James Horvath | South Bend, Indiana United States | 01/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a must have for an avid Chaplin fan.Great restoration by David Shepard and musical score by Robert Israel and Eric James.I highly recommend this and Vols.2,3 for your collection."
Another nicely restored set of Chaplin films!
Mark Pollock | Davis, CA United States | 12/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Okay, this review is for the Image dvd of the Chaplin Essanay Comedies, Volume 1. If this review appears on any other product, with the exception of a Kino product, then know that this review has NOTHING to do with whatever you are looking at. If you are looking at Madacy or Koch videos, then just go away now, and look for a good video, because Madacy and Koch videos of Chaplin are garbage. ANYWAYS...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. Enjoy!"
Chaplin at a furious creative pace
Robert Morris | San Francisco | 11/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
This first volume in the set of 1915 Essanay shorts presents Chaplin's first experiments with the gags and situations that he will refine over the years in his mature films. Although in 1915 he had only been in the movies for one year, he is clearly fully confident of his talents as a comedian, and he is unafraid to test new ideas at a furious pace. Watching these films is like listening to Louis Armstrong's early "Hot Five" sessions -- a non-stop flood of mostly completely new ideas, not all of which work, but enough do to make the experience enjoyable. Unfortunately, we are somewhat burdened in not being able to fully appreciate the freshness of this work -- we have seen the humor either repeated by Chaplin in later films or by other comedians. Still, even today it's possible to sense the spontaneity, the improvisational nature of these scenes.
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."