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Chaplin (Blu-ray) (1992)
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Details At A Glance
Featurette-Strolling into the Sunset
Featurette-Chaplin the Hero
Featurette-The Most Famous Man in the World
Short Film-The Cure (1917)
Short Film-The Floorwalker (1916)
Short Film-The Vagabond (1916)
Short Film-Behind The Screen (1916)
Short Film-The Fireman (1916)
Short Film-The Rink (1916)
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Robert Downey Jr.
Penelope Ann Miller
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
††† Directed by the late Richard Attenborough (Gandhi, A Bridge Too Far), 1992ís Chaplin traces the life and career of Charles Chaplin, from his glum childhood all the way through to his final years in the 1970s. With a screenplay credited to William Boyd, Bryan Forbes and William Goldman, the film is based on two literary sources: Chaplinís own autobiography, and ďChaplin: His Life and ArtĒ by film critic David Robinson. On top of recounting the life of its titular subject, Chaplin also delves into Hollywoodís early days, the politics of filmmaking, and the scandals that defined many careers. The resultant movie is not especially cohesive given the nature of its narrative structure and the breadth of the material in question, but the production has far more strengths than weaknesses. Engrossing from the first frame, Attenborough mounts an outstanding old-fashioned biopic, perhaps not quite definitive but nevertheless informative and sublimely acted. Even though it was panned by critics and failed at the box office, Chaplin deserves to be seen, particularly by those who admire Chaplinís body of work.
††† Growing up in extreme poverty with a mentally ill mother (Geraldine Chaplin), Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.) starts performing physical comedy from an early age in London, to escape his otherwise bleak life. Hoping to further a career in show business, Charlie moves to America where heís hired by Mack Sennett (Dan Aykroyd), a famous filmmaker known as ďThe King of Comedy.Ē Working under Sennett, Chaplin develops his iconic Tramp persona and eventually begins directing his movies. Moving his way up the ladder and establishing his own film studio, Chaplin carves out a successful motion picture career, beset with a number of failed love affairs as well as an unfortunate run-in with J. Edgar Hoover (Kevin Dunn) which ultimately leads to him becoming exiled from America.
††† To facilitate what amounts to a ďgreatest hitsĒ compilation of moments from Chaplinís life, the narrative is framed around an elderly Chaplin - living out his last years in Switzerland - talking to (fictional) writer George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins), whoís finalising the comedianís autobiography and wishes to fill in certain blanks. Itís a familiar gimmick which allows Attenborough to explore stories and pieces of information from throughout Chaplinís life, centring in on the most important events. The veracity of Chaplinís autobiography is also brought into question, with Hayden even calling out the veteran performer on certain things that he lies about - at one stage, Chaplin retorts ďBut the truth was so boring, George!Ē
††† Running at over 140 minutes including credits, Chaplin delves into the manís perfectionism as a director, demanding dozens of takes to get the best possible shot, while he also had an affinity for underage girls. However, some of Chaplinís most famous films only receive a passing mention, while many of his leading ladies feel short-changed. For instance, Edna Purviance (Penelope Ann Miller) was one of Chaplinís most frequent co-stars, but is given barely a couple of scenes in the movie. Numerous other things are left out, too, like the death of Chaplinís first son, as well as the inspiration behind, and filming of, 1921ís The Kid. Reportedly, the original cut of Chaplin clocked in at a staggering four hours, and Attenboroughís preferred edit was twelve minutes longer than the theatrical version, but it was further trimmed at the behest of the studio. According to Attenborough himself, the cuts damaged the movie, leaving us to speculate about the merit of an extended cut.
††† As to be expected from a Richard Attenborough movie produced for a sizeable $31 million sum (no small chunk of change in 1992), Chaplin boasts strong production values, with elegant sets, elaborate costuming and spot-on period details. 19th Century London is convincing recreated, while Sven Nykvistís cinematography is careful and smooth, competently capturing the action. Admittedly, some of the optical effects are obvious and dated, and not all of the make-up stands up to contemporary scrutiny (the elderly Chaplin make-up looks especially phoney), but these are minor knocks against an otherwise finely mounted biopic. Attenborough is certainly no stranger to movies of this length and scale, and he manages to maintain an effective if slightly leisurely pace - this is not a tedious movie due to its elegant construction, but it does require patience to sit through.
