Safety Last! Reviews
While a lot of this is dated, there are many funny and creative bits. Hiding from his landlady by pretending to be a coat is one funny scene.
The best though, is Lloyd climbing the building. Lots of suspense and humor.
We see Lloyd accidentally getting on a horse-drawn ice wagon instead of the train in the beginning, as he goes off to the city to earn enough money to get married to his sweetheart. We see him and his buddy putting their coats on, hanging themselves up on hooks, and pulling their legs up out of sight to avoid the landlady who is looking for rent in a brilliant scene. He gets a job as a salesman, and we see him handle a crowd of women all going berserk over a fabric sale in all sorts of inventive ways.
The scenes of him climbing perilously up a building wall take place over the final 20 minutes of the film, and has him dodging nuts dumped out by a child, being mobbed by pigeons, being hit with a net from above and a giant wooden beam for the side before reaching the clock face. He then hangs from the clock hands in a scene that is both funny and thrilling, since you know it's real, and the framing of the scene is absolutely perfect. As he ascends he'll also dangle from a rope, have a mouse crawl up his leg, and walk precipitously on the edge of a couple of ledges.
You're not going to be laughing out loud, but Lloyd is likeable and charming, and you will probably marvel at his inventiveness, as well as the danger in performing the climbing stunt, which he did himself for the most part, with nothing but a mattress a few stories below (off-screen) for safety. It was 'safety last' in the real sense as well! Definitely worth seeing if you get a chance.
Now of course any silent movie actor doing many of their own stunts has to be basically an athlete of sorts, and that is what Lloyd is in this. One reason I think it works so well in this movie is because you don't expect the character in the film to do what he does and go through all that happens, the stunts are so well done that it almost feels Lloyd is an amateur (of which of course he most definitely is not) but that makes the character more believable and so hats off to Harold. It doesn't start off really well but it is the start which gives the second half of the movie some structure, it kind of trundles a long as a good and decent film only to be elevated by its fantastic ending, very well worked indeed.
As for other characters well it combines a lot of random people and creates a few well created characters. Mildred Davis as Lloyd's girlfriend is good although the whole story about Lloyd's hometown is a bit pointless really, although the character is not a bad one. There's something about Westcott Clarke that is kind of scary in a way, he plays Mr. Stubbs a floorwalker at Lloyd's work and he is very much a strict one of that. Clarke is dressed with suit and a monocle and it makes him look really kind of creepy in a weird way, lovely idea from whoever thought of it.
You can't talk about this or for that matter many other comedy silent movies without talking about the stunts, I mentioned of course that it has some but in reality it has many, not all actually have to death defying. Little things like sneaking away from Stubbs so he does not see him going the other way or Stubbs would see him, but then the film has big things like when Lloyd has to get to work and of course the outside of the building scenes. The stunt Lloyd does at the end is actually pretty scary to look at because really you don't know in reality how safe he would have been, let alone just in the story he is telling.
So Safety Last is a silent movie that is near excellent and more than matches many of Chaplin's and Keaton's works, I think it is important we remember Lloyd as well as those two because he was just as important and maybe even more popular with audiences back in the day. I think this is one of those silent movies that even people who have never seen one before could enjoy, it's fun but also dangerous and at such a short running time it doesn't drag on or feel boring, it feels fun and of course, thrilling.
The stunts are even more impressive for having been accomplished after Lloyd lost his right thumb and forefinger.