Reviews — August 9
A confession: If banished to a deserted island and allowed to bring the films of only one silent screen star, I would not pick Charlie Chaplin.
I wouldn’t pick Buster Keaton, either. But I’d cram as many of Harold Lloyd’s movies as possible into my suitcase.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find Lloyd’s films on home video. Now, as then, films by Chaplin are more commercially successful. But the Criterion Collection just released a fantastic gem, featuring one of the most famous images of the silent screen: Harold Lloyd hanging from the big hand of a clock atop a 12-story Los Angeles skyscraper. The film is “Safety Last,” and you are cheating yourself if you pass on this one. From the clever opening shot to the final scene, it is enormously entertaining.
Lloyd has been termed the “third genius” of the silent era. Watch “Safety Last,” and you might wonder why Chaplin’s movies always beat his at the box office. He’s easily the most charming of the three: Chaplin has the “look-at-me” thing going and Keaton is aloof, but Lloyd invites you in with open arms and an infectious smile. And no disrespect to the other geniuses, but he was funnier, too.
“Safety Last” (1923) 73 minutes. Starring Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis. The Criterion package is crammed with extras. I didn’t get to them all, but the featurette narrated by Lloyd’s granddaughter is terrific. Unrated; suitable for anyone who isn’t terrified of heights.
“Needled to Death” is a cozy mystery set in the wild and woolly world of fiber arts. But instead of being a master at what she does with the rest of her time — in this case, that would translate to her being an expert spinner or yarn shop operator — heroine Kelly Flynn is a knitting novice.
As Maggie Sefton’s series of books progresses, Kelly learns to cast on and create scarves and sweaters at the same time she’s perfecting her CSI techniques.
Kelly is a lovable and sympathetic character. She’s recently lost her father and aunt (and solved her aunt’s murder in on of Sefton’s earlier novels), and she’s lingering in her hometown while she settles their estates.
Her new knitting friends and softball teammates are hoping she’ll stay in Fort Conner, Colo., instead of returning to work at a finance company in Washington, D.C. But Kelly, a CPA who is temporarily telecommuting, can’t see how she can afford to quit her D.C. job, which supports not only her new hobby of knitting but also buys the big bags of dog food her Rottweiler demands.
She’s doesn’t go looking for trouble, but it finds her. Or rather, she finds trouble when she visits the home of a friend who’s a fiber artist and alpaca farm owner.
Kelly finds the woman prone on one of the artist’s own rugs, now ruined by dried blood. Noticing that a statuette of Mozart has tumbled to the floor, she can’t help but start asking questions — could it be the weapon used to knock the artist out, prior to the killing? If so, could that mean the woman trusted a visitor enough to turn her back on him or her — meaning it was someone she knew?
And, most important, what’s to become of the alpacas now?
The alpaca part of the story line is a bonus, especially for anyone who has driven 99W toward Amity and seen the fuzzy crias playing in the fields at Wings And A Prayer farm. Readers will learn a lot about the animals and how their fleeces are spun into yarn.
Be warned, though: Before Kelly solves the mystery, you may find yourself heading for Boersma’s, looking for some needles of your own.
“Needled to Death,” by Maggie Sefton, 2005, Berkeley Publishing Group.