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Chaplin at Keystone [Import]

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Product Details

  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Silent, NTSC, Import
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Studio: Flicker Alley
  • Release Date: July 3 2012
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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By Simon Bergeron TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Nov. 28 2013
Chaplin. The Tramp. Enough said? Not even close.

Some of these films are 100 years... one century old (when 2014 kicks in). And none of them lost any of its charm, dated as though they may be. Chaplin defies time and so do his comedies. There was still a world of language to invent in the cinema department and Chaplin innovated while staying conservative a long portion of his career.

Here, you can watch the Tramp character take shape... getting born directly in front of your eyes from these time capsules. All (if memory serves) of Chaplin's Keystone films are included in this set, which makes for a whopping 10 hours worth of features. Laughs are aplenty and you will have to excuse the state some of the films are in. An 8 year search went on to uncover the majority of negatives, some of which were in 35mm (giving us crystal quality when restored) but some were in 16mm and could only be remastered so much. Needless to say, Chaplin fans should hop on this wonderful set and add it to their collection because this is by far the best and most complete Keystone collection we are likely to see (unless Criterion gets the funny idea to get them all on blu-ray one day).

In terms of features, we do have a few things such as an excerpt from Jeffrey Vance in the form of a booklet, a 10 minute documentary focusing on the restoration of the Chaplin films and a bit more such as a gallery of rare photos.

I'm already sold to Chaplin (I tried Buster Keaton but he just doesn't do it for me... yet), so buying this set was a no brainer for me. Completing my Chaplin collection now feels like a dream come true after 9 years of waiting.
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Chaplin at Keystone is the recently released four DVD set of all of Chaplin films except one,"Her Friend the Bandit".I own a few sets that I consider exceptional,and this is now on that list.This is,very simply put,a phenomenal and comprehensive release of Chaplin's Keystone's that I bet even the most seasoned screen aficionados will not have seen in this condition;both in look and completeness.The archivists and preservationists first duty,besides restoration,has been to recompile each film to as close as they could possibly get to the original presentation.There are no original camera negatives in existence anymore,so they have gone to the next level and sought after 35mm prints from the camera negs.When that hasn't been possible they have sought out dupe negatives(i.e.neg's made from positive prints).When they exhausted that route they used the best 35mm prints.When that failed they have had to settle for 16mm prints,and on and on.
What they have accomplished is nothing short of extraordinary,and mind opening and boggling at the same time.It is a peeling away of the washed out,fuzzy and frenetically paced prints of yesteryear.They now are slowed to a more proper speed.The prints are generally good to very good,though there are some scenes where they fall short,especially when the 16mm prints are used.And unfortunately with new inter titles inserted in re-issues the pictures tend to jump,i.e.if Chaplin goes to throw a pie,the next shot might show the receiver already on the ground.Overall though we can finally appreciate one of the world's greatest comedy film superstars,in his halcyon days and in rising mode,in all his glory.We can also appreciate the talent Sennett had on hand at Keystone in 1914,much more underrated than previously thought.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 27 reviews
57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Looks GREAT on the big screen! I saw the worldwide premier of these restorations in a theater! Sept. 25 2010
By Paul J. Mular - Published on
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.
A BUSY DAY (split reel released with non Chaplin THE MORNING PAPER)
THE KNOCKOUT (2 reels)
RECREATION (split reel released with non Chaplin THE YOSEMITE)

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!
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By Casey62 - Published on
Verified Purchase
It's always been my belief that Charlie Chaplin's Keystone comedies rank alongside his best work as clever and funny films in their own right, and now with this fabulously restored boxed set from Flicker Alley, that belief has been amply confirmed.

For decades these films have had significance in the minds of historians only because Chaplin created his tramp character at Keystone, this despite the fact that he made 36 movies while at the studio in 1914 - a considerable output. For the most part though, the Keystones have been unfairly dismissed as unimportant and primitive in their knockabout comedic style. This opinion has been fostered largely because the films, which were hugely popular in their day, have been available in very poor quality prints with improperly sped up projection and inappropriate musical accompaniment. This kind of careless presentation through the years gave a wrong impression and hid the true merits that the Keystone films contain. Roughly 95% of the material in this new collection has been pieced together from 35mm nitrate sources so that we can now better appreciate the importance of the films and view them as they were intended to be seen.

Chaplin's tramp is already the familiar "little fellow" in these films, and he displays a knack for mischief - like the early Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny - which he gradually discarded in his later work but in retrospect is very refreshing to see. The pathos Chaplin became so famous for may not be as evident in the Keystones, but everything else - the costume and make-up, the body language, the facial expressions, the waddling walk - is all there right from the start. This period laid the groundwork for what followed, and we can see many of the comedy situations in the Keystones that figured into Chaplin's later films for Essanay and Mutual. On the other hand, some of the things Chaplin does in the Keystones are sans the tramp character, being carry overs from his days in the London music halls which makes these films special in that sense alone. The fact that they were largely shot outdoors in local streets and parks also makes them a fascinating historical record of the Los Angeles area in the early 20th century.

