Harold Lloyd's Perfect Vision
Here's an eye-opener to demonstrate then and now of classics revived. Criterion's just-released Safety Last! Blu-Ray has among extras a fine documentary on Harold Lloyd, The Third Genius, produced in 1989. It opens with Safety Last! and Harold on the clock, footage authorized by the Lloyd estate. There was every reason to figure this a best the film could ever look, outside 35mm in a theatre. The 1989/2013 contrast, however, is night and day, like before-aft "restoration comparisons" on studio-released DVD's, only more so. We could watch Safety Last! now and regret lifetimes peeking through comparative murk, or be thankful to have windows thrown open at last. It's worth a ninety-year wait, my own maybe half that, dreaming as I did from beginner book and Blackhawk days that Safety Last! might be attainable. Viewing on 16mm bootleg and even Lloyd-licensed DVD pale in decrepitude beside what's here now: a Safety Last! so flawless it's almost intimidating.
|The Rex Theatre in Beloit, Wisconsin Goes All Out For Harold|
A question occurs: Could there be anyone watching Criterion's Blu-Ray that really has waited the whole of ninety-years? --- a pic-goer from 1923 seeing it crisp as when on nitrate? We're closing in on no survivors from Safety's first-run, there being about as many left as LA streets unchanged since Harold staged action thereon and gave us by far a best visual record of what life was like in sunny paradise. Watching last night, I felt empowered to break a fourth wall to 1923, something dreamt of often enough, but never so near fulfillment as here, such participation in an old film not experienced by me since Paramount got out Wings on Blu-Ray last year. Sharpness here is beyond aging eyesight's capacity to absorb (would I have seen it even clearer twenty years ago?), which is to say that if Safety Last! looked any better, we'd need to go back with HL on location sites to experience it.
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|SL Returns to the Rex in 1925|
A major factor in Criterion's success revival of these silent comedy features has been, I think, contribution by John Bengtson, referred to by the New York Times as the great detective of silent film locations. His documentary segment was the first thing I watched on Safety Last's BR. Going back to where Harold Lloyd filmed, as Bengtson has, narrows a ninety-year gap and shows much that is unchanged despite relentless, dare I call it, progress? Like treasure hunting among the ruins, he finds this/that place intact against odds imposed by generations of knockdown and makeover. It is exciting to recognize a street or alley where Harold or Buster once staged their gags, and having same pointed out by John Bengtson reassures that
|Beloit's Rex Theatre Is The Storefront Down At The End|