Combustible Celluloid
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With: Charles Chaplin, Ben Turpin, Edna Purviance, Billy Armstrong, Ed Armstrong, Agnes Ayres, Bud Jamison, Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson, Phyllis Allen, Lloyd Bacon, Charles Allen Dealey, Marta Golden, Leona Anderson, Lawrence A. Bowes
Written by: Charles Chaplin
Directed by: Charles Chaplin
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 405
Date: 02/01/1915

Chaplin's Essanay Comedies (1915)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Tramping Up

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Flicker Alley has completed the trilogy. In 2013 the company released the complete Chaplin Keystone films on DVD, and in 2014, the complete Chaplin Mutual films on Blu-ray, and now comes the expected Essanay set. (Please see my other reviews for more details.) It's every bit as good as we might have hoped. These particular films are largely in the public domain, and it's so important to be able to watch them in good-quality transfers.

At the end of 1914, Charlie Chaplin was lured away from Keystone to Essanay Studios — launched in Chicago, but with a studio in Niles, California — with a big pay raise and the promise of more creative freedom. It was here that he refined his "Tramp" screen persona — in a film called The Tramp — making him gentler and more sentimental. It was also here that he discovered his frequent leading lady Edna Purviance. In his comedies, he explored more behind-the-scenes of a movie studio and genres like boxing. With Burlesque on Carmen he made one of his more ambitious movies of the time, dismantling storytelling techniques for laughs.

In 1915, he made His New Job, A Night Out, The Champion, In the Park, A Jitney Elopement, The Tramp, By the Sea, Work, A Woman, The Bank, Shanghaied, A Night in the Show, and Burlesque on Carmen. By the end of the year, he had a falling out with Essanay, and the studio released re-edited (some might say butchered) versions of Carmen, and Chaplin's last film with the studio, Police (1916). The set also includes His Regeneration (1915), in which Chaplin has a small cameo, as well as Triple Trouble (1918), a final attempt by the studio to edit together a smattering of outtakes and already-used footage into something new. (By some accounts, this one actually worked.)

Flicker Alley's release comes with two Blu-rays and two DVDs with the same content. Extras include different cuts of some of the films in the set, as well as a lengthy liner notes booklet with detailed information on the films.

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