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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Orchestral score by composer Carl Davis from 1989
  • Alternate archival organ score performed by Gaylord Carter
  • Audio commentary from 2005 featuring filmmaker and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll, film historian Annette D'Agostino Lloyd, and Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd
  • Harold’s Leading Ladies, a new conversation between author Cari Beauchamp and Suzanne Lloyd
  • Anatomy of a Gag: Monkeyshoes, a new video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns
  • Behind-the-scenes stills gallery curated by Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Simonton Jr.
  • Close to Home, a new video essay on the film’s shooting locations by author John Bengtson
  • Dutch television interview with Harold Lloyd from 1962
  • Featurette from 2005 about Greenacres, Lloyd’s estate, hosted by Suzanne Lloyd
  • Two restored rare early Lloyd shorts: Over the Fence (1917) and That's Him (1918), with new Wurlitzer theater pipe organ scores and

The Kid Brother

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ted Wilde
1927 | 82 Minutes | Licensor: Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #964
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: March 12, 2019
Review Date: March 10, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

Silent-comedy legend Harold Lloyd goes west in this irresistible blend of action, romance, and slapstick invention. The bespec­tacled everyman is at his inimitable best as Harold Hickory, the gentle son of a prominent lawman who lives in the shadow of his rough-and-tumble brothers. When a traveling medicine show rolls into town, it brings with it excitement, the possibility of love, and a chance for Harold to prove his mettle. Deftly balancing Lloyd’s brilliant sight gags and thrilling set pieces—including an epic, knock-down, drag-out fight aboard an abandoned ship—with one of the actor-filmmaker’s most fully realized, root-for-the-underdog narratives, The Kid Brother is a hilarious and heartwarming high-water mark of early screen comedy.


PICTURE

Criterion continues their way through Harold Lloyd’s films, making their way to The Kid Brother, presented here on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Encoded at 1080p/24hz, the high-definition presentation comes from a new 4K restoration, scanned from a 35mm fine-grain that was struck from the original negative.

The film is around 92 years-old but you’d never know it. Some damage remains but it’s very infrequent: the image will be perfectly clean and then there will be a handful of frames presenting minor bits of dirt, or possibly slim tram lines. There’s also the occasional fluctuation in the print and it does appear a few frames are missing here and there. But considering the age of the film it looks absolutely astounding and the restoration work done is beyond remarkable.

The image is also incredibly sharp and highly detailed. A lot of scenes are set out doors, in fields and such, and individual blades of grass are clearly rendered here. That level of detail is carried on into some of the rundown looking interiors and exteriors (specifically a beached ship that serves as the film’s climax), and it’s all rendered cleanly, even the finer patterns coming through clearly without any shimmering or noise. Grain is there and looks wonderful, and black levels are also deep, delivering excellent shadow detail.

Like all of the other Lloyd releases it offers a remarkable presentation. This image is about as close to spotless as one could expect for a 92-year-old film, and the digital presentation and encode are gorgeous.

8/10

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AUDIO

The film is silent and Criterion includes two scores, both presented in lossless PCM 2.0 stereo: one from 1989 composed by Carl Davis, and another recorded in the late 60s by Lloyds favourite composer, Gaylord Carter. Carter’s is a straight-up organ score and I can’t say I was very fond of it. Davis’ is a bit more fun. But of course, it will come down to personal preference and both tracks sound perfectly fine. They’re both crisp and clean, sounding new, with wonderful range and fidelity. I didn’t notice any damage, pops, drops, or anything of the sort with either presentation.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This being Criterion’s fourth Lloyd release I figured they might be running out of material but that’s not the case and this release may offer my favourite collection of supplements, even if everything isn’t strong. The weakest feature here is more than likely the audio commentary, originally recorded for the 2005 New Line DVD edition, featuring archivist Richard Correll, film historian Annette D’Agostino Lloyd, and Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd. The three have been recorded together. It’s a fine enough track but I admittedly didn’t find it all that special. They talk about the production history of the film, talk about the performers that appear in it, go over the development of gags, and share various stories. But they also spend a lot of time just going over story points, which gets a bit frustrating. There are some good details in here, but a lot of the more interesting facets are covered in other areas of the features, so it’s not a track I would say is necessary to listen to.

Criterion then provides several new features, starting with an interview between granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd and author Cari Beauchamp about Harold’s Leading Ladies. The 30-minute discussion goes over the professional and personal relationships between Lloyd and his leading ladies Bebe Daniels, Mildred Davis (whom Lloyd would marry), and Jobyna Ralston. Lloyd shares her own personal memories and the stories she heard. She explains why Daniels and Lloyd broke up and why he ended up feeling he needed a new leading lady after marrying Davis. They also talk about how Lloyd presented women in his films (they were usually strong characters) and why Lloyd stopped making comedies around married characters after a couple of films. It’s a great discussion about how Lloyd saw women in his films and also about the morals of the time.

David Cairns next provides a visual essay examining Lloyd’s execution of a gag with Anatomy of a Gag: Monkeyshines. The 9-minute essay spends most of its time breaking down the climactic sequence on the beached boat, before Cairns uses this as his launch-off point to show how Lloyd develops his gags by exploiting “suspense and terror.” As a bonus he also talks about the monkey that appears in the film. It’s short, sweet, and to the point point.

Criterion also includes a collection of behind-the-scenes photos in a navigable gallery. Included here are a number of shots from deleted and alternate scenes. Accompanied by notes, we get to see alternate set ups for gags, characters with completely different actors in the roles (the brothers originally had different actors in the part and even a lobby card for the film made use of a photo featuring the alternate actors), and even quick bits cut out of the film. And amusingly there’s an odd photo of a naked Ted Wilde, the film’s director, from behind (the notes joke that Wilde was probably fighting the heat). It’s a fantastic gallery loaded with a lot of great material.

There is then another video essay, called Close to Home, running 16-minutes and created by location historian John Bengston. Using overhead photos and clips from the film Bengston lays out the shooting locations for The Kid Brother and despite the rural look of the film it wasn’t all that far from L.A. and was quite close to the studio (most of it was shot where Forest Lawn cemetery is now). It’s a fascinating piece of Hollywood history, Bengston even pointing out other films that used the same locations.

Criterion then carries over another feature from the original 2005 New Line DVD, Suzanne Lloyd giving a tour of Lloyd’s estate, Greenacres. She first explains Lloyd’s original intentions with the property (it was just an investment initially) and how that changed to it being his home. We are then given a video tour, Lloyd talking about specific rooms and areas of the house, which is then mixed in with home movie footage.

Criterion then digs up a 1962 interview with Harold Lloyd from Dutch television, with the filmmaker talking about developing his “Glasses Character” before getting into other details, like how important it is for him to own his films and what he thinks of the films made at that time. It runs about 16-minutes.

The best and most fascinating section found on this release, though—and my favourite section of this whole disc—revolves around the presentation of a couple of Lloyd’s “Short Films.” The films included are Over the Fence and That’s Him! The two are rare, even considered lost at one point, and Criterion had to go to a bit of extra effort to get them here. Over the Fence comes from a 9.5mm print with the other from a 28mm print, which called for going to USC archivist Dino Everett for help transferring the films.

Everett even gets his own 11-minute interview where he talks about the unusual film sizes and the history behind them (both could be thought of as early “home video” formats) and he even shows off his rather elaborate film scanner, made specifically to scan any size of film. He also offers some interesting examples for how the formats worked (the 9.5mm film had an interesting feature that could pause frames for a few seconds and was delivered in a cartridge) and shows off some of the projector equipment.

The films themselves are fine, though it sounds like they are possibly incomplete, which is obvious with Over the Fences at least, apparently the first film to feature the “Glasses Character.” This one runs only 5-minutes and features Lloyd trying to fix a date to a ball game that goes horribly wrong. Everett explains that it wasn’t uncommon for the films to be truncated to fit on the format and unfortunately it appears this is the only copy of the film. That’s Him! is possibly complete, running 11-minutes. In this one Lloyd is his “Glasses Character” and he ends up getting confused for a thief, which leads to chases and hijinks (and I’ll just point out there is black face in the film).

Neither film is in terribly good condition, though Over the Fences looks better. It’s a bit blown out but the details aren’t too bad and Everett attributes this to the fact that most 9.5mm films were struck from the negatives. The other film is very dupey and very soft. Neither appear to have had any further restoration done but they are both presented in 1080i/60hz.

New scores were recorded for the films by Mark Herman, and Herman used a restored Wurlitzer pipe organ that belongs to composer Nathan Barr. Criterion ends up providing a 20-minute feature about this organ, featuring both Herman and Barr. Barr had an organ that belonged to 20th Century Fox Studio restored and installed in his home, where he could use it to record scores. This elaborate instrument (which Barr describes as a synthesizer from 1928) is a pipe organ that can create just about any sound, and after Barr and Herman give a history behind the instrument Barr then offers a tour through the various rooms (he had built specifically for this organ) that store all of the pipes and instruments that are used by it, with the console itself sitting on its own in a large screening room. I don’t know how to describe this organ other than it is insane. There are over a thousand pipes that all lead to pipes of differing sizes and types, and they even connect to other instruments (even a police siren!) so that any instrument can be played and any sound effect can be created from the console (which has a nightmare number of switches that look like they can be programmed). We hear various sounds, how they can be blended, and even see some of the innerworkings. I was just blown away by this supplement, endlessly captivating and beautifully put together, making it easy to understand how this incredibly complicated piece of machinery works. It’s early in the year but I’d be hard pressed to imagine a more fascinating supplement showing up this year.

The included insert then features an essay by Carrie Rickey, breaking down the narrative and examining how he constructs his gags.

A couple of features leave a bit to be desired, but on the whole the material is all good, with the section devoted to the short films and their respective restorations (and new scores using the Wurlitzer organ) being the standout. That section, on its own, is worth picking up this release for alone.

9/10

CLOSING

Another solid release of one of Lloyd’s films. The supplements are great and the new restoration and final presentation looks spectacular. A very easy recommendation.


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