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The Kid: SE

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . B&W . 51 mins . G . PAL


There’s little doubt Charlie Chaplin knew what put bums on seats. He also knew how to move the people in them when he did.

The Kid is a silent film from 1921 that sees Charlie’s Little Tramp becoming the unwitting surrogate father to an abandoned baby. The poor mother who abandons him (after being seduced and forgotten by a cruel man) eventually rises to fame as an actress and, after several years, it seems a matter of time until they meet face to face. Before that though, the Little Tramp and The Kid will work together for five years on the streets, scamming whatever they can to get by.

Without doubt, this is Chaplin’s most touching and most personal film. Shooting began just ten days after Chaplin’s own child died of complications soon after birth and in this film he wrings every ounce of his own emotions out in some of the most heart-rending scenes between the Tramp and the Kid.

Originally planned as a short, this film went on and on, being shot countless times by Chaplin as he extended it and sought perfection in every scene, eventually stretching it to its final 51 minutes, carried over six reels of celluloid. The actual shooting ratio of film spent to film used was 53:1, which is far, far above any of Chaplin’s other films and the results do speak for themselves, even if a word isn’t spoken within.

Jackie Coogan, incredible mimic and child star, plays the five-year-old waif raised by the Tramp here and he is amongst the most intense child stars I’ve ever seen on screen. His performance is both adorable and heartbreaking as the Tramp’s partner and the scenes of their separation by social workers are truly incredible. (Jackie Coogan went on from being an adorable young fella here to become the original Uncle Fester from the TV series of The Addams Family, if you’re wondering).

Told perfectly from the heart in Chaplin’s amazing manner of portraying emotion cleverly without the use of sound, The Kid must rate among Chaplin’s better films, and is certainly the most heartbreaking.


As with others in this release series, the feature is in black and white with a loving restoration job bringing it into the 21st century. The cinema aspect of 4:3 has been preserved, so naturally there’s no 16:9 enhancement, and we do get myriad film artefacts throughout. These are fairly natural for a film that's 83 years old but things are still fine regardless. Occasional moments of missing frames occur, but this is the fault of the original hand rolled cameras, I imagine, not a transfer error. Being black and white, the blacks are true and shadow detail is good. Contrasts are even throughout as well, making this film as accessible as it is ever going to get.


A choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or mono is on offer here but both are pretty much the same. There is no surround use offered as the only sound is in the music and the subwoofer does nothing. I don’t see the need for this 5.1 conversion, myself, as it doesn’t change things and just takes up more room on the disc, being nothing more than a sales catch I think.

The music has been scored by the incredibly talented Chaplin himself, and resembles in some parts the score for Modern Times. In making a silent film, much emphasis is placed on the music and here it suits just great.


As with all these feature releases they’ve really rolled back the carpet of history to find many of these gems here. The two disc set actually features a DVD9 (dual layered) for the extras and a DVD5 (single layered) for the film itself! You won’t see that happen very often folks, in fact, it’s nearly always the other way around.

First up we have the usual introduction which is silly to place on the second disc. There’d be room to have this before the film and it would be worth more there. Still, it’s interesting and runs for 5:22.

The usual Chaplin Today documentary follows and this is a brilliant study of the film and Chaplin’s life at the time. An excellent inclusion and well worth checking out for its 26:12.

Three deleted scenes removed by Chaplin in 1971 for a 50 year re-release of the film are included here in context, though their setup is a little confusing as to what’s new and what isn’t. Still, interesting and a thoughtful inclusion.

A small film Chaplin made during the construction of his own studios is included here and is entitled How to Make a Movie. This was made just prior to production of The Kid and runs silently for 15:55. It’s mildly funny, but looks rather hastily constructed, probably as a promotional piece.

Some short films follow and these include My Boy directed by Victor Heerman. This is another film featuring Jackie Coogan and doesn’t have much else to do with Chaplin. It is in poor repair but is well worth the look for more of Coogan’s amazing acting abilities. This runs as long as the feature at 54:57. It also features many period shots of New York of the day that are a real treat.

Five document pieces follow, though today they would be called featurettes I suppose. These are Jackie Coogan Dances, which is the visual highlight of the disc running for 1:23. Hilarious.

Nice and Friendly (10:50) is a poorly scripted piece from the Chaplin archives created for visiting royals. Worthy for its rareness, but is still pretty empty.

Charlie on the Ocean features Charlie entertaining people on the boat to Europe (where there was little to do I imagine). Some of the passengers impersonations of Charlie are hilarious.

Jackie Coogan in Paris is a :40 piece of little interest as Coogan meets plenty of kids his age.

Finally, Recording the New Score sees the very aged Mr. Chaplin conducting an orchestra for the 1971 score of the film’s re-release. Some people age into someone different looking, but not Charlie. Very recognisable.

Trailers come next and are strung together for 8:05. They are severely decayed and soft-edged and are all different. The first couple are in English, followed by German and then Dutch.

A photo gallery runs as a short film for 3:04 with the frame being nearly filled by the pics included. Some sharp images too.

Last, but not least, we have a gallery of 20 film posters from around the globe. I love checking these out and they really are a tribute to the artists around the world and a small glimpse into their cultures, seeing what they highlight as the film’s best selling points.

So again, another support disc bound to keep the Chaplin fan amused forever.


While I thought watching silent movies could be hard, I’ve not had that trouble with any of the Chaplin works I’ve reviewed to date (these include: The Great Dictator, Modern Times and Limelight though not all are silent).

Another brilliant Chaplin film of warmth, humour and sorrow that combine to make a unique and heartbreaking film. The transfer is again as good as it could get, making the overall disc a valuable addition to any collection. Brilliant!

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      And I quote...
    "Chaplin breaks our hearts with a touching relationship between the Little Tramp and an abandoned child, The Kid."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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