Modern Times (1936)

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Released 3-Dec-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Introduction-David Robinson (Chaplin Biographer)
Featurette-Chaplin Today - Modern Times
Outtakes
Deleted Scenes-Nonsense Song (Complete Version)
Karaoke-Nonsense Song
Featurette-Behind The Scenes In The Machine Age
Featurette-Symphony In F
Featurette-Smile, By Liberace
Featurette-For The First Time
Theatrical Trailer-3
Gallery-Photo-250 Production Stills, Deleted Scenes, Preparatory Sketches
Gallery-Poster
Trailer-Scenes From Films In The Chaplin Collection
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1936
Running Time 83:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Version Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Charles Chaplin
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Charles Chaplin
Paulette Goddard
Henry Bergman
Tiny Sandford
Chester Conklin
Hank Mann
Stanley Blystone
Al Ernest Garcia
Richard Alexander
Cecil Reynolds
Mira McKinney
Murdock MacQuarrie
Wilfred Lucas
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Charles Chaplin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Spanish
French
Italian
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Croatian
Czech
Greek
Hungarian
Polish
Turkish
Hebrew
Russian
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
German Titling
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 Tramp has a demeaning job tightening bolts on an assembly line in a factory that makes a product that is never revealed. Driven mad by the conditions (and by an automated feeding machine) he winds up on the streets, then is run into gaol after being mixed up with socialist agitators. Under the influence of drugs, he foils a prison escape and is rewarded with both his freedom and a letter of recommendation, but he is a failure at the jobs he tries. Meanwhile he has met an orphan, the Gamin (Paulette Goddard), and they try to set themselves up as a couple. But the law and poverty are around every corner.

    This was Charles Chaplin's attempt at a comedy which also revealed his concern with the social conditions of the 1930s. In recollection of his underprivileged childhood, Chaplin was deeply affected by the widespread poverty and unemployment of the Depression, and even came up with his own programmes for social reform. His sympathies would land him in trouble in the post-war era, but in 1936 he was able to make a comedy out of other people's adversity. And it was a success, both critically and commercially. This is a very funny film at times, and while there is some of the sentimentality that mars some of his other films, it is never overstated. The usual Chaplin set-pieces are well integrated into the narrative, and the film looks as good as any of his films, with some impressive sets.

    Chaplin felt that if his tramp character spoke on screen, he would lose his universal appeal. So, like his previous film City Lights, this was shot silent with title cards and a score was added later. However, there is some dialogue, but none comes directly from a human source. The Henry Ford look-alike factory owner is heard only over a video screen barking orders. The instructions for the feeding machine are heard on a gramophone record, and there is some plot development through news reports on the radio. Chaplin actually speaks in this film, but only to render the Franco-Italian gibberish song near the end of the film.

    This film was the farewell to the Tramp character that had been Chaplin's alter ego for more than twenty years, and the ending of the film could not be more fitting. Despite being well into his forties, Chaplin is still able to carry off pratfalls and some of his trademark balletic moves. Paulette Goddard is hard to believe as what must have been the oldest Gamin in recorded history, though at the time of filming she and Chaplin had been a couple for four years, and would begin a six-year marriage in the year the film was released. Her acting is a little over the top as well. There are small bits by silent comedians and Keystone Cops Hank Mann (as one of the department store crooks) and Chester Conklin in his trademark enormous moustache as the engineer in the factory.

    I should note here that there are some similarities to a 1931 French film directed by Rene Clair entitled A Nous la Liberté (Liberty For Us). This is especially obvious in the assembly line sequence. Tobis Film sued Chaplin, but did not succeed. However, after the war they sued again and Chaplin settled out of court. Clair himself said that he was flattered and had borrowed much more from Chaplin.

    This is one of the two or three best feature films that Chaplin made, and is still amusing and highly entertaining after almost seventy years.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio seems to have been 1.37:1.

    This is a fine transfer. It is very sharp and clear throughout, with an excellent level of detail. Contrast levels are also excellent, with a fine range of blacks, whites and greys on display. Shadow detail is also very good.

    The only film to video artefacts on display are a few minor instances of aliasing. Grain levels are good, and I am pleased that the mastering did not involve the overuse of noise reduction to remove the grain, as happens too often with older films. You can see the effect of excessive noise reduction in the excerpts from the film contained in some of the extras.

    Film artefacts are also relatively few. There are some minor problems such as flecking and faint scratches, but otherwise the print sourced from Chaplin's personal collection was in excellent condition.

    Subtitles are provided in more languages than you could poke a stick at. The English subtitles are clear and easy to read, and match the few bits of dialogue well.

    The film comes on a single-layer disc, so there is no issue with a layer change.

