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The Charlie Chaplin Collection [UK] Blu-ray Review

charlie-chaplin-collection-uk-blurayU.K. Release (Region B Locked)

The Collection

[Rating:5/5]

I will preface this review of The Charlie Chaplin Collection by saying that the check-discs we received for review was incomplete. We received 8 out of 11 films. The films we did not receive for review are: A Woman of ParisThe Chaplin Revue, and Monsieur Verdoux. 

This comprehensive Blu-ray set from Artificial Eye and Curzon Films is the latest set to include Chaplin’s entire filmography including one film that he did everything in but star – and that film is:  A Woman of Paris. The films included in this set are: The Kid, The Circus, A Woman of Paris, The Gold Rush, City LightsModern TimesThe Great Dictator, Monsieur VerdouxLimelightA King in New York, and The Chaplin Revue. 

I was already familiar with the Charlie Chaplin catalog, because I own previously released editions of his silent works and I also own the Criterion Collection editions of Limelight and Monsieur Verdoux. Owning and watching films are two different things, so I had not seen Limelight or A King in New York but was blown away at how relevant and blunt the films are. Granted, these latter films don’t feature Chaplin as The Tramp but he does carry certain “tramp-esque” qualities to the characters he plays in those films.

The Kid

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Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan star in this tale of Chaplin’s “tramp” character finding a young orphan boy and taking him under his wing. Hijinks and hilarity ensue. The Kid, some say, is Chaplin’s most accessible film, because it tugs at all the proper heartstrings along with it being downright funny. I tend to agree.

The Gold Rush

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The Tramp somehow ends up in Klondike in search of gold along with everyone else. He must battle the elements, wildlife, natural disasters, and dastardly thieves that want to move in on his claim. The physical comedy and cutting edge special effects and photography really make this one shine. I should also point out that this edition of The Gold Rush does not contain the original longer non-narrated version. I believe if Criterion secured the rights to both cuts of the film.

The Circus

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The Tramp hits hard time shut stumbles in on a circus while running away from the cops. The stunts involving the cops and his interaction with a real lion is truly epic. It ha sheen said that Chaplin did 200 takes while in the lion cage – with a REAL lion! Oh, you can see the expression of dread on his face during those scenes.

City Lights

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After a misunderstanding in which The Tramp gets confused for a rich socialite by a blind flower girl he decides to mix in with society and raise money to help her with her blindness. City Lights is funny in that as much as Chaplin always lampooned elitism and the upper crust he continues that trend by dubbing gibberish over some of the important speakers when they talk – this can be seen in the beginning of the film. It is chuckle inducing. It also shows heart since The Tramp slows down and ends up falling for the blind girl.


Modern Times

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Modern Times is a bittersweet film, because it is hilarious as usual, but also marks the last official appearance of The Tramp. Granted, he also finds his match and soul mate, which sends him off into the sunset on his own terms. Paulette Goddard is stunning as the female version of The Tramp – she is known as A Gamin. It is also the first film in which The Tramp speaks, although gibberish, there are various other vocal prompts. Modern Times can also be considered steampunk and may have taken cues from Metropolis. The scenes involving workers in the conveyor belts and Chaplin sliding around through the giant gears give that indication.

The Great Dictator

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Chaplin’s scathing satire on the current events of the time is on full display here. Chaplin plays dual roles – one as a Jewish Barber and the other as Adenoid Hynkel (a clear spoof on Adolf Hitler). A brutal spoof and satire on the events that were slowly escalating in Europe – The Great Dictator manages to be entertaining and enlightening When Chaplin breaks the 4th wall at the end of the film during his monologue – it really brings things to a head.

Limelight 

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By now Chaplin was already in his golden year, so why not make a film about a drunken washed up comedian? That’s exactly what he did. Chaplin stars as Calvero – an aging low-self esteemed former comedian. One day, he discovers a young and suicidal dancer named Thereza and cares for her. Both characters play great off of each other. Calvero gives Thereza priceless advice about what it means to really live and why she should not kill herself – all the while he wishes that he were dead, because his career is in shambles. The way the characters interact is charming and poignant. One can almost say that Calvero is The Tramp in disguise. I don’t know why it took me this long to get to the after film works of Chaplin – Limelight is simply phenomenal.

A King in New York

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Did I just say that Limelight was phenomenal? What I really meant to say was that Limelight AND A King in New York are phenomenal. Chaplin keeps the autobiographical theme going by playing a deposed monarch in New York City. He slowly starts getting famous for being a former monarch and commercial offers begin rolling in. A King in New York is the film that allowed him to respond to the USA for basically black listing him many years earlier. It also highlights the phoniness of certain trends of the time that have evolved into what they are now and those are monopolies and commercialism. This would be Chaplin’s penultimate film before he officially retired from making films.

As you can see form the above – what’s to say that hasn’t already been said? It’s as if Charlie Chaplin was incapable of not making a good film. As I previously mentioned – we did not receive 3 films from this 11 film-set. It his a highly recommend set and unless you want to acquire Chaplin’s films on Blu-ray a la carte from Criterion then this is the set to get.

