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U.S.A.  1952

Chaplin's last American film is a masterful meditation on the highs and lows of fame.
 

A story of a ballerina and a clown set in London in the summer of 1914, Limelight begins with washed-up pantomime performer Calvero (Chaplin) saving young Thereza (Bloom) from committing suicide. By the time the credits roll, Chaplin's taken us on a self-flagellating trawl through the highs and lows of success, failure, old age and celebrity.

Melancholic to the point of being embarrassingly self-pitying, Limelight is a profoundly moving film, an aging artist's philosophical mediation on life that's full of grandstanding declarations of intent: "What is there to fight for? Everything! Life itself. Isn't that enough. To have lived, suffered and enjoyed!" As drunken has-been Calvero claws his way back to the stage for one final moment of glory, with the help of the devoted Thereza, Limelight takes us deep into Chaplin's own fears and dreams, from the vaudeville world of his childhood to his awareness of the transitory nature of public adoration. How ironic, then, that it should be the last film he'd make in America, before the anti-communist lobby forced him into permanent exile.

Tackling the sad business of being funny with an unflinching - yet often overly sentimental - gaze, Chaplin delivers a true auteur's film, a work of great personal resonance that stands as the summation of his tragicomic view of life. In many ways, it's the inverse of Chaplin's acclaimed comedies, yet it's also a fitting conclusion to their vision of a world in which the good (like the perpetually downtrodden Tramp) are oppressed by great forces that are out of their control. Here it's celebrity and fortune that are the crushing oppressors, making Limelight a work of immense sorrow.

Verdict: Moving, sentimental and deeply sad, this is the greatest moment in Chaplin's late career, a powerful work of cinema that remains essential viewing for Chaplin fans and non-believers alike.

Excerpt of review from Channel 4 located HERE

 

Charlie Chaplin’s masterful drama about the twilight of a former vaudeville star is among the writer-director’s most touching films. Chaplin plays Calvero, a once beloved musical-comedy performer, now a washed-up alcoholic who lives in a small London flat. A glimmer of hope arrives when he meets a beautiful but melancholy ballerina (Claire Bloom) who lives downstairs. An elegant mix of the comic and the tragic, this poignant movie also features Buster Keaton in an extended cameo, marking the only time the two silent comedy icons appeared in a film together. Made at a time when Chaplin was under attack by the American press and far right, Limelight was scarcely distributed in the United States upon its initial release, but it is now considered one of his essential and most personal works.

Posters

Theatrical Release: October 23rd, 1952 - London, England

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 Comparison:

Image - Region 0 - NTSC (oop) vs. Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT

2) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

 

     

  

  

Distribution

Image Entertainment

Region 0  - NTSC

Warner
Region 1 - NTSC
Criterion Collection - Spine # 756 - Region 'A' Blu-ray
Runtime 2:17:28 2:11:24 (4% PAL speedup) 2:17:51.888
Video

1.27:1  Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.40 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1  Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.36 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 47,796,104,984 bytes

Feature Size: 30,188,298,240 bytes

Total Bitrate: 25.50 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 Image

 

Bitrate:

Warner

Bitrate:

Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles None English, Spanish, French, Korean, Portuguese, Thai and none English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Image Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.27:1

Edition Details:
• All Regions
• Black & White
• Four minutes of additional footage cut from the film by Chaplin after the premiere
• Six minutes of unreleased film shot in 1919 that shows the original flea circus routine that appears in Limelight
• Sections of Chaplin's working text for the novel on which the film is based
• Production summary

DVD Release Date: April 11th, 2000
Snapper Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Black & White, Dolby
• All-new restoration with digital transfer from the Chaplin family vault and remastered
• Introduction to the film by biographer David Robinson, illustrated by stills
Chaplin Today: Limelight documentary directed by Edgardo Cozarinsky with Bernardo Bertolucci
• Gallery of film posters
• Set photo gallery (over 200)
• Deleted scene
• Complete musical soundtrack
• Extract from "The Professor", unfinished mute Chaplin's movie 1919
• Home movies: Chaplin's children (1952), Chaplin in London (1959)
Footlights: two excerpts from the original novel, ready by Chaplin

DVD Release Date: July 1, 2003
Custom Case

Chapters 20

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

Disc Size: 47,796,104,984 bytes

Feature Size: 30,188,298,240 bytes

Total Bitrate: 25.50 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

 