Finally the time has arrived for us to re-assess the value of Charlie Chaplin's formative first year in films and this superlative DVD set from Flicker Alley has thankfully made this possible.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Finally, we're permitted to see just why Chaplin became so popular in the first place Nov. 8 2010
By Snorre Smari Mathiesen - Published on
Exactly what was it that made Charlie Chaplin so extremely popular at the very beginning of his film career? The question has puzzled many, even well-known authorities on the subject. Playwright and critic Walter Kerr came up with the (in my opinion somewhat far-fetched) theory that Chaplin with his Keystone-films made his audience a "promise," whereas poet Lars Forssell in his analysis on Chaplin remains bewildered as to why the comedian at all was considered extraordinary more or less from the start. And little wonder; Chaplin's Keystone-films were very much worn out by the time said writers attempted to analyze them. Throughout the 1910s and 20s, the films had been frequently re-edited by insensitive hands, taking full advantage of the fact that Chaplin did not legally own his films at that point, and played in theaters over and over and over again. Add this with how poorly celluloid tends to age, and you're left with a rusty if not downright disturbing experience.

Until BFI's restorations on the Chaplin-Keystones were finally released a few weeks back, no soul could imagine just to what degree the original pleasure of his first films had been obliterated. I had personally been waiting six years for this set to become true, and am immensely happy to finally witness it being completed, like so many other Chaplin-fans. Now, we are finally able to study Chaplin's evolvement both as an actor, director and story constructor during his first year in the medium of celluloid; and what's more, we're forced to recognize that the reason why Chaplin made it big so quickly was because he made damn funny films from the very beginning.

I want to tip my derby in gratitude to everyone involved in this project. Several of the films are crystal sharp, as though they've been led to the spring of youth, and even when that's not quite the case, it's still significantly better than what has been available in the past. Perhaps even more important, the scenes in the films are here put back in the right order; as stories, they are far easier to follow now. Original nitrate-prints have been used whenever accessible, even making a section of the previously unwatchable one-reeler RECREATION in perfect shape. A number of talents have been involved in the musical arrangements, some well known (Robert Israel) and some more obscure, but it is evident that everyone has been equally anxious to do the films justice. Some of the films are treated with orchestral scores, others improvisational piano; and it fits them well, obviously far better than the casually-picked scores found on most previous home video-releases of these films.

As for the films themselves, I'm thrilled (though not really surprised) to confirm that the more than thirty films which Chaplin made at Keystone during the single year of 1914 all in all stand as much, much better than we've been tricked to believe previously. A film like A FILM JOHNNIE has all of a sudden been transformed into something more than a vaguely amusing parody on early film-making; restored and played at the proper speed, it is actually a pretty funny little film, with several sure-fire gags which previously went over my head. Another revelation was the two-reeler THE KNOCKOUT; previously I had considered this film, which was really a Roscoe Arbuckle-vehicle, rather overlong and dull, except for Chaplin's few minutes in it as a referee. Seen through this new restoration, however, the film became a different experience; the scenes at the end with the Keystone Kops had me really laughing out loud.

People only casually acquainted with Chaplin should be aware that his "Tramp character" as such is not fully developed at this stage. He is often prone to rather sadistic impulses; there's a lot of kicking and hitting of a more brutal variety than in his later classic films. However, with the films now being generally crisp and clear and seen at the proper running-speed, one realizes that the humor of the Keystone-films, which Chaplin here blends with his own training from music halls, was the result of a deliberate comedy style, much less impulsive than acknowledged previously. Also, even at this early point Chaplin's pantomime is often remarkably subtle; in THOSE LOVE PANGS, he picks up a fork in order to cause his rival Chester Conklin severe pain in the latter's rear end...a vulgar bit of business in itself, but what makes Chaplin different from his Keystone-contemporaries is his way of building up our expectations with the gag. He isn't just a mere slave to his own twisted ideas; on the contrary, he examines the fork thoroughly, glances at us, making sure that we're in on the joke, and...OUCH!! This sort of performing was more advanced for film comedy of 1914 than anybody alive today can fully grasp.

