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Keeping an eye on the clock

Criterion Collection

It’s a little disheartening that the Blu-ray debut of the silent-comedy classic “Safety Last!” (1923) includes a vintage TV documentary titled “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius.” Watching some of Lloyd’s more inspired bits, you’d think he’d be as remembered as Chaplin and Keaton, and not just a runner-up. (Is Lloyd’s high-rise stunt of dangling from a building-façade clock as recognizable as the Little Tramp’s mustache? It’s a discussion point, anyway.) Maybe it’s that Lloyd’s comic sensibility didn’t have quite the same episodic propulsiveness as Chaplin’s. For all its lively, creatively staged moments, that ascent to the clock does take a while. Sometimes Lloyd delivers just as much with quicker gags, such as ducking his fed-up landlady by hiding on a coat peg. Hey, a young urbanite’s got to do something to skate by until he finds a legit way to provide for his sweetheart back home (Mildred Davis). As we said — classic. Extras: Amusingly, the film’s title also seems applicable to Lloyd’s on-set attitude when making his “thrill comedies.” Effects artist Craig Barron and Silent Era locations aficionado John Bengtson take us behind the scenes of the clock sequence. OK, so maybe it wasn’t as suicidal as it looks — there was lots of downtown Los Angeles perspective trickery involved — but OSHA inspectors would have flipped, just the same. The disc also includes three newly restored Lloyd shorts: “Take a Chance” (1918), “Young Mr. Jazz” (1919), and “His Royal Slyness” (1920). (Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95)

“Jack the Giant Slayer.”

FANTASY

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (2013)

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In director Bryan Singer’s clever 3-D version of the folk tale, Nicholas Hoult (“Warm Bodies”) is earnest, leather-hoodied Jack, who heads up the beanstalk with Ewan McGregor’s knight to rescue a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson, above with Hoult) imperiled by power-hungry Stanley Tucci — and giants, of course. Less is more might have been a good rule for the motion-capture creatures, but their reveal is fairly stunning stuff, the stratospheric beanstalk is a show-stealing
effects element, and McGregor swashbuckles with relish. Extras: On Blu-ray, Hoult hosts interactive “Become a Giant Slayer” segments. (Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99; 3-D, $44.95)

”Things To Come.”

SCIENCE FICTION

THINGS TO COME (1936)

H. G. Wells took a very direct hand in this sweeping, speculative look at society’s metamorphosis into a post-apocalyptic dystopia, 21st-century utopia, and beyond, adapting his own novel for producer Alexander Korda and director William Cameron Menzies (production designer of “Gone With the Wind”). Wells’s commentary about the uplifting power of science tends toward speechifying, but the film’s opening depiction of contented society suddenly plunged into wartime dirty-bomb terror feels awfully relevant, and a viral outbreak sequence is “World War Z,” ’30s-style. Extras: film-historian commentary; segment on the film’s bold visual design; video installation piece incorporating unused effects footage. (Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95)

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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