Speedy, Blu-ray (1928/2015)

by | Dec 18, 2015 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Speedy, Blu-ray (1928/2015)

Actors: Harold Lloyd, Babe Ruth
Director: Ted Wilde
Video: 1.33:1 B&W silent with 1992 score by Carl Davis
Audio: PCM stereo
English intertitles
Studio: UCLA/Janus/ The Criterion Collection 788 (12/8/15)
Extras: Commentary track by Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at Film Forum NYC & Scott McGee of Turner Classic Movies; “In the Footsteps of Speedy” – documentary about the NYC locations; Archival footage of Babe Ruth; New visual essary by Goldstein; Sel. of Lloyd’s home movies narrated by his granddaughter; Bumping into Broadway – 1919 Lloyd short with a 2004 new score; Illustrated booklet with essay by critic Phillip Lopate
Length: 85 min.
Rating: ****1/2

Lloyd plays his usual optomistic slapstick glasses character (no lenses, or course) in this film which will be a treasure trove for baseball fans – with over five minutes of footage of Babe Ruth as a disgruntled passenger in the back of Lloyd’s taxi as he careens thru the NYC streets. Lloyd starts out as a lowly soda jerker, but can’t seem to keep a job.  He finally finds his calling in helping his sweetheart’s grandfather fight the railroad barons who want to take over his one remaining horse-drawn trolley in NYC.

He raises the amount the grandfather wants from the railroad people from $10,000 to $70,000, and when they refuse and get some thugs to stop the horse-drawn trolley from operating for 24 hours (meaning all is lost), he recruits the local shopkeepers and workers (some of whom fought in the Civil War) to fight the thugs. Their secret communication phrase is “Smells like it’s about to rain.” There is plenty opportunity for action and physical comedy as Lloyd runs the horses and streetcar that has been stolen back to its proper tracks in a backward borough of NYC. It even includes a spectacular crash which was not scheduled. The battle is not so terribly rough – the old men mostly outsmart the thugs and a dog helps by biting their bottoms. A peg-leg man makes good use of his peg-leg and a Chinese laundry man steams the bottoms of many thugs with his hot iron.

There is also a quarter-hour segment where Lloyd and his girlfriend go to Luna Park at Coney Island, even though he has lost his last job. The shots on Coney Island and on the streets of NYC, plus the footage of Babe Ruth make this film a must for some fans. One critic said his acting here was better than in the full feature film on himself. Again, a few sound effects in the score are perfectly synchronized with the visuals, such as a whistle and gunshot. The images are excellent thruout, because the originals were kept in a vault on the Lloyd estate.

—John Sunier