The Criterion Collection has taken over the Harold Lloyd library from New Line (and what was it ever doing with them in the first place?), which means these magnificent films will be back in circulation in state-of-the-art digital editions. First up, of course, is Lloyd’s most famous film, “Safety Last,” a movie that vastly profits from the increased detail of Blu-ray: those vistas from the top of the department store now seem to extend to Sacramento.
The disc, reviewed here, contains a healthy selection of extras, including new digital restorations of the short films “Take a Chance” (1918), “Young Mr. Jazz” (1919) and “His Royal Slyness” (1920), and a terrific documentary piece, “Locations and Effects,” in which the silent film historian John Bengtson and the visual effects specialist Craig Barron revisit the locations for the film and reconstruct the methods Lloyd used to create his vertiginous effects, all in the camera. (John has a typically fascinating post on a Hollywood alley that appears in both “Safety Last!” and “Cops” on his blog, Silent Locations.) And topping off the Criterion disc is “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius,” the 1985 documentary that Kevin Brownlow and David Gill made for Thames Television.
If you live on the East Coast, you’ve no doubt had the pleasure of hearing the pianist Ben Model accompany silent films at MOMA and other area institutions. A silent film collector himself, Ben has just issued, with help from a Kickstarter campaign, a DVD containing some unique silent comedies that have survived only through 16-millimeter prints made for home movie enthusiasts. Titled “Accidentally Preserved,” the disc is available through Amazon and features films with Wallace Lupino, Monte Collins, Billy Franey, Cliff Bowes and other overlooked figures, as well as a terrific Fleischer “Out of the Inkwell” cartoon called “Mechanical Doll.” The program notes are by the silent films scholar Steve Massa and can be perused here; Steve also has a new book covering even more neglected silent comics, appositely titled Lame Brains and Lunatics