Monday, May 01, 2006

Safety Last! (1923)

A silent comedy crafted almost entirely from astonishment. I wasn't impressed by my previous exposure to Harold Lloyd (The Freshman), but this... how could I dislike this wondrous thing? Like the best of Keaton or Chaplin, it proceeds according to its own unhinged internal logic, alternating silly sight gags with amazing feats of physical derring-do. I am a physical-comedy enthusiast at heart (pratfalls are stupid, but dammit, they're funny), so this is right up my alley -- it's dizzying slapstick on steroids. Lloyd's hustling bumbler is an appealing character, far more so than the rube he played in The Freshman, and the likeability helps. But the question remains, is it funny? Hell yeah. It's hilarious and hair-raising in equal measure, and the climactic building-climbing sequence is deservedly one of the most famous in all of silent comedy. The ingenuity of the sequence increases right alongside its intensity -- I was laughing and gasping at once. I need to see more Lloyd, methinks.

Grade: A


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