Essential Charlie Chaplin, Vol. 1:Making a Living/Kid Auto Races at Venice/Mabel’s Strange Predicam

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Deal Score0

Making A Living
Kid Auto Races At Venice
Mabel’s Strange Predicament
Between Showers
Film Johnny
Charlie’s Recreation
His Favorite Pastime B&W
Running Time: 70 min…. More >>

Essential Charlie Chaplin, Vol. 1:Making a Living/Kid Auto Races at Venice/Mabel’s Strange Predicam

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  1. The “Delta Entertainment” releases of Chaplin’s Keystone films appear to be the only comprehensive collection of these films available on DVD at the moment. However, the set does semm to be missing a number of the films as compared to a full Chaplin Filmography.

    These releases are of public domain versions of the films, and as such, show all the problems usually seen with public domain versions of silent films: missing footage, randomly added soundtrack, cropped framing of the image and nasty picture quality.

    Some of the films in this set are in quite reasonable quality “Kid Auto Races” and one or two others are quite bad “A Film Johnny”. It is worth buying this set if you are curious about these films. But ..

    Fear not!! There is currently a restoration project underway by the BFI and other film archives on all of Chaplin’s Keystones that should bring vast improvements to the quality of these films. When they will be released who knows, but in the meantime these DVDs will have to do.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  2. Probably the best-known comedian worldwide for nearly a century now, Charlie Chaplin’s films are still in demand, and the Delta label has done a good deed by making them all available in this “Essential Charlie Chaplin” series. It’s just a pity that many old silent films, especially public domain copies, are worse for wear, and often no better print or negative is available. But in the case of legends like Chaplin, we should probably be grateful that they still do exist, even if the only available copies of some films are from French archives, as is the case on this DVD. Despite varying quite a bit in picture quality, there are some special features on this first volume of the series in which Chaplin’s films are presented in chronological order. One such highlight is to see the transition from `normal’ comedy actor in his very first film “Making a Living” to his world-famous trademark clownish tramp outfit which appears for the first time in Chaplin’s second film. With a music hall and vaudeville background, Chaplin makes quite an impression in his first film already, but no doubt his huge success also had a lot to do with the character he created in his second film. Wearing over-sized pants and shoes, and a too small hat and jacket, Chaplin created a legend, and it began here, working with Mack Sennett and the Keystone Studios. The films on this DVD are all from that period in 1914, and several of them feature other famous comedians such as Mabel Normand and Roscoe `Fatty’ Arbuckle. They average around 10 minutes in length, and picture quality ranges from just reasonable to fairly mediocre with some of them missing top portions of the frames, but then again, I’ve seen quite a lot worse on some VHS and other cheap labels. In my experience, Delta seems to be quite a good mid-price label, and the DVDs are of good quality. There is a good menu with a choice of two soundtracks for each film: either lively 1920s jazz which I found quite suitable to most of the slapstick action, or a `film projector loop’ sound effect which is a nice change from the usual music. Needless to say, this DVD shouldn’t be missed by Chaplin fans or any serious silent film enthusiasts who need to know the origins and early days of Chaplin and other comedians, but those looking for better quality and classic Chaplin might prefer the 1919-21 volume in this series with the films “Sunnyside”, “A Day’s Pleasure” and Chaplin’s first feature-length film “The Kid” which is more of a sweet story than a slapstick comedy.

    Rating: 3 / 5

  3. In 1914, Charlie Chaplin was an obscure British vaudeville actor touring America when he walked into the Keystone Studios in California… He then proceeded to crank out over 30 films in the following eleven months, sometimes making over two films a week, many of which he directed… It was during this time that he adopted his classic tramp character, a real landmark moment in film history…

    In his second film, “Kid Auto Races at Venice,” he simply improvised in front of a crowd watching a kid auto race in Venice, California… Those in the crowd were completely unaware they were watching a superstar in the making and were probably just wondering who on Earth he was…

    In the haste to get the films out, negatives were destroyed, and maybe only twenty prints were made which were then duplicated — those were then copied, and so on, so the films quickly got damaged… Movie theaters would often cut them down (with no real expertise) to save time, so whole scenes were lost… Some films even had different endings… What were left were dozens of different versions of the same film… They were even re-issued with new titles…

    Now, 91 years later, the British Film Institute, together with Cineteca in Bologna, Italy, have been scouring the world’s archives and private collections for as many different versions as they could find and then painstaking reassembling a new master copy from all the different permutations, to bring them back as close as possible to the original version…

