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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett
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The Kid
(1921)
 

The Kid (1921) is among Charles Chaplin’s best-known films, and the one that made a star of little Jackie Coogan. Coogan, Chaplin and Edna Purviance all give sterling performances this film which is one of Chaplin’s finest productions.

When a single mother despairs over her inability to care for her infant child, both abandoned by its poor artist father, she chooses to leave him in the expensive automobile of a wealthy family, gambling that her child will have a better life. When the automobile is stolen by a pair of thugs, the baby is abandoned in a slum alleyway. The child is discovered by Charlie, who tries to pass along the responsibility for its safety to others only to have the baby delivered back to his possession like a bad penny. Resigned to the responsibility, Charlie takes the child to his rundown lodgings.

Five years later, life in the grubby flat has settled down to a routine — the kid and Charlie is equal part responsible for the other. Elsewhere, the mother has had good fortune befall her, now being a successful star of an undisclosed discipline. She now despairs over her hasty and shortsighted decision to abandon her child, and yearns to be reunited with him.

Meanwhile, circumstances lead to the interference of a social reformation group (a popular theme of the silent era) and the attempted placement of the kid in an orphans home. On the lam from the authorities, the kid and Charlie are eventually separated, while the mother discovers the identity of her lost child that she coincidentally encountered in the slum.

The film itself was almost a pawn in the 1918 divorce of Chaplin from his first wife, actress Mildred Harris. Chaplin slipped the unedited film out of Hollywood to Salt Lake City, where he attempted to edit the film in a hotel room there before moving on to a secretive location in New York City.

Given that the film was more than a year in production, with Chaplin improvising his story during shooting, it is interesting on multiple viewings to look for a production chronology in the apparent age of Jackie Coogan in sequences that made it into the final film. For instance, some of the earliest footage of Coogan in the film is seen during the street fight sequence with the bully kid and his bully brother.

Look for Jack Coogan, Jackie’s father, as the flophouse pickpocket.

The Kid strikes an impressive balance between comedy and pathos. Who is not effected by the separation scene, with Coogan wrenching the audience’s heart with his performance? Only the callous. The Kid is necessary for any serious silent film collection. — Carl Bennett

2010 Park Circus Blu-ray Disc edition

The Kid (1921), black & white, 51 minutes, BBFC Classification U,
with Nice and Friendly (1922), black & white, 11 minutes, BBFC Classification U.

Park Circus, PCB0006, UPC 5-060203-34008-7.
Pillarboxed 16:9 24FPS AVCHD, one single-sided Blu-ray Disc, Region B, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby TrueHD 2.0 stereo sound?, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles?, chapter stops, standard BD keepcase, £19.99.
BD release date: 10 May 2010.
Country of origin: Scotland
This UK high-definition edition of The Kid, from a Scottish distribution company and produced for home video by MK2, features a new high-definition video transfer from 35mm print materials controlled by the Estate of Charles Chaplin.

The disc’s supplemental material includes an introduction by David Robinson (6 minutes), Chaplin Today: The Kid Documentary (26 minutes), scenes deleted from the 1971 rerelease of The Kid (6 minutes), footage of Chaplin rehearsing the recording of the 1971 music score (2 minutes), Jackie Coogan Dances (1920) (2 minutes), the behind-the-scenes film at the Chaplin studio Nice and Friendly (1922) (11 minutes), a photo gallery, and Chaplin film trailers.

North American collectors will need a Region B or region-free Blu-ray Disc player to view this edition.

 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region B Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2010 Park Circus DVD edition

The Kid (1921), black & white, 51 minutes, BBFC Classification U,
with Nice and Friendly (1922), black & white, 11 minutes, BBFC Classification U.

Park Circus, PC0006, UPC 5-060203-34006-3.
Full-frame 4:3 PAL, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 2, 8 Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 9 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase in cardboard slipcover, £15.99.
DVD release date: 10 May 2010.
Country of origin: Scotland

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 8 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.

This PAL DVD edition of The Kid, from a Scottish distribution company and produced for home video by MK2 Diffusion, features a new high-definition video transfer from 35mm print materials controlled by the Estate of Charles Chaplin. The slightly faster-than-natural-speed full-frame HD transfer has been digitally cleaned of dust and speckling with almost no remaining examples of such. No image stabilization has been performed so there is some minor picture movement within the frame, which is not noticeable to the average viewer. As would be expected from an HD transfer utilizing high-quality print materials the resulting picture is excellent, with a broad range of graytones and sharp picture details.

The film is presented with the established music score composed by Charles Chaplin.

The disc’s supplemental material includes an introduction by David Robinson (6 minutes), Chaplin Today: The Kid Documentary (26 minutes), scenes deleted from the 1971 rerelease of The Kid (6 minutes), footage of Chaplin rehearsing the recording of the 1971 music score (2 minutes), Jackie Coogan Dances (1920) (2 minutes), the behind-the-scenes film at the Chaplin studio Nice and Friendly (1922) (11 minutes), a photo gallery, and Chaplin film trailers.