††† Downey undeniably carries the film, representing Chaplinís biggest asset. The American actor swallows his native accent to espouse a convincing British dialect, and he perfectly embodies Chaplin to boot. Downey bears a close enough resemblance to Chaplin, and further sells the illusion by nailing his recognisable physical mannerisms. Itís a treat to behold Downey engage in physical comedy, impressively recreating The Tramp persona. Furthermore, Downeyís performance amplifies the power of several scenes, including a heart-wrenching moment in which Chaplin learns about the passing of his first love. The sheer breadth of the ensemble cast surrounding Downey is staggering - recognisable names fill almost every role, no matter how minor. Chaplinís daughter Geraldine is even on hand to play her own grandmother in an inspired piece of casting, while the likes of Hopkins and Kevin Dunn are reliably brilliant. Dan Aykroyd is a genuine treat as Mack Sennett; heís amusing, but he provides enough gravitas to sell the drama. Kline, meanwhile, makes for a superb Douglas Fairbanks, bringing plenty of energy and charm whenever he appears on-screen. Performing double duty, the beautiful Moira Kelly is most appealing as both Hetty Kelly (Chaplinís first love) and Oona OíNeill (Chaplinís final wife), managing to create two distinctive characters. Digging further into the supporting cast, Chaplin also features the likes of Marisa Tomei, Penelope Ann Miller, Milla Jovovich (a teenager here), Diane Lane, James Woods, Maria Pitillo, and even future X-Files lead David Duchovny, all of whom hit their marks with confidence.
††† Chaplin attains effective poignancy as it approaches the finishing line, observing Chaplin as he is granted permission to return to America in order to receive a special Lifetime Achievement award at the 1972 Academy Awards. Itís a fitting ending to a tremendous biopic, underscoring the great actorís indispensable contributions to motion pictures throughout his career. Despite Chaplinís flaws and shortcomings, itís an insightful film, and a must-see for Chaplin fans.
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††† "Uneven" is the word which immediately springs to mind whilst discussing this Blu-ray presentation. Debuting on Blu-ray for the first time in Australia, Chaplin is presented in AVC-encoded 1080p high definition courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment. The movie is framed at its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and will therefore exhibit tiny black bars at the top and bottom of a typical 16x9 widescreen television. Making use of a dual-layered BD-50, Umbrella has mastered Chaplin with an impressive, above-average video bitrate approaching 34 Mbps, which is comparable to the already-released U.K. and U.S. Blu-ray releases. To Umbrella's credit, the disc is filled to capacity between the movie and the extras - as a result, there are no distracting compression artefacts, and this is probably the best that this particular video master can look in compressed 1080p. However, there's just no getting around the fact that Chaplin is in dire need of a new remaster, as this Blu-ray transfer looks dated and uneven, sometimes appearing more like an upscaled DVD as opposed to a stunning high definition presentation. This Blu is certainly better than a DVD, but a movie of this pedigree deserves better.
††† Comparing Umbrella's disc to the U.S. Lionsgate release, it's clear that Umbrella has made use of the same master, but Umbrella's encode is thankfully superior despite an almost identical bitrate. In spite of this, the encode cannot mask the inherent flaws of this master. There's an odd flickering effect throughout the movie which reveals this to be a dated scan that was not properly remastered. Other film artefacts crop up, most notably print damage, and the picture is wobbly from time to time, exhibiting gate weave even in static shots. For obvious reasons, black and white archival footage at the 27-minute mark looks incredibly rough, but that can be forgiven. Furthermore, even though grain is retained for the most part, other shots look strangely smooth and smeary. Other moments simply look poorly-defined (see 47:05), with hit-and-miss clarity, while rampant softness is apparent. One shot at 14:30 looks more like a YouTube video. Indeed, this is not an overly sharp master on the whole. Especially since we're now spoiled with 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays (with added High Dynamic Range) sourced from beautiful remasters, Chaplin looks all the worse.
††† The transfer fares best in daylight, such as Chaplin's first meeting with Mack Sennett on set at the 32-minute mark. In fact, the video appears to improve once Chaplin begins his career over in America, whereas the early scenes in England fare the worst. At the transfer's best, colours look pleasing while object delineation is just fine, and there's a fine layer of organic grain. However, even in these moments, the Blu-ray still leaves room for improvement. Detailing is merely adequate, though certain moments do stand out more than others. Additionally, this 1080p presentation unfortunately takes on a rather flat appearance as opposed to something more natural and filmic, while the colour palette lacks vibrancy and contrast is often weak. Worse, sporadic instances of unnecessary digital tampering like edge enhancement and noise reduction further spoils the video from time to time. As a result, Chaplin is never able to "pop" like a presentation of a movie shot on 35mm film really should. Nevertheless, Umbrella's disc is still watchable despite its shortcomings, and I've definitely seen worse catalogue Blu-ray releases. Umbrella did what they could with a flawed source, and more casual viewers with smaller TVs probably won't notice many of the shortcomings. Videophiles such as myself, however, will have reservations. I would certainly like to see what a fresh remaster from the original camera negative could look like.
