I just finished watching the fourth of the four DVDs in this set, and all I can say is that there is not enough space to do these films true justice. Chaplin is one of the true cinematic geniuses of the twentieth century and "The Gold Rush", "City Lights", "Modern Times" & "The Great Dictator" represent some of his crowning achievements.
"City Lights" (1931)is one my top favorite films of all time--the end sequence has me blubbering like a baby every time I see it--balancing brilliant comedy (ie. the night club & prize fight scenes)w/pathos and never losing balance.
"The Gold Rush" (1925), Chaplin's Klondike epic I would rate right up there w/"City Light" with the exception that the version here is Chaplin's 1942 re-edited sound re-release, with the inter-titles cut & replaced by Chaplin's often overly coy & obvious voice-over. It also has a slightly different ending than the original. It would have been nice to have had both versions one DVD. Oh well, you still have the film itself which retains its brilliance.
When Chaplin began "City Lights" in 1928, sound films had not yet taken over, but by the time he began "Modern Times" (1936)the idea of doing a silent film was thought to be crazy-well with the exception of music, fxs & a gibberish song that's exactly what Charlie did. A farewell to the Little Tramp and a hillarious social satire, "Modern Times" is Chaplin's last masterpiece.
With "The Great Dictator" (1940), a combination of slapstick, satire and overt social commentary, Chaplin made his first venture into sound films. Filled with brilliant sequences (ie. the shaving scene & Hynkel's ballet with the globe)the blending w/the social commentary at time seem awkward. Nevertheless, Charlie's double portrayal of the Jewish barber (a variation of the Little Tramp) and Adnoid Hynkle is alternating touching, hillarious and at time more than a little frightening.
Well that is either too much or not enough, depending on how you read these things. All I can say is watch these movies and see for yourself. And if you like them, be sure to watch Chaplin's Mutual & First National comedies, "The Kid" & "The Circus"--all great film & fun.