The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 23, 2014 by Dennis Amith
As a long time silent film fan, having collected and watch many films over the years, you come across magnificent releases that give silent film fans their money’s worth. The Criterion Collection’s “The Freshman” is one of those elite titles in the collection that cineaste who appreciate silent cinema, will want to own in their collection. “The Freshman” is highly recommended! 5 stars!
Image are courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703
YEAR OF FILM: 1925
DURATION: 76 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White/Tinted, Silent
COMPANY: Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc./THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2014
Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Story by Sam Taylor, Ted Wilde, John Grey and Tim Whelan
Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd Hayes
Producer: Hal Roach
Cinematography by Walter Lundin
Music: Carl Davis
Edited by Allen McNeil
Art Directon by Liell K. Vedder
Harold Lloyd as Harold Lamb a.k.a. Speedy
Jobyna Ralston as Peggy
Brooks Benedict as The College Cad
James Anderson as The College Hero
Hazel Keener as The College Belle
Joseph Harrington as The College Tailor
Pat Harmon as The Football Coach
Harold Lloyd’s biggest box-office hit was this silent comedy gem, featuring the befuddled everyman at his eager best as a new college student. Though he dreams of being a big man on campus, the freshman’s careful plans inevitably go hilariously awry, be it on the football field or at the Fall Frolic. But he gets a climactic chance to prove his mettle—and impress the sweet girl he loves—in one of the most famous sports sequences ever filmed. This crowd-pleaser is a gleeful showcase for Lloyd’s slapstick brilliance and incandescent charm, and it is accompanied here by a new orchestral score by Carl Davis.
The year was 1925…it was a magnificent year for silent cinema.
Sergei Eisenstein had “Battleship Potemkin”, Buster Keaton with “Go West”, Charlie Chaplin with “The Gold Rush”, F.W. Murnau with “The Last Laugh”, Mary Pickford in “Little Annie Rooney”, to name a few.
But there was one man who had constant success in the box office in the United States. Considered today as one of the silent kings of comedy, Harold Lloyd was one of the most reliable talents during the Roaring 20’s.
And with the sport of American football becoming popular in America, especially on college campuses as thousands would turn out to watch a college football game or listen to a game via a radio broadcast, Harold Lloyd was always up to date on trends and knowing the state of football in America, he knew that his film “The Freshman” would have to incorporate it and sure enough, he would have another hit to add to his oeuvre.
“The Freshman” was one of the final films that Harold Lloyd would have distributed through Pathe and it was also his biggest box office success. “The Freshman” would jumpstart a number of college films in the late 1920’s and it’s no surprise. The film was a big hit and life of going to a college or watching a sport on the big screen was inspiring to people all across the nation.
“The Freshman” is believed to be one of Harold Lloyd’s greatest films of all time. And now the enduring classic, “The Freshman” will be released on Blu-ray+DVD combo courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
In “The Freshman”, Harold Lloyd plays the character role of Harold Lamb, a young man who has dreamed of going to college.
Inspired by a college film he watched, he has learned the moves and lingo and can’t wait to use it with his fellow students. Having worked hard to be a college student and wanting to be popular, Harold can’t wait to start at Tate University.
While en route to Tate University by train, he is seated next to Peggy (portrayed by Jobyna Ralston) and are as mistaken as lovers.
When he arrives to the area, immediately he is spotted by college seniors especially the college cad (portrayed by Brooks Benedict) who see him as a loser and want to have their fun with them by giving him misinformation of how to be popular.
After proclaiming himself with the name “Speedy” and students using him to spend a lot of his money on ice cream, his lack of funds lead him to stay in a low-cost room where Peggy works.
Seeing Peggy makes Harold happy and he becomes smitten with her.
But as Harold wants to become popular like the school hero/jock (portrayed by James Anderson), he is told that if he joins the football team, he will become a popular man on campus.
And now, Harold will do all he can to achieve popularity, not knowing that students are just having fun with him at his expense.
“The Freshman is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) in black and white and tinted. Because Harold Lloyd believed in protecting his films, he was among the first to have his films preserved. Not only were these films under lock and key in safes, he did whatever he can to make sure they were protected from fires or any damage. It’s important to note that nitrate film does catch fire and he did experience a fire despite trying to protect his films, but fortunately because of that, it led Harold Lloyd to preserve his films.
And so, a lot of his films look fantastic compared to other silent films of that year or era. At nearly 90-years-old, picture quality for “The Freshman”, looks incredible on Blu-ray. The film is color tinted with slight yellow and details for this silent film in HD is very good. To see this film in HD versus the original 2005 DVD release, you notice how clear the film looks. There are no signs of major damage, dark flickering or white specks. Because the film is in HD, closeups and background look so much clearer and well-detailed. I was impressed!
