Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Celebrate Chaplin’s centennial on Blu-ray and DVD

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | October 16th, 2014

Legendary screen comedy icon Charlie Chaplin was born 125 years ago this past April and made his movie debut 100 years ago this past January. His first feature-length film appearance premiered in December 1914. Amazingly, almost all of the films he made throughout his five-decade career have survived, even numerous outtakes and abandoned film ideas, and can be seen on home video.

Four years ago Flicker Alley issued a comprehensive DVD set of every surviving film he made at Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studio: 35 titles in all from his very first short made in January 1914, “Making a Living,” through his first feature, “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” (in a new restoration), and a couple more shorts from December of the same year. These provide a fascinating look at Chaplin’s development from broad physical slapstick to a more recognizable “tramp” character with numerous variations as he learned how his stage-trained comedy translated to the screen and eventually began directing some of his own films.

By the end of his year at Keystone, Chaplin had become the most famous comedian in the world. In 1915 Chaplin was hired away from Sennett by the Essanay Studio, where he had more control over his films and further refined his tramp character, before signing an even more lucrative contract with the Mutual Studio a year later. All of Chaplin’s Essanay and Mutual films have been on DVD since the late 1990s in a nice box set from Image Entertainment. This summer Flicker Alley released a Blu-ray collection of recently restored editions of the dozen short films he made for Mutual from 1916-17, considered by many historians and Chaplin himself to be his most creative and happiest period.

After earning enough to become fully independent, Chaplin progressed from shorts to making his own feature-length films with “The Kid” in 1921, and he continued directing films every few years at his own pace until his eleventh feature was released in 1967. The Criterion Collection has been gradually releasing outstanding Blu-ray editions of his features, with such timeless classics as “The Gold Rush” (1925), “City Lights” (1931), “Modern Times” (1936), “The Great Dictator” (1940), and “Monsieur Verdoux” (1947) already available, each with a generous selection of supplementary material.

At Mutual, Chaplin had the freedom to experiment with both his character, which had wider variety from film to film, and plots, which became more coherent narratives rather than mere frameworks for gags. Instead of rushing through productions like he was forced to do at Keystone, he could literally rehearse on film, watching and modifying performances, sometimes recasting, and sometimes discarding sequences or starting over completely with an entirely new premise. A few outtakes demonstrating this process can be seen in the two documentaries included with this set.

“The Floorwalker” and “The Fireman” had much the same feeling of his Keystone and Essanay shorts. By “The Vagabond” he was injecting more serious elements with the comedy. In “One A.M.” he reprised the wealthy drunk act he used to do on the British stage. “The Count,” “The Pawnshop,” and “Behind the Screen” further refined his tramp character. His last five Mutuals, “The Rink,” “Easy Street,” “The Cure,” “The Immigrant,” and “The Adventurer,” are miniature masterpieces that rank among the best work of his entire career. “The Cure” and “The Rink” are arguably his funniest films ever. “Easy Street” and “The Immigrant” are especially notable for blending Chaplin’s comic genius with more sophisticated, multi-layered plots and social commentary.

The new Blu-ray set of Chaplin’s Mutual comedies is a genuine revelation to anyone used to seeing soft, blurry, contrasty, and choppy sped-up copies of copies on cheap DVDs or online versions. Even the good DVD set from Image is not as crisp, although some films have better contrast and all have different music scores. Each of the 12 films was scanned in high definition from the best available 35mm nitrate film materials in archives around the world, often with missing pieces filled in from several prints. While certain films still have a few image issues (such as bleaching out highlights, or higher contrast), almost every one is drastically sharper than any previous video edition. Each film also has two alternate music scores newly recorded for this edition: one carefully prepared to follow the action and the other improvised live while the film was playing.

Bonus features include two fine hour-long documentaries, one newly-produced and the other from 1996. The one on Chaplin’s early career, “The Birth of the Tramp” (in HD), is excellent, and “Chaplin’s Goliath” (in SD) focusing on co-star Eric Campbell, is also quite interesting. There’s also a 28-page illustrated booklet of extensive program notes.

CHAPLIN’S MUTUAL COMEDIES on Blu-ray – Movies: A / Video: A / Audio: A / Extras: A

Recently in:

Sophia Wilansky says she’s lucky she’s right handed. Since nearly losing her left arm from an exploding projectile on Backwater Bridge one year ago, cooking has become a tedious art. She can no longer be involved in circus…

The Transgender Day of Remembrance memorializes the trans individuals who have lost their lives due to violence this year. It is a day where we read their names and remember them—not how they died, but how they lived. This is also…

Thursday, November 16, 7-9pmUnglued, 408 Broadway N, FargoProof Artisan Distillers and Unglued present a craft party with four distinct projects and help from artists Ashley from AENDEE and Nicole Rae, not to mention a special…

“The experience of all ages has proved that the people constantly give away their liberties.” - John Adams“Man’s dishonesty with himself is his greatest enemy. When he makes a mistake, his memory admits, ‘I have done…

The thoughts and prayers of politicians will finally be answeredWe have had 307 mass shootings (four kills or more) so far in 2017, including the last one in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 mortals attending church, aged 18…

For the third week in a row, our panel of judges were out on the town with a thirst for cocktails and a focus on presentation, flavor, and creativity. This week’s adventures took us to a couple of hotspots in south Fargo, as the…

Colder weather, changing leaves, pumpkin spice and more are some of the few things that come to mind when many think of fall. But fall is about much more than sugary lattes and scarves, and you can fully indulge in fall flavors at…

I’m told that there is nothing quite like a live Green Jelly show, where anarchy and foam puppets reign. So perhaps it’s in the spirit of the upcoming show that my intended interview with the mastermind and vocalist behind the…

On Tuesday, November 14 at 7pm, the Fargo Theatre hosted a screening of “The Mission of Herman Stern,” a feature-length documentary chronicling the remarkable humanitarian efforts of the North Dakota businessman and founder, in…

Would you like to escape your stressful daily life with a relaxing arts event? Do you like to meet with old friends and make new ones? Or maybe you would like to start your Christmas and Holiday shopping early. FMVA has the event…

Ted Larson introduced me to Chris Jacobs one evening at Weld Hall in the late 1980s. I was in high school then, but Chris recognized fellow film fanatics, and we would chat a little bit each week. I learned quickly that he loved…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Believe it or not, “The Holidays” are upon us. If you’ve been to Target lately, and I know you have, you may have noticed that the Christmahanakwanzika stuff is already up (if you’re unsure of that term, Google it).In fact,…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Anthony Paul [Editor’s note: This piece contains language that some readers may find offensive]It has been all over social media and the news lately, how our president and commander-in-chief called and spoke with one of these…