribute to Harold Lloyd is hosted by Jack Lemmon and Steve Allen and runs nearly half an hour.  Harold talks about his coming to California and the early days of motion pictures.  The acceptance speech that Harold gave when he won an Academy Award which was presented in 1953 is also here, as well as an introduction he filmed for The Freshman.

If you have a computer equipped with a DVD-Rom drive, there is also Harold Lloyd's Media Vault.  This is a searchable index of all of the content on the disc.  You can type in Shirley Temple, and find pictures of the young starlet that Harold took.  The interface is very nice and it adds a lot to the disc.

Final Thoughts:

Harold Lloyd films were the first feature length silent films that I ever saw.  In the late 70's PBS broadcast one of his films every Saturday night, and it was the highpoint of my weekend.  It was these films that sparked my interest in the silent era, and I'm very glad that they are still as funny as I remember them being.  I laughed and laughed through this entire set.

This collection isn't only for silent film afficionados though, it is great family entertainment.  My wife and kids screened several of these films with me, and they enjoyed everything that they saw.  Minute for minute, these films have more laughs than any others I can think of off hand.

Not only are these films very good, but they are restored and look absolutely beautiful.  These look like they were shot last year rather than 80 years ago.  Added to that are the newly composed scores that fit the films perfectly, and the copious bonus material which really makes this an outstanding set.  If I could only make one DVD purchase this year, I'd pick up this set.  This set of films easily belongs in the DVD Talk Collector Series.



Comments?  Suggestions? Feel free to send me an e-mail.

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