27 May 2016


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This is a silent comedy that's so old that there couldn't be too many of the actors left alive today. Maybe some of the children, but even then they'd surely have to be in their nineties by now. Isn't that an incredible thought? It's the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I watch something this old.
It fills me with a kind of awe, knowing that all the players, as they called them back then, have all gone to their heavenly reward. Call me morbid, but that's the kind of thing that impresses me...!

Anyway, the titular SPEEDY is played by a comedian of the time called Harold Lloyd. He's kind of goofy-looking, with thick black-rimmed nerd glasses to give the impression of oafishness, but the comedy is actually pretty well-realised for something so old. In fact, the Oscar for BEST DIRECTOR OF A COMEDY was awarded to the film's director Ted Wilde for what was apparently his last outing as a director of a silent film. Pretty nifty, huh? Not a bad way to go out.

The film revolves around Speedy's noble but hilarious attempts to save his girlfriend's grandfather's business from being taken over by a bigger, more modern company. Pop Dillon- the grandfather- owns and operates the last horse-drawn streetcar in 'Twenties New York. His gentle, more old-fashioned way of life is all set to be swallowed up by the march of progress. Speedy gets himself into some pretty funny sticky situations as he tries to save Pop's business.

He takes his girlfriend Jane Dillon, as cute a 'Twenties popsy as you'll ever see, to this gorgeous old-fashioned carnival where they go on all these brilliant old rides and eat candy floss and stuff. A cute stray dog attaches himself to the pair and stays on to become one of the stars of the show. The bit where Speedy covers him in shaving foam and pretends that he's a 'mad dog' to scare some goons away from Pop's streetcar is laugh-out-loud funny. The dog is adorable. I wish he was my dog...!

Another brilliant bit is where Speedy is driving a cab around New York all day but he's getting no customers and he's greatly puzzled as to why. Maybe the OUT OF ORDER sign he's accidentally hooked onto the door of his cab on the way out of the yard has something to do with it...?

Fans of baseball, and the Yankees in particular, will be thrilled to see the real Babe Ruth taking his chances in the back of Speedy's cab as Speedy drives him to the nearby stadium to play a baseball game. There's even some footage of a game which I'm nearly sure is real footage of an actual Babe Ruth game. Babe Ruth himself seems absolutely lovely. He's big and cuddly and solid and I really just wanted to give him a big huge hug when I saw him. What an old sweetie-pie he is...!

There are also these fantastic sepia-coloured scenes in which Speedy enlists the help of some of Pop's friends to fight the goons who are threatening Pop's business. The old-timers are so ancient it's like looking at a gathering that includes George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. Some of them, on their own admission, date back to the Civil War, which is pretty ancient all right!

Check out the scene in which the old-timers are squaring up to the goons. It's like watching a scene from THE SIMPSONS in which old Grampa Simpson and his octogenarian friends muster themselves to 'roll up their sleeves, put their shoulders to the wheel, their noses to the grindstone and their backs to the wall' to get a job done that the younger generation simply isn't up to. Aren't old folks great? I'm only being patronising in a nice way, by the way. I really do think that old folks are great...!

This terrific old film is enjoying a new lease of life at the moment thanks to the good folk at THE CRITERION COLLECTION. It's out on Blu-Ray with a few nice little extra features to tickle your fancy and if you're looking for something different to watch that just so happens to be quaint, charming and funny to boot, I think this'll do the job nicely. There's something inherently fascinating about a silent film from the 'Twenties. Give SPEEDY a chance. He won't let you down!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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