Other than his inevitable pantomimic skills, Chaplin's abilities as a story constructor are also hastily developing throughout the four discs. THE MASQUERADER, THE ROUNDERS and DOUGH AND DYNAMITE are downright hilarious. Indeed, some films are better than others (I'm still rather indifferent to MABEL'S BUSY DAY, for instance) but it is invariably a pleasure to see every one of them restored, making it possible to judge them fairly. We won't ever see them in their proper context (unless a time-machine is invented and takes us back to the turbulent year of 1914), but thanks to the restorations of BFI, we're at least given access to the second best thing: to see these films as sharp and well-trimmed as they once were, and finally get to understand just why producer Mack Sennett was told to do more Chaplin-films as quickly as possible only a few weeks after the latter's debut, on a day when Sennett in fact had considered firing the comedian.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Could be the DVD of the year Jan. 18 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on
This is it folks. 34 painstakingly restored Keystone films showcasing the evolution of Charlie Chaplins early film career. Featuring the films he made at Mack Sennets Keystone studios in 1914. Including 16 films directed by Charlie Chaplin himself. The films have all new musical scores from Eric Beheim, Neil Brand, Antonio Coppola, Frederick Hodges, Stephen Horne, Robert Israel, Rodney Sauer, The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Ethan Uslan, and Ken Winokur. All films fully restored from the best 35mm elements gathered from around the world and painstakingly pieced together and restored by the British Film Institute National Archive, the Cineteca Bologna and its laboratory L'Immagine Ritrovata in Italy, and Lobster Films in Paris. A process which has taken 8 years to complete. This set is a must for all Chaplin fans and those interested in silent cinema. Many other stars feature alongside Chaplin such as Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, Mack Swain, Ford Sterling, Chester Conklin, Edgar Kennedy, Billy Gilbert, Charley Chase and Marie Dressler.

The Films -


The Extras -

* Charlie's White Elephant (1916, 6 minutes): an animation by John Colman Terry and Hugh Shields featuring Chaplin.
* Inside the Keystone Project (2010, 10 minutes): a short documentary about international restoration efforts behind the films in this collection
* Silent Traces (2010, 12 minutes): historian John Bengston on several of the Keystone locations
* Extracts from A Thief Catcher (1914,7 minutes): a film recently rediscovered by Paul E Gierucki, with a cameo of Chaplin as a Keystone Cop
* Stills Gallery
* Illustrated booklet written by Jeffrey Vance
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Chaplin At Keystone: The Birth Of A Cinematic Icon Oct. 23 2010
By Chip Kaufmann - Published on
I couldn't have realized it at the time but I have waited 46 years for this set to be released. I first encountered Charlie Chaplin at a Shakey's Pizza Parlor in Greenville, South Carolina back in 1964. These were 8mm home movie copies and the picture quality was dreadful although I didn't think that then. All I knew was that the fellow in the derby hat made me laugh and I was strangely attracted to his occasional leading lady Mabel Normand. Fast forward a quarter of a century. Chaplin's feature films began to appear on home video but not his early comedies and certainly not his earliest efforts at Keystone before he became a star. By the start of the 21st century his first starring comedies for Essanay and Mutual had been restored and were made available but the Keystones still languished because no one thought they were of any real value. That's because no one had seen them the way they were first shown. Until now. This latest release from Flicker Alley rectifies that oversight and proves to be a revelation.

After an unprecedented 8 year effort of combing the world's archives for every available print, silent film specialist David Shepard of Blackhawk Films and Film Preservation Associates along with the British Film Institute, Lobster Films of Paris and Italy's Cineteca Bologna have found and restored 34 of Chaplin's first 35 short films allowing us to watch him develop as a movie performer and see the birth of a cinematic icon as he creates and refines his famous Tramp character. No versions of these early Chaplin efforts survived in original form having been re-edited many times and virtually re-printed out of existence due to their initial popularity. By restoring them as close as possible to their original look with original intertitles and by scoring them properly and projecting them at the right speed, CHAPLIN AT KEYSTONE has given us an unprecedented glimpse back into cinematic time. We can literally watch the beginning of the movie industry in California and see pictures of a long vanished world and the people who inhabited it. One of the comedies, A FILM JOHNNIE, actually takes us behind the scenes at how a Keystone movie was made circa 1914. The set also makes available the few directorial efforts of one of the movies' first female pioneers, comedienne Mabel Normand.

In addition to all but one of Chaplin's short films, this set contains the UCLA restoration of the first feature length comedy TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE with Chaplin, Normand, and Marie Dressler which can be heavy going today to the uninitiated. I had never seen this movie in its original form complete with opening and closing curtain appearances and title cards for reel changes and projected at the right speed. It makes a big difference. While never a big fan of TILLIE, I can now see why it was once so popular. Selling for $80 retail, this set will only appeal to those who are interested in Chaplin or in silent comedy. However for your money, in addition to the films, you get a whole host of extras including a 40 page booklet with rare photographs and background on the titles included and two special features. One is on the film restoration that took place and on the other is on the original filming locations as they appear today. An absolutely invaluable and indispensible set. Now if only some of the other non-Chaplin Keystones could receive the same treatment. They are the equivalent to silent comedy what D. W. Griffith's Biograph shorts are to silent drama and deserve to be rediscovered.

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