According to the Criterion Collection, “The film is presented in its original aspect ration of 1:33:1. This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s 1998 restoration negative. The UCLA restoration, supervised by preservation officer Robert Gitt and funded by David and Lucille Packard Foundation, utilized footagefrom both the foreign release version, named “College Days”, and the domestic release version. Footage from the original camera negative of the foreign version, which was shot by a second camera, from a slightly different angle, makes up about 60 percent of the UCLA restoration; it was used because it was the domestic version version, which survived only through duplicate elements of lesser quality. Tinting was facilitated by following directions printed on leaders of the original nitrate materials. Further restoration was performed for this release by the Criterion Collection in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually restored using MTI’s DRS and Diamond, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”
“The Freshman” is presented in LPCM 2.0. The new musical score from Carl Davis is crystal clear, especially the sounds of the bell ringing during Harold’s gala scene. While I love the clarity of the score, I do wish that Robert Israel’s score was included as one of the audio choices.
There are no subtitles because it is a silent film, but there are intertitles.
“The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703” comes with the following special features:
- Audio commentary – Featuring the original 2005 audio commentary which features film historian Richard Bann, director and film archivist Richard Correll and director and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll.
- Harold LLoyd’s Funny Side of Life – (29:37) A theatrical program presented with “The Freshman” for its re-release.
- Short Films – Featuring three Harold Llyd shorts: “The Marathon” (1919 – Duration: 13:58), “An Eastern Westerner” (1920 – Duration: 27:37) and “High and Dizzy” (1920 – Duration: 27:15).
- Kevin Brownlow and Richard Correll – (39:48) A 2013 featurette at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and discuss Harold Lloyd’s career.
- Harold Lloyd: Big Man on Campus – (16:27) A visual essay by John Bengston, revisiting locations featured in “The Freshman”.
- Delta Kappa Alpha Tribute = (29:21) USC’s Delta Kappa Alpha honoring the pioneers of cinema and honoring Harold Lloyd in Jan. 6, 1963.
- What’s My Line? – (6:31) Harold Lloyd appearng as a mystery guest on “What’s My Line?” in April 26, 1953 to promote a theatrical re-release of “The Freshman”.
“The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703” comes with a 22-page booklet featuring the essays “Speed Saves the Day! A Harold Lamb Adventure” by Stephen Winer.
While my forever favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last”, “The Freshman” is no doubt one of the better Harold Lloyd films that have been released on video and with this Criterion Collection version, silent film fans will no doubt love the clarity of this classic in HD!
I enjoyed “The Freshman” for a multitude of reasons. For one, as much as I love Harold paired with Mildred Davis (who would later become his wife), I’ve also enjoyed his pairings with Bebe Daniels and Jobyna Ralston. Jobyna appears as the love interest for Harold in “The Freshman” and she is absolutely captivating and the pairing with Lloyd/Ralston was great to watch again!
The second reason why I enjoy this film is for its historical place of being one of the surviving feature silent films featuring American football but also giving us a glimpse of early Los Angeles and various California stadiums during the popularity of football during the 1920’s.
Which leads to my third reason is its college atmosphere and sports. Buster Keaton would attempt this a few years later with his film “College” but “The Freshman” is much more appealing, entertaining and a lot of fun! So, much of “College” focused on Buster Keaton, which was not a bad thing but it focused too much on him. While “The Freshman” tries to utilize characters such as Peggy, the college hero or even the cad with efficacy. While the gala in regards to the clothing bit went a little too long for my taste, I did enjoy this film. And the fact that what we are seeing is the full version, without the cuts that were made decades after the silent film debuted in theaters.
And last, it’s watching this film in HD that really made me see this film in a different light compared to watching the film via the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection” DVD box set. For example, one thing that I noticed in HD watching this film once again but never noticing is how the HD really gives awesome clarity and detail for closeups. Especially for Jobyna Ralston. You can see the clarity when it comes to her eyes and her eyelashes, which I never really took notice on DVD.
Another plus for this HD restoration is the fact that a long time ago, “The Freshman” wasn’t even chosen by Photoplay Productions for restoration during the ’90s and back then, obtaining the Time Life video was hard to come by and the only way to watch this film was on VHS and television until 2005 with the DVD release. So, those watching this film, probably do not know how difficult it was for Harold Lloyd fans to watch this film 20-years-ago. And how fortunate they are to watch this film in HD in 2014.
As for the Blu-ray release, aside from awesome picture and audio quality, I was quite pleased with the Criterion Collection release because fans are getting their money’s worth. Not only are there lengthy special features but fans are getting three classic silent film shorts. Included are the restored versions of “The Marathon”, “An Eastern Westerner” and “High and Dizzy”.
But in addition to these features and shorts is giving fans what they want and there are three names that made me smile prior to watching this Blu-ray release and that there are two featurettes, one with renown film historian Kevin Brownlow and Harold Lloyd’s longtime archivist, Richard Correll in a conversation with each other. The other is John Bengston, best known for his books and visual essays showcasing silent film locations and how the locations are today.
Overall, as a long time silent film fan, having collected and watch many films over the years, you come across magnificent releases that give silent film fans their money’s worth. The Criterion Collection’s “The Freshman” is one of those elite titles in the collection that cineaste who appreciate silent cinema, will want to own in their collection.
“The Freshman” is highly recommended! 5 stars!
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