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

Audio

    There are three audio tracks provided. There is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a German-dubbed 2.0 mix, but the default audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. I listened to the default track in full and sampled the others.

    The audio comes across well in this transfer. At times I thought that the music might have been rerecorded, but that is not the case. The music has a good range of frequencies including bass with some body to it. The few snatches of dialogue are clear. The surround mix is inauthentic but seems to work well, with music heard in all surround channels. There does not appear to be much in the way of low frequency effects. The German version merely replaces the English dialogue, and sounds a little boxy and low fidelity in comparison to the other tracks.

    The music score is credited to one C. Chaplin, though he had considerable assistance from the late David Raksin. Raksin was not content to agree to all of Chaplin's suggestions, and he was fired from the film at one point. This is one of Chaplin's best scores and the music fits the film very well. Good use is made of his most famous tune, which was later adapted into a popular song called Smile.

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

Extras

    The extra material is included on a second disc.

Main Menu Audio

    Music from the score is played under the static menu.

Introduction - David Robinson (6:07)

    The usual spoken introduction to the film from Chaplin's biographer, setting the film in its context.

Featurette - Chaplin Today - Modern Times (26:15)

    Like almost all of the releases in the Chaplin Collection, there is a medium length documentary where a noted filmmaker talks about his or her response to the film. This one is by Phillippe Truffault and features the Belgian film director brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

    An irritation in this film is the incorrect pronunciation by the unnamed narrator of Paulette Goddard's surname, with the final 'd' missing as if she were a French film director. Another is that the featurette is followed by those interminable and unskippable copyright notices.

Outtake (1:42)

    A deleted scene from the film with the Tramp trying unsuccessfully to cross a busy street.

Deleted Scenes - Nonsense Song (Complete Version) (4:14)

    The full version of the nonsense song, including the last verse that was cut from the film. The video quality is less than that of the feature, with a significant drop in sharpness.

Karaoke - Nonsense Song (4:06)

    The complete nonsense song, with karaoke lyrics shown as subtitles. It switches to the lower quality footage mentioned above for the last verse.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes In The Machine Age (42:26)

    This is a 1931 US Government film about improvements in productivity, especially how they affected the work of women. It is presented in its original silent form, with no soundtrack. This makes it harder to watch, but after a dull first half I found the scenes showing how items were manufactured before and after the introduction of automation more interesting.

Featurette - Symphony In F (9:58)

    A 1940 promotional film from the Ford company, without dialogue but with a music soundtrack, in faded colour. It was a chore to watch this, as it is fairly dull, but it is useful as a contrast to the presentation of the assembly line in the main feature.

Featurette - Smile, By Liberace (4:00)

    Liberace sings Smile, from his 1956 television show. He is accompanied by one of those violin-players you would find in a stereotypical Italian restaurant scene in any film of the era. If you like your music with lots of sugar, this is for you. I just wish his brother George had been there.

Featurette - Por Primera Vez/For The First Time (9:12)

    This is a short 1967 Cuban documentary about a travelling film show that reaches a group of farmers and peasants, most of whom have never seen a movie. They talk about what they think it must be like, and then we see their reactions to the film shown, which is of course Modern Times.

Theatrical Trailers (7:16)

    Three trailers for the film, in English, French and German. The last of these is a 1972 reissue trailer that features a talk to camera by a film critic, but it has no subtitles.

Gallery - Photo - 327 Production Stills, Deleted Scenes, Preparatory Sketches

    A huge selection of stills and sketches, together with one short sequence from the completed film to illustrate how the sketch was brought to life. The cover states that there are only 250 items in this section.

Gallery - Poster

    23 original posters for the film.

Trailer - Scenes From Films In The Chaplin Collection (21:24)

    The same selection of excerpts from films in the Chaplin Collection that is included on most 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.

    The film was originally released on DVD in Region 1 by Image Entertainment, in an edition prepared by Film Preservation Associates. This release is no longer available, but it was window-boxed in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Extras included a 17-minute interview with David Raksin, production notes and a half-hour "slideshow" detailing the feeding machine sequence, including storyboards and production notes. The audio quality is said to be inferior to the newer releases.

    The Region 2 versions from Warner/Mk2 appear to be identical to the Region 4. However, the film was also available as part of a boxed set of the Chaplin Collection, and this set had a bonus disc containing a two-hour documentary by film critic Richard Schickel.

    The Region 1 release from Warner were apparently made from the PAL masters created by Mk2, and thus not only have ghosting effects but also PAL speedup. The image is also slightly cropped in comparison with the Region 2 releases.

Summary

    One of Chaplin's best.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio transfer is very good.

    The extras are pretty good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, November 05, 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.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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