Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
December 19, 2015 by Dennis Amith
While my favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last!”, I enjoy “Speedy” in a much different level, mainly for the adventure that Harold Lloyd takes the viewer and enjoying New York City of that era but also the fascinating stunts and scenes that will surely entertain generation after generation. A wonderful Criterion Collection silent comedy Blu-ray release that I recommend!
Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788
YEAR OF FILM: 1928
DURATION: 86 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white/color-tinted, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Stereo, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: December 8, 2015
Directed by Ted Wilde
Story by John Grey, Lex Neal, Howard Emmet Rogers
Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd Hayes
Producer: Kevin Brownlow, David Gill
Associate Producer: Peter Langs
Cinematography by Walter Lundin
Edited by Carl Himm
Art Direction by Liell K. Vedder
Harold Lloyd as Harold “Speedy Swift
Ann Christy as Jane Dillon
Bert Woodruff as Pop Dillon – Her Grand-daddy
Brooks Benedict as Steve Carter
Speedy was the last silent feature to star Harold Lloyd (Safety Last!)—and one of his very best. The slapstick legend reprises his “Glasses Character,” this time as a good-natured but scatterbrained New Yorker who can’t keep a job. He finally finds his true calling when he becomes determined to help save the city’s last horse-drawn trolley, which is operated by his sweetheart’s crusty grandfather. From its joyous visit to Coney Island to its incredible Babe Ruth cameo to its hair-raising climactic stunts on the city’s streets, Speedy is an out-of-control love letter to New York that will have you grinning from ear to ear.
Harold Lloyd, one of the three kings of silent comedy in the United States has entertained many with films such as “Safety Last!” (1923), “The Freshman” (1925), “The Kid Brother” (1927), to name a few.
But in 1928, he would create his final silent comedy, “Speedy”, which was directed by longtime Harold Lloyd confidant and director, Ted Wilde (his final film as he would die of a stroke at the age of 36 while working on another film project).
Beloved by silent comedy fans, especially for its footage from Hollywood and New York City and the film was one of the films to be nominated for the short-lived “Academy Award for Best Director of a Comedy”.
The film would star Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy (“Halloween”, “The Love Charm”, “Dream House”), Bert Woodruff (“Spring Fever”, “Children of the Dust”, “The Delicious Little Devil”), Brooks Benedict (“The Freshman”, “Follow the Fleet”, “What Price Hollywood?”) and baseball great, Babe Ruth (as well as a very short cameo from fellow New York Yankees, Lou Gehrig).
While the film will be known as Harold Lloyd’s final silent film, the film also gets its reputation for Harold Lloyd showing off his middle finger (possibly the first middle finger gesture seen in a film). But for its extensive location shooting, it is one of the best films to capture New York City during the late 1920’s.
Considered as one of his highlights of his oeuvre, “Speedy” was released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
“Speedy” revolves around Harold “Speedy” Swift (portrayed by Harold Lloyd), a man who can’t keep a job for more than a week and is dating Jane Dillon (portrayed by Ann Christy).
Her father Pop (portrayed by Bert Woodruff) is the owner of a horse-drawn streetcar, one of the last ones in the city. But the wealthy railroad entrepreneur Steve Carter (portrayed by Brooks Benedict) wants to build a trolley system in the city, but unfortunately the route is being used for many years by Pop Dillon. And the only way he can lose it, is if he doesn’t provide rides on the route for 24 hours. Something that Pop has not missed since starting his business.
But when Pop is willing to negotiate for $10,000 for the route and streetcar, seeing a newspaper article of how badly Steve Carter needs the route, Speedy changes the $10,000 to $70,000 which Carter refuses to pay.
Now Steve Carter will do all he can to prevent Pop from operating his streetcar and force him out of business. But wanting to protect Pop’s business, Speedy decides to operate the street-car.
Featuring a day between Speedy and his girlfriend Jane at Coney Island, watching a New York Yankees game and also giving New York Yankees star, Babe Ruth a ride, “Speedy” is one of Harold Lloyd’s most memorable silent films ever created.
