Saturday, November 1, 2014

Adventures in Blu-ray: The Freshman (1925)


After stalling for what seems like an eternity (well, mayhaps “stalling” is a bit harsh—I’ve really had a lot of items to clear out of my inbox) I finally got an opportunity to unwrap my Criterion Blu-ray of the Harold Lloyd classic The Freshman (1925) Thursday evening and have a peek at its contents.  I did a lot of hemming and hawing about purchasing this Blu-ray: I bought the Region 2 set Harold Lloyd: The Definitive Collection previously in 2008 (I went with the Region 2 because the Region 1 set did not have 1929’s Welcome Danger) and it seemed to me that acquiring the Criterion release would be double-dipping.  But there’s a reason why Criterion remains the gold standard for DVD collecting, and since I’ve yet to be disappointed with any disc I own I decided to grab the Blu-ray/DVD combo.

My loop was effectively knocked.  I won’t go into the details of the movie’s plot (because I covered Freshman for a blogathon back in 2010) but the visual quality on the print used for this release was practically immaculate, and the sound—especially the Carl Davis score—was amazing.  (I can only imagine what it would be like if I was a true audiophile and had some big honkin’ theatre system.)  It made me regret that I didn’t buy the Blu-ray of Criterion’s Safety Last! release…but I didn’t really imagine a scenario at that time where I would ever own a Blu-ray player.  I have not accessed the audio commentary yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed the accompanying essay booklet, written by Facebook compadre and friend of the blog Stephen Winer.  (Winer discusses in his piece something that I hadn’t given a great deal of previous thought about: that of all the major silent comedians, including Chaplin, Keaton, Langdon, etc., Lloyd was the only one who embraced the concept of becoming part of society while the others were satisfied to be merely misfits.)

Of course, there are plenty of bodacious extras in this release—the hallmark of most Criterion presentations—a clip from Harold’s April 26, 1953 appearance on the TV panel show What’s My Line?; material from his compilation Harold Lloyd’s Funny Side of Life (1963) which contains the introduction to an edited version of Freshman (as well as scenes from Girl Shy, For Heaven’s Sake and my personal favorite of his films, The Kid Brother); a conversation between Rich Correll and Kevin Brownlow—and much, much more.  The icing on the cake is the inclusion of three restored Lloyd comedy shorts—two of which I’d already seen (they’re on the Region 2 set), but a one-reeler entitled The Marathon (1919) was definitely a debut for me.  It’s a pretty short and sweet affair: Harold wants to court object of affection Bebe Daniels but runs into difficulty with a rival (‘Snub’ Pollard) and her father, played by Three Stooges nemesis Bud Jamison.  Marathon features one of the earliest uses of the “mirror” gag that was immortalized in the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup (1933), to name one of the many comedies who made good use of it.

Despite being tagged as “the King of Daredevil Comedy”—due mainly to the reputation of Safety Last!—Lloyd really didn’t make all that many “thrill” comedies; his second short in this mold, High and Dizzy (1920), is on this set and is fairly enjoyable for the most part despite the fact that the “thrill” factor takes a back seat to Harold’s tipsy shenanigans after he and a pal (Roy Brooks) polish off the friend’s homemade brew.  The gags are funny and it was interesting to see Harold do something a bit different (the “glasses” character never seemed like the kind of person who imbibed, to be honest) even if the ending seemed a bit rushed.  The remaining short is An Eastern Westerner (1920), in which tenderfoot Harold ventures out West, falls in love with the future Mrs. Lloyd (Mildred Davis) and tangles with a gang of no-goods headed up by frequent Lloyd player Noah Young.  Again, the gags are great (I liked the one where Harold hides in some wash on a clothesline, which reminded me of the overcoat gag in Safety) and both Carl Davis scores on these two shorts are sensational.

Later today: I hope to return to our thrill-a-minute saga of The Black Widow (1947) on Serial Saturdays…and reluctantly (I’ve been avoiding this as long as I could), Season 2 of The Doris Day Show will start this Monday on Doris Day(s).

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