THE DVD SHELF: "Perfect Understanding," Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last!," Political Thriller "House of Cards" and "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"

By Steven Suskin
30 Jun 2013

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The couple's lack of chemistry makes the film odd, indeed. On the other hand, "Perfect Understanding" serves as a welcome opportunity to see Olivier in his mid-20s, which carries built-in interest for some viewers. For reasons unknown, Cohen adds two Mack Sennett-produced 1933 shorts starring Walter Catlett, "Husband's Reunion" and "Dream Stuff." These are perfect for all the Walter Catlett fans out there. Both of you, if that many.

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Harold Lloyd was one of the three great cinema clowns of the pre-sound era, the other two being Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton. While Chaplin and Keaton were eccentrics, Lloyd's onscreen character was that of a normal, energetic, go-getter of an average everyday guy. Like Chaplin and Keaton, though, he was an exacting filmmaker who went to enormous lengths to make things look perfect.



Take "Safety Last!," which Criterion has just given us in a crisp and clean new Blu-ray. This was one of Lloyd's best and most popular efforts. Harold, a low-level clerk in a department store, devises a promotional scheme in which his roommate, who is adept at climbing walls, will scamper up all twelve stories of the building, drawing crowds to the store and earning Harold enough of a bonus to marry his girl. (Harold, in fact, married the girl — Mildred Davis — after the end of filming.) Inevitably, the friend is detained by the police at the last minute, which leaves Harold, who is not adept at climbing walls, forced to do so. And he does, in a brilliant extended sequence which takes up a good portion of the film and easily explains just why this was a smash hit in 1923.

The image of Harold hanging from the arms of a clock high atop downtown Los Angeles remains iconic. One of the Criterion special features explains how Harold's death-defying climb was done in those pre-special effect days. Other features include audio commentary; two alternate musical scores; the 1989 documentary "Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius"; and three restored Lloyd shorts, "Take a Chance," "Young Mr. Jazz" and "His Royal Slyness."

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David Fincher and Beau Willimon's political thriller House of Cards made an auspicious debut when it premiered — thirteen episodes, all at once — on Netflix back in February. It featured greed, sex, corruption and Congress — a tantalizing mix — with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright topping the cast. For those who prefer watching their own DVDs rather than streaming, Sony has now given us the first season on four discs. Either streamed or in a box, "House of Cards" is compellingly watchable.

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Another intriguing box set that has recently turned up is The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis [Shout Factory]. Yes, before Doogie there was Dobie, a small-town teenager trying to find high school love while keeping one foot ahead of parents and teachers. Created by humorist Max Shulman, based on his 1951 collection of short stories, Dobie (it rhymes with Toby) hit the airwaves in 1959 and ran four seasons. The set includes all 147 episodes; those were the days when new episodes aired 36 or so weeks a year. I only managed to look at 8 of them, though.

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