- Actors: Charles Chaplin, Bud Jamison, Ben Turpin, Billy Armstrong, Agnes Ayres
- Directors: Charles Chaplin
- Writers: Charles Chaplin, Louella Parsons
- Producers: Jess Robbins, David Shepard
- Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Silent, NTSC
- Language: English
- Region: All RegionsAll Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: eOne Films
- Release Date: Oct. 1 2002
- Run Time: 136 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00000JWWZ
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #222,474 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
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Chaplins Essanay Comedies #1
In Chaplin's Essanay Comedies, made in 1915, cinema's greatest comedian was first able to build his screen work around his performance style rather than forcing himself, as before, into Mack Sennett's frenzied Keystone comedy matrix. With this freedom Chaplin evolved in a year from the gag comedian of "His New Job" to the brilliant pantomimist of "A Night Out," "The Champion," "The Tramp" and "Shanghaied" to the profound satirist of "Police." Volume 1 includes: "His New Job," "A Night Out," "The Champion," "In the Park," "A Jitney Elopement" (all 1915).
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I give this five stars, because the restoration, music, and presentation are awesome. The films are the most complete they have been in over 80 years, and are mastered from the best available materials. David Shepherd worked on these for a decade or so, and some of the films come from as many as five different sources. This can be a little odd sometimes, as the picture will change in quality and framing every so often, which is a bit of a jumpy sensation, but it's either that or just miss the footage altogether.
As far as the films go - well, this is not Chaplin's best work. "His New Job", "A Night Out", and "In the Park" are slight, derivative, and not terribly interesting. "A Jitney Elopement" is fascinating for the fact that Chaplin relies on a lot of tracking and racing shots for the chase, which all happens in cars. "The Champion" is a very good film, and is the best of this lot.
Chaplin made better films than these for Essanay, which can especially be seen on Disc 2 of the series.
This is NOT a good disc for the person who is just getting interested in Chaplin or silent films. You would be better of with the later features, such as City Lights, The Kid, The Gold Rush, or The Circus, which should all be reissued in 2003 in gorgeous quality - I can't wait!
But if you are acquainted with Chaplin, and have read a good book or two about his career and development, then this is a fine dvd to get.
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During that year, Chaplin produced 16 comedies, all of which concentrated on performance style which allowed the gags to build, thereby sustaining laughter. Chaplin also began to introduce the element of pathos with THE TRAMP and THE BANK, and this became a trademark in his later work.
If you're looking for definitive versions of Chaplin's Essanay comedies, you need not look further than Image's DVD volumes 1, 2 and 3. With restoration and tinting supervised by David Shepard, the transfers look wonderful, having been obtained from the best surviving print sources gathered over nine years of searching American and European collections. The delightful musical accompaniment features piano scores by Eric James and orchestral arrangements by Robert Israel.
No silent comedy enthusiast should pass up this marvelous collection of films that represent a vital chapter in the career of the greatest pantomimist in cinema history. My highest recommendation.
Thus follows the beginning of Chaplin's growth as both performer & filmmaker with this first batch of Essanay comedies. "His New Job" mines its humor from the rituals of The Tramp trying to gain employment at a film company. There's the long frustrating waits in rooms for auditions; temperamental actors & bosses; and the actual work itself. Chaplin's comic gifts help lift what could have been a routine slapstick satire into something worthwhile. "A Night Out" could almost be a prelude to his Mutual comedy "One A.M." He & his pal get soused to the gills and do their best to disrupt one establishment after another. Highlights include Chaplin's drunken harassment of patrons in a restaurant; his "freshening up" at a lobby fountain; his pal dragging him by the collar down sidewalks (as Chaplin picks flowers along the way); and his drunken attempts to get ready for bed. "The Champion" is a lively slapstick comedy from start to finish, showcasing Chaplin's amazing physical comedy gifts. As a down-on-his-luck vagabond, Chaplin participates in a boxing match against the title character. This is really the climax worth waiting for, which is almost an early blueprint for Chaplin's classic feature "City Lights". "In the Park" is pretty much a standard "park bench comedy" you'd find Sennett making at Keystone. But Chaplin plays it out for all its worth, embellishing flirtations & other funny gestures. "A Jitney Elopement" is sort of a departure as The Tramp pretends to be a count & thus used as a "ringer" to impress a girl's picky father seeking a proper suitor for his daughter. The first half of the film relies on situation & subtlety, then becomes a more familiar slapstick comedy in its last half, climaxed by a madcap car chase.
The term "film history" really applies itself here, considering that these rare films are about to celebrate their 100th Anniversary. Can't wait to see Essanay's volumes 2 & 3!
Part of Chaplin's creative spurt is no doubt the result of suddenly being endowed with more freedom than he was able to achieve at Keystone, the studio he had recently left. In fact, the first film in the set, "His New Job", is a thinly disguised poke at his old employer, about working as a movie actor in the "Lodestone" Film Company. This film shows how Chaplin's approach to comedy differs significantly from the Keystone formula -- the pace in the action is noticeably slower. By slowing the pace, Chaplin can better mine each scene for more comic gold, and he characteristically bases the humor more on pantomime than on pure slapstick. Even a simple act such as changing into a costume he wears to shoot a scene in "His New Job" provides a wealth of material for comic invention. In these movies, people and things supply a continuous supply of props for Chaplin's creativity.
Along with the flurry of new ideas, the character of the tramp is still under development in these early films. This tramp character is still closer to the Keystone tramp -- quite simply, a nuisance. There is no heroism toward the down-trodden, no sense of the hopelessness of poverty, no resentment towards the oppression of authority here. The tramp of these films is driven purely reactively by his senses, flirting with every hour-glass figure he encounters, fighting with anyone who looks at him the wrong way, and willing to do anything, honest or otherwise, for immediate gain. Even when he gets the girl, he has already won her, as in "A Jitney Elopement". Really the only moment in this collection when the character shows an inclination towards something more noble is in the opening scenes of "The Champion" where he shares a humble meal with his lowly dog.
One final word: the quality of the films is superb, which is especially important in appreciating the flood of new comic ideas that emerge from the mind of the master.