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Anyone know if more Charlie Chaplin Collections are in the works? (1 Viewer)

yamato72

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A couple years ago I picked up the excellent Essanay and Mutual collections from Flicker Alley. I also started searching for an affordable copy of their seemingly out-of-print Keystone collection at that time but gave up; however I have just started looking again (the Essanay/Mutual titles are on BD while the Keystone set is DVD only).

So I'm lacking the Keystone shorts but more importantly, I have not found any evidence that his later First National shorts have been given any serious attention. Most of the information that I have read has been from ednapurviance.org however much of their content is now pretty dated. His features are of course pretty well represented by Criterion.

I've held off on risking purchasing any of the public domain stuff that seems to be available everywhere, since the Flicker Alley content was so good.

Does anyone have any insight? There's quite a bit of Chaplin's body of work that I still haven't seen.
 

Matt Hough

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I have to admit I am kind of surprised that his First National material hasn't made it to Blu-ray, at least on this side of the pond.
 

David_B_K

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The First National films have suffered from Chaplin's excessive George Lucas-style tinkering through the years. I think it was in the 1950's that he revised them by trying to slow the films down so that the projection speed was more in line with sound films. I believe this was done by repeating frames which gave the films a sluggish, yet jerky quality. He combined three short films (Shoulder Arms, The Idle Class and A Dog's Life) into a collection called The Chaplin Revue When I started collecting Chaplin films in the late 1970's/early 80's on the Magnetic Video (later Fox Video) VHS tapes, this was the only way to see those films. I watched them once, hated the presentation, and never watched them again. Pay Day was included on a tape with another film (A Woman of Paris?), but fortunately was not slowed down. A good thing because the brick-throwing scene would have been ruined by a slowdown.

In the mid 90's or so, Fox released a ton of Chaplin films on laserdisc in a series called Chaplin: A Legacy of Laughter. These were great releases. Film preservationist David Shepard did a remarkable job restoring the Lucasized First National films. The films of the earlier Chaplin Revue were combined on a laserdisc set with The Pilgrim, A Day's Pleasure and Pay Day. All were at correct original projection speeds. Shepard also restored some of the First National features. Chaplin had made several cuts through the years to The Kid, but Shepard restored it to the original version. This was combined with A Dog's Life on the LD with the correct speed. There were cuts and edits to The Circus and Modern Times and these were likewise restored (The Circus no longer began with Chaplin singing "Swing Little Girl"). The only one that was not restored to its original version was The Gold Rush. It took Criterion to do that in a superb Blu-ray release.

When DVDs came on the scene, the Shepard restorations were released on DVD in snapper cases by Image. Sadly, they did not stay in print for very long. Warner took over releasing Chaplin from that point, and they opted for the slowed-down versions of the First National shorts, and the features were released with the cuts. These cut versions of the features are the versions Criterion used.

So, IMO, any of the First National feature films that were cut, and the First National shorts are best viewed in the Image DVD versions, or the Laserdisc versions. The image quality on the Blu-rays is superb, but I prefer the uncut versions on DVD. Good luck finding those DVDs on the used market. For the Essanay and Mutual films, I have the BFI region B Blu-rays. The Mutual set features Carl Davis's scores which I prefer for those shorts.
 

mBen989

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I believe these are in Criterion court so bug them but politely.
 

yamato72

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Thank you for the replies and info. I'm going to try to track down the Image DVD of the First National shorts.

I finished Chaplin's autobiography recently, and then went right into David Robinson's authorized bio. It's well-known that Chaplin shared next to nothing about the production of his films so I've been re-watching the Flicker Alley shorts and it's renewed my interest in seeking out the shorts I have not seen, ever.
 

yamato72

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Even though the Keystone collection is on DVD I've found it to be well worth watching. Being earlier in his career, the negatives were printed to death so the quality is all over the map. I am enjoying seeing his earliest shorts and it's easy to see the development of the Tramp character.
For the First National films, I've watched a couple on HBO Max, and I'm still eyeing the Image DVD.
 

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