The Kid Brother – The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Silent comedy legend Harold Lloyd has had a few of his films entered into the Criterion Collection before, including The Freshman and the iconic Safety Last. The Kid Brother has the distinction of being Lloyd’s favorite of his films, and you can see why. Playing with a fun concept that incorporates comedy, romance, and adventure, this is a laugh-a-minute feature that packs in plenty of jokes, physical gags, and stunts. Now that it has been restored for Blu-ray, plenty of fans, old and new, can dive into this delightful feature starring Lloyd as the bespectacled everyman who gets into many kinds of hijinks.


As opposed to most of Lloyd’s silent comedies set in an urban environment, The Kid Brother is set in the west. Lloyd stars as Harold Hickory, the youngest son of sheriff Jim Hickory (Walter James), who is prouder of his two older, stronger sons, Leo (Leo Willis) and Olin (Olin Francis). A series of events lead a medicine show run by con artists coming to town. The show features a dancer, Mary (Jobyn Ralston), who Harold is instantly smitten with. As the story moves forward, Harold finds himself having to prove himself a worthy man for Mary, his family, and the town of Hickoryville, by taking on the con men and restoring the good name of the Hickorys.

The plot isn’t exactly essential in a film like this, but The Kid Brother does well to allow for character development. Thanks to having a solid narrative core, we understand what makes this version of the “Harold Lloyd everyman” character stands out. He’s looked down upon by his brothers, father, and piers. There’s a history between him and a brutish neighbor. The desire to win Mary’s heart is something that matters to him but comes in addition to other character-based goals. By having all of these qualities, it makes the comedic tension become all the greater.

As an underdog story, you can’t help but like Lloyd. That’s an essential quality of his characters in general, even with the same standard setup. Something I like a lot about Lloyd’s films is the way he tends to become the central character that everyone is against. Even if it’s a mix of the bad guys and his brothers, there’s something fun about this type of character who gets on the nerves of everyone and finds himself always on the run to avoid getting beat up. Of course, he’s also generally doing these kinds of things to impress a woman, which comes with some elaborate gag and stunt setups.

The Kid Brother is known for incorporating all the key elements of Lloyd’s style of comedy. Lloyd wanted this film to have more gags that any of his previous features, and while not all of them made it to the finished film, one can see so many comedic moments that work thanks to setup, build up, and payoff. Whether it’s climbing stunts, hiding tricks, messing around with animals, or utilizing the sets for clever gags, there are non-stop moments of fun delivered on throughout the film’s 82-minute runtime.

This film also continues Lloyd’s tradition of ambitious filmmaking approaches. Not unlike Buster Keaton, who relied on camera tricks and stunts to go with his deadpan persona, Lloyd encouraged his filmmaking team to rely on making good use of the camera. One signature scene of The Kid Brother involves Harold climbing higher and higher up a tree so he can keep seeing and speaking to Mary after she steps out of view. It required an elevator contraption with a camera moving up like it was in a dumb waiter, but it’s an impressive sequence.

Other fun tricks further build on clever sight gags and set pieces, which eventually builds up to a very long fight aboard an abandoned ship. Using this ship as a setting, you have a film that is working with film noir lighting and a large villain character to aid in Lloyd’s attempts bring slapstick humor to the proceedings. It’s great stuff.

No one should be discouraged from watching a silent film when you have something as funny and smart as The Kid Brother. It’s just one of Harold Lloyd’s many great movies, and it packs in more laughs than many of today’s comedies. Complete with a satisfying narrative, constant humor, and some terrific filmmaking, you have one of the more enjoyable films of the 20s that stands up well today.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Details: The Kid Brother has a new digital transfer created in 4K resolution, on a Scanity film scanner from Harold Lloyd Entertainment’s 35 mm fine-grain struck from the original camera negative. L’lmmagine Ritrovata then restored the image in Bologna, Italy.

Clarity/Detail: The black and white image is terrific. Presented in its original aspect ratio, here’s another example of how great it is to see film preserved well enough to create such an impressive restoration. The picture is immaculate, with a significant level of detail to be seen throughout. Even in dark moments, particularly involving interior sets, there is enough to grasp from a visual standpoint that can allow an excellent sense of clarity, without any issue beyond some unavoidable issues that come from age.

Depth: A proper handle on spacing keeps the image from ever feeling flat. The intricate work done with this restoration does such a fine job of showing the distance between characters, but you can see the most interesting uses of depth when it comes to the tree climbing scene, which is innovative as well as intriguing from a video transfer standpoint.

Black Levels: The black levels are excellent. Contrast stands strong as we observe the various times of day and take in details defined by the black and white imagery. The black levels are deep and inky, with almost no crushing.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: The detail level seen in the actual characters is impressive. Despite being a low-budget film, the actors all look great with this presentation for the most part.

Noise/Artifacts: With so much work to deliver a strong new transfer of this film, there is nothing to complain about here. There is a consistent level of grain that is to be expected, but this film is spotless, as all the dirt, damage, stains, etc. has been cleaned up.



Audio Format(s): LPCM 2.0

Subtitles: N/A

Details: The disc includes an Orchestral score by composer Carl Davis from 1989 and an Alternate archival organ score performed by Gaylord Carter.

Dynamics: The Kid Brother features a solid mono track that does what is needed for a silent film relying on an orchestral score. It means there is not a lot to judge, but both track options sound terrific.

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: N/A



The Kid Brother comes packed with a variety of extras, including restored short films, an audio commentary, multiple video essays, and more. This is a great deluxe package for those who want to learn more about Lloyd from a variety of different perspectives.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with filmmaker and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll, film historian Annette D’Agostino Lloyd, and Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd – Recorded in 2005
  • Harold’s Leading Ladies (HD, 29:55) – A conversation between author Cari Beauchamp and Suzanne Lloyd that goes over the three main leading ladies during Harold Lloyd’s time making movies.
  • Anatomy of a Gag: Monkeyshoes (HD, 8:45) – A video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns.
  • Behind-The-Scenes Stills (HD)
  • The Kid Brother: Close to Home (HD, 15:52) – A video essay on the film’s shooting locations by author John Bengtson.
  • Dutch Television Interview with Lloyd (SD, 16:21) – Filmed in 1962
  • Greenacres (HD, 14:58) – A featurette the explores Lloyd’s estate, hosted by Suzanne Lloyd.
  • Short Films
    • Over the Fence (HD, 5:04) – From 1917
    • That’s Him (HD, 11:05) – From 1918
  • Preserving Harold (HD, 10:57) – A look at the preservation/restoration process.
  • The Wurlitzer: Nathan Barr and Mark Herman (HD, 20:01) – A tour of the Wurlitzer organ.
  • PLUS – An essay by critic Carrie Rickey



Harold Lloyd was a gifted actor and filmmaker who stood out among the many silent film stars. The Kid Brother is regarded as one of Lloyd’s best efforts and for a good reason, as the film is a lot of fun, well made, and packed with humor. Criterion’s presentation is terrific, with a fantastic restoration to watch, and a couple of audio track options to enjoy. There are also plenty of extras to dive into, which makes this look at film history even more exciting. The film is indeed a great buy for those wanting to look back at some of the best features from the silent film era.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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