The Kid (1921)

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Released 16-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Introduction-David Robinson (Chaplin Biographer)
Featurette-Chaplin Today - The Kid
Deleted Scenes-3
Featurette-How To Make Movies (1918)
Short Film-My Boy (1921)
Featurette-Jackie Coogan Dances (1920)
Featurette-Nice And Friendly (1922)
Featurette-Charlie On The Ocean (1921)
Featurette-Jackie Coogan In Paris (1924)
Featurette-Recording The New Score (1971)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Chaplin Collection
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1921
Running Time 50:24
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Charles Chaplin

Warner Home Video
Starring Charles Chaplin
Edna Purviance
Jackie Coogan
Baby Hathaway
Carl Miller
Granville Redmond
May White
Tom Wilson
Henry Bergman
Charles Reisner
Raymond Lee
Lita Grey
Edith Wilson
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Charles Chaplin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles French
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Kid was Charlie Chaplin's first attempt at directing a feature-length film. Released in early 1921, the film was a huge success, critically and commercially.

   The story begins with an unwed mother (Edna Purviance) leaving her newborn baby in the back of a limousine, hoping that the wealthy owners will take him in. The car is almost immediately stolen by two thieves, who later find the baby and leave him in an alley next to a garbage bin. The mother returns having had second thoughts, but the limousine has disappeared.

    Enter the Tramp (Chaplin, of course), who finds the baby and takes him in. Cut to five years later. The baby has grown up into Jackie Coogan. Together they work a scam; the Kid throws stones at windows and the Tramp repairs them. When the Kid takes sick, the doctor sees the squalor in which they live and arranges for the child to be taken away by the authorities to an orphanage. The Tramp takes the Kid back from the orphanage wagon and together they go on the run.

    This film was a sideways step into sentiment for Chaplin. His previous films consisted mostly of his balletic slapstick, sometimes with pathos but usually concentrating on humour. In the longer form, Chaplin creates a more fully rounded story that has time for both comedy and pathos. But the sentiment is usually immediately punctured by a gag, so the film does not become bogged down in self-absorption.

    The Kid is a superb film, much better than I had remembered it as being, part of which is due to the quality of presentation on this DVD. I defy even the hardest of hearts to be unmoved by the sequence where the Kid pleads not to be taken away to the orphanage.

    One of the strengths of this film is the performance of six year old Jackie Coogan in his first major screen performance. He is natural and unaffected, and gives a realistic performance that few child actors have matched. Chaplin too proves himself to be an actor as well as a physical comedian. He was a talented director too, much better than most critics allow, and his handling of the actors and of the slapstick sequences is faultless.

    Chaplin's usual leading lady, Edna Purviance, does not have a lot to do as the mother, which can be attributed to the bout of drinking that led Chaplin to consider removing her from the film.

    The present release is of the 1971 reissue, from which Chaplin cut some material and for which a score was added. Part of the motivation for the new version was to regain copyright control over the film, as all films released in the US prior to 1923 are in the public domain. This DVD contains two discs. The film itself is on disc one, and disc two contains supplementary material, including the cut material.

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Transfer Quality


    The aspect ratio of this transfer is 1.33:1 and it is of course not 16x9 enhanced. The image is window-boxed. That is to say that there is a small black border on all sides of the image. This is more noticeable on a computer monitor than on a television. The original aspect ratio of this film was 1.33:1, which was the standard aspect ratio for films in the times prior to the existence of optical soundtracks. The aspect ratio of the film image seems to be closer to 1.35:1 than 1.33:1, but the difference is minimal. However, compared to earlier DVD transfers of this film, this image seems to be cropped slightly at the top and right of the picture.

    The image is quite sharp, much more so than either of the two previous DVD transfers I have seen. The image is quite luminous as well. On the other hand, the contrast levels have been boosted a little too much, reducing the level of shadow detail available. There is also some flicker caused by varying brightness levels between frames.

    Unlike the previous release in this series of Limelight, aliasing and motion blurring are almost entirely absent from this transfer. There is some evidence of edge enhancement, but it only appears infrequently and is not an issue. There is telecine wobble throughout, as well as vertical jitter, but this is only slightly distracting. Given that only the film is contained on disc one, there should not be any compression issues, even though only 2.6Gb are used on this disc.

    Film artefacts appear regularly, but are limited to flecks and faint scratches. In terms of artefacts this film looks very good for its age. Grain levels are kept to a minimum.

    The film is presented on a single layered disc, with a choice of 17 subtitle languages.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks. The default is Dolby Digital 2.0, and there is an alternative 5.1 mix. I listened to the default track and sampled the second track.

    Audio is quite clear and distinct and free of hiss, although it does show its age. The audio comprises an orchestral score for the film composed by Charlie Chaplin himself for the 1971 reissue. Actually, Chaplin's composing method was to hum tunes to Eric James, who wrote down the melodies (Chaplin could not read music). The scores were then arranged and orchestrated by Eric Rogers. Eric James has apparently alleged that Chaplin had very little to do with the score for this film, which is functional if not particularly memorable.

    In my opinion the surround remix does not add anything to the film viewing experience over the two channel mix, so this will be a matter of personal preference for listeners. The surround speakers and subwoofer are used sparingly and do not draw attention to themselves.

    Audio sync is of course not an issue.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A generous selection of extras are offered on a second, dual-layered, disc, with all items fully on one layer or the other, meaning no layer change is present. All that is missing in terms of extras is an audio commentary on disc one.

Main Menu Audio

    Music from the film is played for the static menu. The menus are available in several languages, selected prior to the display of the main menu.

Introduction (5:22)

    An introduction by Chaplin biographer David Robinson, giving some background information about the film.

Chaplin Today: The Kid (26:12)

    A featurette by Alain Bergala with background information about the production. About half of this film is taken up with an interview with Abbas Kiarostami, an Iranian filmmaker whose films have some similarities with The Kid. This segment is way overlong and does not add much to our understanding of the film.

Scenes Deleted in 1971 (5:46)

    These are the three scenes which made in into the original release of the film, but were removed by Chaplin when the film was reissued in 1971. I think the film makes more sense with these scenes included, all of which feature the mother character played by Edna Purviance. These could have been included on disc one with a seamless branching option so that you could watch the film with or without them.

How To Make Movies (15:55)

    A short film made in 1918 that was not released. Chaplin tried to include this as part of his contracted short films for First National, but they refused to accept it. The film has a stop-motion sequence showing the building of Chaplin's new studios on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, buildings which still exist today. Then there is a tour of the studio, with some rehearsal sequences and footage of a golf sketch featuring Eric Campbell, Chaplin's enormous stooge in many films who had died in a car accident in 1917.

    This film was reconstructed and completed by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill in 1982. There is no audio.

My Boy (54:57)

    A complete feature film starring Jackie Coogan released in 1921. This film also stars Claude Gillingwater, already typecast as the crusty old curmudgeon with a heart of gold unveiled by his relationship with a child, a role he would play with Shirley Temple several times in the 1930s. The story has orphan Jackie arriving in New York from France. Running away from authorities who want to deport him, he is taken in by the Captain (Gillingwater). Unknown to either is that Jackie is the grandson of a wealthy old dowager.

    This is an unrestored print, which means that dirt, scratches and all sorts of film artefacts abound. The transfer is quite sharp and this is certainly watchable, although it is nowhere near as good as the main feature. Unfortunately, no audio has been provided.

Jackie Coogan Dances (1:23)

    A short film showing Coogan dancing for studio visitors in 1920.

Nice and Friendly (10:50)

    A professionally-done home movie by the Accidental Film Company complete with titles, featuring Chaplin and Coogan and starring Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten, who were friends of Chaplin. No audio, but the video quality is very good for a film of this vintage.

Charlie On The Ocean (3:57)

    This is newsreel footage of Chaplin's journey to England for the premiere of The Kid, the first time he had returned to his native land since starting in movies. It shows him clowning with passengers on board ship before being mobbed on arrival in Southampton. There is no audio.

Jackie Coogan in Paris (1:40)

    Coogan in Paris in 1924 for a publicity tour. No audio.

Recording the New Score (1:56)

    A short piece showing the 82-year old Chaplin being coerced by (I presume) Eric Rogers into conducting a short sequence of the score for the reissue of The Kid. In Dolby Digital 2.0. The colour footage looks grainy and slightly faded.

Photo Gallery (3:04)

    Production stills and publicity shots from the film, each displayed for four seconds. There are also some stills of Coogan visiting the set of Modern Times in 1935.

Film Posters

    A series of posters from various countries and eras.

Trailers (8:05)

    Three trailers in reasonable condition from the 1971 reissue. The first is American, the second German and the third Dutch. All are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and no subtitles. The Dutch trailer is in unenhanced widescreen.

The Chaplin Collection (10:43)

    The same excerpts from the releases in the Chaplin Collection that is included on all of these releases.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As this is a film in the public domain, there are several editions available. I have previously acquired two multi-region discs, both sourced from the USA. One is from Navarre Corporation, presented on a disc containing three films, the other two being G. W. Pabst's The Joyless Street with Greta Garbo, and The Extra Girl, starring Mabel Normand. Both of these are silent as well. The picture quality is reasonable but inferior to the new release, although the latter is slightly cropped in comparison. This version includes the deleted material and runs 67:47, but the opening title is missing.

    The other edition I have is from Koch Vision and also includes two other Chaplin films: the feature length Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914) and The Cure (1917), a short. The Kid looks like it has been copied from an earlier laserdisc. The picture quality is inferior to the new issue, although it includes the deleted scenes and again is not as cropped as the Warner edition. The running time is 68:28 and the music score is a generic one which does not suit the film.

    In comparison to both of these, the Region 4 image seems to be slightly stretched vertically. It is hard to tell which is the correct vertical height, so I would conclude that this is not a significant issue.

    There was also a release from Film Preservation Associates released on CBS/Fox/Image which is no longer available. Hearsay evidence suggests that the image quality was better on this version, however that was in comparison to the problematic Region 1 versions of this DVD, which I will deal with below. This disc contained a copy of Chaplin's contract with the First National Company. Also included was a sequence from the compilation film The Chaplin Revue, which appears itself to be an extract from How To Make Movies with narration by Chaplin himself. This disc was withdrawn from sale prior to the release of the Warners discs.

    Region 1 also has an equivalent release from Warner with the same contents. However, Warner were supplied by MK2 with a standard definition digital transfer in PAL format which they converted to NTSC, resulting in severe digital artefacts, including ghosting and motion blurring. The version in Region 4 is from the original PAL transfer, which means that we do not have these artefacts.

    The Region 2 editions appear to be identical to the Region 4, so on the basis of image quality, availability and cost I will call the Region 4 the winner.


    One of the most famous silent films, The Kid still has the power to bring "a smile- and perhaps, a tear", as the opening title has it. This film should be in everyone's collection.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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Comments (Add)
R4 vs R1 - one other factor -
Quick question - frame speed - garumph (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
Silent movie speed -