Harold Lloyd’s great silent comedies aren’t new to home video—I introduced them on DVD a decade ago—but now they’re getting deluxe treatment from the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD. That’s great news for devotees and newcomers alike. The latest release, Speedy (1928), has a generous array of bonus features that make it well worth acquiring even if you already have a copy.
Film expert Bruce Goldstein produced and hosts a half-hour documentary on Harold’s use of New York City locations, packed with eye-opening information that I, a native New Yorker, never knew. He also points out where Los Angeles occasionally doubles for the Big Apple. (Incidentally, I urge you to watch the movie before you take in this documentary, so you can enjoy Speedy without being distracted by details of its production.) Bruce also contributes a commentary track, joined by TCM programmer Scott McGee, and narrates a selection of stills from deleted scenes.
Harold’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd, who was raised by Harold and his wife Mildred, narrates a captivating selection of home movies which were professionally shot by Harold’s production team. It’s fascinating to see how Suzanne and other privileged Hollywood tots were treated way back when. (This footage also enables us to get a glimpse of Harold’s right hand without the prosthetic glove he wore when he was in character.)
Because Babe Ruth makes a famous appearance in Speedy, we also get a plentiful selection of newsreel clips featuring the Bambino, annotated by baseball expert David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.
The package also includes one of Lloyd’s lively two-reel shorts, Bumping into Broadway (1919), featuring Snub Pollard and my favorite of Harold’s leading ladies, Bebe Daniels. It marks the first appearance of the “glasses character” in a two-reeler, and is the only one of his films aside from Speedythat’s set in New York City. Robert Israel provides first-class musical accompaniment.
The feature itself has always looked good, but as usual Criterion has gone the extra mile, creating a new 4K digital master from the fine-grain restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive and married it to Carl Davis’ 1992 orchestra score.
Last but not least, the Criterion booklet offers a new essay about Lloyd and his comedy by the erudite critic Philip Lopate.
I enjoyed all of this material almost as much as I did the feature-film. Bravo to everyone at Criterion for another job well done.
Now, a confession: I am far behind in my coverage of DVDs and hope to catch up early in the new year. Among those I want to see: Flicker Alley’s Chaplin’s Essanay Comedies and William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes, as well as Undercrank Productions’ release of the Baby Peggy feature The Family Secret. Stay tuned…