Chaplin’s career was a long one, and the four films here cover a good span. Chaplin is bestknown for his silent work, and that is represented by Modern Times and The GoldRush. Though the former is also technically his first talkie, it is still primarily silent. Thelatter comes in two versions: the original 1925 release, and the 1942 re-issue, which featured afew new scenes, and the intertitles replaced by Chaplin’s narration (though the film remainsbasically a…silent piece). The Great Dictator is his merciless satire of Adolf Hitler, whileLimelight, made in 1952, is a contemplation of the twilight of his career, and will muchmore likely move you to tears than to laughter.
The films have all be remixed to 5.1, though the original mono is available as well. Theresult is generally very good. There are occasional instances of surround voices in, say,Modern Times, but these are rare. The sound effects, which play a big part in that film,have a strong surround presence (though these effects are really a form of music track). Themusic’s quality depends on the age of the film. It is always acceptable, but a certain tinny soundis inevitable. There is also some static, notably in the 1942 version of The Gold Rush.The 1925 version, however, has been graced with a new piano scored (based on Chaplin’soriginal compositions), and this sounds terrific.
The prints are just gorgeous. This is undoubtedly the best these films have ever looked (even,I would venture to guess, upon release). The 1925 Gold Rush has more print damage,flicker and grain, but still looks pretty good for a film that is almost 80 years old. In the otherinstances, the restorations are close to perfect, with no grain in sight, only occasional flicker, andno edge enhancement. The picture quality is generally extremely sharp, and where some softnessdoes occur, only the most churlish would raise a fuss, again given the age of the material.
No commentaries, but there are plenty of other extras. I’ve already mentioned the fact thatthe original version of The Gold Rush is presented. Each film also includes (on thesecond disc) a short introduction by David Robinson (establishing the film’s place in the contextof Chaplin’s career and discussing its making); a documentary (three 26-minute ones, whileThe Great Dictator’s is 55 minutes long); extensive still galleries (over 200 pictureseach); deleted scenes, period material (sometimes short films or home movies, in other instancesmaterial produced by other sources — like a Ford piece on the assembly line — that help establishthe context of the individual film), scenes from other films in the Chaplin collection, and so on.The menu’s main page is scored. A very complete package.
Not only does this boxed set represent a fine selection of beautifully presented Chaplin films,but the accompanying material turns this into another pretty good example of a film course in abox.
Special Features List
- “Chaplin Today” Documentaries
- Deleted Scenes
- Still Galleries
- Home Movies
- Period Material
- 1925 Version of The Gold Rush
- Scenes from the films in the Chaplin Collection
- Promotional Material
- Excerpt from Footlight Novel
- Uncompleted Shorts