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Chaplin (1992) Blu-Ray
on 6 March 2012
OK - first thing's first; I am a massive Chaplin fan and I think this film is brilliant. I am well aware that it has flaws but this is down to being forced to cut the film down and therefore removing vital character scenes.
'Chaplin' is a touching film that tells the icon's life story in a memorable and sometimes hilarious way. Richard Attenborough tackled an awesome project and it was never going to be easy - but he pulls it off brilliantly. Yes, it flies through important periods like 'Monsieur Verdoux' and 'Limelight' - not to mention Chaplin's return to London film-making. However, these scenes were almost shot but removed later. Edna, Chaplin's leading lady in the early days is also under-used, but these are minor quibbles - the film is beautiful and everything you want from a biopic.
The casting of Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic; I cannot imagine anyone else pulling this job off any better. There are scenes in which you can easily be forgiven for believing that you are seeing the real Charlie. Having Chaplin's real-life daughter, Geraldine, play her own grandmother gives the film the family-seal-of-approval that was essential for this to work. Her performance is tragic and inspiring in equal measure.
Anyway, this wasn't going to be a review of the film, but the Blu-Ray.
First, the bad points:
- The DVDs I owned (both US and UK) ten years ago had an entire chocolate box of extras. Documentaries, on-set interviews with the cast. Some of it was repetitive, but extremely interesting nonetheless. This Blu-Ray has NO extras. Not even a trailer. Could they not even have got the always fascinating biographer David Robinson in to do a commentary track? Apparently not.
- The audio is merely stereo. Now, I realise that the original film was stereo so I am being a snob but you are talking about a film that contains one of John Barry's later amazing scores. Having that swimming around in the rear channels would have been beautiful. I was expecting that for this release, but all you get is stereo.
Now, the brilliant good points():
- The picture is a vast improvement on any VHS or DVD copies I have owned over the years. Colours are much improved and while the film has a vintage look anyway it is not nearly as soft as previous releases. I really wasn't expecting much but it was lovely to see the film looking this good! The scenes in Vevey and Victorian London benefit in particular from this release.
- The sound, despite my complaints above, is gorgeous. Yes, it's only two channels, but the quality is a massive improvement over ANY previous release. On my old versions (both VHS and DVD) any low frequencies (Chaplin humming 'The Honeysuckle and The Bee' at the beginning, or background atmosphere noise, traffic, people, nature etc) were muffled and had no treble or top end to speak of. That made some of the dialogue difficult to understand in these versions. These problems are completely gone in this Blu-Ray release, I am VERY pleased to say. The sound quality was my biggest annoyance of previous releases.
All in all and minor, pompous complaints aside, this is a gorgeous addition to my blu-ray collection. Not just because the film is beautiful and just the sort of biopic Chaplin deserved, but also because of the transformation and new lease of life it has been given on Blu-Ray.
This is not 'Avatar' - you will not be able to pin point veins in people's eyes - it is a film from 1992 after all. But this is also not the first release of 'Predator' which was softened and 'digitally' enhanced to within an inch of its life.
'Chaplin' is probably what all films from older stock should look like in full HD. This is a modest package, but if you own this on VHS or even the more recent DVD you won't be disappointed.
As an aside, 'Chaplin' was released in the UK by 'Optimum Home' who (in my collection at least) have a solid reputation for releasing films that might be light on the extras but are heavy on the picture and sound quality. I have yet to be disappointed by one of their releases. The point, after all, is to enjoy the film at its very best and they have certainly succeeded with 'Chaplin' in presenting it at not only its very best, but the best I have ever seen or heard it.