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A few words about...™ Chaplin's Mutual Comedies -- in Blu-ray

Blu-ray A Few Words About

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#21 of 40 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted August 19 2014 - 06:23 PM

I have ordered both the Chaplin and Sennett sets.  I'm most interested in the latter but ordered both to reward Flicker Alley and to encourage further efforts.

 

Superb news on the L&H front - hope this all pans out.  I've seen the UCLA restoration of Way Out West projected theatrically and it looks incredible.   Can't wait to see what comes out of this.


Please help UCLA restore the Laurel & Hardy films: https://www.cinema.u...aurel-and-hardy

#22 of 40 OFFLINE   warnerbro

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Posted August 20 2014 - 08:12 AM

Is there any supplemental content on this set?  I'd also like to know more about the alternate takes that were used when the quality of the original was not good.  Can anyone enlighten me on these points?



#23 of 40 OFFLINE   warnerbro

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Posted August 22 2014 - 05:54 PM

There are two hour-long documentaries.  One on Charlie Chaplin and one on Eric Campbell. 

Wow, just watched the documentary on Eric Campbell that is included in the set.  Amazing documentary.  So many things I didn't know about him.  He was very young and shy.  Don't miss it.  It also includes many outtakes showing Eric clowning around with Edna Purviance.  It also shows outtakes of Charlie Chaplin.  I was super surprised to find the set is in a steelbook case and has a nice booklet.



#24 of 40 OFFLINE   Eastmancolor

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Posted August 22 2014 - 08:12 PM

I spoke to Jeff Joseph last night. Apparently he is not working on Blu-rays of the L&H films at this time after all. He wants to at some point but for now he only has the theatrical rights to the films. Sorry for getting anyone's hopes up. It may still happen though.

#25 of 40 OFFLINE   JoHud

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Posted August 22 2014 - 09:37 PM

One interesting thing about the Mack Sennett set:  It includes two shorts featuring Charlie Chaplin:  A Thief Catcher and Recreation.  The former was absent from the Chaplin at Keystone DVD set entirely due to being just discovered the same year the set hit the shelves (2010), the second offers an overall major improvement over the awful print in the Chaplin at Keystone DVD set including a much better music track.  The only exception is that the aforementioned Chaplin set had an excellent looking 30 second fragment from the BFI that is not present in the Mack Sennett set.

 

Very nice companion piece to the Chaplin at Keystone DVD set.

 

Gotta say, the Sennett set is a great, great blu-ray for silent comedy fans.  Hope Robert Harris makes a separate thread for it, it deserves recognition.



#26 of 40 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted August 23 2014 - 05:29 AM

I spoke to Jeff Joseph last night. Apparently he is not working on Blu-rays of the L&H films at this time after all. He wants to at some point but for now he only has the theatrical rights to the films. Sorry for getting anyone's hopes up. It may still happen though.

Where's the "Don't Like" button?  Thanks for the update though.



#27 of 40 OFFLINE   David_B_K

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Posted August 23 2014 - 07:13 AM

There are two hour-long documentaries.  One on Charlie Chaplin and one on Eric Campbell. 
Wow, just watched the documentary on Eric Campbell that is included in the set.  Amazing documentary.  So many things I didn't know about him.  He was very young and shy.  Don't miss it.  It also includes many outtakes showing Eric clowning around with Edna Purviance.  It also shows outtakes of Charlie Chaplin.  I was super surprised to find the set is in a steelbook case and has a nice booklet.

The Eric Campbell documentary was included in the Image DVD set, as were Jeffrey Vance's notes.

So far, I'm kind of ambivalent about the new set. While some of the films look better than I have ever seen them (The Pawnshop, The Immigrant), some look worse to me (The Rink, Easy Street). Yes, they are higher def, but some simply look more pleasing to me on the DVD set. I guess this is due to certain prints/negatives not being available (rather like some of the Keaton shorts in the Kino Blu-ray set that were missing certain shots that had appeared in previous editions).

