Comedy built on gadget gags was nothing new to Snub, nor Hal Roach studio, as they had done it often before with Harold Lloyd in his early 1-2 reel comedies(like in City Slicker or The Chef...). Many of the gadgets here look similar. Nevertheless this solo effort of Snub Pollard is well worth seeing. Actually it's among the best he had done. His usual overacting is not evident in this one, and it also adds some becoming cartoon quality. The short length also helps, as he often seemed having difficulty to handle more than 10 minutes of screen time. It really has some very creative ideas in the beginning.
My comment refers to THE SIN OF HAROLD DIDDLEBOCK, as I haven't seen the edited version Mad Wednesday-but I believe some cutting might do this film good. Too bad this movie is currently the most available Lloyd movie on the market. This great genius just shouldn't have ended his career with a movie like this-he certainly deserved a gracefully nostalgic summing-up like Chaplin with Limelight or Keaton with The Railrodder . Lloyd never starred in such a sloppy feature before. His idea of making a comedy just didn't go with that of Sturges. In this rowdy parade of lowest kind of slapstick, with unnatural puns and sayings as dialogue, there is little room for Lloyd to build up anything, neither gags, nor characterization. Too bad, for this film did have a good idea(what becomes of the go-getter who fails to achieve anything) to begin with, and a grand opening(highlight from The Freshman finale), and some terrific acting Lloyd delivered as a washed-up clerk who got fired after working for 20 years at the same position. All these look promising about 25 minutes, then the film just runs out of control. It even gives you an improvising feeling as it stumbles towards the end, when everybody has to shout their lines but nobody seems to know what is going on. . This film is so messy that resembles some low budget early talkie comedies, yet it was made in 1946! What a shame.
MOVIE CRAZY certainly is one of the best Lloyd's Talkies. From the opening gag on there are so many enjoyable moments only Lloyd knows how to provide. The screen test scenes are among the highlights. As always gags are very tightly built. Lloyd also handles the dialogue and timing pretty well; but Constance Cummings portrays a dominating, intelligent female lead that is rare in Lloyd's movies. Only complaint: if the high rise sequence in Feet First is recycled from Safety Last, the fighting-in-the-water scene here certainly looks familiar as well-from The Kid Brother. It's also a bit long and excessive.
FEET FIRST clearly shows part of the reasons why Harold Lloyd couldn't make it to the Sound era: he just wanted to (literally) repeat his success by recycling old gags that brought him fame, and any viewer who saw those gags in the original silent features just can't help finding them inferior this time around . First of all those gags are more suitable for silent pictures, secondly the thrill wears out if you saw it before. In this film this problem is most noticeable because it is conceptually a sound remake of Safety Last. To be fair, it has its moments-especially when Harold tried to get his breakfast; the newspaper gag worked well, too. But the Harold Horne character is simply not as likeable or as sympathetic as The Boy in Safety Last. Those contrived, saying-ridden dialogue doesn't help, either. The biggest let-down is really what was supposed to be the highlight-the building climbing scene, which is just a reverse of the same scene minus the clock in Safety Last. Technically the climbing is as challenging as in Safety Last, but for viewers it is definitely a lot less thrilling, because we already saw it before, done by the same person. I strongly recommend anyone who gets to see this movie to just press mute to better `enjoy' this sequence, since the so-called sound effect is just Lloyd panting, shouting some ugly racial slurs and serves no other purpose than annoying.
SPEEDY might not be as tight as his other masterpieces- it's a bit episodic, yet those scenes on Coney Island are lovely all the same, and the way they set up a little home inside the truck is poetic. This is the last silent of Lloyd, and it reflects the helplessness towards progression and the nostalgia of the good old past, which is the essence of what makes this film so wonderfully rich and graceful. That attempt of saving the last horse-drawn tram as goal(instead of personal achievement), and especially the help from the civil war veterans and on-lookers(instead of himself as an all-able hero) is atypical of Lloyd, but makes this film warmer, special, and very lovely.
THE KID BROTHER should be the film Lloyd to be remembered by. No matter how many times you watch it, you can always find something you did not notice previously. The structure of the film is something to be marveled at. It is so delicately built that every frame, even every prop serves a purpose for either characterization or as link between gags, or both. Even the tilt of the abandoned ship serves toward the end of the movie. The film is so beautifully shot that it has an idyllic quality. It also has a really great plot and even greater sight gags. And Lloyd's acting is beyond praise. The film itself is a masterful blend of great comedy and sentiments. Definitely one of the best silent films ever made.
THE FRESHMAN is the best college spoof film ever made. Outside being lap-slapping hilarious throughout, it has some most original, poetic, and convincing romantic moments as well, like when Harold saw the girl from the reflection of the mirror in his room; or while dancing with other women he saw how she revealed her love for him on the bouquet he gave her, that moment is a wonder. Besides the great football sequence, this film is full of wonderful gags, especially that little dance Harold invented, and the party sequence. Not only this film hasn't aged a bit, but the formula of this film is still used in Hollywood nowadays, but the results hardly, if ever, top this one here.
GIRL SHY is one of Lloyd's classics where that tight structure as the trademark of his comedy is most obvious. Every gag is so closed linked to another. It really leaves you marvel at his ability of building up and controlling his work. Besides, it is one of the great romantic comedies of the silent era, full of breath-taking imageries(like the scene when the Boy was dreaming about the Girl while fishing under a bridge..). It is hilarious throughout(especially for those 2 fantasy sequences). The great final chase is full of typical thrills that only Lloyd's comedy can provide(and, as we know it, `inspired' the final chase in The Graduate). Lloyd showed some wonderful drama acting ability too(when he had to dissuade the Girl from seeing him any more).
SAFETY LAST is best known for that 20 minutes daredevil building-climbing stunt Lloyd did. In fact, it is so thrilling that it tends to delete the merit of the rest of the picture from viewers' mind. It requires multiple viewings to discover the well-planned build-up to the final climax. From the opening gag, it sets the tone and the theme for the movie-and the repeating notion of time helps to set up a frantic, desperate mood. As always in Lloyd's comedy, gags are great and tightly-linked. If it's not for some few tasteless, wrongfully presented racial ethnic archetypical gags, which are the only stains on this great film, it can rival with Keaton's Sherlock, Jr..
GRANDMA'S BOY is among the first silent comedies that focus on characterization. It is also Lloyd's breakthrough picture which set him on the rank of Chaplin and Keaton and we can easily see why. It's full of tightly linked, ingenious gags( even where he put his hat would serve as a link to later action ). It also keeps some acrobatic movements that reminds us of Lloyd's 2 reeler days. It has a strong story line, and consistent plot development and delicate performance from Lloyd as well. The Grandpa's Civil war episode is truly funny.
DOCTOR JACK is one of Lloyd's weaker silent features, yet it's still quite funny. It does not have a tight structure, and focuses more on physical slapstick(which Lloyd is brilliant ), mixed with sentimental tales of how Dr. Jack `cures' patients with common sense and fun. This gives the film a curious mood inconsistency, maybe because melodrama and farce just don't melt together. However we get to see Lloyd performing some elegant acrobatic skills when he has to beat himself to create thrills for Mildred. The gag of the rug and the dog is very funny, too. Unfortunately, like many films at that time, this film contains some few inappropriate, slightly racist gags.