The Art of Effects
One of the enduring pleasures of the movies is the thrill of succumbing to the medium’s capacity to toy with our senses. While advances in technology continue to introduce ever more complicated tricks to the trade, the innovations of cinema’s most passionate and playful magicians remain influential long after their tools have been outmoded. In The Art of Effects, a new program premiering tomorrow on the Criterion Channel, we pull back the curtain to reveal the mechanical ingenuity behind some of film history’s grandest illusions. The first installment in the series showcases beloved comedic daredevil Harold Lloyd at the height of his powers, focusing on the famous scene in the 1923 classic Safety Last! that depicts a hapless department-store clerk climbing the edifice of a skyscraper. In this excerpt from our program, visual-effects expert Craig Barron and film writer John Bengtson examine the layers of artifice that went into constructing one of the silent era’s most elaborate stunts.