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Unknown Chaplin: The Master at Work (1986)

James Mason , Geraldine Chaplin  |  NR |  DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: James Mason, Geraldine Chaplin, Sydney Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin
  • Writers: Kevin Brownlow, David Gill
  • Format: Black & White, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A&E Home Video / Thames
  • DVD Release Date: November 29, 2005
  • Run Time: 156 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BB14ZS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,660 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Unknown Chaplin: The Master at Work" on IMDb

Special Features

  • The Story Behind Unknown Chaplin
  • Two Bonus Shorts: Tha Making of The Count and Chaplin Meets Harry Lauder
  • Chapling Biography

Editorial Reviews

With bowler hat, mustache and cane, Charlie Chaplin became one of the twentieth century's most recognized and beloved icons. But for decades, the secrets to his timeless film magic were presumed lost forever to the cutting-room floors of a bygone era. Now, available on DVD for the first time, UNKNOWN CHAPLIN captures the cinematic genius as he was never meant to be seen. Using countless reels of footage and outtakes Chaplin had wanted destroyed, film archivists Kevin Brownlow and David Gill have meticulously crafted an essential and fascinating documentary homage to the Little Tramp who will no doubt keep us laughing until the last flickering frame. Featuring the following programs: MY HAPPIEST YEARS: Early shorts reveal how constant re-working of sight gags led to Chaplin's first triumph. THE GREAT DIRECTOR: The Kid, The Gold Rush and City Lights--by 1918, Chaplin is the movie industry's top director. HIDDEN TREASURES: See the original opening sequence to Chaplin's City Lights with a new musical score. DVD Features: How UNKNOWN CHAPLIN Was Made; Two Bonus Shorts: The Making of The Count and Chaplin Meets Harry Lauder; Chaplin Biography; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaplin at Work January 9, 2006
I remember sitting in front of my television, rapturously watching the documentary "Hollywood" created by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill in 1980. Each of the 13 segments dealing with a specific part of early Hollywood history, played on PBS and was a true delight. In this era before DVD, and even VHS, it was a great way to see a large number of rare clips from the Silent era. A few years later, they made "Unknown Chaplin", perhaps the most astonishing documentary ever created about the technical side of Hollywood. A few years later, "Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow" continued the tradition.

"Unknown Chaplin" was just released on DVD and is a must have addition for anyone even remotely interested in the history of film or filmmaking.

During production of "Hollywood", Brownlow and Gill naturally wanted to devote an entire hour to Chaplin but ran into a roadblock. The person who controlled access to Chaplin's work was only prepared to let them use a "snippet". They had to change their plans. They couldn't build an entire hour around a "snippet". After "Hollywood" aired, to great critical acclaim, they tried again. Chaplin's widow allowed them access to his personal vault. What they found there astonished them; row after row of film cans, many labeled with "City Lights", "The Gold Rush", "The Circus" and many with unfamiliar names. These contained clips never before seen, projects started but never finished and rehearsals for films like "City Lights". It was a treasure trove for any film historian.

