1923, Movies

Safety Last! (1923, Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor)

This is a mildly amusing romantic comedy with some decent stunts until it gets to the stunt the film is famous for, and then things pick up considerably.

The plot is pretty rote – a man lies to his girlfriend about his big city success and has to find a way to get rich – and the stunts are fine, but not necessarily as creative as his two more famous contemporaries. Now, I haven’t watched Chaplin or Keaton in a while, but the delight with both of them is their creative stunts mixed in with relatively decent storytelling. Lloyd mostly feels a level below on both counts, at least compared to the very best work of both Chaplin and Keaton.

This is still pretty good for the time, as the story was probably fairly fresh for the time and there are at least some laughs and some cringey comedy once the girlfriend shows up. It’s not bad for the era, even if it doesn’t have the same creativity of his peers.

But then Lloyd starts climbing the building, things get a lot more interesting. Of course there’s a different challenge on each floor, where something happening inside the building intrudes on his climbing. And Lloyd almost falls so many times. It gets more impressive as it gets higher, as it doesn’t look like it’s fake. (It turns out, they came up with a really neat way of fooling us into thinking he’s on the side of the building.) It’s legitimately thrilling and deserving of its reputation as one of the all time movie stunts. Worth watching the movie for it alone.

8/10 for the movie as a whole but that stunt deserves a 10.

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