Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Criterion Collection - SPEEDY on Blu-ray ""

Friday, December 11, 2015

Criterion Collection - SPEEDY on Blu-ray

SPEEDY (1928; Ted Wilde)
It pleases greatly to see how Criterion has helped to make folks more aware of the remarkable legacy of Harold Lloyd and his genius. Before they put out their wonderful disc of SAFETY LAST, I feel like Lloyd was in a much more forgotten place. Criterion had put out some Chaplin discs prior to that and those were excellent, but I feel like Chaplin was still quite well remembered. Though Criterion hasn't done much with Buster Keaton films (Kino Lorber has though), he is a silent film icon that movie fans seem to have not overlooked. To Chaplin and Keaton I say, "Rightfully so!" as both were pioneers in comedy and filmmaking alike. Harold Lloyd, despite much of his work having been released on DVD, is a guy that we all need to bring into our lives.He is man who was so talented and so clever in his work that I am just as floored by it when I see it as I am with most of the stuff Chaplin and Keaton did. 
I must admit that I have not always been the most staunch supporter of silent film. I have only really come around to it in the last decade or so honestly and that is mostly due to comedy masters like Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd. Silents have become more even relavent to me in the last six years or so - since my daughter was born. As a cinephile dad,  always trying to find ways to get my kids into classic film. It can be tricky of course, as black and white pictures alone are a tough sell to kids. This is where I think Silents can be very helpful. They are just pure cinema in a lot of ways and comedy is a universal dialogue that even the youngest kids can make some sense out of and enjoy. That said, I've used films like SHERLOCK JR., MODERN TIMES and SAFETY LAST as jumping off points for my kids. For the most part it has been a successful venture and thus I am always excited when a new silent comedy classic lands on Blu-ray so I can show my children. Another great thing about Silents that makes them relatable to kids is the intertitles. When you watch with your youngsters and you read the cards on screen out loud to them, the whole experience becomes much more interactive. It clearly feels more like you are watching a storybook with moving pictures and kids can totally feel how this is a lot like when you read them books. Speaking the titles aloud makes it more personal to them and since they are used to your voice telling them tales, they feel more connected and comfortable with the material. Silents really can function as the proverbial "gateway drug" that helps get kids interested in older movies in general. It's an easy-ish jump from guys like Lloyd and Keaton into the Marx Brothers and Abbott & Costello. From there you can move on to Martin & Lewis and then Jerry's solo work and you are off to the races.
SPEEDY opens with a cute but sharply observed intertitle card that reads, "New York, where everybody is in such a hurry that they take Saturday's bath on Friday so they can do Monday's washing on Sunday". As we are introduced to the character of Speedy (Lloyd), we learn that he is baseball obsessed and has trouble holding down a job. The only requirement Speedy has for a new gig is that it is within phoning distance of Yankee stadium. When we first see Speedy, he's working as a soda jerk who is constantly getting updates on baseball scores while he works. He even uses a donut display case to sub in for the box scores of the games and uses various pastries to mock up the numbers. That's just an early example of Lloyd's ingenuity, but he has much more sight-gag goodness throughout this movie. The main plot revolves around Speedy trying to help his girlfriend's grandfather (who runs the last horse driven streetcar in town) from being forced out of business by an unscrupulous railroad company. Along the way, Lloyd exhibits some of his classic bits, many of which take place on a subway car and at Coney Island. The Coney sequence is a veritable goldmine of gags, including one that my daughter loved featuring a crab. It's also just fun to see the various rides and things that folks could indulge in at Coney Island in the late 1920s - it looks like a super fun place to take a date! 
The transfer looks great and this disc is an absolute must for classic film fans. If you don't already have SAFETY LAST and THE FRESHMAN, those are both essential Lloyd Criterions as well.

Special Features:
Criterion has done another fine job with presentation and supplements here:
-New 4K digital restoration from elements preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
-Musical score by composer Carl Davis from 1992, synchronized and restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray.
-New audio commentary featuring Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum, and Turner Classic Movies director of program production Scott McGee.
-In the Footsteps of “Speedy,” a new short documentary by Goldstein about the film’s New York shoot.
-Selection of rare archival footage from UCLA Film & Television Archive’s Hearst Newsreel Collection of baseball legend Babe Ruth, who has a cameo in the film, presented by David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts
-New visual essay featuring stills of deleted scenes from the film and narrated by Goldstein
Selection of actor Harold Lloyd’s home movies, narrated by his granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd.
-Bumping into Broadway, a 1919 Lloyd two-reeler, newly restored and with a 2004 score by Robert Israel
-PLUS: An essay by critic Phillip Lopate.
SPEEDY can be purchased on Blu-ray here:
http://amzn.to/1PSHE06

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