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Charlie Chaplin - The Essanay Films - Vol. 1 [1915] [DVD]
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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2003
This first volume of Chaplin films by BFI contains the first 8 films Chaplin made for Essnay in 1915, they are:
His New Job, A Night Out, The Champion, In the Park, A Jitney Elopement, The Tramp, By the Sea and Work.
Six of the films are two reelers and two are one reelers.
The films are important because they represent Chaplin's transitional period from the knock about comedy of Keystone to the more mature Mutual films.
Some the films such as 'In the Park' and 'By the Sea' could just as easily have been made at Keystone, while such as the 'Champion' and 'The Tramp' are undisputed classics.
The films on this DVD have been restored by the film historian David Sheppard and contain many scenes not seen in years. All the films inter titles have also been reinstated so it is now actually possible to follow the plot of the films. (Unlike many editions seen on video and DVD over the years). The music which plays while the films are on is also very good.
Overall this is a very good package, I would recommend it and volume two to any one who likes silent comedy or Chaplin films. Even if you own the films in previous editions these sets are worth buying since you will be able to see the films in the best condition possible.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
There are many problems with trying to view classic silent films these days, and this pair of discs addresses them all. First, many old movies are now out of copyright, and rogue video' companies released versions made from copies of copies of worn-out prints. Thankfully, this version uses extremely clean prints, re-mastered to give the highest possible contrast. Because the material is presented over two discs, it is possible to put a good deal of content on them without requiring a loss of picture quality.

Another common problem is that revised versions are made of our most famous silent films, introducing narration, different edits, and of course music. This is the case with Chaplin's classic, but Chaplin himself oversaw the production of the revised version in 1942, and included his own narration and music, and his own re-editing of the material. Thus the integrity of the work was preserved, however for those interested, the 1925 original is presented alongside. The music added to the silent version is meticulously performed by Neil Brand, who is something of an expert in silent film music, accompanying silent screenings up and down the country after careful research. This avoids the third pitfall: clumsy or repetitive music.

The film itself is a joy to watch, particularly in the revised form. Chaplin's "little fellow" (he is not really a tramp here, he is just like all the other prospectors) is seeking his fortune in the Wild West at the time of the gold rush, and during his adventures must deal with very big bullies with big beards, hunger, poverty, several feet of snow, and a few beautiful women. That Chaplin eventually finds gold and gets the girl shouldn't be a surprise, after all, he wrote and directed the film, but what is astonishing is the effort put into re-creating the snowy landscapes both in the studio and out on location. The accompanying documentaries and photograph sets show the detailed work of the set builders, and the efforts made to find a suitable location to re-create the image of hundreds of prospectors making their way scross the Chilcoot Pass. The effects used here are exemplary, and the miniature work and editing used here could easily be used in a 2009 film production.

The extras on the disc contain a couple of weak text items, but the aforementioned documentaries are worth watching before the film, together with the photo' sets. The pictures included here are well-compiled, and many interesting images are presented here from the Chaplin archive. Some lack contrast and need a bit of clean up, but this is a small niggle in an otherwise brilliant piece of DVD packaging.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2010
These films (plus those on the BFI's second Essanay set) show Chaplin making the transition from the basic Keystone comedies of 1914 to the brilliant Mutual comedies of 1916-7. On the whole, though, they are more in the earlier style and very inferior to the Mutuals, in my opinion. The two BFI volumes present them in the best possible shape, but I do think that they run too slowly. They seem to have been mastered at "natural" speed, whereas silent comedians - including Chaplin - usually shot their films by undercranking a little, giving them more zip and dash when projected. Chaplin himself does this in his 1936 film "Modern Times", so I think the slower speed here is wrong and hampers the comedy. Still, these are the best available versions and if you have Chaplin's great silent features and Mutual shorts, you'll probably want these too.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2004
Of course your average, everyday 'Joe-Public' knows of Charlie Chaplin. But sadly it seems that a relatively small percentage of those people really appreciate his work. Before I bought this DVD I was one of that small percentage. I bought it, basically on the off chance after watching Richard Attenborough's excellent film about Chaplin, so finely played by Robert Downey Jr. I wondered what made Chaplin so revered around the world, why he was and still is so critically acclaimed. How can you tell such a great story? A story that deals with social, personal and political issues, that warms the heart, brings tears to your eyes and makes you laugh until it hurts, produced with no sound, no colour and the most basic technology?. Simple....you have to be Chaplin. There were other good performers around at the time like Keaton, Langdon and Lloyd. But Charlie was the world's first true Hollywood superstar.
It's a crime for any so-called film fan not to have at least one of Chaplin's masterpieces in their collection.
The Gold Rush was Chaplin's own favourite, and mine.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I read Chaplin's autobiography some time ago but came no closer to really understanding the man after reading it. In some books you are able to draw close to the writer but that was not the case with Chaplin. He somehow remained cold and distant. He did not come across as a truly likeable individual. I admire his genius but do not always find him funny. I preferred Keaton, Langdon and Lloyd. But as always there are exceptions, and "The Gold Rush" stands out for me as his masterwork.

