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Overall Rating
4.86

Awesome85.71%
Worth A Look: 14.29%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 1 rating


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Speedy
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by Jay Seaver

"Lloyd's terrific last silent"
5 stars

Most of Harold Lloyd films were set in California, by implication if not by explicit statement. For "Speedy", Harold and company made the cross country trip to the Big Apple, which provides him with an environment frantic enough to keep up with Lloyd's brand of hyperkinetic chaos.

The title, aside from being Lloyd's own nickname (one which nobody who has seen him in a movie will dispute), is also what people call his character, Harold Swift. "Speedy" is a carefree fellow, not particularly worried when his lacksadasical ways cost him a job in this pre-Depression New York, because another is always just around the corner, and, besides, unemployment gives him more time to spend with girlfriend Jane Dillon (Ann Christy), if not more money to spend on her. His current job as a soda jerk is ideal, since the establishment has a telephone he can use to get updates on the play of his beloved Yankees.

All is not necessarily well in Speedy's Brooklyn neighborhood, though - Jane's grandfather, Pop Dillon (Bert Woodruff) operates the city's last horse-drawn coach route, and the streetcar syndicates covet his tracks and operating license. Pop is ready for retirement and willing to sell, but when Speedy reads what the tracks are worth to the syndicates and intercedes to say that Pop will be wanting a much higher figure than Pop originally specified, the corrupt group starts to look at the terms of Pop's license. Hmm. It appears the tracks will revert back to the city if 24 hours pass without a trip being made. Well, that can possibly be arranged...

Like its title character, Speedy seems almost the opposite at first, starting with genial sight gags like Harold communicating the progress of the ballgame by filling a display case with donuts, eclairs, and pretzels with a bite taken (to resemble a numeral three) so that it becomes an inning-by-inning baseball line score. Jane's and Harold's weekend outing to Coney Island is certainly eventful, and nets them a friendly stray dog, but is mostly notable not for the scale of the sequence, but for how we see Harold and Jane interact. Ms. Christy is great fun in this sequence, in large part because her character is just as incorrigible as Lloyd's. It often seems like the job of the female lead in a movie like this is to be a scold, or to push the star into being more responsible, but that's not this pair's dynamic at all. It's a great change of pace, and in a way it makes the hoops Speedy jumps through to save Pop's business much more genuine, because they really do appear to genuinely like each other, rather than having to prove themselves.

The Coney Island scenes had to be shot with hidden cameras and no fanfare because the filmmakers feared that otherwise Lloyd's fans would prove disruptive, but he was arguably not even the movie's biggest star. That honor may fall to George Herman "Babe" Ruth, who makes the potentially life-threatening decision to take a cab driven by Speedy (who is no longer working at the drug store) to Yankee Stadium. This kicks off the first of two high-speed street chases in a row during the film's midsection, as Harold will also have his taxi commandeered by the police. It's a treat to see the Babe in this sequence, especially since we tend to remember him from film shot near the end of his career, where he barely comes across as an athlete. In his prime, he was still stocky, but you can also see the muscle that drove those balls out of the park.

Believe it or not, though, but those car chases aren't the movie's big set-pieces. By the end of the movie, the syndicate starts playing rough, leading to a pair of showcases that drop the audience's jaw while still bringing the funny. In one, the transit's mob connections try to intimidate Pop and company, only to be confronted by the local Civil War veterans who use Pop's garage as a social clubs. By my calculations, even teenagers who lied about their age to fight in the war between the states would be octogenarians by 1928, so it winds up a gigantic battle with gangsters on one side and Speedy, Jane, their dog, and a bunch of seniors using whatever comes to hand on the other, a melee that anticipates (and probably influenced) the likes of Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow decades later. Then, when the mobsters manage to steal Pop's horse and coach, Speedy has to take them back and make it back to the garage by twelve o'clock, with the mob in hot pursuit. Insanity ensues, including a wheel that flies off and has to be replaced with a manhole cover.

This is a crazy movie, the sort which once it gets going never slows down enough to let its audience take a breath. Like a lot of Lloyd's films, it's very episodic - a six-reel feature that could be broken up into three two-reelers without a lot of difficulty. That doesn't hurt the story or the build-up, though, and the denouement is every bit as intense as a present day all-out action movie. It also demonstrates Harold's reliable chemistry with his leading ladies; what could be a perfunctory "well, the movie has to have a girl" inclusion instead becomes a source of mirth and, dare I say it, heart.

"Speedy" would turn out to be Lloyd's final silent movie, as "Welcome Danger" was extensively re-shot to include sound, and though sound wouldn't make Lloyd less funny or daring, he never quite adapted to it. In a way, it's fortunate that the disappointing "Welcome Danger" got a soundtrack grafted on; because of that, "Speedy" lets Lloyd leave the silent era with a bang.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12459&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/05/05 00:12:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 RiverRun International Film Festival For more in the 2009 RiverRun International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/22/13 PAUL SHORTT SUPERB, STYLISH SILENT COMEDY, WELL MADE 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Apr-1928

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Ted Wilde

Written by
  John Grey
  J.A. Howe
  Lex Neal

Cast
  Harold Lloyd
  Ann Christy
  Bert Woodruff
  Babe Ruth
  Bryon Douglas
  Brooks Benedict



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