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HTF REVIEW: The Kid - 2 Disc Set



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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted March 04 2004 - 07:50 AM

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The Kid – 2 Disc Set





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1921
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 51 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
Audio: Mono & DD 5.1
Color/B&W: B&W
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai & Korean
MSRP: $29.95
Package: 3 panel Digipak with slipcover





The Feature:
Most popular for his “Little Tramp” character, the man with the narrow moustache, small bowler hat, bamboo cane, and funny walk, Charlie Chaplin is still one of the most recognizable stars of Hollywood. He is remembered most as an icon of the silent film era. By the time he was 28, he’d already completed more than sixty films starting with his first, Making A Living which premiered in February of 1914. In 1915 he moved to Essanay and then on to Mutual in 1916. In 1918 he joined First National Pictures (later absorbed by Warner Bros.) and in 1919 formed United Artists along with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. However, Chaplin did not make a film for the new company until 1923 when A Woman of Paris was released. This was followed in 1925 by the classic The Gold Rush and in 1928 by The Circus for which he received an Academy Award.

The Kid would be his first full-length film which came out in 1921 which he made while he was still with First National Pictures. However, from 1915 onwards Chaplin wrote, directed, produced, scored and starred in all his movies. In 1928, with talkies on the horizon, the motion picture industry was about to do an about face. Thought to be “gimmicky”, Chaplin dealt with sound by simply ignoring it. He felt, that sound would ruin the simplicity of his Tramp character, and that it would be lost in a world of emerging technology, which he abhorred.

Throughout the course of the next forty plus years, Chaplin would go on to make some of the most popular films ever made including City Lights, Modern Times and The Dictator.

Unfortunately, Chaplin, like many others at the time was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Council. He sent HUAC a telegram stating "I am not a Communist, neither have I ever joined any political party or organization in my life”. That same year he was accused by US authorities of having communist tendencies, and moved to Switzerland. While he was absent he made two more films, A King In New York, which was eventually released in the US twenty years later, and his final film A Countess from Hong Kong, which starred Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren.

Chaplin was not only a talented filmmaker and actor, he was an accomplished musician who, in his later years, reissued many of his silent films with scores he had composed himself. In 1969 Chaplin began new scores for a number of his films, including The Kid and The Circus. In 1975 he was knighted by the Queen. He died in his sleep on Christmas Day, 1977.

Many thought The Kid was Chaplin’s favorite and most endearing film since, sadly, it paralleled the childhood of the young man. Shot with a ration of 53:1 (waste to used footage which was unthinkable at the time), was a testament of how he felt about the film. Not only was The Kid his first major picture but his first major success which lead to a long and successful relationship between the filmmaker and the young childhood actor, Jackie Coogan. Coogan’s notoriety and subsequent wealth would go on to eventually form the “Coogan Act” which would protect the wealth and interest of young child actors after his parents misappropriated his fortune and he was left penniless as a young teen. Who would have thought such an adorable kid would have wound up looking like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family…?

The story is a rather simple one in that The Tramp finds a baby that’s been left abandoned in an alleyway after the mother (played by Edna Purviance) claims she can no longer care for the child. He raises the child until he’s five at such time the authorities become involved and decide to remove the child from the shanty and place him in the care of an orphanage (referred to as an Orphan Asylum). The tramp does what he can to free the child from the orphanage and to cope with his loss.

After the success of last years Chaplin Collection Volume #1, the MK2/Warner Brothers collaboration have released The Chaplin Collection Volume #2 which features The Kid (2 disc SE), The Circus (2 disc SE), City Lights (2 disc SE), A King in New York/A Woman of Paris (2 disc SE), Monsieur Verdoux, and The Chaplin Revue (2 disc SE). Also included in the box set is Richard Schickel's documentary, Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin. The box set consists of a total of 12 discs.



Video:
I had no idea what to expect going into this film. I recall reading many of the criticisms last year regarding scenes that were cut and the PAL > NTSC conversions, so obviously I went into this treading lightly. While I do have the Volume #1 box set from last year, I haven’t given the set the time it deserves, but what I have seen of it left me, for the most part, very satisfied. I will say this, The Kid, has inspired me to change that and to make the box (as well as Volume #2), a priority.

Apparently this film as well as many others was edited, in this case from 68 minutes, and in 1971 Chaplin included a new score, done by Chaplin himself (apparently a process he originally started back in 1968). Those sensitive to the PAL issues can choose to purchase the R2 set (although I don’t know what, if any, of the deleted footage remains on those discs). As for the debate on whether or not the edited versions are superior, I’ll leave that up to you. I suspect if you’re a big enough fan of Chaplin and his material, you’ll already have David Shepard's First National editions. It’s a conversation-road well traveled, particularly in light of the recent Star Wars thread…

OK… with all that said and done, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the image of The Kid. This film was shot 83 years ago and it looks far better than many of the B&W classics we’ve seen released from the 40’s or the 50’s. What really struck me were the amazing black levels. They were extremely dark – far better than I anticipated. Conversely, whites were reasonably crisp and the level of grayscale was also much better than average.

I guess the big question is the amount of softness – resulting in ghosting as well as the speedup, relating to the PAL conversions. Well, the image was only somewhat soft but no more so than many of the classics that have recently been released. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to compare it to but I would classify it as a more than pleasing image. Perhaps someone with the Image release can compare the two and offer their thoughts...? The PAL speedup was not an issue for me in this case. In the past, I have noticed a miniscule change on dialogue (voice pitch) material regarding PAL issues but only on a couple of occasions and with material I have been extremely familiar with.

