Ed Park
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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