Watched: July 31 2016

Directors: Sam Taylor, Fred C. Newmeyer

Starring: Harold Lloyd

Year: 1923

Runtime: 1h 10min

Safety Last

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Safety Last! was a new one for us, although the above image of Harold Lloyd dangling from the clock was familiar. This is a classic silent comedy with some laugh-out-loud moments and some very real suspense. There are visual gags, hilarious jokes, neck-breaking stunts (though thankfully not literally), and some good instances of misdirection.

The plot is simple enough. A young man travels to the big city to “make good” before he can marry his girlfriend. He proceeds to fuck everyone over while lying to his delusional girlfriend about his success. OK, that may have been a bit harsh, but let’s look at his actions:

  • He tells his girlfriend he’s successful and makes lots of money
  • He steals(!) his best friend’s phonograph and pawns it to buy a necklace for said girlfriend
  • He doesn’t pay his rent because all his money goes to buying her pretty, pretty pressies
  • He gets his best friend in trouble with the law
  • He constantly brags (mostly about things that are not true)
  • He marries his girlfriend under false pretenses (still keeping up the charade that he is rich and successful)
Safety last 2
Yes, dear, all managers have to climb the buildings they work in. It’s how it is in the city.

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That being said, he is strangely likeable at times. He is very good at thinking on his feet and getting out of scrapes, and like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Lloyd was a gifted physical comedian which is the source of many of the funniest moments in the film. The slapstick and minor stunts are often hilarious and compelling to watch. In fact, here’s a song in praise of Harold Lloyd (sung to the tune of Gaston):

Noooo oooone crawls like Harold,

no one squats like Harold,

no one puts on a coat and hangs up like Harold! (watch the movie to see what I mean)

As for the girlfriend, she is completely delusional and actually believes all his insane claims despite all the evidence to the contrary. It is also sad that he feels the need to lie to her and “buy” her love, but it is unclear whether this is her doing or his.

Still, the plot is secondary to the stunts – particularly the extremely suspenseful climb scene towards the end. In fact, when the protagonist climbed the building, my sister could not even bear to watch most of it. It was a very tense moment in our living room, I tell you!

It’s a comedy, so of course there’s a happy ending. They go off to be married, in true Shakespearean-comedy-tradition. Huzzah!

Next time: The Gold Rush (1925)

 

 

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One thought on “#3 Safety Last!

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