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Film Details

Directed by: Charlie Chaplin Mack Sennett Mabel Normand

Produced: 1914

Countries & Regions: United States

DVD Details

Certificate: U

Studio: British Film Institute

Length: 561 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 13 December 2010

Cat No: BFIVD826

Extras:
Languages(s): English
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Chaplin at Keystone

Cast: Charley Chase , Billy Gilbert , Charlie Chaplin , Marie Dressler , Mack Swain , Chester Conklin , Mabel Normand , Roscoe Arbuckle , Al St. John , Alice Davenport , Slim Somerville

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A collection of 34 restored silent short films from Charlie Chaplin’s 1913-14 stint at Keystone Studios, which saw the little-known music... Read More

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A collection of 34 restored silent short films from Charlie Chaplin’s 1913-14 stint at Keystone Studios, which saw the little-known music hall vaudevillian making his first forays into the world of celluloid. More than half of the films are written and directed by Chaplin himself, and many of them see the evolution of Chaplin’s much-loved comedy persona The Little Tramp. Films included are: ’Mabel’s Strange Predicament’, ’Caught in the Rain’, ’Masquerader’, ’The Rounders’, ’The New Janitor’, ’His Musical Career’, ’Dough and Dynamite’, ’Tillie’s Punctured Romance’, ’Making a Living’, ’Kid Auto Races in Venice’, ’Between Showers’, ’A Film Johnnie’, ’Tango Tangles’, ’His Favorite Pastime’, ’The Star Boarder’, ’Mabel at the Wheel’, ’Twenty Minutes of Love’, ’Caught in the Cabaret’, ’A Busy Day’, ’The Fatal Mallett’, ’The Knockout’, ’Mabel’s Busy Day’, ’Mabel’s Married Life’, ’Laughing Gas’, ’The Property Man’, ’The Face On the Bar Room Floor’, ’Recreation’, ’The New Profession’, ’Those Love Pangs’, ’Gentlemen of Nerve’, ’His Trysting Place’, ’Getting Acquainted’ and ’His Prehistoric Past’.

Charlie Chaplin took a gamble when he went to Hollywood. After all, he’d built a useful reputation in the music halls and could look forward to a long career on the stage. Moving pictures offered an uncertain future. Was it really worth the risk? But Chaplin took the plunge: the rest is history.

This painstakingly reconstructed and restored 4 DVD set containing 34 films does more than show his movie apprenticeship: it demonstrates exactly why Chaplin achieved such rapid, overwhelming fame. Put bluntly, it was because he was better than everyone else on screen. From his very first appearance in Making a Living, his clowning is more sophisticated, more inventive and just plain funnier than other Keystone players. Mack Sennett’s movies were lowest-common denominator slapstick but Chaplin plays even the crudest gag with a compelling grace.

It wasn’t until Chaplin started to direct that talent blossomed into genius. The change in quality is both dramatic and near instant. The Property Man was his third film as director and his first masterpiece. The familiar Keystone chaos is there, but it results from a tightly controlled story rather than casual violence.

This is Chaplin evolving. Although the Tramp character makes his appearance early (in Kid Auto Races at Venice), Chaplin hadn’t settled on him as his only role: he plays toffs and drunkards too. Even the Tramp is not quite the figure he would later become. He’s a rougher figure, an agent of chaos rather than a loveable rogue.

Chaplin was also experimenting with form, moving away from eruptions of anarchy to more sophisticated formats, such as the comedy of errors of His Trysting Places. He’d make better films, but there’s authentic joy here, a young man exploding with ideas and seeing what he could do.

By the end of the period documented here, Chaplin was on his way to becoming the most famous man in the world. That is another story. Let’s hope it will be told in another set as good as this one.

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