The Chaplin Revue (1959) Poster

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9/10
Three classic comedies, available again after a long hibernation
wmorrow5931 July 2004
In the late 1940s there was a short film series entitled "Flicker Flashbacks," in which excerpts from silent dramas featuring the likes of Mary Pickford and Blanche Sweet were played for laughs. Scratchy clips from antiquated old movies were rearranged, projected too fast, and given an overlay of jangly music and lame quips. The attitude expressed through this brutal treatment pretty much summed up mid-century Hollywood's view of its early days: silent cinema was considered hokey, florid, a little embarrassing, and only good for a chuckle. During the 1950s this attitude gradually began to change for a number of reasons. James Agee's famous 1949 essay on the silent clowns for Life Magazine was a factor, but television played a major role in reacquainting viewers with silent movies. Admittedly, the TV networks sometimes handled the material almost as crudely as the "Flicker Flashbacks" people, but high-toned series such as "Silents, Please" treated the films with respect. Another milestone was Robert Youngson's compilation feature The Golden Age of Comedy, which proved to be something of a surprise hit when it was released to theaters late in 1957.

I don't know if Charles Chaplin was aware of Youngson's film or its success at the box office, but it was around this time that he decided to launch a theatrical re-release of three of his best short comedies, A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms (both made in 1918), and The Pilgrim (made in 1922 and released the following year). These three movies happened to work well as a trio since they contrast nicely in plot, theme, and setting. In addition, all three offer familiar faces from Chaplin's stock company, some of whom play multiple roles in each short. At the time of the re-release the films hadn't been publicly screened in many years, so perhaps Chaplin might also have been concerned about maintaining his reputation with a new generation of movie-goers, especially since his best work was seldom shown on television in the new medium's early days.

Unfortunately, Chaplin apparently concluded that the films moved too quickly at the old silent projection speed, so he made the decision to "stretch-print" them, which meant that every other frame was printed twice. Maybe he wanted to avoid the 'Flicker Flashbacks' look, but from posterity's point of view this wasn't the best way to go about it. Aesthetically speaking, the results were awful and practically destroyed the movies' flow of action. Nonetheless, that's how The Chaplin Revue was released to theaters in 1959, and that's the version that was transferred to video and made commercially available by Playhouse Video in the 1980s. I purchased a VHS copy of the movie at the time, and was terribly disappointed with the jerky, stop-and-start rhythm of the films.

It's a relief to find that David Shepard's restoration of Chaplin's compilation (originally produced for the laser-disc format) is an improvement over the Playhouse Video version. The "stretch-printing" has been modified, though not entirely, and the action does seem to lag a bit at times. For example: in A Dog's Life during Edna and Charlie's awkward dance in the Green Lantern Café, Edna's bare arms appear visibly blurred; at another point, during the trench scene in Shoulder Arms when Charlie is relieved from sentry duty, the action appears oddly slowed-down for a few moments, although this may be the result of a maneuver by the film restorers to cover a bit of decomposition. Over all, picture quality is fantastic considering the age of the movies themselves.

Other bonuses: The Revue begins with rare behind-the-scenes footage taken at the Chaplin studio. This includes shots of an obviously staged, jokey rehearsal session where Chaplin throttles diminutive actor Loyal Underwood, as well as scenes of Charlie at his dressing table putting on his makeup and trimming the famous mustache. These scenes are accompanied by Chaplin's narration, delivered at a rapid clip. Chaplin also composed a new musical score for the compilation, and I feel his themes for The Revue rank with his best compositions, especially the pieces used during the café sequence in A Dog's Life. The one exception, in my opinion, is the song written for The Pilgrim, a pseudo Singin' Cowboy number called "Bound for Texas," sung 1950s style by Matt Monro (sounding rather like Gene Autry), which is distractingly anachronistic and out of place. Otherwise, throughout the rest of The Revue, the music is perfectly suited to the action and the atmosphere.

The Image release of The Chaplin Revue is, in a sense, its long postponed debut, presenting these classic comedies in a more watchable and enjoyable form than what audiences saw in 1959 -- though still not, it should be added, the best possible version. Here's hoping that a newly restored edition might some day present these films the way they should be seen.
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9/10
Great films but not ideally represented
FinnurE29 April 2006
The three shorts included on this compilation issued in 1959 are timeless Chaplin classics, nothing wrong with them and nothing to criticize either. Chaplin's score for these films and the framework added as bridging sections between the shorts are also well done. The problem with this compilation is a minor one, yet annoying. The shorts have been stretch-printed to fit the 24 frame p.s. speed of contemporary films whereas the shorts themselves where shot at 20 frames p.s. This results is jerky motion that doesn't look very attractive, and yet this was an excusable solution given the limitations of optical printing technology at the time, it's just not excusable that the current DVD version is unrestored, the films look dirty as they did in 1959 and are still stretch printed. There are separate restored versions of these classics available, even on DVD, and it would not be a problem to restore the image, but alas this has not been done.

