City Lights (1931)

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Released 16-Mar-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Introduction-David Robinson (Chaplin Biographer)
Featurette-Chaplin Today - City Lights
Outtakes
Featurette-Shooting
Featurette-Georgia Hale Screen Test
Featurette-The Dream Prince, Rehearsal
Featurette-Chaplin And Boxing Stars, Winston Churchill's Visit
Featurette-Chaplin Speaks!
Featurette-Trip To Bali
Short Film-The Champion (1915) Excerpt
Gallery-Photo
Gallery-Poster
Theatrical Trailer-3
Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1931
Running Time 82:40
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Charles Chaplin
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Virginia Cherrill
Florence Lee
Harry Myers
Al Ernest Garcia
Hank Mann
Charles Chaplin
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Charles Chaplin
Josť Padilla


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 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.13:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles French
Spanish
Italian
German
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Hebrew
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Czech
Greek
Hungarian
Polish
Turkish
Russian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

††† City Lights is Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece. While the story is simple, it is brilliantly told and features two ideal performances in the leading roles.

††† This romantic comedy starts with a ceremony for the unveiling of a statue dedicated to "Peace and Prosperity". When the covering cloth is ceremonially removed, it reveals the sleeping Tramp curled up on one of the figures. Sent on his way, he stumbles through traffic into a flower stall run by a beautiful young woman (Virginia Cherrill). Realising she is blind, the Tramp buys a flower from her. The girl mistakenly assumes that he is a wealthy man.

†† In the next scene, the Tramp saves a drunken millionaire (Harry Myers) from drowning himself. In gratitude the millionaire takes the Tramp into his home. They go out and both get drunk. The next morning the Tramp sees the flower girl again and, having bought all of her flowers, takes her home in the millionaire's expensive car.

††† Now sober, the millionaire does not recognise the Tramp, and has him thrown out. But when he is drunk, which is just about every night, he instantly remembers him and takes him home or to parties. During this time the Tramp visits the blind girl frequently. Learning of a Viennese doctor who can cure blindness, he determines to raise the money for her operation.

††† This film has some very funny sequences, most notably the lengthy prize fight between the tramp and a fighter played by former Keystone Cop Hank Mann. Chaplin deftly mixes the comic sequences with the central love story between the Tramp and the blind girl who has mistaken him for a rich man. Virginia Cherrill, in her first film role, is ideal as the blind girl, mainly because with her lack of training she did not bring any artifice to her portrayal. Chaplin also understates his performance, and the final, ambiguous sequence between them is deeply moving.

††† Chaplin took a big risk in releasing this, his last truly silent film, in 1931 when the silent era was to all intents and purposes over. He recognised, though, that he could not give his Tramp character a voice, as it would destroy his international appeal. It remained Chaplin's favourite amongst his own films.

††† The present DVD release includes the film on disc one and extras on disc two, and the transfer comes from Chaplin's own print.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† The film is presented in a windowboxed aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. What the original aspect ratio was is problematic. The film was shot silent, probably in 1.33:1, and an optical soundtrack was added later. The addition of the optical soundtrack meant the frame had to be cropped and this reduced the aspect ratio to 1.13:1.

††† The image is reasonably sharp although it is not perfectly so. It has a slightly flat look, much like other films of the time, probably due to the stock that was used. It is bright enough but the contrast seems to have been turned up a little too much, reducing the amount of detail visible in shadows and darker scenes. There is also a flicker due to the varying brightness of each frame.

††† There is some mild edge enhancement in some scenes and some even milder aliasing. Telecine wobble is present throughout and there is some vertical shaking, though this is not disturbing.

††† Film artefacts are few. The print has some dirt and white flecks, and some occasional faint scratches. However these are not severe and the film looks pretty good for a 73 year old film.

††† The film is presented on a single layered disc with optional subtitles in 17 languages.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† There are two audio tracks, Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1. The 2.0 track is the default track. The 5.1 track gives a wider front soundstage without really adding anything to the listening experience, and I preferred the default track.

††† The film contains the original soundtrack, and for a 73 year soundtrack it sounds superb. There is little or no audible hiss, and the audio has as much body and definition as the newer soundtracks for the other releases in this series. This audio transfer could be described as of reference quality for an early sound era film.

††† There is of course no dialogue, though the speeches of the dignitaries in the opening sequence are dubbed by what sounds like a kazoo. The score is by Chaplin himself and contains some memorable music, though the theme for the flower seller was borrowed from another composer.