    Rating: 4 / 5

  4. The Essential Charlie Chaplin, Vol. 1 gives us seven of Charlie Chaplin’s earliest films produced at Mack Sennett Studios when Chaplin was a newcomer to the United States. We see that Chaplin was a very gifted performer who combined slapstick, sight gags and even acrobatic falls to make his audiences laugh. No wonder they adored Chaplin! Unfortunately, the print quality is not the best; there are times when the tops of people’s heads are cut off and there are some moments in which the faces are hard to see when the actors were looking straight on into the camera. There’s also a lot of action in these seven flicks which last roughly ten minutes on average.

    “Making A Living” features Charlie Chaplin before he developed the character of The Little Tramp; he uses slapstick to cause headaches for the manager of a newspaper. The short entitled “Kid’s Race At Venice” has quite a bit of time devoted to simply letting Chaplin stand around in front of the camera; I suspect they made “Kid’s Race In Venice” to showcase Chaplin’s first use ever of The Little Tramp character. Naturally, The Little Tramp is also up to his own antics–he stands in front of the camera but he is occasionally pushed aside so that the kiddie care race went uninterrupted. Good work!

    “Mabel’s Strange Predicament” is one of the more interesting films. It involves The Little Tramp entering a hotel and after a few slapstick antics we find a hotel guest, the young Mabel, stuck underneath the bed of another couple’s room with her dog after she accidentally locks herself out of her own hotel room! Although this has French intertitles the film is easy enough to understand. Will The Little Tramp be able to save Mabel? Regardless of the answer to that question, this film is one of the better ones on this DVD and the acting is quite good.

    “Between Showers” may well have been the first time The Little Tramp makes fun of authority on film; he makes a silly face behind a policeman’s back to mock him. In “Film Johnny” we have Mack Sennett presenting Chaplin in a featurette that claims to show Chaplin as he was twenty years prior when he first arrived at the studio. Of course, Chaplin plays this one to the hilt–he even lights his cigarette with a prop gun! Chaplin causes mayhem and disruption at Mack Sennett’s studio. I wonder if that’s the real Mack Sennett playing the director making movies in this film. “Charlie’s Recreation” is, sadly, a very poor print but it still entertains me fairly well. One of the actors looks very much like Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle; and I think it is him. When men fight over the hatcheck girl, who will win?

    Finally, we get to the last film on this disc entitled “His Favorite Pastime.” This shows us The Little Tramp smoking and drinking a beer in a local bar ignoring the down and out drunk who wants to have Charlie’s beer for himself. Look for Charlie to cause trouble in that bar! “His Favorite Pastime” makes very crude and inappropriate depictions of African-Americans and that displeased me but this is reflective of the racial prejudices that existed at the time.

    The Essential Charlie Chaplin, Vol. 1 is a good DVD to have if you’re a fan of Charlie Chaplin. I hope some of these films are restored on other DVDs because to let them be shown in this poor state is a shame. This may also appeal to fans of silent movies and people studying picture making in the early years of Hollywood.

    Rating: 4 / 5

  5. As of the end of 2003, Delta is the only company offering the Charlie Chaplin Keystone Comedies on DVD. Unlike Blackhawk-Image’s “ESSANEY & MUTUAL” collections and Warner Brothers offerings, this collection is FAR from restored. Many of the comedies are soft, grainy, contrasty, and heavily cropped (the heads are cut off in the last short).

    Keep in mind that this may be the best source material in existance, many silent films are totally lost. The sources vary, some are from foreign issues with French title & dialogue cards, others are re-issues from various companies (one title card states this is Charlie Chaplin from 20 years ago!).

    The films are presented in chronological order:
    2/2/14 MAKING A LIVING (Chaplin’s first; The lack of title cards makes it hard to follow. This same print was previously released on Laserdisc)
    2/7/14 KID AUTO RACES
    2/9/14 MABLE’S STRANGE PREDICAMENT (In French only)
    3/2/14 FILM JOHNNY (Takes place at the Keystone Studio as they are making a film!)
    3/9/14 CHARLIE’S RECREATION (re-issue title for TANGO TANGLES)
    3/16/14 HIS FAVORITE PASTIME (In French only – heads are cropped off.)

    Maybe David Sheppard will work on restoring these in the future. But for now it is the only game in town, and at only $7.99 a disc it is well worth it!
    Rating: 3 / 5

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