A minor quibble has taken up a lot of space in my article, but I say again a minor quibble, it should not detract all that much from the experience although it detracted one point from my rating. The shorts are still worth '10'.
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A Great Opportunity to See Three Classic Comedies
Snow Leopard21 September 2001
The "Chaplin Revue" is a re-edited version of three of Chaplin's classic silent comedies, spliced around some brief but interesting comments by Chaplin himself. It is a great opportunity to see three of his classic short features that are otherwise hard to find. They have a slightly different feel from the original versions, in that the pace is a bit slower, and there is new music. But it's still the same Charlie Chaplin slapstick plus worthwhile observations on humanity.

"Shoulder Arms" is the best of the three, ranking among the finest of all of Chaplin's pictures, and is a nearly flawless feature. The other two are very good as well. "A Dog's Life" features a very nice balance between slapstick humor and sympathetic characters, and "The Pilgrim" features some of Chaplin's favorite themes of identity mix-ups and interplay between different social classes.

The "Revue" is well worth seeing, either for Chaplin fans or for anyone looking for an introduction to some of his shorter, less famous works.
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Chaplin re-cuts and re-issues three gems from the past!
Matt Barry6 February 1999
THE CHAPLIN REVUE is one of those films that seems like a curse to some and a blessing to others. For people just looking for some classic Chaplin, circa 1918-1923, this is the place. But for hardcore Chaplin fans this film seems somewhat of a let-down. Chaplin took three comedy classics of his-A DOG'S LIFE, SHOULDER ARMS, and THE PILGRIM-and tampered with them to create a new revue film. He stretch-printed them, which was supposed to slow them down to sound speed, but only succeeded in marring the pace, which is the thing that made these slapstick shorts so magical in the first place. Then again, this film offers these three masterpieces to a whole new generation of viewers, who, if they haven't seen the originals, will be just as pleased by this sampling of Chaplin at his comic best.
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9/10
wonderful overview of the types of shorts made by Chaplin
MartinHafer5 May 2006
Most of Chaplin's most famous films are his full-length features. And, I assume most people have at most seen only a few clips of him from his pre-feature days when he starred in dozens and dozens of comedy shorts. This is really a shame, as some wonderful shorts are pretty much waiting to be discovered by the world in the 21st century.

If someone watches this film they have an excellent chance to see some of Chaplin's better shorts because Chaplin himself chose these three shorts and strung them together with a bit of narration to make this 1959 feature film. This is great for several reasons. First, in Chaplin's earliest films from 1914-1915, his character of the Little Tramp is still in its earliest incarnations or is absent altogether. Plus, even when he is there, he was often mean-spirited and self-centered--something very alien from the Little Tramp we have grown to love. Second, because the shorts that were chosen were in great condition, if you watch this film you won't need to worry about watching scratchy film with gaps and lousy musical accompaniment that doesn't fit the action (a common problem).

So, for a great look at Chaplin's shorts at their finest, give this film a chance. It's sure to provide you some excellent laughs.
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5/10
three classic comedies nearly ruined in retrospect
Michael Neumann9 November 2010
Three of Charlie Chaplin's classic short features – 'A Dog's Life', 'Shoulder Arms', and 'The Pilgrim' – are packaged here into an essential collection, but with a serious flaw: when he compiled the review in 1958 Chaplin hung a cloud around the silver lining of his own timeless pantomime technique by carelessly 'updating' each selection for contemporary audiences with crude step-printing and indiscriminate music scoring. The tampering severely crippled his comic rhythm, but with a little mental arithmetic it's still possible to laugh loud and long. The weakest of the three films is the enormously popular World War One spoof 'Shoulder Arms', which enlisted the Little Tramp as a cheerleader for the war effort, but the other two are minor masterpieces of comic invention, highlighted by more than one classic, much imitated routine. The pathos that would later enrich Chaplin's later features is all but absent, leaving only pure, unadulterated comedy.
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10/10
A Chaplin Compilation of 3 Chaplin Shorts; all Written, Directed, Acted, Produced and Scored by Charles Chaplin. Boy Schultz, he was a regular Jerry Lewis!
John T. Ryan14 January 2009
Hearkening back to those "Good Old Days" of 1971, we can vividly recall when we were treated with a whole Season of Charles Chaplin at the Cinema. That's what the promotional guy called it when we saw him on somebody's old talk show. (We can't recall just whose it was; either MERV GRIFFIN or WOODY WOODBURY, one or the other!) The guest talked about Sir Charles' career and how his films had been out of circulation ever since the 1952 exclusion of the former "Little Tramp' from Los Estados Unidos on the grounds of his being an "undesirable Alien". (No Schultz, he's NOT from another Planet!)

