Speedy (Ted Wilde, 1928): USA

Reviewed by Vincenzo Muia at the 2016 AFI Film Festival. Live soundtrack provided by DJ Z-Trip.

Perhaps one of the most unique experiences at the 2016 American Film Institute Film Festival was the 88th anniversary screening of Speedy. The historical Egyptian Theater in Hollywood provided the ambience for an unforgettable morning screening of gratuitious laughs provided by mashup movement pioneer DJ Z-Trip (aka Zach Sciacca). Along with a sizable field-trip of impressionable middle school attendees, this formula of modern musical art form meets cinematic antiquity proved its mettle by entertaining the entire audience for the film’s duration of 86 minutes.

Baseball fanatic Harold “Speedy” Swift (Harold Lloyd) is obsessed with his hometown team, the New York Yankees. He is also in love with the delightfully sweet Jane Dillon (Ann Christy), whose love is divided between Speedy and her grandfather, Pop Dillon (Bert Woodruff), who runs the city’s last horse car (horse-drawn trolley) on a modest track in a quiet section of the city. Speedy’s obsession with the Yankees conflicts with holding a job, but does not affect his affinity for Jane. A task to deliver flowers to the boss’s house is torpedoed by a quick check on the Yankee score, in which the flowers are damaged, end of job. In addition to his chronic unemployment in a city which is quickly modernizing, a representative of the Inter-City Railroad Company attempts to goad the simple but prideful Pop into selling his antiquated track, but with no success.

After returning from his Yankees-related job fiasco to tend to Pop and Jane, another representative from the Inter-City Railroad Company arrives and attempts a negotiated sale with Pop. While Pop writes down his bottom line figure, Speedy, also seated at the table, happens to see an article about a planned railroad merger and cleverly changes Pop’s amount from $10k to $70k. The incensed railroad rep. storms out of Pop’s home, threatening to force him outone way or another. Later, when a technicality is discovered that Pop’s horse-car must run at least once every 24 hours, the railroad rep. organizes a nefarious plan to strong arm Pop’s horse-car in order to steal it away. Now it is up to Speedy to avoid a hired gang of thugs and maintain its running service for 24 hours in order for the horse-car to remain with Pop, a not-so-simple task.

DJ Z-Trip was on point with his soundtrack. By providing a fluctuating rhythm of beats correlating with the film’s tempo while radiating emotion, his sampling was amazingly well-conceived. Examples of his crafted approach in the film occur when Speedy answers a phone, Z-Trip mixes in a precisely synched “Hello” from Lionel Ritchie’s 1984 hit-single. In additional to popular music infused into the soundtrack, Z-Trip added sound bytes from other films. One example included the famous rally call from the New York cult film The Warriors (Walter Hill, 1979) when the neighborhood merchants unify to fend off the hired thugs.

When scholars identify the most popular and influential icons of Hollywood Silent Cinema, Harold Lloyd shares prestigious company with industry pioneers such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Speedy is pure cinematic gold with editing that makes Speedy appear to be a step ahead. The thoroughly entertaining event puts a new spin on the cinema experience, a raucous ovation for DJ Z-Trip from the appreciative audience is a symbol of things to come in the future of cinema-mash up. Outstanding collaboration,  9.9/10.


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