Silent comedy’s everyman Harold Lloyd had his greatest box-office success in 1925 with The Freshman, a hilarious collegiate comedy with terrific set-ups and sight gags that still work their magic ninety years after they were fashioned. In Criterion’s new Blu-ray release, the film looks wonderful and with a new orchestral stereo soundtrack to accompany the silent screen antics, the film plays as stupendously as ever.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English PCM 2.0
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 16 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDkeep case in a cardboard slipcase
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/25/2014
Harold Lamb (Harold Lloyd) arrives at Tate College hoping he can become as popular as its reigning BMOC (James Anderson), captain of the football team and the most admired man on campus. But naïve Harold falls right into the clutches of the campus cad (Brooks Benedict) who sets the young man up for a series of embarrassing situations. Because he’s been saving for his college for years, he has money to spend on his new friends, and he even sponsors an expensive Fall Frolic to get in good with everyone, but he realizes that he really can’t attain his goal of being the most popular student unless he can win the big football game for dear ole Tate, but, unfortunately, he’s only the water boy.
The Production Rating: 5/5
Writers Sam Taylor, John Grey, Ted Wilde, and Tim Whelan created a wonderfully elastic college scenario around which they could generate superbly constructed set pieces for Lloyd’s patented comedy of errors. Forget about academics at this college; all of the major moments involve sports or social situations, and there are four prime ones in this film, many managing to top their predecessor: Harold’s impromptu speech before the student body (which involves a pesky kitten, a foil, and some lines stolen from a current film), trying out for the football team with Harold eventually relegated to being the tackle dummy, the Fall Frolic with Harold’s tux only loosely basted together and continually unraveling (the film’s comic high point), and the climactic football game where, sure enough, Harold is the only one left on the bench with a substitute needed and only a few minutes remaining for the home team to come from behind. The intertitles for the film are quite amusing in their own right: some are animated (some funny comic business with Harold’s dad on his crystal radio set) and others offer droll comments on college life and other societal observations.
Thirty-one at the time of filming, Harold Lloyd takes a beating during the movie with the extended football tryout sequence putting him through the ringer from a physical standpoint, but he never loses that innocence and appeal that naturally win people over both on the screen and off. His jaunty little two-step college introduction routine is endearing, and one wholeheartedly celebrates his victories and cringes at his mishaps and embarrassments. Jobyna Ralston is the requisite love interest for the lad, and while she’s very expressive, and the two play well together, the fact that the writers don’t make her a college student with Harold keeps her out of the action for a goodly amount of the movie. Brooks Benedict is most effective the nasty bully always looking for ways to bring Harold down, but James Anderson as the college heartthrob doesn’t assert himself forcefully enough to make the vivid impression one might need for the object of everyone’s admiration. Better is Pat Harmon as the gruff football coach who thinks Harold makes a fine tackle dummy but little else. Joseph Harrington as the tailor prone to dizzy spells is instrumental in making the Fall Frolic sequence the film’s highlight.
The film is presented in its original theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Featuring occasional yellow and gunmetal tints as well as the expected black and white, image quality is joyously superb for a film of this era. There’s a small scratch that floats by and possibly a shot or two that seem a little softer than the surrounding images, but overall grayscale is magnificently rendered and a treat to watch. The film has been divided into 11 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The new orchestral score by Carl Davis is presented in PCM 2.0 (2.3 Mbps) stereo and sounds terrific married to perfection to the images on the screen. Fidelity is top-notch in this marvelous new accompaniment to a time-honored classic.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Audio Commentary: historians Leonard Maltin and Richard Bann and Lloyd archivist Richard Correll share the commentary track. While anecdotes on Lloyd’s life and career are certainly present, too much of the track involves Correll setting up the jokes we’re watching and the group laughing about them.
Special Features Rating: 5/5
Harold Lloyd’s Funny Side of Life (29:37, HD): an introduction to The Freshman by Harold Lloyd and a compilation of comic bits and stunts from several Lloyd movies.
Three Harold Lloyd Shorts (HD): 1919’s The Marathon (13:58) featuring Bebe Daniels as the object of many suitors’ affections including Harold, 1920’s An Eastern Westerner (27:37) as urban playboy Harold is banished to the west and meets Mildred Davis, and 1920’s High and Dizzy (27:15) with Harold as an unsuccessful doctor and Mildred Davis as a sleepwalker prone to strolling on high ledges.
Kevin Brownlow-Richard Correll Conversation (39:48, HD): the two film historians, both of whom were acquainted with Harold Lloyd, swap stories about him and their experiences with his films in this 2013 conversation.
Harold Lloyd: Big Man on Campus (16:27, HD): John Bengtson offers a video essay investigating the various California locations used in the shooting of the movie and mentions some deletions to the original cut.
Delta Kappa Alpha Tribute (29:21, HD): Gloria Swanson introduces director Delmer Daves and actors Jack Lemmon and Steve Allen who all pose questions to celebrant Harold Lloyd.
What’s My Line? (6:31, HD): the panel attempts to guess the identity of the mystery guest Harold Lloyd.
Eighteen Page Booklet: done in the manner of a college yearbook, it contains the chapter listing, the cast and crew lists, a number of stills, and comedy writer Stephen Winer’s analysis of the movie.
DVD Copies: two discs which replicate the content on the Blu-ray disc in this dual-format release.
Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
Another welcome release of a classic Harold Lloyd comedy on Blu-ray, The Freshman is every bit as welcome as last year’s Safety Last! was. Beautiful picture and sound complement a bonus features package that’s tremendously informative and entertaining. Highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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