††† There are no noticeable problems with audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† As with each of these releases, a feature commentary would have been good, but there are a lot of extras on the second, dual-layered disc. There is no layer change on this disc.

Introduction (5:24)

††† The usual introduction to the film by film historian and biographer David Robinson.

Chaplin Today: City Lights (26:47)

††† This featurette is by Serge Bromberg and looks at the production of the film, plus has an interview with Aardman animator Peter Lord, who once made a Claymation film with a Chaplin character. This is one of the better efforts of these Chaplin Collection featurettes.

Outtake (7:06)

††† This is a quite funny sequence that Chaplin did not think fitted into the film. It shows him trying to dislodge a piece of wood from a grating in the street, and shows how such a simple idea can contain a lot of humour.

The Champion (9:31)

††† This is the second reel of this 1915 two-reeler, which features a boxing match similar to the one in City Lights. This film was made for Essanay, the name of the studio coming from the initials of George Spoor and Gilbert M. Anderson (S. and A.). Anderson was the first star of westerns. He played several small roles in the famous 1903 film The Great Train Robbery, then for the next two decades played a screen character named Broncho Billy with great success. Anderson has a small role in this film. He appears in the front row wearing a cap and smoking a cigar, sitting to the left (as we view it) of the film's villain, who is played by Leo White in top hat, long moustache and evening dress. Chaplin returned the favour by playing a cameo in Anderson's film His Regeneration of the same year. No audio.

Shooting (8:02)

††† Home movie footage in poor condition of the shooting of the sequence where the Tramp first meets the blind flower-seller.

Georgia Hale screen test (6:30)

††† The test that the star of The Gold Rush made of the final sequence in the film. It is quite clear that the film would have been the lesser if Cherrill had been replaced. No audio.

The Dream Prince (1:10)

††† This footage shows a test for Chaplin dressed as an Erich von Stroheim-type, for a sequence that showed how the blind girl imagined her benefactor. This sequence was not filmed. No audio.

Rehearsal (1:25)

††† Chaplin rehearsing the sequence early in the film where he is admiring a statue in a shop window. The footage is in poor condition, with no audio.

Chaplin and Boxing Stars (4:37)

††† Some footage from around 1918 showing Chaplin hamming it up with a couple of professional boxers, Harry Mansell and Benny Leonard, visiting his studio. No audio.

Winston Churchill's Visit (1:59)

††† A little-known British politician visits the film set. No audio.

Chaplin Speaks! (3:29)

††† An Austrian newsreel showing Chaplin arriving for the premiere of the film in Vienna in 1931. This is the first time he spoke on film. Two words. In German. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Trip to Bali (9:57)

††† Home movie footage of Charlie and his film star brother Syd and their families on their holiday in Bali in 1932. No audio. The video quality is reasonable.

Photo Gallery (9:36)

††† Photos from the production and publicity stills. There are also some photos taken of advertising for the film in Italy in 1954.

Film Posters

††† 26 posters from various countries and eras.

Trailers (8:24)

††† Three trailers. American and French trailers from the reissue, plus an original German trailer from the early 1930s. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and no subtitles are provided.

The Chaplin Collection (10:43)

††† Highlights from each film in the collection, this is the same promotional material that appears on all of these discs.

R4 vs R1

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

††† A previous version of this film has been released in Region 1 by Film Preservation Associates on CBS/Fox/Image. This version was in an aspect ratio of 1.13:1, which appears to be the original aspect ratio. There is a comparison between the this version and the Warners edition on www.dvdbeaver.com. This comparison shows that the Warners version is cropped, and that the image quality of the earlier release is superior. This version also contained an alternative audio track with a 1989 recording of a reconstruction of the original score by Carl Davis, who also conducts and features in a short interview. If you have this version, then hold onto it, and get the Region 4 if the extras appeal. Note that the earlier Region 1 is no longer available, having been withdrawn in favour of the new edition.

††† The same content as the Region 4 is also available in Regions 1 and 2. The Region 1 has digital artefacting (motion blurring and ghosting) caused by conversion from PAL to NTSC format using a flawed PAL standard definition digital transfer, so it can be ruled out. The Region 2 seems to be identical to the Region 4, so in terms of cost and availability I will award this to the Region 4.

Summary

††† For me this is the highlight of the Chaplin Collection, a great film that everyone should see. A worthwhile purchase, unless you have the earlier Region 1 disc. Even then, the extras are enticing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, March 19, 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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