Friday, April 29, 2011

#328: Safety Last

1923, TSPDT Rank #937

One of the new additions to the list, Safety Last has a welcome (and hopefully permanent) spot here, which is great, because before this film entered the list, Harold Lloyd (the least known of the so-called three kings of silent comedians - the title he shares with Chaplin and Keaton) was not represented at all on the list! Personally, I think this should be blamed on the fact that Lloyd's films just don't have much circulation at all these days. The DVD box sets of Lloyd's work have been out of print for years, and many of his famous films are not accessible to watch online either (again, unlike those of Chaplin and Keaton). In fact, I've been waiting to see this film ever since I started watching silent films - and just happened to catch it recently as it made a rare television appearance on TCM.

Looking online, I realized that, for how well known Safety Last seems to be, not many seem to have actually seen it. The image of Lloyd hanging on the arm of the clock is so iconic, that many who don't know Harold by name, or may never have even seen a silent film, recognize this image and at times even think they have seen it themselves. True, the plot isn't spectacular in itself compared to other silent comedies, but the way Lloyd arranges the entire film and plays out the various jokes and action sequences is nothing short of genius. But the whole first section of the movie all leads up to the final 30 minutes - which consists basically of Harold climbing a building. This is one of the most suspenseful and consistently thrilling sequences I've ever seen, in any genre. After watching the entire film, capped off by the grand finale sequence, anyone left unconvinced of Harold Lloyd's incredible, unique talent and feel for his material (and his work's ability to complete stand up to that of his more famous peers, if not better) is not likely to be convinced by anything, ever. Please get yourself a sense of humor and joy if you are that sorry shell of a human being. If you are not, watch this movie whenever possible. A great example of prime silent comedy from one of the underrated masters!

(Rating: 9/10)

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