An overworked department store clerk, a threatened romance, and most importantly, hanging from clock towers – Safety Last is one of the most iconic and influential films of the silent era. The film follows Harold Lloyd, playing a young man who leaves his girlfriend to go to New York City and try and make it big. Upon arrival at the Big Apple, though, he realizes that success is much harder to reach than he had initially hoped, and resorts to a series of well-intentioned but ill-advised efforts to work his way up the ladder and try to impress his visiting girlfriend.
Harold Lloyd is a master of physical comedy, a skill absolutely necessary in order to make the audience laugh when working in the earliest days of the cinematic medium. He found his comedic voice through an addiction to the comedy of escalating danger, revolving around a comic character who possessed a kind of infectious and relatable upbeat optimism. Safety Last epitomizes the Lloyd comedic worldview through how it first establishes Lloyd’s situation and character, and goes through a progression of more dangerous acts to the point of exaggeration. These acts are not a random collection of gags, though – each narrative event maintains a clear and focused goal that is related to a gag, and each gag he sets up and executes is directly related to the next. This attention to story construction brings the audience to the point at which they can eventually both relish in the thrill of Lloyd scaling a building, and at the same time find that thrill comedic.
Safety Last is a must for absolutely anyone to see the comedic and cinematic genius of one of cinema’s earliest stars. Working in an era in which the cinematic medium was still in its infancy, Lloyd’s influence is immeasurable, and that the comedy of this film still sticks today is am extreme testament to his work.
dir. Fred Newmeyer & Sam Taylor
Screens Sunday 7/9, 2:00PM @ Somerville Theatre
Part of the ongoing series: Silents, Please
Live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis!