These two classic, silent comedies distributed by Criterion Collection are a must-see for today’s kids.
City Lights. 86 min. Dist. by Criterion Collection. Criterioncollection.com. 1931, this edition 2013. DVD & Blu-ray $39.95. ISBN 9781604657852.
Gr 9 Up–Considered one of the greatest of Charlie Chaplin’s (almost) silent films, City Lights was made as the popularity of talkies rendered silent movies obsolete. Still, despite its release four years after Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer (1927), City Lights was an overwhelming success. Chaplin’s inspired musical score and comedic sound effects render audible dialogue unnecessary and help to propel this engaging love story to its compelling conclusion. Even young people used to the non-stop action of today’s movies will find that Chaplin’s antics and brilliant pacing will keep them engaged throughout. Optional audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance supplies details of both the making of the movie and aspects of Chaplin’s history and personality that led to the story line. Other supplements include a 2003 documentary that explores how Chaplin’s mastery of visual communication and pursuit of perfection contributed to City Lights becoming one of his most acclaimed films; visual effects expert Craig Barron discusses Chaplin’s ingenuous set designs; and Chaplin historian Hooman Mehran discusses Chaplin’s arduous process of production. Additional material contains deleted scenes, a scene rehearsal, and boxing footage, including an excerpt from the 1915 short film “The Champion” that provides comparisons for the boxing match in City Lights. A booklet contains a brief history and critique of the film and selections from a 1966 interview with Chaplin for Life magazine. While some of the supplementary information is at times contradictory (Chaplin’s relationship with lead actress Virginia Cherrill being one example), overall it provides considerable insight into both the making of the film and the genius of the man behind it. A welcome addition for teachers looking to enrich their students’ appreciation for the dramatic arts and the history of film.–Cary Frostick, formerly with Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA
Safety Last! 73 min. Dist. by the Criterion Collection. 1923, this edition 2013. DVD $29.95, ISBN 9781604657319. Blu-ray $39.95, ISBN 9781
Gr 4 Up–In this classic silent film, Harold Lloyd plays a down-on-his-luck department store clerk desperately trying to earn enough money to marry his sweetheart, all while pretending to be a successful manager at the store so she is none the wiser. As part of a publicity stunt, he gets paid to scale the department store building, but quickly finds himself in both dangerous and hilarious situations, such as hanging from the hands of the building’s clock—the movie’s most iconic image. Modern audiences (especially children) may find the pacing too slow at first, but they will find the ending just as funny and suspenseful as when it first was shown back in 1923. Included are a wide variety of special features, highlights include an engaging audio commentary by film critic/historian Leonard Maltin; a 1989, 108-minute informative documentary about the life of Lloyd (which reflects on the loss of part of his hand, making the death-defying stunts he performed in the film all that more impressive); a new documentary about the groundbreaking visual effects; and three recently restored shorts that display the well-rounded approach of Lloyd’s comedy. A terrific package for easily one of the best silent comedies.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI