Speedy Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
New York City is a city of hustle and bustle, where, as the opening title notes, “everybody is in such a hurry that they take Saturday’s bath on Friday so they can do Monday’s washing on Sunday.” But there are slow aspects, too, such as the city’s last horse-drawn car.
There are pressures on the owner of the service (Bert Woodruff, 1927’s SPRING FEVER, which starred William Haines and Joan Crawford) to sell so the more industrious types can establish a new railroad line. Also sensing the weight is his granddaughter, Jane (Ann Christy, whose short career lasted just five years), whose own financial situation is burdened since her boyfriend, Harold (Harold Lloyd, horn-rimmed glasses and all)—who goes by Speedy, although hopefully this isn’t a nickname she gave him…—can’t keep a job. This is primarily due to his love of the Yankees, which allows for a splendid cameo from Babe Ruth, who can’t quite handle the backseat of a cab like he can home plate.
Speedy finds a purpose, however, when it becomes even more crucial for the little guy to stand up to the big businesses. Of course, there is plenty of time made for the sort of gags that Lloyd was famous for: on a subway, he weasels his way into a coveted seat; he bounces behind the counter as a soda jerk; he gets slapped around by a barrage of women thinking him a thief and pervert. The most famous sequence—one of the most fun in all of silent comedies and home to an onslaught of visual delights, some aforementioned—takes place at Coney Island. Modern audiences will get a kick out of the antiquated rides and Lloyd flipping off a funhouse mirror.
SPEEDY is directed by Ted Wilde (1925’s THE HAUNTED HONEYMOON), who earned a nomination for Best Director, Comedy Picture in the sole year it existed. (He lost to Lewis Milestone for TWO ARABIAN KNIGHTS, giving Wilde the opposite distinction that the winner has.) Its plot is a reflection of changing times in transportation. It also serves as a troubling hint of what was occurring in the world of cinema. Released less than six months after THE JAZZ SINGER, SPEEDY ended up being Lloyd’s final silent work. With “talkies” entering the realm, careers of those who made their name without synchronized sound would find themselves greatly challenged and even floundering. And while Lloyd would star in seven sound features between 1929 and 1947, those films would never capture the magic that Lloyd could portray without words.
Harold Lloyd was one of the titans of silent comedies, although his name still generally draws blanks on minds not belonging to cinephiles. Chaplin and Keaton will always be the go-to faces. But the man with the horn-rimmed glasses and porkpie hat was a daring performer (he famously lost a finger doing a stunt) that earned his keep alongside The Little Tramp and The Great Stone Face. And SPEEDY, alongside 1923’s SAFETY LAST! and 1925’s THE FRESHMAN, isn’t just one of Lloyd’s finest, but it’s also one of the era’s best.
Video: 1.33:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a safety fine-grain master positive deposited at the UCLA Film & Television Archive by the Harold Lloyd estate; certain insert segments were scanned in 4K from the archive’s preservation negative. The film was restored by Digital Film Restore in Burbank, California.”
This high-definition transfer sometimes falls victim to the film’s age (SPEEDY is nearing 90), with noticeable instances of scratches and dirt, but it has clearly been tended to with the utmost care. This is likely the best Harold Lloyd fans will see SPEEDY on Blu-ray.
Audio: Silent. “Musical score by Carl Davis from 1992, synchronized and restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo.”
The score by Davis comes through without flaw and adds a nice touch to the film.
Commentary: Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum, and Turner Classic Movies director of program production Scott McGee offer a thorough commentary in which they cover a wealth of topics, including star Harold Lloyd (as well as his co-stars), the locations, various techniques used to achieve certain shots,
In the Footsteps of SPEEDY (31:05): Goldstein showcases some of the locations used for the production of SPEEDY, with notes on how a number of the sequences were shot.
Babe Ruth (40:24): David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, discusses Ruth’s celebrity, his days as a Yankee and more. Also included is rare Hearst Metrotone newsreel footage.
Narrated Stills: Deleted Scenes (4:24): Goldstein provides commentary for this selection of deleted scenes.
Home Movies (17:45) includes footage from Lloyd’s archive, with narration from his granddaughter Suzanne.
BUMPING INTO BROADWAY (25:51): A two-reel short released in 1919.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by critic Phillip Lopate.