“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” is presented in black and white and color-tinted (1:33:1 aspect ratio). The film is well-preserved and looks fantastic compared to its earlier DVD set release in the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection”. The film features better picture quality, better sharpness and detail for the characters.
According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a safety fine-grain master positive deposited at the UCLA Film & Television Archive by the Harold Lloyd estate; certain insert segments were scanned in 4k from the archive’s preservation negative. The film was restored by Digital Film Restore in Burbank, California.”.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788”. The soundtrack features the musical score by composer Carl Davis from 1992, synchronize dand restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo.
Intertitles are in English.
“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary with Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum and Scott McGee, director of program production at Turner Classic Movies.
- “In the Footsteps of ‘Speedy'” – (31:06) A short documentary featuring Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York Film Forum and founder of Rialto Pictures visiting and discussing several of the key New York locations in “Speedy”.
- Babe Ruth – (40:25) Featuring David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, presenting and discussing a selection of rare Hearst Metrotone newsreel footage featuring Babe Ruth from the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
- Narrated Stills: Deleted Scenes – (4:24) Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum narrates a selection of rare stills featuring scenes that were deleted from the final release version of “Speedy”.
- Home Movies – (17:46) Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd narrates a selection of home movie footage shot around the time that “Speedy” was made.
- Bumping Into Broadway – (25:51) A 1939 Harold Lloyd short shot entirely in Los Angeles and the first two-reeler to star Lloyd’s glasses character.
“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “The Comic Figure of the Average Man” by Phillip Lopate.
A final silent comedy by Harold Lloyd before he became interested in creating talkies a year later with “Welcome Danger”, “Speedy” is a film in which the well-known silent film director/actor wanted to go grand by shooting in New York.
Featuring wonderful video footage of scenery of New York City long ago, and utilizing hidden cameras to shoot various scenes, especially Harold Lloyd and Ann Christy’s adventures in Coney Island, one can easily marvel on how Harold Lloyd was able to pull this film off.
As thousands of people became the film’s extras, many crowds gathering…and would typically stop film production and stunt scenes that were risky and dangerous, “Speedy” was no doubt an ambitious film but yet still within the scope of focusing on create an entertaining and riveting silent comedy film.
But in terms of being even more ambitious, what was supposed to be Lloyd’s final silent film in 1929 with “Welcome Danger”, Lloyd chose to reshoot and utilize audio technology for its time and create a Harold Lloyd comedy for the “talkies” era. While “Welcome Danger” did well in the box office as moviegoers were excited to hear this new technology and wanting to hear what Harold Lloyd sounds like, his talkies afterward, would never achieve the same success as his silent films.
So, here we are with “Speedy” now released in HD courtesy of the Criterion Collection. The film looks absolutely fantastic compared to its Warner Bros. DVD counterpart. The sharpness and detail are much better, as can be expected. But its the subtle details in watching in HD that you see things in the background that catch your attention.
And this is where “Speedy” is quite effective because of its location shooting throughout New York City, you get to see New York of yesteryear. There are a few films, especially from Harold Lloyd that showcase a city background and in many ways, historically are significant for capturing the lifestyle and pop culture of that era. And “Speedy” has so much to give, as the characters are seen in Coney Island and New York City, not for a short moment, but for a significant amount of time.
The audio retains the 1992 Carl Davis musical score, which will leave purists happy and there are a number of special features that really go into the making of the film but also showcasing New York Yankees slugger, Babe Ruth and really going into details of the legend’s career as a player and manager.
Also included are glimpses of home movies and also the two-reeler “Bumping into Broadway” featuring the 2004 musical score by Robert Israel.
For silent comedy fans, the Harold Lloyd films released by the Criterion Collection have been wonderful and timing has been perfect as Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton have been the focal point of many Blu-ray releases, it’s great to have Criterion Collection honoring the third king of silent comedy with another release in HD.
While my favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last!”, I enjoy “Speedy” in a much different level, mainly for the adventure that Harold Lloyd takes the viewer and enjoying New York City of that era but also the fascinating stunts and scenes that will surely entertain generation after generation.
A wonderful Criterion Collection silent comedy Blu-ray release that I recommend!
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