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The Freshman Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review

The Freshman Blu-ray

“The Freshman” is one of Harold Lloyd’s best silent comedies.

In “The Freshman” (the 1925 silent comedy not the 1990 film starring Marlon Brando), silent film star Harold Lloyd is at the top of his game playing a fresh faced youngin’ who is bound for college. The story revolves around Harold Lamb (Lloyd’s character name in the film) who wants nothing more than to fit in and be well liked at Tate University, but unfortunately, things don’t quite go as planned for him. While he initially thinks he is becoming a popular man on campus, his fellow college students are actually mocking him and pulling pranks on him behind his back. This is never more evident than when he tries out for the football team and believes he made the cut, but in reality, he is only the waterboy. Can Lamb turn things around for himself? Is his gal pal Peggy into him as much as he’s into her? Can Lamb stop being viewed as the college fool and become a hero? Well, you’ll just have to watch and see.

While very much a product of its time, “The Freshman” is still a silent comedy that has stood the test of time. Not only does the film touch on identifiable concepts such as fitting in, college romance, college athletics, bullying, and redemption but it’s also a masterclass in physical comedy. While Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton may be the most talked about silent comedians, Harold Lloyd deserves to be in the same conversation. Whether he’s enthusiastically doing a little dance jig, dealing with a suit situation, or attempting to pick up on the game of football in the BIG game, the bespectacled and adventurous Lloyd never ceases to make you laugh.

As for the film itself, some viewers may have a problem seeing Harold Lamb get mistreated, embarrassed, and literally knocked around for a good portion of the 76 minute runtime, but ultimately, the journey is worth it. If anything, the movie is an uplifting piece about a spirited character triumphing over his misfortune and hardships.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? This new 4K digital film transfer offers an astonishing level of clarity. Everything from the cast members faces to the locations appear sharper than they ever have. Yes, there are scratches and lines on the prints, but that’s to be expected. They certainly don’t detract from this great print.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Stereo. How does it sound? Carl Davis’ orchestral score is both rousing and lively in this Uncompressed track. You can’t ask for more than that for a silent film.

Extras:
* A booklet featuring an essay by comedy writer Stephen Winer.
* “What’s My Line?”- A fun mystery guest segment from the CBS series “What’s My Line?” that features Harold Lloyd.
* An entirely involving 39 minute chat between film historian Kevin Brownlow and director/Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll who discuss meeting Harold Lloyd, his hobbies, his estate, “The Freshman” and his other shorts and features, and much more.
* “Harold Lloyd: Big Man On Campus”- A 16 minute visual essay by author John Bengtson that contains still photos and pictures and information about locations that were shot at in “The Freshman.”
* “Delta Kappa Alpha Tribute”- 29 minutes of footage from an event in which Harold Lloyd fields questions from Steve Allen, Jack Lemmon and Delmer Daves as he is being honored by the Delta Kappa Alpha professional cinema fraternity. It should be noted that Gloria Swanson introduces Lloyd here as well. I had never heard of this cinema frat before so it was interesting to witness this footage.
* A whopping 3 newly restored Harold Lloyd silent short comedies. The titles? “The Marathon,” “An Eastern Westerner,” and “High and Dizzy.” Easily the best part of the extra features.
* “Harold Lloyd’s Funny Side of Life”- An intro to “The Freshman” by Harold Lloyd and a 29 minute clip reel of his career.
* Commentary by film historian Richard Bann, Richard Correll and film critic Leonard Maltin. This track is loaded with facts about silent films, cast members, Harold Lloyd, scenes and set pieces, music, etc. I liked this track far more than the scripted commentaries we so often see as it feels more casual and entertaining.

Overall Thoughts: While it’s still early in the year, “The Freshman” may very well be the best Criterion disc of the year. Please keep the Lloyd discs coming, Criterion.

March 19, 2014 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , ,

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