I’ve not watched many movies of the classic ‘silent’ era, but have in the past year started taking an interest in the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. So I now come to Harold Lloyd. I remember catching some of his short films on TV as a kid, with the ‘Hurray For Harold Lloyd’ jingle that went with them sticking in my head. This 1923 feature is possibly his most famous, with the iconic dangling-from-a-clock-face image stuff of cinematic legend, which went on to influence Jackie Chan’s similar stunt in Project A.
Lloyd plays a small town guy with dreams of making it big in the city. Leaving his fiancé behind with the promise of sending for her when he’s made it, Lloyd soon gets a small time job at a department store. However as time passes he sells the idea that he’s some big shot to his fiancé back home, leading to her turning up unexpectedly. This causes Lloyd to have to pretend he’s the manager of the store, which gets more and more complicated, leading to him to performing a stunt by climbing the outside of the twelve story building.
Gentle in its humour and with a rather typical set up, this still proved very entertaining. Lloyd’s relatable everyman persona is charming and fun, and the down-town Los Angeles setting is especially fascinating when you consider the age of this movie. Of course the second half, taken up almost entirely by the famous building climb is something to behold, and although it was mostly achieved with camera trickery, Lloyd’s physical skill sells the danger and the comedy brilliantly.
The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection is packed. Firstly the movie itself is given a new 2k restoration, with a musical score by composer Carl Davis, created in 1989. We also get an in-depth introduction from Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd, a fascinating audio commentary from critic Leonard Maltin and filmmaker Richard Correll. Add to this a 107 minute documentary about Harold Lloyd called ‘The Third Genius’ and three newly restored shorts … and along with a detailed booklet, interviews and a special effects featurette – this is a must for any fan of the era.
It seems long overdue a movie being done of the classic comedy duo Laurel & Hardy. I vaguely recall catching either old movies or shorts on TV as a kid and loving their rather innocent and charming approach to often slapstick humour. Both of them had a great personality that worked well together, and seeing anything they did even now still raises more than a few chuckles. There is something timeless about them that I think unlike many other acts like Charlie Chaplin or the Three Stooges, hasn’t aged all that badly.
This movie follows the comedy duo as they reunite after a period of retirement to do a tour around England and Ireland in an attempt to finance a new movie. However following an incident during the height of their career, it soon becomes obvious there’s some bad blood between them. Steve Coogan and John C Reilly take on the rather intimidating task of bringing such figures to life and I am both happy and amazed to say they achieve it to an incredibly uncanny level. Coogan nails the expressions, the mannerism and even the walk of Stan Laurel and Reilly is just perfect as Hardy despite some prosthetic make up effects (which are done brilliantly). The relationship between the two is perfectly observed, touching, a little sad but also amiable and funny. You get a good idea who these guys really were and how they both respected each other, at times loathed each other but ultimately loved each other. Set mostly in England you get none of the Hollywood glamour and more so the has-been stage of their lives, of two stars struggling to hold onto the magic and keep themselves relevant. A squabbling duo of wives adds some fun personality, a money hungry agent also adds flavour and overall this is a charming and fascinating movie.
As a Laurel & Hardy fan I would have appreciated more of a glimpse into how they came to be, or just a snap shot of their fame. The focus on the later part of their career makes for a good story that granted, tugs at the heart strings … but as much as I really enjoyed this, I came away feeling it wasn’t the full package – especially for those unfamiliar with their legacy Otherwise a heart-warming, funny and brilliantly acted look at two comedy legends.
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