Climax filled with climaxes

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Latest posts by Ed Park (see all)

The film wrings dozens of gags from the chaos that is Harold’s workday behind the fabric counter—as when, attempting to hand off a parcel to a little old lady amid the throng, he shouts, “Who dropped that fifty-dollar bill?” and the mass of matrons subsides like the Red Sea getting the Moses treatment—but it’s in the final half hour, when Lloyd reluctantly assumes the role of the human fly, that Safety Last! delivers something close to pure pleasure. Watching the extended sequence is like listening to the seamless suite of miniatures on side two of Abbey Road: it’s a climax filled with climaxes. Enter at any point, and there’s no escape. You can as easily divert your gaze from whatever fresh hell Lloyd encounters on his unnervingly vertical journey—an out-flung window, a rodent up the pant leg—as you can click off the stereo when “Mean Mr. Mustard” circles to a close. Each thrill feeds into the next; each gag enhances the viewer’s joyful unease. The only sensible way to stop is to reach the end.
—Some Dullblogger on Harold Lloyd’s 1923 thrilling comedy classic Safety Last!, now out from the Criterion Collection
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3 Comments

  1. Avatar king kevin wrote:

    Those old Harold Lloyd films are amazing. I remember my dad taking me to see one in the theatre when I was a kid… wow. I’d love to own that.

  2. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    Interesting comparison. Another scene that comes to mind is Chaplin’s “The Circus” where Chaplin walks the tightrope, and one thing after another happens to him.

    I’ve always sensed a connection between the Beatles and silent film, probably from Lester’s efforts on Hard Days Night. Watch Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman” and watch closely his baseball fantasy sequence, where he wanders onto Yankee Stadium and plays the parts of pitcher, outfield, etc. Lester’s scene in Hard Day’s Night where the boys romp around in the field is a direct homage to that.

    And didn’t critics call Ringo the new Chaplin? To which Lennon replied “he’s the old one.”

    – hologram sam

  3. Avatar Stew wrote:

    I always wondered what was up with that field scene.

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