David Shepard gave a sneak preview of these new DVDs at the Niles-Essanay Film Museum's Edison Theater on Friday September 24th 2010. He called it the "World Wide Premier" of these restorations. Eight years in the making, and it is finally here! RESTORED KEYSTONE COMEDIES with Charlie Chaplin.
Imagine seeing the Keystone Chaplins projected on a theater screen, most looking as good as the Chaplin Mutual restorations! Seven films from this set were shown to an amazed audience. All were accustomed to the washed out, fuzzy, jumpy videos that have been on the market for ages, making it hard to enjoy the films. Now they are razor sharp, with perfect contrast & stabilized images. The projection speed has been slowed down, now you have time to see Charlie's facial reactions & body mannerisms. At this corrected speed these comedies feel more mature, Chaplin's genius is more apparent.
David explained that all of these comedies on the DVD set were sourced from multiple archival prints (30 different prints were used to make the most complete version of TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE). Most of the time it is not apparent when the source material changes. ALL films are mastered from 35mm archive sources except "RECREATION" which had to use 16mm prints for several sequences missing from the existing 35mm sources.
Here are the seven 1914 comedies from this set that were shown in the theater, six of which looked perfect.
The first one shown, MABEL'S STRANGE PREDICAMENT (with & directed by Mabel Normand, w/ Chester Conklin, Alice Davenport & Billy Gilbert), was the weakest restoration as negative spots appeared through out the short. I thought it was odd to start the show with this comedy as it kind of set the tone that these will be sharp & clear, but with defects. The short was fun and watchable, David did explain that some master material was beyond full restoration. I wonder what Industrial Light & Magic could have done to clean it up. Each frame would have to be re-toned to take out the spots. But the good news is that the film quality got better after this.
CAUGHT IN THE RAIN (Chaplin's first solo directed film, w/ Mack Swain & Alice Davenport) was a big improvement and this quality was retained for the rest of the show. The bulk of the film is from a clean & clear 35mm Nitrate master. A few sequences had to be taken from a 35mm Nitrate source that was deteriorating, but these are brief. I am glad they were included to complete the film, and remind us of how fragile these original source films are.
MASQUERADER (with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Chester Conklin, Mabel Normand, Charles Parrot "aka Charlie Chase", & Billy Gilbert) looks like it was filmed yesterday. It is hard to believe that these films were cranked out in days, this and the next two were all filmed in the same month.
THE ROUNDERS (co-staring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, w/ Al St. John, Charles Parrott "aka Charlie Chase", & Billy Gilbert) keeps the picture-perfect restoration. Here Fatty & Charlie are much like a comedy team, leading to questions about this from the audience during intermission. I imagine Charlie would have tired of sharing the screen time and any comedy team would not have lasted long. I didn't realize that "Rounders" was a then popular phrase for "Bar Hoppers".
THE NEW JANITOR (w/ Al St. John) is also pristine. It was mentioned that Chaplin recalled using this short to broaden his acting to include Pathos, however a scene he describes where his character talks about his family after being fired from his job is not in any existing prints. It is possible that Charlie miss-remembered this as a similar scene exists in the short "His New Profession" that was filmed that same month.
HIS MUSICAL CAREER (w/ Mack Swain, Charles Parrot "aka Charlie Chase", & Billy Gilbert), another pristine presentation, will interest Laurel & Hardy Fans as Charlie & Mack attempt to deliver a large piano up a flight of stairs. These are steep wooden stairs going up to the second floor of a house, as opposed to the long concrete staircase going up a hillside for Stan & Ollie, but the similarity makes one wonder.
DOUGH AND DYNAMITE (w/ Chester Conklin, Slim Somerville, & Charles Parrot "aka Charlie Chase"is a two-reeler mastered solely from a 35mm paper negative stored at the Copyright Office. It is one of only two Keystone Chaplin comedies that were copyrighted. Since this paper negative was never used to make release prints (its sole purpose was to enforce a copyright), it gives a rare opportunity to see a Chaplin film just the way someone would have seen it the very day it got released to the theaters. This is complete, including the mid-reel notice "Part Two of this comedy will be seen in a minute" followed by the part 2 title card. In the old Nickelodeon days, there would have been only one film projector (most of the films were just 1 reel then). When the 10 minute reel of film would end, the projectionist would have to take time to thread up the next film to show. In the case of a two-reel or longer film, this meant brief 1 minute intermissions every 10 minutes! David explained that running two projectors in one theater did not become commonplace until the 1920's when longer films became more common.
While it was not shown, we were informed that TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE contains every reel change notice through out the film, so that we can experience it the very way the original theater goers experienced it in 1914. 30 film sources were used to make this complete print. This one has looked good on previous videos, now it will be complete.
I can not comment on any other shorts in this set as they were not shown & David did not comment specifically on any of them, outside of RECREATION being a mix of 35mm & 16mm sources.
MAKING A LIVING
KID AUTO RACES IN VENICE
A FILM JOHNNIE
HIS FAVORITE PASTIME
CRUEL, CRUEL LOVE
THE STAR BOARDER
MABEL AT THE WHEEL (2 reels)
TWENTY MINUTES OF LOVE
CAUGHT IN THE CABARET (2 reels)
A BUSY DAY (split reel released with non Chaplin THE MORNING PAPER)
THE FATAL MALLET
THE KNOCKOUT (2 reels)
MABEL'S BUSY DAY
MABEL'S MARRIED LIFE
THE PROPERTY MAN (2 REELS)
THE FACE ON THE BAR ROOM FLOOR
RECREATION (split reel released with non Chaplin THE YOSEMITE)
THE NEW PROFESSION
THOSE LOVE PANGS
TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE (6 reels)
GENTLEMEN OF NERVE
HIS TRYSTING PLACE (2 reels)
HIS PREHISTORIC PAST (2 reels)
It should be noted that one comedy is missing from this set: HER FRIEND THE BANDIT is considered a LOST FILM and no print was located.
Oh and you CHARLIE CHASE fans, watch for him making cameo appearances in several of these films!