Edition Details:
• Chaplin’s “Limelight”: Its Evolution and Intimacy, a new video essay by Charlie Chaplin biographer David Robinson (21:10)
• New interviews with actors Claire Bloom (15:53) and Norman Lloyd (14:53)
• Chaplin Today: “Limelight,” a 2002 documentary on the film (26:42)
• Archival audio recording of Chaplin reading two short excerpts from his novella Footlights (2:16)
• Two short films by Chaplin: A Night in the Show (1915 - 25:06) and the uncompleted The Professor (1919 - 6:27)
• Outtake (4:31) and two trailers (4:27)
• PLUS: An essay by critic Peter von Bagh and excerpts from an on-set piece by journalist Henry Gris

 

Blu-ray Release Date: May 19th, 2015
Transparent Blu-ray case

Chapters 23

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were obtained directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - April 2015': Firstly, the 1080P image didn't have to go too far to advance upon the old DVDs. The Blu-ray is advertised as 4K and looks very solid. It is bright and clean with some film grain visible. Contrast is significantly superior to the SD treatments. It is a fairly modest image in modern terms but has some impressive depth and is even better than I was anticipating how the visuals would be presented.

Criterion use a linear PCM monaural track at 1152 kbps. Not many effects but there is some notable music including the score by Chaplin including Eternally (Terry's Theme), The Death of Columbine, The Animal Trainer, Spring Is Here, and The Life of a Sardine. It sounds very impressive both in the performances and supporting the drama. Criterion include optional English subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is Region 'A'-locked.

Criterion add many supplements. Chaplin’s “Limelight”: Its Evolution and Intimacy, is an excellent, new, 21-minute video essay by Charlie Chaplin biographer David Robinson (author of Charlie Chaplin: Footlights with The World of Limelight) who explores the evolution and personal nature of Limelight. There are two new 1/4 hour new interviews with actors Claire Bloom and Norman Lloyd conducted by Criterion in 2015 and 2012, respectively. Chaplin Today: “Limelight,” is a 27-minute 2002 documentary on the film directed by Edgardo Cozarinsky, and features interviews with filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci and two of the Limelight actors, Claire Bloom and Sydney Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin's son. We also get an archival audio recording of Chaplin reading two short excerpts from his novella Footlights which was the basis for Limelight. Very appropriate to have two short films by Chaplin: his 12th film A Night in the Show (1915 - 25:06) directed for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. It is based on the play Mummimg Birds, which Chaplin preformed with the Fred Karno Company, first in London from 1908 to 1909, and then when the company toured the United States. In it, Chaplin plays two roles: Mr. Pest and Mr. Rowdy. The film is accompanied by a 2014 score by composer Timothy Brock. There was some extensive restoration work put into A Night in the Show courtesy of Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and Lobster Films. The second short is the uncompleted The Professor from 1919. We also get a 5-minute outtake from Limelight and two trailers (US and Italian.) The package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Peter von Bagh and excerpts from an on-set piece by journalist Henry Gris.

Essential Chaplin, IMO - and the Criterion Blu-ray, stacked with extras, offers an a/v presentation that is like seeing the film anew. Our highest recommendation!

***

ON THE DVDs: I am already un-sold on the new Warner discs and each comparison I make to the old Image Entertainment discs confirms that Warner have 'dropped the ball'. I can only conclude that laziness or lack of investment has prompted using the unconverted PAL transfers from Mk2. I suppose they didn't think they would get their money back and it is the oblivious purchaser that is the one that suffers.

Again, one of these DVDs is out of ratio. The Warner characters appear slimmer and taller. I don't know which is wrong, but my guess is the Warner's. The PAL versions are probably the same.

What a waste. Obviously the Warner image appears sharper than the Image Entertainment one but I am very disappointed in the blurring which is still prevalent here as in The Great Dictator DVD. The Warner disc is very dark. My bet would still be to buy the European versions. I am very disappointed in my purchase of this newer Region 1 DVD. It does have quite an array of Extra Features, but the "ghosting" is extremely visible as well as other associated artifacts that appear with improper PAL->NTSC transfers.

Here, we get the worst of both worlds: 4% PAL speedup from original source and lower NTSC resolution (AND "ghosting"). It looks to me to have excessive digital processing. I'm glad I still have my Image discs, but will look into the PAL Mk2 versions when I have time.

 - Gary W. Tooze





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Image - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Warner - Region 1 - NTSC - RIGHT)

 

 

Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

 


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Screen Captures

 

 

1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Image - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures


Recommended Reading on Chaplin (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Check out more in "The Library"


 

Box Covers

 

 

     

  

  

Distribution

Image Entertainment

Region 0  - NTSC

Warner
Region 1 - NTSC
Criterion Collection - Spine # 7565 - Region 'A' Blu-ray

 


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Gary Tooze