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    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Czech, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Turkish, Icelandic, Croatian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, German - Hearing Impaired
  • 1 Deleted scenes
  • 10 Teaser trailer - The Chaplin Collection
  • 2 Theatrical trailer - English, Italian
  • Photo gallery - 200+ pics
  • Behind the scenes footage - Chaplin's home movies
  • Documentaries - Chaplin Today
  • Music-only track
  • Short film - The Professor - 1919
  • DVD Text - Novel excerpts

Limelight: SE

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . B&W . 132 mins . G . PAL


From the opening scenes of this film we immediately realise this will be like no other Chaplin film. A washed-up performer, drunk, fumbles his way into his London apartment and discovers a suicidal young woman in the one downstairs. He rescues her and so begins a bittersweet relationship between the older, winding-up entertainer – once revered worldwide as a comedic genius – and a young ballerina despairing at her own frailty.

"What a sad business, being funny..."

As noted in my other Chaplin reviews, The Great Dictator and Modern Times, there is a deep undercurrent of sadness running beneath Chaplin’s films. Here though, it is truly tsunamic as Chaplin openly rebels against the audience who has seemingly abandoned him as he nears his career’s end. Barely disguised as the great Calvero, Chaplin remarks on society, life, love and fickle showbiz throughout the 132 minutes of Limelight and doesn’t pull any punches. While there are sporadic moments of comedy, these are interspersed among so many sadder moments it’s hard to raise a chuckle at all – and perhaps this is again Chaplin’s genius throwing a final ironic jab at the audience.

While not being his usual comedy, this is still a beautiful film with an endearing series of characters, regardless of the film’s acidic undertow. Claire Bloom as the young ballerina is magnificently frail and strong and portrays her role perfectly, while Sydney Chaplin (Charlie’s son) plays the love interest convincingly. The divided loyalties of her affection between he and Calvero is one of the story dynamics that progresses the film well and Chaplin has utilised the love triangle theme to good effect here. There are also countless references and performances from the days of Vaudeville as Chaplin returns to the humour of his past and pays a fitting tribute to those bygone days.

Chaplin originally wrote this story as an intentionally unpublished novel, but adapted it over two years into a screenplay. The shoot, too, took two further years as Chaplin struggled to create the perfect atmosphere for his film and after watching it, it becomes apparent why. Chaplin did make films after this one, but this would have been an entirely suitable and fitting ending for the most well known comic of all time. The beauty and melancholy of life are equally portrayed and sometimes indeterminate from the other as Chaplin uncorks some wellspring within himself and unloads all his anxieties and beliefs. If a complete synopsis of Chaplin and his feelings were to be found in one film, this would be the film. And for that reason, the movie resonates with sadness and beauty, humour and misery and life and love.


Still in those bygone days, we receive Charlie in black and white and in the 4:3 ratio. However, as with the others in this series, the film has been lovingly restored and looks as good as black and white film could ever look. Naturally we have artefacts, but there is nothing too major and I’ve seen more recent films with many, many more.

There are occasional frame jitters like those seen at 38:01-02 or 1:47:14, but these are fairly brief and inconsequential. Other than that this film looks just superb considering its age of 52+.


Again, we have two versions in the original mono or a stripped and rebuilt 5.1 deal. I believe this has been done to appeal to a recent audience, and that’s okay, but the surround stuff is fairly understated and underused - and also unnecessary. The mono track sounds equally as good and both are naturally presented in Dolby Digital.

Dialogue is fine here and easily understood for the most part, although some soft-voiced reminiscences are a tad harder to catch, as are some booming pronouncements. Sound effects are all well timed and even occasionally humourous, but not to a huge degree. Finally, the music bears a massive mention here. Chaplin scored the film and won his only competitive Oscar for it and deservedly so. It is hauntingly beautiful with deep orchestral melancholy right through to chirpy and cheerful movements. Some nice pianos and violins really portray the essence of the atmosphere here and this is where we get most of the surround stuff sounding superb.


Again a plethora of Chaplin related memorabilia culled from around the world. Typically, the extras disc reflects the film in each release and this is again the case here. An introduction by Chaplin’s biographer sets the film into context for us, but this is on disc two, so it’s kinda viewed after we’ve already watched the movie. There are some nice informative bits though about Chaplin’s family who spring up everywhere in the film. This runs for 5:42.

Next up is the Chaplin Today documentary running for 26:37. This includes interviews with surviving family and historians and is, as are the others on each disc, excellent. Next comes the only deleted scene, which is granted context either side and runs for 4:29. This is the only scene cut from the film and was done so after its premiere, for reasons known only to Chaplin. I liked it.

The original score follows and we are granted 36 chapters in which we can leap to a scene featuring the piece. A great addition and well respectful of this Academy award-winning soundtrack. Next is a text piece featuring two short excerpts from Footlights, the novel mentioned above from which the film was adapted. Nice enough, but filler really.

A short film follows, from which Chaplin leant heavily for a character within Limelight. This runs for 6:25 and was made in 1919 and while it’s a little worse for wear is a great inclusion, particularly as Charlie looks uncannily like Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York. Some of Chaplin’s home movies come next and these are silent movies shot on 8mm. One is from New York 1950 (runtime: 9:52) while the other is London 1959 (runtime: 6:23). Both are jittery and dinged up but a fairly nice, if relatively uninteresting, inclusion.

Trailers for Limelight follow from England and Italy. These run back to back and go for a total of 4:25. There are also the same ten teaser trailers for the rest of the films in The Chaplin Collection we get with each film.

A big photo gallery fills out the disc with well over 200 full frame pictures from the film and the shoot. Also included are 18 posters advertising the film from around the world. These are always a treat and here they are no different.

Another massive grab bag for the comedy enthusiast or just any old (or new, like me) fan of Charlie who wants to know more.


Of the three films I’ve now reviewed from this collection, this is the one that has stayed with me for the longest time since. Tragic in its beauty and lyrical in its telling, this is yet another Chaplin film as pertinent today as it was when made. While not being as funny as the others, this holds us close for different reasons as we empathise with a character who just wants to be remembered for making people laugh. I’m pleased these films have made it to DVD and been treated so wonderfully, because now Chaplin is accessible by all and will most definitely never be forgotten.

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      And I quote...
    "A melancholy Chaplin in the film that’s regarded as his swansong..."
    - Jules Faber
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    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
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          Sony 51cm
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          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
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    • Video Cables:
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