Safety Last! appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though it occasionally showed some flaws, this was usually a terrific transfer for a 90-year-old movie.
As one might expect, print flaws became the most obvious issue. While not heavy, I saw examples of thin vertical lines and some marks. The image could flicker a bit, and a few scenes suffered from batches of small scratches that made it look like rain filled the picture.
None of those concerns became dominant, though, and the movie usually was quite clean for its age. Blacks looked deep and rich, while shadows showed nice clarity and smoothness. Overall contrast was consistently satisfying.
In terms of sharpness, the image was almost always concise. A few shots showed mild softness, but those were minimal. Overall definition seemed exceptional. I noticed virtually no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. The source defects almost knocked down my grade to a “B”, but so much of the flick looked great and transcended its age that I felt it merited a “B+”.
In terms of audio, the film came with an LPCM stereo score recorded in 1989. It presented a perfectly serviceable accompaniment to the film. Stereo imaging was fine; at times the music seemed a little too centered, but it usually spread across the front in a pleasing manner. The music came across as full and vivid as well. The score worked fine for the movie and sounded good.
With this Criterion Blu-ray, we get a mix of extras that launch with an audio commentary from film critic Leonard Maltin and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, aspects of Lloyd’s life and career, sets and locations, story/character subjects, production elements, stunts and effects, and a few other topics.
While not without occasional nuggets, the commentary tends to lack much informational value. Maltin and Correll mostly narrate the film’s story and talk about how much they enjoy it; in particular, Correll loves to tell us all the gags that make audiences explode with laughter. Maltin and Correll tell us enough useful material to keep us with the track, but it’s a frustrating ride.
An Introduction from Harold’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd runs 17 minutes, 21 seconds. That’s unusually long for an intro, as Suzanne discusses her life with Harold as well as aspects of Safety Last! and his career. Suzanne provides a nice reflection on her famous grandfather.
Next comes a two-part 1989 documentary entitled Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius. It goes for one hour, 48 minutes and provides info from Correll, Suzanne Lloyd, film producers Hal Roach and David Chasman, actors Phyllis Welch, Jane Novak, Lionel Stander, Frances Ramsden, Constance Cummings, Roddy McDowall, Alf Goulding, Jr., William Bakewell, Peggy Cartwright, Ernest Morrison and Jack Lemmon, brother-in-law Jack Davis, friends John Meredith, Frances Metzger and Alva Lyons, granddaughter Gloria Lloyd Roberts, director Andrew L. Stone, writer Walter Kerr, effects artist Roy Seawright, stunt double Harvey Parry, film editor Bernard Burton, assistant script girl Jean Nugent, theater organist Gaylord Carter, and attorney Tom Shepard. We also find some archival comments from Harold Lloyd as well.
“Genius” discusses Lloyd’s life and career, with an emphasis on his film work. The program follows a logical progression and explores its subject matter in a concise way. We get a lot of clips from Lloyd’s movies and learn plenty about him along the way.
The disc delivers three Harold Lloyd Shorts. We get 1918’s Take a Chance (10:21), 1919’s Young Mr. Jazz (9:50), and 1920’s His Royal Slyness (21:46). Of these, only Slyness - a play on Prince and the Pauper - really attempts any form of narrative. The others are short excuses for slapstick gags.
That makes it a surprise that the two briefer films are the most entertaining. Part of the reason for this stems from the Harold character, as he’s more interesting in Chance and Jazz; he’s more of a wise-ass troublemaker, while Slyness makes him a milquetoast boy next door. Whatever I may think of them, I’m sure Lloyd fans will feel happy to see these shorts.
We can view the shorts with or without commentaries from Correll and film writer John Bengtson. Though these chats substitute Bengtson for Maltin, they function the same as the main movie’s discussion. We get a lot of general thoughts about story and Lloyd’s greatness without much concrete information. Again, you’ll learn a little but not as much as you should.
A new featurette called Locations and Effects fills 20 minutes, 37 seconds. We find notes from Bengtson and visual effects expert Craig Barron as they discuss the work done to create Last’s famous “building climbing” scene as well as some other effects from Lloyd’s films. We get a good overview of the subject along with many cool elements that neatly illustrate these techniques.
Finally, we locate a new Interview with Composer Carl Davis. It runs 24 minutes, eight seconds and gives us Davis’s notes about Lloyd’s films and the scores he wrote for them. We get a nice perspective on Davis’s choices.
Like all Criterion packages, Last features a Booklet. This 24-page piece includes an essay from film writer Ed Park and some photos. It’s a good addition to the set.
Despite its reputation, I don’t think Safety Last! compares favorably with other classic silent comedies. While it boasts some humor and charms, I just don’t think it delivers the goods to the same degree as its competitors. The Blu-ray provides very nice picture and supplements along with appropriate audio. This Criterion release brings the film to Blu-ray in an eminently satisfying manner.