#28 of 40 OFFLINE   warnerbro

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Posted August 26 2014 - 09:03 AM

I agree

 

The Eric Campbell documentary was included in the Image DVD set, as were Jeffrey Vance's notes.

So far, I'm kind of ambivalent about the new set. While some of the films look better than I have ever seen them (The Pawnshop, The Immigrant), some look worse to me (The Rink, Easy Street). Yes, they are higher def, but some simply look more pleasing to me on the DVD set. I guess this is due to certain prints/negatives not being available (rather like some of the Keaton shorts in the Kino Blu-ray set that were missing certain shots that had appeared in previous editions).

I agree.  I was surprised that these didn't look nearly as good at the Image set.  Also, many of these films have soundtracks that are way out of sync.  I'm wondering what happened to Flicker Alley's quality control on this set.  It's very jarring when watching these and the sound effects included in the soundtrack are so obviously out of sync by several seconds.  Did they not watch these at least once before issuing?



#29 of 40 OFFLINE   bigshot

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Posted August 26 2014 - 05:07 PM

It isn't Flicker Alley. They just manufacture and distribute the masters they are provided with. In this case the people who put together the set knew that there were sync issues, but they didn't think it was important. I think that is because they are better versed in the film side of things than the performance side.



#30 of 40 OFFLINE   SeanAx

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Posted August 26 2014 - 09:06 PM

I just finished working my way through both sets (not comprehensive, mind you, but I skipped around to check out key films). I do miss the pleasing contrasts and the Carl Davis score of the Image DVD set of The Chaplin Mutual Comedies but the increase in detail and the variety of scores are so worthy in their own right I have to embrace this set. I've owned this collection on Image laserdisc and DVD and now on Flicker Alley's Blu-ray set. I treasure these shorts even more than Chaplin's features.


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#31 of 40 OFFLINE   warnerbro

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Posted August 27 2014 - 07:10 AM

I wonder why they completely jettisoned the original opening titles and intertitles!  I hate that!  These look like they've just been typed on someone's computer.   I also miss the luxurious Carl Davis scores.  Carl Davis IS SILENT FILM!  Also, these have completely different apertures than the Image versions.  The image versions are more 1:1 and these are more 1.33:1.  These are much more faded and scratched than the Image versions as well.  This version is more detailed and sharp, however.  It's a mixed bag.


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#32 of 40 OFFLINE   EddieLarkin

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Posted August 27 2014 - 07:29 AM

The image versions are more 1:1 and these are more 1.33:1. 

 

How is that a good thing?



#33 of 40 OFFLINE   warnerbro

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Posted August 27 2014 - 07:33 AM

I'm wondering which one has been cropped.  



#34 of 40 OFFLINE   David_B_K

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Posted August 27 2014 - 07:37 AM

Darrell, I quite agree. I guess rights issues were involved. Unlike studio ownership of movie titles, the rights to these silent shorts apparently reside with whoever owns the specific pieces of film. So even though these films received the deluxe treatment, they were sometimes not using good enough sources in the first place. So, we now have to choose between a high def version from a poor source, or a standard def version from a better one.

 

I also missed the inter-titles and title cards as well. The description that all titles "were based on Mutual records" led me to believe that they would re-create the look and style of the original titles and inter-titles. How much trouble would it have been to at least approximate the fonts of the original films? They should look like titles from 1916.

 

I, too miss the Carl Davis scores (except for One A.M. which does include the Davis score). Maybe it was a rights issue, maybe they just wanted something new, or maybe it was too much trouble to synch the Davis scores with different prints. I just think Davis's scores have more impact. I love how in Easy Street, Edna is playing "Nearer My God to Thee" when Charlie is huddled up on the doorstep of the mission. And we hear "What a Friend We have in Jesus" at the conclusion when Edna accompanies Charlie to the services. In The Pawnshop, Davis works in some of Haydn's "Clock Symphony" during the scene where Charlie dismantles Albert Austin's alarm clock. all good stuff. I don't mind getting new scorese; just would have liked to have recycled Davis' scores. 