This being nearly identical in content to the 2004 Warner Home Video edition noted below, with the exception being the excision of Jackie Coogan in My Boy (1921) and the full version of How to Make Movies (1918) among a few other things, owners of that edition might be hard pressed to justify upgrading to this Park Circus edition. This edition, currently the only high-quality edition in print, is recommended for those who want to add the film to their collection now. With a high-definition option noted above, we recommend this edition only for those with standard-definition televisions.

North American collectors will need a region-free PAL DVD player capable of outputting an NTSC-compatible signal to view this edition.

 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 2 PAL DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2004 Warner Home Video DVD edition

The Kid (1921), black & white, 50 minutes, not rated,
with My Boy (1921), black & white, 55 minutes, not rated.

Warner Home Video, 37645, UPC 0-85393-76452-4, ISBN 0-7907-7162-4.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, two single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 mono sound, English, Spanish and Portuguese language menus, English language intertitles, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese, Korean and Thai language subtitles, chapter stops, cardboard wrap case with plastic trays in cardboard slipcase, $29.95.
DVD release date: 2 March 2004.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 8 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.

This edition of The Kid, sanctioned by the Estate of Charles Chaplin and produced for home video by MK2 Éditions, has been digitally restored from the original Chaplin negative. However, we have had problems with the disc displaying properly to a 16:9 high-definition television when played from one of our DVD players. The picture fills the 16:9 monitor in width (already wrong for a 4:3 format picture) and crops the top and bottom of the picture to do so. No amount of manipulation of the picture settings ideally resolves the issue.

The picture itself is excellent, with the source materials being about as good as they can get for 90-year-old film. The transfer holds a broad range of graytones, from intact highlights to deep shadows — some a little darker than the 2000 CBS/Fox edition noted below. However, the short running time is a concern when compared to the earlier edition. This is the result of utilizing the shorter 1971 rerelease version of the film coupled with a faster-than-natural-pace video transfer rate.

The film is presented with the established music score composed by Charles Chaplin.

Overall, a wonderful viewing experience on a standard television. Still pretty darn good on an HD television, too. This edition is now out-of-print.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
2000 CBS/Fox Home Video DVD edition

The Kid (1921), black & white, 68 minutes, not rated,
with A Dog’s Life (1918), black & white, 35 minutes, not rated.

CBS/Fox Home Video, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID9178CUDVD, UPC 0-14381-91782-6.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 17 chapter stops, snapper DVD case, $29.99.
DVD release date: 8 February 2000.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 7 / additional content: 7 / overall: 7.

This edition of Chaplin’s second feature film, his first self-produced and self-directed feature, also presents the Chaplin short film A Dog’s Life (1918). It appears that the masters from the 1993 Chaplin: A Legacy of Laughter laserdisc series have been utilized for this and other year 2000 Chaplin DVD releases; meaning that the video masters for this edition are analog and date to 1993. Given the longer running time than the MK2-produced editions noted above, this edition includes footage that Chaplin excised for the film’s 1971 rerelease.

The edition still looks pretty good, even on a high-definition monitor, despite some flat, grayish highlights, the slightly softer picture, and the usual dust and speckling. The close-to-natural-speed video transfer shows all of the surviving picture image, as is evidenced by the frame edges seen in certain scenes.

The film is presented with the established music score composed by Charles Chaplin, although the music is abruptly edited and repeated in places to cover the extra footage in this edition that was not present in the 1971 rerelease version, for which this score was recorded.

The disc’s supplemental material includes a still gallery of Chaplin’s First National contract (37 images), and pertinent exerpts on the Chaplin Studio from How to Make Movies (1918).

This edition is now long out-of-print, and for no other reason (we think) than the longer running time it sometimes fetches high prices for used copies on eBay.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2002 Navarre Corporation DVD edition

Triple Feature Drama Classics, Volume 7 (1921-1925), black & white and color-toned black & white, 198 minutes total, not rated,
including The Kid (1921), black & white, 68 minutes, not rated.

Navarre Corporation, 1630, UPC 7-41027-16309-4.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 1, 3 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 6 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $9.98.
DVD release date: 16 April 2002.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 4 / additional content: 7 / overall: 6.

The quality of this edition of The Kid is a pleasant surprise. The video transfer utilizes an excellent 35mm print that is only marred by very light speckling and a few examples of emulsion damage. The film opens without a main title, however the remainder of the print appears to be complete. The transfer is generously cropped, and the print features a broad range of graytones with very good image detail. Despite the relatively low video bit rate, the picture is acceptably smooth and is very watchable.

The Kid has previously appeared on DVD in a high-quality edition from CBS/Fox Home Video, produced by David Shepard.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
200? Reel Classics DVD edition

The Kid (1921), black & white, ? minutes, not rated,
with Pay Day (1922), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, and Charlie on the Ocean (1921), black & white, ? minutes, not rated.

Reel Classics, unknown catalog number, no UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, PCM 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $20.00.
DVD release date: 200?
Country of origin: USA
This DVD-R edition has likely been mastered from a 16mm reduction print, which is thought to be closer to the original release version.

Two of the films accompanied by a music score performed by Matthew John Marshall.

 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R disc is available directly from REEL CLASSIC DVD.
Other silent era CHARLES CHAPLIN films available on home video.

Other silent era JACKIE COOGAN films available on home video.

Charles Chaplin filmography in The Progressive Silent Film List
 
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