Safety Last! (1923)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Safety Last!</strong> (1923)

(On Cable TV, October 2018) Not many films from the early silent 1920s are still frequently referenced today, but Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! is a noteworthy exception, and watching it eventually reveals why. Lloyd’s bespectacled look has inspired numerous imitators (Cary Grant in Bringing up Baby and Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters being only two of them), but it’s the film’s concluding sequence, in which the protagonist climbs a Los Angeles high-rise with his bare hands, which still stands today as a virtuoso sequence of comedy and tension. There’s a new obstacle on every floor, and most of them are ridiculous. By the time we get to the clock, we’ve hit the iconic sequence of the film. It does take a while to get there—our protagonist is nothing more than an ordinary young man (despite the glasses, not necessarily an intellectual) wanting to impress a young woman, and much of the film’s first hour is spent leading to the skyscraper-climbing sequence, sometimes through rough narrative sequences and silly comedy moments. Still, those moments are amusing, even fascinating if you’re interested in 1920s Los Angeles. But the skyscraper sequence is an all-time classic, and it still works really well even today. [March 2019: Oh wow! The film being in the public domain as of January 2019, you can now play it straight from the film’s Wikipedia page in decent 720p resolution].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *