In the fifties and sixties, Robert Youngson had great success in reintroducing classic silent comedy to modern day audiences with films like WHEN COMEDY WAS KING and THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY. Lloyd himself, who would not let his films be excerpted for any of the Youngson compilations, probably couldn't help but notice the success of such films and tried his hand at making his own. The results - HAROLD LLOYD'S WORLD OF COMEDY and HAROLD LLOY'D FUNNY SIDE OF LIFE -received critical praise but did not light up the box office, and so in that decade when audiences and college students were rediscovering Chaplin and Keaton, as well as sound era comedians such as Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers and W. C. Fields, Lloyd and his films were unfortunately left behind.
These two compilation films, supervised by Lloyd himself, are not the best way to introduce yourself to the comedian - the best way, of course, is to plunge right in with any of Lloyd's classic features like SAFETY LAST or THE KID BROTHER. The concept of WORLD OF COMEDY is to introduce Harold through a short series of gags, then shorter gag sequences, and then end with generous excerpts from his films, including some of his sound features. Thus we get some moments from a few shorts plus SAFETY LAST and THE FRESHMAN, followed by the turkey raffle and car sequence from HOT WATER, and then long offerings from WHY WORRY?, GIRL SHY, PROFESSOR BEWARE, MOVIE CRAZY and FEET FIRST. Most of the sequences are still brilliant, but there is no context and very little narration. The film needs a little explanation as to how and why Harold got into the situations he did, as well as some background on the man himself and his place in movie history - what he represented in the twenties, for example. Without that, it is just one long scene after the next, and as funny as it all is, it gets tiring after a while. The sound effects added to the silent sequences are not that intrusive (no slide whistles, thank God!) but the music is often overly somber in sequences that need a lighter musical touch. - JB
The followup film, HAROLD LLOYD'S FUNNY SIDE OF LIFE, simplifies matters by starting off with a few gag sequences from various films and plunging directly into almost the entire feature THE FRESHMAN. Again, not the best way to meet Lloyd but, considering I became a Lloyd fan by watching badly narrated excerpts shown on a snowy, faraway TV channel I couldn't quite tune in, it's not the worst way either. ½ - JB