Sunday is Charlie Chaplin's 100th birthday, an anniversary that has prompted Key Video to repackage most of this legend's works into the "Charlie Chaplin Centennial Collection." The 11-cassette package is scheduled to appear at video outlets Thursday sporting a price of $19.98 per cassette.
There's simply no quarrel with the selections, which span almost 40 years, from the 1918 portions of "The Chaplin Revue" to his 1957 hit "A King in New York." The set also includes all-time favorites "City Lights" (1931), "The Great Dictator" (1940) and "Limelight" (1952).Most of Chaplin's masterful scenes are more than 40 years old and serve to underscore the timelessness of his classic comedy. His genius and instinct, as actor and filmmaker, gave silence an eloquence movies have seldom seen since.
These films have recently been pulled from theatrical distribution in the United States.
The 11 titles:
-"The Chaplin Revue" (1918-1923, 126 mins.) Three wonderful Chaplin shorts: "A Dog's Life," in which Chaplin's "Little Tramp" character rescues a mutt from a dog fight; "Shoulder Arms," a comedy produced during World War I about men at the front line; and "The Pilgrim," an amusing satire on small-time hypocrisy in which an ex-con poses as a minister.
-"The Kid"/"The Idle Class" (1921, 86 mins.) Two prime examples of Chaplin's comic artistry. "The Kid" stars a very young Jackie Coogan, the screen's first child superstar, and Chaplin as the "Little Tramp." In "The Idle Class," Chaplin - again as the "Little Tramp" - has a zany round on the golf course after being mistaken for an aristocrat.
-"A Woman of Paris"/"Sunnyside" (1923-1919, 112 mins.) Adolphe Menjou was boosted to stardom in "A Woman of Paris," written, directed and produced by Chaplin, who appears briefly as a railroad porter. In "Sunnyside," Chaplin is a harried handyman with plenty of early Chaplin slapstickery.
-"The Circus"/"A Day's Pleasure" (1928-1919, 90 mins.) Chaplin received a special Oscar at the very first Academy Awards presentation for "The Circus," which, like "A Day's Pleasure," was written, directed and scored by him. In the latter he sets out for a relaxing family outing, which at times is more hectic than his tightrope walk and the police chase through a hall of mirrors in "The Circus."
-"City Lights" (1931, 87 mins.) Written, directed and scored by the master of pantomime, this film won as much, if not more, acclaim from critics than his other hits. The story revolves around his love for a blind girl and his on-and-off friendship with an alcoholic millionaire.
-"Modern Times" (1936, 87 mins.) This satire on the life of a hapless factory worker marked the final appearance of the "Little Tramp" and moved Chaplin into the world of sound.
-"The Great Dictator" (1940, 126 mins.) This lampoon features Chaplin in his first full-sound film, and he displays his talents in both the arenas of comedy and powerful drama as he plays dictator Hynkel and a little Jewish barber.
-"The Gold Rush"/"Pay Day" (1942-1922, 95 mins.) Chaplin wanted to be remembered for "The Gold Rush." International film critics voted it the best comedy ever. Originally shot in 1925, Chaplin added his narration and music 17 years later. "Pay Day" is a short early effort in which Chaplin gets caught between his boss and a domineering wife.
-"Monsieur Verdoux" (1947, 125 mins.) Having put "Little Tramp" behind him, Chaplin explored new horizons by playing a murderer. This dark comedy, written, directed and produced by Chaplin, was ahead of its time, yet as years went by it was hailed as one of Chaplin's true classics.
-"Limelight" (1952, 137 mins.) Claire Bloom stars in her first major screen role, and Buster Keaton, in a supporting role, is a pianist with Chaplin on the violin in a pantomimed concert. Priceless. Everyone has a favorite, and this one is still vivid after 37 years.
-"A King in New York" (1957, 105 mins.) A satire on the United States during the McCarthy era, Chaplin made this film in London while he was exiled from this country for five years. He did not release it here until 1973.
Q: My Sharp VCR is about eight years old with two speeds - SP and EP. Certain tapes will not play on my machine. They make various sounds and sometimes come off the spool. What can I do?
A: You must avoid playing tapes recorded at the slower LP (four-hour) speed, since your VCR was not designed to handle them. Such discount tapes are often not labeled, but you should be wary of any movie priced under $10. Your only other option is to get a more up-to-date VCR. - Andy Wickstrom (Knight-Ridder)
BILL COSBY'S PICTUREPAGES - The 6-year-old who screened "All About Animals" segment of this for us immediately recognized it as a recycled segment from a cable-television children's show. The tape comes with a pair of activity books, so child viewers can follow along as Cosby mugs through such simple exercises as drawing a line from an animal to its footprint. The books, which accompany each of the four segments, are a nice touch. But the tape is too simplistic - and short - for a 6-year-old. It's better suited to 3- and 4-year-olds. From an adult perspective, Cosby's humor misses the mark much of the time, but youngsters are likely to feel a certain affinity for the gentle clown who brings them Jell-O pudding on a regular basis. 30 minutes. Front Row Video. $9.95. - Mike Pearson (Howard Press Service)
DEBBIE GIBSON LIVE IN CONCERT: THE `OUT OF THE BLUE' TOUR - Gibson, the teenage pop star, is a more convincing artist on stage than on album. Though the best of her songs (including "Staying Together" and "Only in My Dreams") have a catchy, nicely crafted undercoat on record, others (such as the anonymous "Shake Your Love" and the mushy "Fallen Angel") are woefully nondescript. On stage, however, Gibson, a perky New Yorker, brings even the weakest material to life with a vitality and charm reminiscent of Olivia Newton-John's inviting "Physical" tour in 1982. Gibson's enthusiasm transfers well to video, though the package is limited by rather conventional camera work and editing. 60 minutes. Atlantic Video. $19.98. - Robert Hilburn (L.A. Times)