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While the film has sound-effects and musical score, speech is only presented through mechanical means, via a gramophone, or through wall-sized TVs far more futuristic than in those in HG Wells' Things to Come (also 1936)--it's an interesting footnote that the comic and the SF visionary were friends. Chaplin famously not being a fan of sound cinema acknowledges the need to move with the times, yet hilariously spoofs the exploitation of man and machine while doing so. Amid some great laughs, the political message comes though clearly: the boss is making a fortune while doing jigsaw puzzles in his luxury office, the workers are toiling ever harder on the production line for their pittance.
On the DVD: Modern Times is offered in the original 4:3 black and white with good mono sound evidencing just a little distortion and a very clean, clear picture with minimal grain to give away its age. Also included are French and Italian dubbed versions and a pointless and ineffective English Dolby Digital 5.1 version of the soundtrack. The disc features multiple subtitle options, including English for hard of hearing.
Disc Two begins with a six-minute introduction by David Robinson. Next comes a very worthwhile 26-minute documentary by Philippe Truffault, Chaplin Today, centred around a perceptive subtitled discussion between French filmmakers Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne. There are three trailers, beautifully reproduced posters, an eight-part photo gallery and one entertaining deleted scene, as well as Chaplin's "nonsense song" from the film in isolated form and in a "Karaoke" version. The Documents section begins with a silent 42-minute 1931 documentary/propaganda film, In the Machine Age made by the US Dept of Labor. Along similar but more entertaining lines is Symphony in F a 1940 colour film combining music, manufacturing footage and animation celebrating the Ford motor company, while also included is a sequence from the Liberace Show (1956) with the star performing the vocal version of "Smile", the theme from Modern Times. Demonstrating the truly universal appeal of Chaplin is a 1967 short For the First Time, documenting what happens when the people of the remote Baracoa mountains in Cuba see their first ever movie, Modern Times. This is a remarkable collection which does a great film justice. --Gary S Dalkin
The Little Tramp punches in and wigs out inside a factory where gizmos like an employee feeding machine may someday make the lunch hour last just 15 minutes. Bounced into the ranks of the unemployed, he teams with a street waif (Pauline Goddard) to pursue bliss and a paycheck, finding misadventures as a roller-skating night watchman, a singing waiter whose hilarious song is gibberish, a jailbird and more. In the end, as tramp and waif walk arm in arm into an insecure future we know theyve found neither bliss nor a paycheck but, more importantly, each other. The times and satire remain timeless in Modern Times.