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JDIFF 2014 Reviews #9 – Safety Last! (1923)

Our ninth review post from JDIFF 2014 comes from Páraic McGeough.

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Harold-Lloyd-in-Safety-LastSafety Last! (1923)

Director: Fred C Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Cast: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother
Country of Origin: US
Duration: 73 minutes
Year: 1923

It was a very special screening of Safety Last! that we were treated to on Sunday afternoon as part of the final day of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. In attendance was Suzanne Lloyd, the grand daughter of Harold Lloyd and the chief person responsible for preserving and cataloguing Lloyd’s back catalogue. With the help of Park Circus Classic Film Distribution, a new restored print which looks fantastic was able to be be shown at the festival.

Not only was Suzanne on hand to offer some insight into the life of Harold and the trials and tribulations of preserving nitrate film, the screening was accompanied by a live piano performance by Neil Brand. Brand is a renowned silent film accompanist who works chiefly at London’s National Film Theatre as well as composing his own pieces. Not taking a break for the film’s 70 minute duration, it was an impressive feat of flawless playing which thoroughly deserved the standing ovation he received. Having never seen Safety Last! before there couldn’t have been a better way to be introduced to the film.

Lloyd plays “The Boy” who like all good Americans wants nothing more to impress his girl and must climb the business ladder in an attempt to buy her beautiful things. He comes up with the idea of getting his friend to climb to the top of his building in a stunt to attract people to the shop. As good script-writing would have it, the friend can’t do it due to a previous run in with the law, leaving Lloyd to climb it himself. We are then treated to some of the best physical and most tense comedy committed to celluloid.

A rare treat and one best enjoyed on the big screen where possible. Oh and if you have one of the best silent movie accompanists knocking around too it doesn’t hurt.