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on 21 July 2017
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on 8 March 2009
The Unknown Chaplin is a real treat for fans of silent cinema.

It shows how Chaplin worked, using celluloid as a sketch book rather than spending ages working things out on paper.

The interviews are rather good, especially considering that many of Chaplin's casts ad crews must, by now, have shifted off to the Easy Street in the Sky.

As other people have noted you can get a hold of a lot of the material from the Unknown Chaplin on other DVD's and videos.
I think it's worth getting it as a stand alone piece as it's really well put together and gives you another glance in to Chaplin's world.

If you're a Chaplin fan, it's invaluable.
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Charlie Chaplin was very secretive about the way he worked, his biography generalising his methods almost to the point of obscurity, making this 1983 documentary from the makers of the classic Hollywood TV series and compiled from Chaplin's archive of out-takes one of the most important pieces of cinematic archaeology ever produced. Deleted scenes and post-edit point footage (when the camera continues to roll for a few seconds after the action has finished to allow the editor leeway) throw light on his approach as Chaplin is seen losing his temper, breaking up with laughter and, most revealingly, looking on with mounting disappointment at an uninspired actor in an out-take from The Immigrant.

Following an uncomfortable introduction by Geraldine Chaplin, the first episode deals with his two-reelers for Mutual and has the lion's share of the rediscovered footage but no interviews, since there were no living survivors of the period at the time the series was made.

Working with no script but a basic idea, Chaplin used the props and sets as a springboard, rehearsing on film, and it is the out-takes that show how he would chisel away at an idea until he found something that would work, constantly refining it. The highlights of the first episode are the development of The Cure and, particularly, The Immigrant, both of which started out very differently to the finished product.

Some of the scenes were cut for obvious reasons, but there are gems along the way, such as Charlie playing traffic cop with wheelchairs in The Cure. There are also plenty of good ideas that went wrong, such as the dance of the cleaning ladies from Behind the Screen: elaborately staged sequences that were cut, such as a joke involving a real axe from the same short and a special effects sequence using double-exposure to have two Doc Stones in the same shot.

The second episode has the bonus of several interviews: Dean Reisner (the irritating child from The Pilgrim), Jackie Coogan (the child star of The Kid and, in later years, Uncle Fester in The Addams Family), director Robert Parrish (who played a child newsboy in City Lights), Lita Grey (the child actress in The Kid who became Chaplin's child bride), Georgia Hale (who replaced her in The Gold Rush and, subsequently in Chaplin's affections) and Virginia Cherrill (the blind girl in City Lights).

He would frequently call off production, reshoot with different actors and sometimes take months on a single scene. The show provides a striking example in the sequence where the Tramp meets the blind Flower Girl in City Lights, seen in home movie footage of Chaplin directing: by the 534th day of filming, only 166 days had been spent working against 368 idle, making Stanley Kubrick look speedy by comparison. There's also footage of Churchill's visit to the set and a fascinating reshot ending with The Gold Rush's Georgia Hale after he fired Virginia Cherrill.

The third episode is the thinnest, but has ample compensations. There is footage of Chaplin guest conducting the Abe Lyman orchestra in 1923, doing the dance of the bread rolls at a party, out-takes from a short he made with Harry Lauder to raise money for wounded British soldiers and some fascinating demonstrations of how his on-camera fooling around with visitors to his studio sparked ideas that would be fully reworked into later films. Chaplin had a mind like an attic - he might discard ideas, but he would never throw them away, as is demonstrated by The Idle Class, which grew out of a (much funnier) abandoned Mutual short with Albert Austin.

The highlights of the final episode are The Professor, an abortive attempt to get away from the Tramp character that saw Chaplin in Eric Campbell-style bushy eyebrows as a flea circus act forced onto hard times and losing his performers in a doss house; the original opening sequences from Modern Times (both rather drawn out); and, best of all, a full nine minutes from The Circus, later described by Chaplin as the most miserable experience of his life, including a scene in which Charlie tries to learn tightrope walking on a rake and a hysterically funny sequence with some fish. There are the domestic scenes cut from Shoulder Arms because distributors wanted a short rather than another feature.

The picture quality is very good indeed, although, perversely, due to the decades of duping, the extracts from the finished films are of vastly inferior quality to the out-takes (sadly, the extras give a hint of why this is - because of legal wrangles with Raymond Rohauer that stretched on for years, much of the material was never preserved on film because a deal couldn't be made: when it finally was years later, much of the material was beyond preservation). With narration by James Mason underlining the quality of the series, this is easily one of the most fascinating and unusual film documentaries ever produced, and comes very highly recommended. There's also a small but sweet extras package of out-takes from The Count, Chaplin's own gfootage of a visit to the set of A Dog's Life by Scottish comedian Harry Lauder and an interview with Kevin Brownlow.
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on 9 December 2006
included on this d.v.d for the first and only time, is a selection of outtakes from charlie chaplin's early two-reelers.