CHARLIE had been deemed to be a 'subversive' due to his interest and open inquiry into various Political and Economic Systems. Everything from the Anarchist movement from the '20s (and before), the Technocracy craze to Socialism in its various forms were fair game for discussion at Chaplin's Hollywood parties; which of course meant the inclusion of the Soviet style, which we commonly call Communism.

COMPOUNDING Mr. Chaplin's predicament was both confounded by one little detail. He had never become an American Citizen.

ANYHOW, enough of this background already!

SUFFICE it to say that he had become 'Persona Non Gratis' in the United States of America. .It was high time to get the old films out of the mothballs and back out to the Movie Houses. It'd sure be a great gesture by us easily forgiving and quickly forgetting Americanos.

IT would be a fine gesture to the great film making artist; besides, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences was planning to honor Chaplin with a special tribute at the 1972 Oscar Show. This would surely be a tearful yet joyous packaging of pathos a plenty for having America invite Charlie back and have him come and receive a special Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in front of a World-wide Television Audience numbering in the Millions.

BESIDES, that would be a natural for promoting the Chaplin Season at the Theatre! (Remember, the Little Tramp was as astute as a Bu$ine$$ Man as he was as a Film Maker!) THE program consisted of showings of MODERN TIMES, CITY LIGHTS, THE GREAT DICTATOR, MONSEUR VERDOUX, A KING IN NEW YORK and finally THE CHAPLIN REVUE. We remember being very excited in the anticipation of the multi date film fest.

IN our fair city of Chicago, it was booked for the Carnegie Theatre on Rush Street. The festivities lead off with MODERN TIMES and all of the others would be shown one at a time, each staying for whatever period was necessary in order to satisfy the public's desire to view each picture. As we recall, the very last on the schedule was THE CHAPLIN REVUE.

IN RETROSPECT, we look back and wish that they had begun the run with REVUE; as there were undoubtedly legions of moviegoers (much like ourselves) who knew very little about his accomplishments in motion pictures, except for those Keystone, Essanay and Mutual Silent Shorts that were being shown as regular feature on so, so many Kiddy Shows all over the country. Oh well, once again, no one consulted me!

CONCENTRATING on today's honored guest film, THE CHAPLIN REVUE, we found that it was actually three separate pictures; carefully bound together by the use of narration by Chaplin (Himself), some lively Themes and Incidental Music (once again written by Chaplin) and some happy talk and serious narration (Ditto, by Chaplin.) He opens up the proceedings by making use of some home movie-type of film depicting the construction of the Chaplin Studio in Hollywood, as well as some film taken of some rehearsal time, showing Director Chaplin demonstrating just what he wants to a group of actors.

THIS segment was well done and well received by the audience. Both the building humor and the rehearsal were amplified by making them seem accelerated. (The rehearsal naturally, the building by use of speeding up the camera's photographic process. The old trick makes it appear that the buildings were almost building themselves.

THIS amalgam of shorts incorporated three of Chaplin's short comedies from his stint with First National Pictures.; roughly that being 1917 to 1923. The choice was well thought out and gave us a wide variety of subject matter and mood.

FIRST up was SHOULDER ARMS (Charles Chaplin Productions/First National Pictures, 1918). As the title suggests, it is a tale of World War I. Released in October of 1918 with about a month to go before the Armistice Day of November 11, it was a comedy of comical Army gags and a romance between Private Chaplin and a French Girl (Miss Edna Purviance). The levity is fast, physical and in the grand old tradition of ridiculing the Enemy, the German Army.

DISPLAYING an excellent example of the old adage about Children and Dogs bringing folks together, the next film A DOG'S LIFE (Chaplin Productions/First National, 1918) traces the parallel lives of Chaplin's Tramp and a newly adopted stray, Scraps. The movie story involves families, two of them. One Homo Sapiens, one Canine and both supplying us with some big surprises.

AS the finale, we have THE PILGRIM (Chaplin/First National, 1923) was a good choice to have as the finale. It was bright, light and tight. It was an excursion into the area of the Western Spoof, Comedies of such type having been done since by every comedian and team. The "Pilgrim" in the story is not of your standard Thanksgiving Variety; but rather a "dude" or "Tenderfoot", who has ventured out West. The Tramp is not only that guy; but his character is an escaped Convict who is mistakenly thought to be the new Clergyman of a Western town's Church!

OUR Rating (that is Schultz and Me) is ****. (That's Four Derbies)

POODLE SCHNITZ!!
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