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  • 10 Teaser trailer
  • 3 Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Photo gallery - The Shoot, Film Posters
  • Music video - Liberace sings 'Smile'
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  • Documentaries - Chaplin Today
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  • 3 Short film - In The Macine Age, Por Primera Vez, Symphony in F

Modern Times: SE

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 83 mins . G . PAL


His name is synonymous with classic comedy. He is regarded as one of the finest comedians of all time. His caricature is still recognised today by the majority of the western world. He has inspired generations of actors and comedians, even from the grave, and his influence is still evident in films pouring out of Hollywood in these early days of the 21st century.

He is, as you have no doubt guessed by now, Charlie Chaplin. I know who he is and have seen him appear everywhere throughout my life, yet until recently had never seen a single one of his films. I’ve never seen him in women’s magazines, in a film on TV and I’d never even heard him speak before! Yet I know of this man like he’s appeared on E! or ET every other night for the last 20 years. How’s that for influence?

And so, not quite knowing what to expect, I cracked open the DVD case and inserted Modern Times into my overworked DVD player. I don’t think I expected it to be all that funny. The modern world I live in has seen to that with the constant bombardment of throwaway comedy pouring out of the TV every single night of my life. And so, pen in hand, I waited...

And was immediately charmed by that world famous humble character, the Little Tramp. I was wrong not to expect to laugh. This guy is funny. He wrote the book, obviously, because so many people I find funny today have read it. Read it and studied it and used it to good effect, and here was I, much less humble, thinking they were great. This guy knew funny.

"I’ll do it! We’ll get a home even if I have to work for it."

And while there’s this simple, slapstick comedy going on, there’s this other dark vein keeping pace alongside. Like all funny people he could see the dark side of life and in his films (I’ve seen a couple now) he focuses it like an icepick straight into the society he’s parodying; the very society laughing at his art! I love it when people do that. That’s like a Mandlebrot equation, the levels of that kind of humour and it’s incredibly clever (and not so easy to do). Not a lot of people have that kind of depth to their work in modern comedy and those that do either succeed supernaturally (The Simpsons... at least at first) or are unappreciated and passed over (Futurama). Now I know anyone reading my reviews is a Futurama fan, so I’m not talking about you guys. But what the networks did to that show...

Sorry, I’ll get back to my other rant. (For anyone who wants to hear my Futurama rant, I’ll be performing it on an old wine crate in Brisbane's King George Square each Saturday evening at 8.00 and 10.00pm.)

So, the levels of comedy. A lot of successful comedians in film and TV today do our thinking for us. They just throw jokes at us, and with a hearty ‘Thanks, you’ve been a great audience!’ they piss off. Not so with Chaplin. Sure, on the surface we are led to believe that, but he’s crafty, is old Charlie, and there’s more. Much more for anyone wanting to see it. All you have to do is take this blue pill...

Now I’m doing Morpheus. Great.

This is getting kinda long. I’d better tell you something about the film, because if you’re anything like me (you lucky thing), you haven’t seen this stuff either.

This is the last film appearance of Chaplin’s most recognisable character, the Little Tramp. Working during the depression in a factory (he’s actually credited as ‘Factory Worker’) and treated like machinery, he goes a little crazy and is sent to a mental institute. While there he gets better and after a time is released, but alas he has no job and no money. By chance he meets a street urchin and takes the rap for a crime she just committed and ends up in jail. He’s actually quite happy there and doesn’t wish to leave, but circumstance demands it and after meeting up with the urchin again he’s back on the streets. They then have a series of bizarre work-related situations that involve stunts. And stuntmen didn’t have unions back then. And when you see the stunts, you’ll know what I’m talking about...

This film is also hailed as the last great silent movie and whilst it does contain voices, they are tinny and echoey and emit from radios. Even the famous Nonsense Song is mimed by Chaplin as he desperately avoids the technological progress the very film is protesting about. Like I said... it’s a Mandlebrot in there.

It’s not often we get to see a true genius at work, but thankfully, due to this kickarse transfer, we get to see this film as it was meant to be seen.


It’s 1936, so it’s B+W all the way. But that’s cool, because it’s been fully restored and I think I can safely say it looks as good as it ever has. There are occasional artefacts, but I’ve seen newer films look much worse than this. There’s some jittering and clunking about, but nothing too rash and certainly nothing too distracting. Only a 1.33:1 transfer here of course, but again, that’s cool. It looks fine.


Well, for some reason they’ve taken the original mono track and made it into a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround dealie, but for all the good it does, they might as well have kept it mono. Perhaps they didn’t understand it’s a silent movie. The only thing we get is music and that sounds just fine in both formats.


Well, they’ve certainly done their research and dug out some classic footage for this part. This two disc set has the film on the first DVD 5 (single layer) and the extras on the DVD 9 (dual layer). Haven’t seen that before. Usually the film is the biggest part of the set.

Our first entry is, aptly, the Intro. The author of Chaplin’s biography sets the scene for us leading us gently into the film. This is short at 6:07. Following that comes the film, of course, then we have a great documentary about the time and Chaplin’s ideas of Utopia running for 26:15. Really fascinating stuff. This guy was much more than just a comedian, I can tell you that.

A dubious outtake follows which is humourous enough, but a good cut from the film while the complete version (unrestored) of the Nonsense Song was also well trimmed for the movie. Then there’s a karaoke version with song lyrics for the Nonsense Song.

Four interesting documents follow that aren’t featurettes, but just film stuff culled from the ages. The first is propaganda about women in the workforce and such which runs for 42:26. While it’s cool to see this old stuff, this gets pretty boring pretty quick. Symphony in F is a 9:58 short film for the Ford Motor Car Company (whoever they are) which features some hilariously basic stop motion animation and is pretty soft-edged and degraded. Modern Times’ beautiful theme song Smile is performed by Liberace on The Liberace Show in 1956 for 4:00 next before we finally get to the real highlight. This is an exquisite short film entitled Por Primera Vez – (For the First Time) and is a sort of doco about taking the film to a small village in the middle of nowhere to show Modern Times to folks who’ve never seen a movie. Some of the expressions here are absolutely priceless and it is a real find by the DVD creators that is a credit to them.

Original trailers for Modern Times in English, French and German incarnations follow, linked together as a short film for 7:16 (plus there’s the usual ten trailers for other movies in this Chaplin Collection that appear on each DVD).

Finally two galleries in photos from the film and posters from around the world. Of the latter there are 23 and these are just great and quite diverse, surprisingly. Of the former there are just over 300 that document the factory, jail, outtakes, production sketches, storyboards, location scouting and lead actress Paulette Goddard. Plus another nine of film posters about town and on buses etc. at the time.

So, a very comprehensive study of this classic comedy that really buoys up the value.


I can recommend this film to anyone who loves pure cinema. It’s a talented person who can make an 83-minute film funny without using dialogue or snappy one-liners and Chaplin manages it ably here. You will find yourself recognising scenes and gags and places and film references in their early guises here and that is an added bonus I’m sure Mr Chaplin never intended. I caught surprising stuff like Baraka and Metropolis and even James Bond movies here and there, plus subtle Aldous Huxley and 1984 and Big Brother references on top of some liberal use of cocaine (no foolin’! Honest to God cocaine!).

I was and am charmed by this sweet romance set amidst the hurly-burly of the Industrial Age that’s underlying message is still as poignant today as it was at the time.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3413
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      And I quote...
    "Film comedy doesn’t get any more classic than this. Chaplin is King."
    - Jules Faber
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