at the time, chaplin gave strict instructions that any remaining footage that wasn't needed be destroyed. thank goodness some of it wasn't. what you are seeing, is the rarest of chaplin ever to be found anywhere in the world. to see footage of the man himself directing, rehearsing and auditioning throughout this three-part series made in the early 80s is simply unbelievable.

the makers of this programme made by thames television(kevin brownlow and david gill) were lucky to find anything, as the footage they acquired was not in the best condition.

during the programmes, you will notice how committed chaplin was at producing the best possible results - even if he had to shoot the same scene several hundred times, he would do it.

the special features could have been more, but that doesn't matter. there's an interview with kevin brownlow about the making of the series; more outtakes from chaplin's film "the count" plus another short film.

a truly fascinating series that shows a different side and a deeper understanding of chaplin's filmmaking methods.
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on 29 May 2006
Film enthusiasts are totally indebted to Network, Thames and Fremantle for providing on DVD not only this unbelievably valuable compendium on the artistry of one of the greats of the silent film era, but also for its releasing the work of another giant of the time (Buster Keaton).

To be able to glimpse the thought processes and evolution behind some of the most famous of Chaplin's films is truly to glimpse something of the creative process that most people do not know of or can scarcely imagine. Yet as this excellent series demonstrates, the most 'natural' or 'spontanaeous' scenes are the result of incredible amounts of hard work, and demonstrate what happens to make something truly classic, and irreplaceable.

As valuable as the outtakes comprising Part 1 are, it is Part 2 that will illustrate most vividly what made such classics as 'The Gold Rush' 'The Kid', and most of all, 'City Lights' so memorable and innovative. Part 3 is entitled 'Hidden Treasures' and says it all.

In addition to excellent behind-the-scenes additional features, this features excellent narration from James Mason and an absolutely unforgettable adaptation of Chaplin's own music by the brilliant Carl Davis, a composer long underappreciated in the United States.

If you are in doubt about whether to get this or not, see the last ten minutes of Part 2 where the final scene of 'City Lights' is shown, followed by a segue to the credits that will bring tears to the eyes of ANY film enthusiast with ANY hint of romanticism in their soul! I last saw this special about 15 years ago but had always remembered this moment, and it remains as compelling and magical as ever.
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on 25 August 2002
This is a must for anybody who is interested in either Chaplin himself or silent films in general. Like all of Kevin Brownlow's documentaries (or books for that matter) it is scrupulously researched and entertainly presented. Although I don't think it quite stands up to a comparison with his earlier "Hollywood: The Pioneers", which is the greatest of all silent film documentaries, it still stands head and shoulders above most of the competition. Thankfully it also cleverly manages to avoid overlapping with that earlier series.
The highlight for me was the outtakes of "The Cure" which is my personal favorite of Chaplin's Mutual films. Other standouts include the assembled footage from a restaurant scene that was intended for "The Circus" and the home movie footage from the set of City Lights.
A worthy look at the working methods of a genius.
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VINE VOICEon 14 January 2009

Great Thames TV documentary, narrated by James Mason, which highlights the methodolgy used by CHARLIE CHAPLIN to create his films, from the shorts to the full-length multi-reelers. Although I will forever be under the spell of Laurel and Hardy, there's no denying that Stan's fellow English Music Hall performer had an incredibly inventive mind and a supreme physical gift for both comedy and drama. Perhaps the most surprising thing revealed in UNKNOWN CHAPLIN is the amount of footage he shot for individual takes, or "slates", sometimes numbering into the hundreds - Chaplin would literally make it up as he went along - using celluloid in much the same way a scriptwriter of the time would use, and discard, foolscap. However, what emerged on screen as finished product is proof of his genius. THE KID, THE GOLD RUSH, MODERN TIMES - three undisputed classics. But CITY LIGHTS is the true masterpiece. And only someone utterly devoid of humanity could sit through those final frames without being moved to wonderfully joyous, uncynical tears. So if you only ever see one Charlie Chaplin film in your life, make it that one.

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on 23 March 2001
This long video presents a mass of outtakes and other unreleased material, carefully assembled to present a full account of Chaplin's working methods. The commentary is well read by James Mason, the soundtrack music is good. Anyone who has any interest in making a film or video production should study this video, and so should every film lover.
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on 27 December 2009
I bought ' Unknown Chaplin ' some time ago from amazon
and it is full of interesting lesser known facts concerning the ' little fellow '
but is a complete let-down in that there are no subtitles.

I am hard of hearing and rely on subtitles so it is a great disappointment
but why a film on this subject matter does not carry subtitles I just do not understand ?

Update :
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on 5 November 2008
This excellent DVD gives a true insight into the genius of Charlie Chaplin. In all there are three episodes featured with many extremely rare filmed extracts. See Charlie develop scenes as he was filming,see him lose his temper as extras push him a little to forcibly. It really is an absolute must for any fan of this legend of cinema and fascinating stuff.

Superbly researched and featuring the soothing tones of James Mason,I rate this as a must buy especially at the very low price it is currently on sale for. Essential and important for anyone with an interest in the history of cinema.
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