Among the dozens of movies and anthologies I have on DVD, THE HAROLD LLOYD COLLECTION is one of my personal favorites and bound to be one of my most played. In the world of silent film comedy greats, Harold Lloyd was less sentimental than Charlie Chaplin and much warmer than Buster Keaton. With his glasses character, Harold was the personification of the henpecked, never-say-die, confident young man beset with constant problems in Jazz Age America. Lloyd's screen image remains immensely appealing, leading ladies Mildred Harris and Jobyna Ralston are exquisite, his building climbing sight gags have never been topped (he is the one dangling from a clock in a famous still from SAFETY LAST), and his movies hold up wonderfully.
New Line Cinema's THE HAROLD LLOYD COLLECTION retails for a steep $90 (Amazon.com has it for $72), but includes every single silent short and feature that Harold Lloyd made during the 1920's and into the early 1930's. And the prints are all crystal-clear Lloyd Estate vault prints with lovely new music scores by Robert Israel. Unlike Keaton and Chaplin, the Lloyd films were all owned by him and kept off of TV for decades. The downside of this is that my 1960's generation grew up watching and loving Buster and Charlie, but not Harold. But we have reached a stage in 2006 when all three artists have virtually all of their cinematic work on DVD in mint-condition prints, so film scholars and general audiences alike are finally getting to enjoy the work of Harold Lloyd as a true silent comedy genius.
THE HAROLD LLOYD COLLECTION comprises seven disks over four volumes. Volume One includes SAFETY LAST (1923), GIRL SHY (1924), the sound features THE CAT'S PAW (1934) and THE MILKY WAY (1936) in restored UCLA Film and TV Archives prints, WHY WORRY? (1923), and three 2-reelers. Leonard Maltin and Richard Correll provide insightful commentary on SAFETY LAST. Both disks on Volume One include Production Galleries.
If you can only buy one of these volumes, go with the fabulous Volume Two, which includes my two all-time favorite Harold Lloyd silent features, THE FRESHMAN (1925) and THE KID BROTHER (1927); both have audio commentary. Also on Volume Two are the sublime silent features DR. JACK and GRANDMA'S BOY (both 1922), the sound feature FEET FIRST (1930), four 2-reelers, and a wonderful short documentary interview with Robert Israel and Kevin Brownlow on doing silent film music scores.
Volume Three has the silent comedy feature classics SPEEDY (1928, with commentary), HOT WATER (1924), and FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE (1927); the UCLA Film Archive restoration of the sound satire MOVIE CRAZY (1932) to its full 96 minute length; a whopping seven 2-reel and 3-reel shorts; and a tour of Lloyd's estate, Greenacres, in Beverly Hills by his lovely granddaughter Suzanne. She also does commentary on a few of the shorts on the various volumes. Many people do not know that a prop bomb accident blew off Harold Lloyd's right thumb and a finger in 1919 or 1920. He needed several months to get his eye sight back and had a prosthetic right hand glove made that he wore on screen until he retired as an actor in the late 1940's. So those hair-raising building climbing scenes were done with no trick photography, no computers, and only eight fingers. The 2-reel comedy Lloyd was making at the time of the accident is HAUNTED SPOOKS (1920), and it is included on Volume Three with commentary.
Volume Four is a bonus disk only available with the whole boxed set. It includes over three hours of circus delights, including Leonard Maltin leading us through Harold Lloyd's life decade by decade; short biographies of almost everyone who worked with him during the 1920's; heartfelt tributes and interviews about Lloyd by celebrities both old and too new to have been his co-stars (like Robert Wagner and Debbie Reynolds); 3-D photographs he took (the glasses are included); a USC Cinema banquet circa 1960; a very short Oscar speech in 1953 when Lloyd won an Honorary Oscar; and publicity galleries to go through at your leisure.
Gosh, I adore THE HAROLD LLOYD COLLECTION! Yeah, I know, it costs a fortune. Two ideas: don't buy or rent any other movies on DVD in the month you buy it; or give it to a loved one for Christmas or hint that they should give it to you. It really has wall-to-wall slapstick comedy (and poignant drama) in easily acccessible short and feature lengths. And in magnificent print restorations with glorious Robert Israel music scores to give you a feel for the greatness of silent comedy at its peak. DVD boxed sets simply do not get any better than this New Line Cinema masterpiece, except for maybe Kino Video's stupendous 11 volume Buster Keaton set. Happy viewing!