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The Circus [Blu-ray]
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Charles Chaplin Productions
Video: Artificial Eye / Criterion Collection - spine # 996
Region: 'B' /Region 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:11:40.500 / 1:12:43.525
Disc Size: 24,956,878,325 bytes/ 45,916,194,792 bytes
Feature Size: 19,027,494,912 bytes / 21,947,473,920 bytes
Video Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps / 35.90 Mbps
Chapters: 12 / 17
Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Case
Release date: August 10th, 2015 / September 24th, 2019
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1858 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1858 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps /
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
•Chaplin Today - The Circus (26:31)
• Introduction by David Robinson (5:09)
• Trailers for the film (5:21)
• Extracts from the films in The Chaplin Collection (10:44)
• Rushes from The Circus (27:45)
• Outtakes (9:49)
New audio commentary featuring Chaplin biographer Jeffrey
Description: When we first meet Chaplin's Tramp in this comic gem, he's broke and hungry. Mistaken for a pickpocket and pursued by a police officer into a circus tent, the Tramp becomes a star when delighted patrons think his escape from the law is an act. Highlights include a frenetic fun-house seqeunce, the Tramp turning a magical skit into mayhem and his teetering tighrope walk while monkeys cling to his head.
The Circus is generally considered to be a lesser Charlie Chaplin effort, coming as it does between two unquestioned masterpieces, The Gold Rush (1925) and City Lights (1931). To be sure, the film is not one of Chaplin's best, but it has a lot going for it. Director Chaplin casts star Chaplin in his traditional "Little Tramp" role, who when first we see him is on the lam from the law. He takes refuge under the tent of a failing circus. Unintentionally, Charlie disrupts the show's big clown act, and the crowd roars. The ringmaster decides to hire Charlie as a clown, building the whole circus around him. Charlie has many an adventure and close shave while performing under the Big Top, the best of which involves a tightrope, a broken support wire, and a playful monkey. The standard Chaplin pathos rears its head when Charlie falls in love with pretty tightrope walker Merna Kennedy. When sweet Merna chooses handsome Harry Crocker, Charlie is left alone once more--but, with a characteristic shrug, he shuffles into the horizon and onto his next adventure. The Circus has several gaping logic holes which tend to pull the film down (we're supposed to believe, for example, that Charlie is unaware that he's a sensation as a clown, even after several weeks of performing before appreciative audiences), but the film contains several excellent setpieces, including a Hall of Mirrors sequence which anticipates Orson Welles' more serious Lady From Shanghai climax by twenty years. The Circus won Chaplin a special Oscar in 1928, then lay unseen for forty-two years; it was reissued in 1970, with a new musical score by Chaplin himself (who can be heard singing the theme song in the opening scenes).Excerpt from MRQE located HERE
Placing screen clowns within congenial environments (as with The Marx Brothers at the Circus) is one of the best ways to produce a bummer, but Chaplin manages to work a miracle, exploiting the various circus activities to richly comic effect. Charlie is chased through a hall of mirrors and trapped in a lion's cage the climax comes when he battles along a tightrope hampered by falling trousers and a clinging monkey. The set pieces are linked, none too neatly, by a framing story of disappointed love.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The Circus gets a new transfer to Blu-ray from Artificial Eye. It's single-layered and has a strong bitrate for the 1 1/4 hour feature. Unfortunately, it has a bit of the similar waxy look that we saw in The Kid Blu-ray. The 1080P is inconsistent with some stellar scenes that even showcase depth and some others that look manipulated/boosted. Overall, the heightened contrast is noticeable and somewhat offensive. I still enjoyed the film and the irregularities were not detrimental to my viewing experience but those sensitive to digitization may find it bothersome. I should state this was ahead of the previous SD presentation despite the, unnecessary, digital manipulation.
The Criterion does not have the egregious edge-enhancement and boosting of the Artificial Eye. It starts with the MK2 Diffusion logo and a text screen stating : "The 4K restoration of The Circus (1928) used a second generation full-frame dupe negative, preserved by Roy Export S.A.S. and selected as the best source available, after comparing other elements, for its photographic richness. In order to reconstruct the film as reissued by Charlie Chaplin in 1968, the same element was used for the images in the opening titles, while another second generation dupe negative academy ratio struck in 1969, was chosen for the song. The soundtrack was restored from the original sound negative which was digitized in 2k with a sound scanner, digitally cleaned and mastered. Restored in 2019 by Cineteca di Bologna at 12Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with Roy Export S.A.S. as part of the Chaplin Project. Additional support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Criterion Collection. " The Criterion is brighter (whites) in some scenes (see title below) showing more detail but it is also darker in others. It looks significantly more film-like. The boosting on the AE may give the impression that it is sharper but it is not - the textured Criterion 1080P image (on dual-layered disc with max'ed out bitrate) is rich and looks so impressive in-motion. It shows more information in the frame and the absence of the boosting makes for a far superior viewing experience.