Video Quality

[Rating:5/5]

The set received is presented in 1080p in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. From my research I gathered the prints were sourced from MK2, which is authorized by the Chaplin estate to do so. The main features look great! They all retain a firm grain structure, contrast levels, and sharpness. I did not notice any instances of postproduction dabbling and you can tell from watching The Kid all the way through A King of New York that the integrity of the films video quality has been kept firmly intact. I also did not notice digital scrubbing of any kind, which is a good thing. I am happy to say that this is the best the Chaplin collection has ever looked outside of the individual Criterion releases.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

All the films are presented with a music-only track that is either in DTS-HD MA 5.1 or LPCM 2.0. Limelight and A King in New York are both spoken word and feature full lossless audio tracks. You will feel like a baby as the orchestrations take hold of you and cradle you. Charlie Chaplin was also one of the first “Robert Rodriguez’s” in that he fully composed the scores to all of his films. This complete set is no exception.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:5/5]

The special features are quite extensive and are all presented in high definition and a few are in standard definition. Honestly, most of the special features seem to be, at least to my eye, up converts from previously published sets, but I cannot confirm that. The supplements include but are not limited to delete scenes, outtakes, short films, featurettes, introductions by David Robinson, interviews with surviving cast and crew, and documentaries that focus on the films and then a feature film director is brought in to comment on that particular film. The Dardenne Brothers, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jim Jarmusch give their insights on some of the films at hand. Those documentaries and some of the short films included, like The Idle Class, were my favorite of the supplement sections.

THE KID

  • Chaplin Today – The Kid – 26min / Introduction by David Robinson – 5 min
  • Outtakes – 6min / How to Make movies -16 min
  • Jackie Coogan screen test footage – 1min / Nice & Friendly Home Movies – 11 min
  • Recording the new score – 2min / Trailers – 8 min
  • Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min

A WOMAN OF PARIS

  • Chaplin Today- A Woman of Paris – 26 min / Deleted shots – 10 min
  • Introduction by David Robinson – 5 min
  • Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min
  • Sunnyside – 29 min / Charlot Barber (Sunnyside deleted scene) – 7 min
  • Pay Day – 21 min

THE CIRCUS

  • Chaplin Today- The Circus – 26 min / Introduction by David Robinson – 5 min
  • Trailers for the film – 5 min / Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min
  • Rushes from the Circus – 28 min / Trailer in English – 2 min / Outtakes – 10 min

THE GOLD RUSH

  • Chaplin Today- The Gold Rush – 26 min / Introduction by David Robinson – 6 min
  • French trailer – 2 min / Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min
  • Chaplin ABC – 34 min / The Visitors – 13 min

CITY LIGHTS

  • Chaplin Today – City Lights (26 min / The tour – 2 min – florist scene)
  • Deleted scene – 7 min / Introduction by David Robinson – 5 min
  • Winston Churchill visits – 2 min / Trailers for the film – 8 min
  • Trip to Bali – 10 min / Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min

MONSIEUR VERDOUX

  • Chaplin Today – 26 min / Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min
  • Introduction by David Robinson – 5 min

MODERN TIMES

  • Chaplin Today – 26 min / Introduction by David Robinson – 6 min
  • Karaoke – 3 min / Trailers for the film / The Idle Class – 3 min
  • Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min / Outtake – 2 min

THE GREAT DICTATOR

  • Chaplin Today- The Great Dictator – 26 min
  • The tour filmed in colour by Sydney Chaplin – 25 min
  • Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min
  • Trailers

A KING IN NEW YORK

  • Chaplin Today – 26 min / Introduction by David Robinson – 5 min
  • Deleted scenes – 22 min / Mandolin serenade – 3 min
  • Trailers – 9 min / Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min

LIMELIGHT

  • Chaplin Today – 26 min / The Professor (unfinished clip) – 7 min
  • Home Movies – 16 min / Deleted scene – 4 min
  • Footlights – 3 min / Introduction by David Robinson – 5 min
  • Trailers / Extracts from the films in the Chaplin collection – 12 min

THE CHAPLIN REVUE

(A Dog’s Life/ Shoulder Arms/ The Pilgrim)

  • Introduction by David Robinson – 5 min / How to make movies – 16 min
  • Deleted scene from Shoulder Arms – 10 min / The Bond (short film) – 10 min
  • Gallery of pictures / Gallery of posters / Trailers
  • A Day’s Pleasure – 18 min / Harry Lauder – 8 min


The Definitive Word
Overall:

[Rating:5/5]

It looks like this Blu-ray set is the current winner in terms of completeness. Granted, Criterion Collection is hot on their heels, but it looks like it will be a couple more years before they catch up. As I said before, we only received 8 out of the 11 films and this review reflects that. Even though we were 3 films shy, the general consensus is the the set is fantastic and worth a buy!

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