Review by Michael Jacobson
Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard
Director: Charles Chaplin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 83 Minutes
Release Date: July 1, 2003
get a home…even if I have to WORK for it!”
has a favorite Chaplin film…or if they don’t, they should get one.
My pick has always been Modern Times.
may lack the poignancy of City Lights or the pluck of The Gold Rush, but
for sheer comedy value, Times gives you the most for your money.
It maintains a comic energy from start to finish and features Chaplin as
star, director and writer in top form. His
gags have never been so well constructed, perfectly timed or superbly executed. And in this film, you get humor in both quality and quantity.
had a gift for making people laugh at their troubles, and in the throes of the
Great Depression, Chaplin returned that gift to the people when, in 1936, he
released a hilarious but pointed statement about economic woes and the rise of
the industrial age. Henry Ford’s
introduction of the assembly line into America’s work force created jobs, but
as Chaplin pointed out, the machines sometimes dehumanized the men who became
cogs in them.
demonstrates this beautifully in two memorable scenes where men actually get
literally caught up in the machines they man…the opening bit, which features
Chaplin’s hysterical exploits as a bolt tightener on a line that moves faster
and faster until he ends up sucked in, and a later bit where his boss ends up
almost hopelessly entangled in the machinery.
The comedy is visual, and of course, symbolic as well.
that’s only part of the Tramp’s woes in this film. In hysterical sequences, he gets mistaken for a Communist
leader, does a dangerous bit of roller skating in a department store (this bit
will have you wincing with delight), tries to serve a roast duck dinner through
a volatile sea of humanity, and ends up singing a nonsense song at a dinner show
when he forgets the words!
movie’s more tender moments come from his pairing up with real life spouse
Paulette Goddard playing an orphaned girl who loses her family and tries to
survive as best she knows how. The
chemistry between the two is genuine and winning…it’s no wonder the two
remained friends even after their marriage ended.
they bring to Modern Times isn’t so much a romance as it is a reminder
of hope. Here are two people who
seem to have sunk as low as they can go, but by the end of the movie, they
stroll off toward the future believing in one another and facing tomorrow with
optimism instead of despair. And
while the laughs are big and plentiful throughout, your final smile brought
about by these two characters will linger long as you switch discs to check out
the DVD’s features.
guess the reason I love this movie so much is that even though Charles Chaplin
was a genius in many ways, he was a comedian first and foremost, and Modern
Times is arguably his most generous banquet of laughs.
Previously, he had touched our hearts in City Lights, and he would
go on to raise his voice and make a marked stand for humanity against the
onslaught of fascism in The Great Dictator.
But in between, he proved that we could still laugh in spite of the
world going crazy around us. That,
to me, is Chaplin at his finest.
new Warner editions of these classics impress greatly…Modern Times looks
better than ever with its new digital transfer. This is a clean, crisp black and white presentation with
remarkable detail and very little in the way of signs of age.
The department store and factory scenes really come alive with little
details that I’d never noticed before. Lines
are crisp and solid, blacks are deep and whites are crystal.
If this picture could look any better than it does here, it’s beyond my
capacity to imagine.
5.1 remixes are glorious! Chaplin
composed his own music for his films, and his scores are always lively, dynamic,
and charming, and benefit greatly from DVD’s audio capabilities.
The open surround orchestration makes the listening experience come to
life, and even the .1 channel gets plenty of action from the bass.
Chaplin’s synchronized sound effects and select bits of dialogue are
also a plus. The balance is nice;
nothing overshadows or overwhelms anything else.
The original mono track is also included.
interesting array of features complete the double disc experience, starting with
a 26 minute reflective documentary on the movie (mostly in French, but dubbed)
and an introduction by Chaplin biographer David Robinson.
Two rare deleted scenes are here, including the one-extra verse version
of Chaplin’s song and a street crossing sequence, plus a karaoke version of
the musical number…turns out, it really is just gibberish.
also get a vintage clip of Liberace performing “Smile”, which was Modern
Time’s theme song (I didn’t know it had words), a 42 minute government
education film from 1931 on the new modern age, an early promotional film from
the Ford Motor Company, a short documentary on peasants seeing their first movie
thanks to a traveling projectionist showing Modern Times.
Rounding out are trailers, a poster gallery, and clips from other Chaplin