21 July 2010

CFF '06 Reviews: Safety Last!

Safety Last! (Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor/1923)

Hurray for Harold Lloyd! Eighty-three years after making it to the top of DeVore’s department store - in one of the most audacious comedy stunts ever filmed - he’s made it to the CFF. The much-loved 1923 silent classic, SAFETY LAST!, is screening in a rare print this year. It was Lloyd’s first full-length feature, made after a decade of shorts, and it’s still an indelible classic of pitch-perfect comic timing. The story is simple: Lloyd, as The Boy from Great Bends, gets a job in the city making big bucks for his new life with his girl. He chances upon a publicity stunt to scale his workplace that could net him an easy $1000 - a cinch for our desperately love struck, hapless hero, surely. But a multitude of unforeseen, and nail-biting, obstacles up the twelve-floor building might almost just prevent him from reaching the top.

Lloyd was an endearing screen presence; his circular black glasses amplifying the innocently expressive eyes behind them - but always letting the audience in on the japery, with a quick wink and a nudge. When he gets into comic scrapes, we slip and slide along with him, not quite knowing where he will land, but each time gasping, then giggling, at the always-witty and inventive outcomes. SAFETY LAST! stands as a testament to his ingenuity as a performer, never better than in the famous, death-defying clock sequence. Lloyd was the grand fool of slapstick, but always an artful and creative one. He inspired instant wonder - all with just a pair of glasses and a smile. 

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