The story concerns the gentle little tramp struggling to survive amongst the tough grizzled prospectors of the Klondike gold rush in Alaska's inhospitable climate. The film shows how innovative Chaplin could be and contains many inspired comic inventions. The old boot that starts to look like a turkey dinner in the tramps starved and fevered condition. The nails becoming bones to be sucked, and the laces delicious strands of pasta. Then there is the house teetering on the precipice and perhaps one of cinemas most enduring moments with the enchanting dance of the bread rolls. A scene that truly embodies the heights of beauty that cinema can attain.

In 1958 an international jury in Brussels voted this the second greatest film ever made behind "The Battleship Potemkin". But in the intervening years it has been treated like an old once cherished toy put in the attic, where it has slowly been gathering dust. It simply amazes me that such an important cinematic work can be so forgotten by the general public. Look at how many people have found the other reviews helpful. Not many. Sometimes I don't know why I bother. So we beat on, boats against the current. This is the only DVD available and there are only a dwindling number of those left. The high price asked seems to reflect their scarcity. The serious student of the cinema should certainly have one Chaplin film in their collection, and I would suggest they break the bank and make it this one. Highly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2008
I am gradually introducing my sons to each of Chaplin's longer films.I was interested to see how they would react to Limelight after previously seeing such movies as "The Great Dictator", "Modern Times" and "City Lights".Like me they loved it.It is quite a contrast to the Knockabout comedy of a younger Chaplin and ,released in 1952 , benefits from a mature and reflective treatment of the themes of love,loyalty and fame.Though I am not normally a fan of Claire Bloom I think Chaplin drew from her a touching,gentle and masterly performance to match his own.The dismissal by some critics at its initial release as being too "wordy" reflects less on the film than on their unwillingness to ackowledge Chaplin's multi-faceted genius.Watch it.It is unforgetable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2007
"I'm going away, and when I return I shall come back!" - Charlie Chaplin, Gold Rush

I hadn't watched any Chaplin since I was a child, and a couple years back I rented a DVD with his *very* early material, and I was sorely disappointed. But Gold Rush is really good, surprisingly funny. I was in stitches at his physical comedy, like when two big men fight over a loaded shotgun, and the gun keeps pointing at Charlie ("the Little Fellow") no matter where he tries to flee to in the room.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2009
Until I recently purchased this DVD I had never seen it and I amamazed that such a briliant film could have passed me by. The early scenes in which he completely "ruins" a circus performance have my family, young and old alike, crying with mirth. If Chaplin means anything to you, do not be without this film.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 3 December 2006
Only Charlie Chaplin could be inspired to make a comedy after reading a book about the Donner Party disaster. (The Donner party got trapped in the Sierra Nevada and resorted to cannibalism to keep themselves alive.)
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Chaplin's greatest film? That's hard to say as the competition is so wonderful too. In this film, every moment is perfection. Chaplin adds another layer to the persona as outsider: this time the character clearly feels it, and does so over a sustained period. The set-pieces are masterpieces, but the smallest moments are note-perfect.

The Kid is as good as The Gold Rush, being 4 years before, making it startling, and Modern Times is Chaplin seeming to cruise in greatness, with many big scenes, and changes of location to be funny in. The talky Monsier Verdoux is superb also. Then there are the 1917 Mutual films, several of which were truly brilliant. Chaplin: the genius.

The Kid and Modern Times are on blu-ray. As for The Gold Rush, only the 1942 rerelease that Chaplin wrecked my smothering with his narration is on blu-ray. Terrible wrongheadedness has been shown in seeing this as Chaplin's last word so treating it with the respect due the perfect original. Abel Gance rereleased his magnificent Napoleon with sound, but no-one was silly enough to give that film the respect due the original (it took Francis Ford Coppola alone to do the damage as cultural vandal in that case). GET THE ORIGINAL ON BLU-RAY POWERS-THAT-BE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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