††† Subtitles are included in English (for the hearing impaired), French and Spanish. These are identical to the tracks on the U.S. Lionsgate disc.
Video Ratings Summary
††† The sole audio option for the movie is a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix, which is 24-bit and 48kHz. Luckily, news is much better about this track, which appears to have been suitably remastered and is precisely what we would expect from a movie of this vintage. Of course, audiophiles may bemoan the lack of a 5.1 mix, but as far as I can tell, no 5.1 track has ever been produced for home video - and it would be foolhardy to expect a remix for a title like this, which unfortunately has very little fanfare. Luckily, the audio is stereo rather than mono, and therefore there is perfunctory surround activity to accentuate what is a predominantly front-centric mix. Do not expect any panning effects or precise channel usage, but no real opportunities for such effects crop up since this is a dialogue-driven drama.
††† Prioritisation is consistently pleasing, with clear dialogue and music. The occasional voiceover from Downey and Hopkins sounds a tad muffled, but that presumably traces back to the original recording equipment. Likewise, the audio doesn't boast the impact or crystal-clear clarity of a more recent movie, but I doubt it could ever sound much better due to the movie's age. What matter is that the mix never falls victim to bothersome encoding anomalies, and the source is in great shape. Indeed, there is never any hissing, nor are there pops, clicks, drop-outs or sync issues - it's smooth sailing across the board. Without emerging as demo-worthy in any capacity, Chaplin sounds fine on Blu-ray.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
††† As with all of Umbrella's releases of late, the main menu contains full clips from the movie rather than a montage. (Interestingly, one of the clips contains the word "b******" - it does seem odd to have swearing in a disc menu.) A strictly average supply of supplemental material is included. It's a d*** shame that there's no meaty documentary about the making of this great biopic.
Strolling into the Sunset (SD; 7:29) ††† In this enjoyable and informative featurette, director Richard Attenborough and a number of other interviewees talk about the process of getting the film financed, structuring the movie, and the casting of Downey as Chaplin. Downey's spot-on performance is discussed (he learned to do everything, and worked hard to nail the man's mannerisms), and Attenborough points out that the actor was struggling with drug addiction at the time.
Chaplin the Hero (SD; 6:05) ††† This featurette concentrates on Charlie Chaplin and his place in film history. Interviewees discuss his movies, his brand of physical humour, and the character he played.
The Most Famous Man in the World (SD; 5:27) ††† The same selection of interview participants talk about Chaplin's celebrity status, and the incredible media attention that he would command.
Theatrical Trailer (SD; 2:08) ††† Presented in 480i (at 29.97fps) and framed at 4:3, this is the original theatrical trailer for the movie. Good for historical purposes.
Charlie Chaplin Shorts (720p; 119:36) ††† Six of Chaplin's early short movies are included here. There is no individual movie selection, but Umbrella has supplied chapter stops for each short. The quality, unfortunately, is appalling - it is apparent that these shorts were sourced from a rough old VHS. All of these shorts have been released on Blu-ray, and though I haven't viewed the discs myself, the quality is by all accounts much better, as the movies were extensively restored. Ultimately, this extra feels like a heavy elephant given that these shorts are available in better quality, and you're much better off importing one of the Blu-ray sets.
- The Cute (1917)
- The Floorwalker (1916)
- The Vagabond (1916)
- Behind the Screen (1916)
- The Fireman (1916)
- The Rink (1916)
Image Gallery (HD; 6:16) ††† Another terrific (if too short) gallery assembled by Umbrella (for which you can either navigate manually, or watch the static slideshow), this contains press kit materials, production notes and stills. There are only about 20 images to see here.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
† † Compared to the region free Lionsgate release in the United States, Umbrella's disc misses out on:
††† But Lionsgate's disc misses out on the large collection of Chaplin short movies. In addition, it's worth pointing out that there's a glitch with the Lionsgate Blu-ray which causes the extras to play in a tiny box in the corner of the screen, though apparently later pressings have corrected this issue. (My personal copy has the glitch.)
- All at Sea (2:27) - A home movie that Chaplin made with Paulette Goddard.
††† Meanwhile, the U.K. disc from Optimum Home Entertainment has zero supplements. As far as I can tell, all releases make use of the same master. I'm giving the win to Umbrella for its superior video presentation and the extras, but the lack of "All at Sea" is still slightly disappointing.
††† Chaplin is a borderline excellent biopic. It could stand to be longer, but the strengths of the performances cannot be overstated, and the movie is engrossing. It's definitely worth checking out.
††† Umbrella's Blu-ray features a flawed but nevertheless watchable 1080p video presentation, while the lossless audio is terrific. Although the selection of special features is light, this disc is worth owning. Recommended.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
|DVD||LG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|