As you can imagine for an 83 year old film, there are still signs of dirt and debris present but it too looks better than I anticipated. There are still some signs and evidence of scratches that appear and I presume much work went into these repairs. There are also instances of jumps, presumably where certain scenes or frames were damaged and cut or removed. In light of the fact that Disc 1 contains only the film (and a 50 minute film to boot), there were no signs of compression issues either.

Considering the age of the film, I’d have to say this film looks absolutely wonderful.



Audio:
Well, for a silent film, I do have more to discuss than anticipated. WB has added a DD 5.1 (which is present in name only) track in addition to the mono track to help deliver the accompanied music track that was added by Chaplin.

I personally preferred the 5.1 track although (and thankfully so) the entire presentation is up front relying on only the mains and center to deliver. Much of the stringed accompaniment sounds wider and is offered up using the 5.1 track while the mono sounded rather lackluster and devoid of any spaciousness.

There was little to no hiss at all and even though the soundtrack is encoded with a 5.1 track, needless to say, LFE was never utilized.

A track more than capable of doing what needs to be done. Nice Job!



Special Features:
While disc one contains the feature film only, disc two contains a plethora of special features starting with:
[*] An Introduction By David Robinson which is a brief intro by the Chaplin biographer who introduces and discusses the film as well as the turmoil that was taking place in Chaplin’s personal life at the time. Unfortunately it is brief but it offers a wealth of information. Duration: 6 minutes.
[*] Chaplin Today: The Kid is a documentary specifically relating to the feature film but also discusses his personal life and how it relates to the film. There are many many clips of the film which adds to the length… otherwise a very solid documentary. Duration: 26 minutes.
[*] Up next are 3 Scenes Deleted in 1971 which total approximately 6 minutes. The explanations for some of the deletions are described in the previous documentary.
[*] How To Make Movies (1918) is an interesting silent featurette which highlights their newly created studio and the various departments located on the lot. An amusing and interesting little feature. Duration: 16 minutes.
[*] My Boy (1921) which is a rather poor remake of the feature film also starring Coogan as the 5 year old orphan. Obviously no restoration has taken place with this print as it is in pretty rough shape. A nice inclusion for the sake of historical or archival purposes but is a flop compared to the original version. Duration: 55 minutes.
[*] Jackie Coogan Dances (1920) is a short clip that was filmed during a gathering with his First National financial backers in an attempt to instill confidence during the soaring costs of the feature film which went from 2 reels to 6. Duration: 2 minutes.
[*] Nice And Friendly (1922) is a silent short which features a visit of Lord and Lady Mountbatten which was filmed at Douglas Fairbanks’ and Mary Pickford’s residence during 1922. The feature…? Who else… Jackie Coogan. Duration: 11 minutes.
[*] Charlie on the Ocean (1921) is simply newsreel footage during 1921 which chronicles Chaplin’s trip back to Europe. Duration: 4 minutes.
[*] Next we see Jackie Coogan in Paris as he is introduced to the nation who welcome him with open arms. Duration: 2 minutes.
[*] Recording the New Score is a short feature which shows the aging legend working on a musical piece for the feature film. Admittedly, I found this short piece to be a little sad to watch. To see this energetic and vivacious young man full of life and talent and then to see the inevitable ravages of age is, well, depressing. Duration: 2 minutes.
[*] Photo Gallery includes literally dozens of still photos and various frame shots which include some obvious unused footage.
[*] Film Posters features numerous posters from various countries including periods. Nice little feature.
[*] Three Trailers are included featuring The Kid's 1971 U.S. reissue as well as a couple of foreign release editions.
[*] The Chaplin Collection is a collection of clips from many of Chaplin’s films. Duration: 11 minutes.

I think that’s it….



Final Thoughts:
At the start of the film we are greeted with the following words, "a picture with a smile and perhaps a tear". This is a wonderful film that’s sure to leave you with a lump in your throat at the end of the movie, and that’s exactly what Charlie would have wanted.

As far as the box set is concerned, I’d like to see more from it before I dismiss the obvious concerns of the PAL conversion. But, on the other hand, if The Kid, is any indication of what we can expect, I can safely say that I would have no hesitation or reservation about recommending this disc to any fan of the film or any fan of the legendary filmmaker, himself.

Recommended…!




Release Date: March 2nd, 2004
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 3 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted March 04 2004 - 08:25 AM

Thanks for the review Herb. I watched part of this on TCM last night and thought it looked wonderful. I can't find the box at any B&M so I'll have to put it off for another week. I just watched THE KID (original cut) a few months back and I think I'm going to like this version better. I've heard what I didn't like in the original cut was trimmed here so I can't wait to see it.

Warner has been my favorite studio since 2000 and they're getting even better with all the shorts they are adding to their discs. I'm quite fond of these older shorts so it's good to see a studio releasing them like this. I watched the new Chaplin doc last night as well and it was wonderful, outdoing THE TRAMP AND THE DICTATOR, which was great as well.

#3 of 3 OFFLINE   NeilK

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Posted March 04 2004 - 10:10 AM

Yay, it's here!!!