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#35 of 40 OFFLINE   warnerbro

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Posted August 28 2014 - 06:47 AM

David, you and I are in complete agreement.  I have been watching silent films on 8mm since I was a tiny kid.  They are the first films I owned, so I know almost every frame of them.  And when married with a Carl Davis score they reach heights of beauty that no other film can match -- especially THE THIEF OF BAGDAD.  I can tell these films are very sharp and detailed, and they did make an attempt at replicating some of the intertitles, but I agree, why not at least try to approximate the font -- especially on the opening titles!  The opening titles on these are cringeworthy!  They are almost like looking at a textbook -- no excitement at all -- very clinical.  And yes, I was glad to get Carl Davis on ONE AM.  The Max Sennett set is a gold mine, too.  Next, I am hoping for THE SON OF THE SHEIK with the original 1930s sound disk synched in as an option.  Could it be possible for Carl Davis to do an orchestration for that film?  It would be heaven.  His score for THE EAGLE is a masterpiece.  I would love to see that on Blu.  Hats off to both these sets.  For the most part they are very good.



#36 of 40 OFFLINE   davidmatychuk

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Posted August 28 2014 - 11:23 AM

When Carl Davis is involved, the music is always worthwhile.



#37 of 40 ONLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted September 03 2014 - 02:24 PM

Started watching these this afternoon.

 

Incredible.   Please sir, may I have some more?



#38 of 40 OFFLINE   Jeffrey Nelson

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Posted September 03 2014 - 05:11 PM

I wonder why they completely jettisoned the original opening titles and intertitles! I hate that! These look like they've just been typed on someone's computer. I also miss the luxurious Carl Davis scores. Carl Davis IS SILENT FILM!

The titles you're used to seeing were not the originals; they were done by David Shepard for the Blackhawk versions in the '70s. The intertitles on the new set have been re-created in the style of the original Mutual theatrical prints. The opening titles are not, because apparently no originals survive on which to base recreations, according to Mr. Shepard.

As for Carl Davis's scores, they were largely ineffective, possibly the least of his work that I've heard. And I normally love his work. In this case, I'm glad they've been replaced. Although, nothing will ever top the classic scores from the Van Beuren reissues.
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#39 of 40 OFFLINE   Essanay Paul

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Posted October 03 2014 - 08:57 AM

*
POPULAR

Yet more footage found. Blu-rays are NOT window-boxed. Razor Sharp images go from top to bottom.

By Paul J. Mular TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 24, 2014
If you already own the 90th Anniversary DVD set and are wondering if it is worth the upgrade to this edition, IT IS! Each film has upgrades varying from modest to major. See individual titles below for details.
I wanted to clear up a few things some reviewers have issues with. THIS IS MORE THAN A 5 STAR SET!
a) The Blu-rays are NOT widow-boxed.
b) The sound effects & music are performed LIVE as they would have been in a hollywood theater in 1913, so it would not be perfectly synced.
c) Since no original title cards survive today, nobody knows what they would have looked like. So plain blank cards with white letters were created. All previous DVD releases used title-cards from various re-issues.
d) The film speed feels correct. These are not knock-about Keystone comedies, they are more thoughtful Mutual comedies that rely on Chaplin's subtle expressions to convey the humor.

I may sound like I am repeating myself when I talk about all of the improvements over the previous 90th Anniversary DVD, but much searching through archives has turned up superior film masters for this new HD release.
We are getting very close to seeing these as Chaplin meant us to see them back in 1916 & 1917.