NOTE: The time difference is because Charlie Chaplin’s 1969 rerelease version of the film has a different opening title sequence with Chaplin singing to the "Sweet Little Girl" scene. This is the only significant difference to the versions.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
AE give the option of a new 5.1 surround track via a DTS-HD Master and it sounds quite interesting if not dynamic enough to support crisp separations. We also get the choice of alinear PCM at a notable 1536 kbps and the score sounds very impressive - even at 16-bit. The Intertitles are in English and no need for subtitles. The Blu-ray disc is region 'B'-locked.
On their Blu-ray, Criterion use a linear PCM mono track (24-bit) with the original (restored) English intertitles. This features the original score by Chaplin. It sounds flat but lively and the intertitles are in English. The Blu-ray is Region 'A'-locked.
AE include another, French made, 26-minute Chaplin Today,” from 2003, originally on the 2-disc DVD sets, specifically focusing on The Circus - an educational documentary by François Ede with input from director Emir Kusturica, another interesting introduction by David Robinson (running 5 minutes) and some 'rushes' and 'outtakes' from The Circus. There are also some extracts from the Films in The Chaplin Collection and 5-minutes worth of international Trailers for The Circus.
Firstly, Criterion include a new audio commentary featuring Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance (author of Chaplin: Genius Of The Cinema) and he provides plenty of details on Chaplin, the production, camera shots and so much more. It has value. There is a 5-minute interview with Chaplin from 1969. The footage, in which director Charlie Chaplin is interviewed by several international journalists at his home in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, was recorded for Swiss television on the occasion of the 1969 rerelease of The Circus. There is a new 1/4 hour interview with Eugene Chaplin, the fifth child of Charlie and Oona O'Neill Chaplin. It was produced by the Criterion Collection and recorded at Chaplin's World in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, in 2019. In the Service of the Story, is a new 20-minute program on the film’s visual effects and production design by film scholar Craig Barron who sheds light on the care taken in creating The Circus's visual gags and the skills of the Chaplin Studios' dedicated lead technicians. Chaplin Today: “The Circus,” a documentary on the film featuring filmmaker Emir Kusturica running 26-minutes. It was directed by Francois Ede in 2003, explores director Charlie Chaplin's creative and personal journey during the making of The Circus and includes personal observations by Kusturica. There are 10-minutes of an excerpted audio interview from with director Charlie Chaplin's musical collaborator Eric James, recorded by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance in 1998. In the 1980s, film archivists Kevin Brownlow and David Gill screened thousands of feet of outtakes from Charlie Chaplin's silent movies for what would become the British television series Unknown Chaplin. One treasure from The Circus is the deleted sequence presented here, edited by Brownlow and Gill as Chaplin might have, and with a score composed by Timothy Brock. Also included is a selection of outtakes from this sequence, with narration by comedy choreographer Dan Kamin. The score and the narration were recorded for Criterion in 2019. To expand on the Tramp's love for Merna the circus rider, director Charlie Chaplin filmed a scene expressing his character's overwhelming nervousness about giving her a ring. Presented on this Blu-ray are outtakes of that scene, edited into their possible position in The Circus. Also included are alternate takes showing the Tramp feeling rejected after learning that Merna has fallen for the tightrope walker. It runs 1/2 hour with the edited version running about 10-minutes. There is 6-minutes of footage of the film’s 1928 Hollywood premiere and two rerelease trailers. The liner notes have an essay by critic Pamela Hutchinson.
Artificial Eye - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Criterion have totally stacked their package of Chaplin's The Circus and the new 4K-restoration look amazing - there is a commentary and many other valued extras. It is easily the only one you want to own for this important Chaplin film (showcasing his genius as well as anything he did) - for your home theater. A 'must own', imo.
September 23rd, 2015
August 16th, 2019
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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