Naturally, they believed they had just hit the mother load, but soon met a man named Raymond Rohauer.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaplin remembered with love November 1, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
I agree this is a wonderful set. All the more impressive when one understands that the "out-takes" referred to in other reviews were supposed to be destroyed! Chaplin filmed his rehersals and played them back later, watching to see how jokes worked best. At times he'd do over a hundred takes until he had the gag worked out the way he wanted. Today, with video that doesn't seem like a big deal, but for him to film it all was an extremely large investment made by a true comic artist. After the film was complete, Chaplin ordered all this extra footage burned. Only because someone disobeyed did this material survive to be seen today.
Another great feature of this set (along with Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow and Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius) is interviews with surviving co-workers who share their personal memories of Chaplin. Even during the time between the Chaplin and the Lloyd series, many of those interviewed had passed away. Recreating this documentary today would be impossible. Get this set and look back on a parade that has gone by.
Highly recommended, especially for those interested in history and film production.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST SEE!! October 1, 2005
By Charlie
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I have long owned the three-tape vhs version of this title. In the days before David Shephard, et al. put out all those magnificent restorations (and before Warner Bros. rereleased some early Chaplins), this series was the ONLY place to find high quality Chaplin films, albeit not complete, and incredible outtakes. I can't recommend this series enough to any Chaplin fan. My pre-order is on file!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensible December 15, 2001
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
This absolutely astonishing set of tapes shows Charlie Chaplin at work on some of his greatest films. What a unique experience to see one of the true geniuses of cinema hone his art! You get to watch gags and storylines evolve as he painstakingly experiments before the cameras. There's even an amazing moment when Chaplin, in his Little Tramp costume, angrily turns and berates a talkative extra on the set of "The Immigrant." If you love Chaplin, this collection is a little bit of heaven.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Genius of Laughter January 27, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Unknown Chaplin is an excellent three part documentary about the parts of Charlie Chaplin's career that are not well known to the public. Film-makers Kevin Brownlow and David Gill became aware of rare film footage from Chaplin's archive and came up with the idea to make a documentary of it. They discovered ample evidence of the genius's filming techniques including scenes of him directing and creating gags on film.

The first episode delves into what are known as Chaplin's "happiest years," the ones making Mutual comedies. During this time, he was able to do everything behind the camera. He was a director as well as an actor and he contributed greatly to the stories and pacing of the films. We also learn a bit about his relationship with Edna Purviance, his leading lady for 8 years. The second bit focuses heavily on two major accomplishments in Chaplin's career, The Gold Rush and City Lights. Here we see interviews with his leading ladies Georgia Hale and Virginia Cherrill to gain insight into the man and his methods. The last segment rediscovers the artist through outtakes and rare clips. We see a very funny cut scene from City Lights as well as other interesting moments.

Also included on this disk are two fascinating bits for film historians. We hear Brownlow's story of the making of these documentaries, a very interesting but disappointingly short segment. Next is The Making of The Count, a dissection of how Chaplin made the film. Both are excellent supplements to a wonderful show. If you find yourself wondering why Chaplin gets so much attention in the history books, watch this film. You won't second guess anymore.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved the entire thing
For any Chaplin fan every minute will be magical. It will make those who know lttle about the man want to learn more. A must watch for any want to be filmmaker. Read more
Published 20 days ago by James Steven Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent product and service!
Published 2 months ago by Thomas DeRoberto
5.0 out of 5 stars "Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself."...
Among others areas explored, the three chapter documentary THE UNKNOWN CHAPLIN
offers genuine insights into how he worked as a director. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Annie Van Auken
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for Graduate Film Students and Chaplin Fans
This documentary has many things going for it.

* One, it is narrated by marvelous, mellow voice of James Mason. Read more
Published 3 months ago by The Peripatetic Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Charlie
WOW! If you are an old movie era type person, this collection is amazing. Great movies, of Charlie directing and lots of
back stories. I love this DVD
Published 6 months ago by Linda Karen Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing behind the scenes look into Chaplin and his genius!
This series has a great amount of behind the scenes and lost footage of one of the greatest director/actors. Loved it!
Published 14 months ago by matt t walker
5.0 out of 5 stars The backwards hat trick alone is worth viewing the whole series.
This delightful documentary shows the secrets of many clever tricks that were a mystery until two film historians studied Charles Chaplin's works. Read more
Published 17 months ago by V. R. Padgett
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at Chaplin
This is a fascinating documentary giving a glimpse into how Chaplin made his films, which was an amazingly inefficient process on the surface. Read more
Published on July 24, 2011 by saskrs
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest film history documentaries ever made
Charlie Chaplin was very secretive about the way he worked, his biography generalising his methods almost to the point of obscurity, making this 1983 documentary from the makers of... Read more
Published on December 19, 2010 by Trevor Willsmer
5.0 out of 5 stars fine documentary about one of the greatest artists ever
Unknown Chaplin may be a long documentary clocking in at over two and one half hours; but the time flew by as I watched it, fascinated by Chaplin's outtakes and the discoveries the... Read more
Published on November 18, 2010 by Matthew G. Sherwin
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