Blu-ray disc 1
1) THE FLOORWALKER (29:19) The improvement I could see here is the sharper image on the new 2013 HD transfer for this Blu-ray release. I would love to do a split-screen running the two releases side by side, but I can't do that right now.
- Chaplin's first short for Mutual is pure slapstick fun in a department store. Villainous store manager tries to frame innocent Charlie for the money that he stole.
2) THE FIREMAN (26:24) Right from the start NEWLY FOUND FOOTAGE can be seen in this new release. First an introductory card is restored informing us that the "Captain Calls The Fire Drill". We then see a shot of Eric Campbell thinking, looking at the fire bell, then getting an idea. This is all missing from the previous DVD release, that version fades up as Eric is walking over to the fire bell. Later another descriptive card is restored informing us that the sleeping Chaplin is the driver, we don't know this in the previous DVD. I could go on & on, but you get the idea: more footage & cards have been restored. The image on the new Blu-ray is much sharper.
- Another knock-down hilarious slapstick comedy reminiscent of the Keystone & Essanay films.
3) THE VAGABOND (26:37) Big improvement here! The older DVDs came from a sound re-issue print that cropped off the left side of the picture to add the soundtrack. This new transfer comes from a newly discovered full aperture silent print. In addition to more picture on the left side, we have a sharper image on this new 2013 HD transfer for Blu-ray.
- Chaplin's delves into more drama with this film, not to say there aren't any laughs.
4) ONE AM (27:22) Fully restored from a pristine sharp 35mm print, includes the 7 minutes found in 2006. This version looks like it was filmed yesterday!
- This is almost a 1-man show displaying Charlie's performance perfection. His drunken character does battle with the objects in his house in an attempt to go to bed. This is one of my all-time Chaplin favorites.
5) THE COUNT (25:11) Big improvement here! The older DVDs came from a sound re-issue print that cropped off the left side of the picture to add the soundtrack. This new transfer comes from a newly discovered full aperture silent print. In addition to more picture on the left side, we have a sharper image on this new 2013 HD transfer for Blu-ray. Some people may like the darker contrast of the sound print, but I find the slightly lighter silent print fully acceptable. There is also a few more frames of NEW FOOTAGE just after the title cards that got lost in the sound print (used for the old DVDs) when a fade-up was created.
6) THE PAWNSHOP (26:41) In comparing the two releases, right from the start you think you are watching different films. NEWLY FOUND FOOTAGE with the pawnshop owner waving his arms & pacing around, looking at his pocket watch and then repeating his movements is all missing from the old DVD. When we get to the first matching shot of the girl in the kitchen, each release seems to come from two different camera negatives. The old DVD cuts off the top of her head as well as heavily cutting off the right side of the picture and a little from the bottom. This new HD transfer has plenty of head room & much more image on the right side, but there is some image missing from the left side, Overall the new release framing is much more appealing, it must be the "A" Negative. After this shot of the girl in the kitchen, the framing seems to be similar. Just as Chaplin is about to enter a new title card instructs us that Chaplin is late, this appears later in the old DVD as a line of dialogue. Studio records indicate this is the correct location for the card. Again, the image is much sharper in this new HD transfer.
7) BEHIND THE SCREEN (25:23) A MAJOR IMPROVEMENT over the old 90th Anniversary DVD. The first thing I notice in the very opening shot is more picture on all four sides of the picture, the old DVD is heavily cropped. On the far left there are two ladies talking, the lady to the left is unseen on the old DVD. It is as if the image first got heavily cropped on the left side to add a soundtrack, then the top & bottom got heavily cropped to restore the aspect ratio back to 4:33-1. To top it off the old DVD lost some image on the right side in the process. The cropping varies from severe to minor on the old DVD, depending of what surviving source was used. This new HD transefr is more consistant on showing the entire image. The old DVD is also soft where this new HD transfer is sharp.
- Behind the scenes at a movie studio (I love to see these early silent studio workings) Chaplin improves upon his previous Keystone offerings "A FILM JOHNNY", and "THE PROPERTY MAN". His timing is honed to perfection here to make one enjoyable comedy. Chaplin is almost burlesquing his days at the Keystone Studios.
8) THE RINK (25:47) Another big improvement. The old DVD was mastered from a sound re-issue print that was heavily cropped on the left side to add a soundtrack. This new HD transfer comes from a silent full frame aspect ratio print. Some may have issues with the newer print being lighter than the sound re-issue print. Maybe the black levels could have been brought down a little on this new transfer, but it is not over-exposed. If you compare the loss of details in the white objects, you will find this happens on both versions, this problem seems to have occurred early in this films history, maybe some time in the 1930's. Until a camera original negative or an earlier nitrate print is found, this is the best we will have. To include any footage from the previous release because of better contrast would mean giving up image on the left side. So it is a little bit of a trade off here, a fuller frame but lighter print with more image on the left side or a heavily cropped print with better contrast. It is a matter of the source print used.

Blu-ray disc 2
9) EASY STREET (26:58) Yet another big improvement. The old DVD was mastered from a sound re-issue print that was heavily cropped on the left side to add a soundtrack. This new HD transfer comes from a silent full frame aspect ratio print. Some may have issues with the newer print being lighter than the sound re-issue print. But if you look at the interior shots of the Police Station you will see that the shadows are too dark and details are lost. The first inter-title has also been changed, based on Keystone copyright filing records.
- Charlie joins the police force of Easy Street to restore law & order to this disruptive part of town. How times have changed, gas street lamps are still in use in this short.
10) THE CURE (26:26) The big improvements keep coming. The old DVD was mastered from a sound re-issue print that was heavily cropped on the left side to add a soundtrack. This new HD transfer comes from a silent full frame aspect ratio print. Needless to say, the image is sharper with more details in the dark areas.
- A good sequel to "ONE AM" as Charlie enters a sobriety spa with a spring holding magical curing powers. He packs his wardrobe full of liquor to help him through the treatment. You'll howell as Chaplin does battle with a revolving door.
11) THE IMMIGRANT (24:58) Another big improvement. The old DVD was mastered from a sound re-issue print that was heavily cropped on the left side to add a soundtrack. This new HD transfer comes from a silent full frame aspect ratio print. Take note of the opening scene with the ship in the water. The old DVD has the ship going off screen on the left, now with this new full frame transfer the ship is perfectly centered on the screen with plenty of ocean on both sides.. The new HD transfer is over all sharper.
- A more thoughtful comedy as Charlie and Edna Purviance along with others are immigrating to the U.S. from Europe. The first half deals with their nauseating boat trip across the ocean, the second half deals with Charlie & Edna trying to afford a meal at a restaurant.
**Note: Out-takes & bloopers from "The Immigrant" with changes in the cast can be seen in the included documentary "The Birth Of The Tramp".
12) THE ADVENTURER (26:55) So much more detail has been restored to the picture it makes the old release look like a Madacey DVD (which Image has now merged with). In the opening manhunt sequence, the details in the foliage and shrubbery is amazing, the old DVD was just murky shades of grey. Now you can see every twig & branch! The old DVD also had some left-side cropped insert scenes from a sound re-issue print.
- A comedy more in the style of the Essanays. While on the run from the law, Charlie manages to rescue a drowning woman. In gratitude Charlie is brought back to their mansion where he passes himself off as a rich adventurer.

Bonus Material:
THE BIRTH OF THE TRAMP (2013) 63 minutes - Historian & film preservationist Serge Bromberg & Eric Lang co-produced this documentation of Chaplin's early period prior to becoming his own producer. Illustrated with newsreel clips & highlight moments from his films.
CHAPLN'S GOLIATH (1996) 54 minutes - A Scottish TV production celebrating who they feel is the first big Scottish movie star, Eric Campbell, known around the world as Chaplin's best villain.

SADLY MISSING is the 1975 film "The Gentleman Tramp" that featured the Chaplin home movies and some of the last film appearances of Sir Charles Chaplin at his Switzerland home. It is narrated by Walter Matthau with readings from Chaplin's "My Autobiography" by Laurence Olivier.You may find yourself keeping this separate disc from the old DVD set.

David Shepard is now busy working on a new restoration of the Chaplin Essanay Comedies!

Essanay Paul
Archivist: Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum

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#40 of 40 OFFLINE   Oblivion138

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Posted October 03 2014 - 10:31 PM

Now that's what I call a detailed and informative post from someone in the know! 







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