Like A Trip to the Moon and The General, I was fortunate enough to see this on actual film with an accompanying organist. Then this semester, our Film Club selected this after Hugo and I watched it in our personal screening room. Those two screenings were by and large very different in terms of medium, atmosphere, and audience, but I’ll delve into those later.
Our hero, Harold Lloyd, works in a department store. He doesn’t get paid a whole lot but for the time it seems like a lot, especially with $15 rent due in . Harold’s girlfriend, living in a small city, arrives to surprise Harold and that’s where the comedy really begins as he poses as the general manager instead of a salesclerk. The real manager wants to attract more customers and Harold is granted the task of having a mystery climber, his roommate who we see scale a building in a chase scene, climb the store for $1000. Problem is, his roommate is chased by a cop and makes Harold climb the storefront instead.
To put this in perspective, the climb up looks really terrifying. I still felt on edge during my second viewing. It looks so REAL, but there is some trickery involved. During my second viewing, I looked in the background and the footage doesn’t match from floor to floor. On top of that, stuntmen were used and the building side wasn’t as tall as believed. With that in mind, I still believe and will still believe Harold is climbing the building, even with a few fingers missing. It’s just really magical.
Now, the viewings were clearly different. For the film viewing, there were a lot more laughs from the audience. In the digital viewing, there were a few muted chuckles. For the film, I was close to the front row in a large theater; digital, front row in a twenty-five seat room thirty feet or so from an active railroad. Just because it’s a silent film doesn’t mean you can’t feel annoyed when a train blares its horn and you can’t hear the score. I remember that when we screened The Artist last year (with mixed reactions), the one screening I attended was completely train-free; it’d be hard to replicate that instance in our screening room.
Which screening did I like more? The one with the film. Don’t get me wrong, the digital print looked pretty good as it was the Criterion Collection print. It’s that the film print had a better contrast in values and showed more depth. The film screening was more of a once-in-a-lifetime experience focusing on authenticity that most people won’t experience. I’ll get into this more when I review Side by Side next year.
What’s interesting is that this isn’t one of the 1001; I’m as surprised as you are. For something as iconic as that image at the top, I’m hoping that this will be included in future editions in the book. Still, a great movie that keeps the suspense and laughter all the way to the end.
400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years