Automotive Holiday Deals Books Holiday Gift Guide Shop Women's Cyber Monday Deals Week Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Indie for the Holidays egg_2015 Fire TV Stick Beauty Gifts Gifts for Her Amazon Gift Card Offer mithc mithc mithc  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Voyage Cyber Monday Video Game Deals Shop Now bgg
Customer Review

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great presentation of an all-time classic, January 25, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Modern Times (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times is one of my favourite films and arguably one of the best films ever made. The movie remains incredibly funny while also managing to be a significant artistic achievement in cinema design and social commentary. For Chaplin fans, it marks the last appearance of his "little tramp" character and, not coincidentally, his last film without full synchronized sound. The film does include music, sound effects, and the occasional voice, including a segment at the end where we get to hear the tramp sing a short nonsense song. However, as a film released 10 years into the sound movie era, the film is also something of an enigma. It presents perhaps the most famous silent film character in a film that purports to be silent, yet it features futuristic factory machinery (reminiscent of Metropolis) and large close-circuit flat screen video displays that would have looked almost like science fiction back in the 1930's.

This new Blu-ray release from Criterion continues their standard of releasing historically important films with significant audio/video remastering and a variety of enticing special features. However, in this case, Criterion is competing with an already excellent release of this film on DVD from Warner/mk2 in 2003. The new Criterion release mentions that the "new" transfer was created in collaboration with Cineteca di Bologna, who were also credited with the previous Warner/mk2 release. I am not sure if this release actually includes a new transfer or just an upgrade of the existing one to 2K-resolution for Blu-ray. I performed a side-by-side comparison of both versions, and the Criterion Blu-ray version contained noticeably better detail and superior contrast. However, it also contained a great deal more digital grain that I found a little distracting at first. This can easily be seen in the opening frames where the clock face that seemed so steady on the old DVD version now has a multitude of dancing pixels that give it a strange shimmering quality. As the film progressed, I became accustomed to the new graininess of the image and began to appreciate the increased detail. For the first time, I could see some of the horizontal wires used to secretly operate the "feeding machine" in the second chapter. Chaplin's face also looked a little older throughout. The old Warner/mk2 DVD version looked softer and textures, including faces, had a much smoother feel to them. I did notice some extra grit and fibres showing near the edges of the frame in the Criterion version that were absent from the Warner/mk2 DVD, so this does suggest that the transfer or at least processing of the transfer is different. Overall, I preferred the more detailed Criterion version but still think that a better compromise between the two could be reached with some more processing and cleanup of artefacts done to the Criterion version.

Sound quality for both versions was similar with a slight nod going to the lossless Criterion mono version. The old DVD also includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack absent from the Criterion version. This is not really worth the effort for a film with 1936 sound technology.

As far as special features go, the Criterion version really shines. It adds a new and informative commentary by Chaplin biographer, David Robinson. The old DVD included only a six-minute introduction by Robinson. Other features from the old DVD are also carried through to the Criterion Blu-ray. These include the 26-minute "Chaplin Today - Modern Times" featurette, two deleted scenes of very minor importance, some theatrical trailers, and a 10-minute Cuban documentary about peasants seeing Modern Times as their first movie experience. The old DVD includes some additional materials that are not included on the new Blu-ray such as photo/poster galleries, plus some vintage featurettes from the US government and Ford motor company related to assembly line labour, and a performance of "Smile" by Liberace. None of these is a major loss.

New to the Criterion version are two excellent "visual essays" which are essentially a series of stills (many from the galleries on the old DVD) with substantial and informative commentaries by two Chaplin historians related to the making of the film and the locations used. There is also a very interesting new featurette about the visual and sound effects used in the film. It includes some fascinating explanations of effect shots presented in the film, although their very detailed explanation of a glass matte shot used in the roller skating scene does not seem to take into account that the camera moves during the sequence.

Also included is a very interesting interview with music arranger, David Raskin, taken from an old Laserdisc version of the film. I was glad to be able to see this again. Finally, an old Chaplin short, "The Rink", and a home movie with Alistair Cooke, "All at Sea", are included. These are available elsewhere but are presented here in superior quality (the former) or with an additional interview (the latter) not available elsewhere.

Criterion also includes a nice 36-page black and white printed booklet with chapter stops, cast and credits, plus two informative historical essays.

Overall, I think this is a nice package. The film presentation is more detailed than it has ever been in any previous release, although some additional digital manipulation of the picture and cleanup of artefacts would be welcomed by my eyes. The bonus features are extensive and interesting, although I would like to have seen more of the image galleries (including stills, script elements, publicity and financial material) that have been included, albeit at much lower resolution, on previous DVD and Laserdisc versions. My only gripe with the bonus materials is that both on disk and in print they refer to poor or at least "diminished" box office performance of the film because it did not have full sound. All vintage box office information I have seen related to the film indicate that it was one of the top five grossing films of the year. Then or now, it is a fun ride.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in


Tracked by 2 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 29, 2011 9:52:10 AM PST
L. Thacker says:
This may be the best -- and certainly the most useful -- review I've ever read on Amazon.

Thanks for taking the time to write it!!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2012 2:47:08 PM PDT
Yes, excellent review. And you're absolutely right that "Modern Times" did not, by most standards, do "poorly" at the box-office; it made less money than "The Gold Rush" and "City Lights" but that hardly suggests it was a financial failure.

Posted on Jun 11, 2012 10:49:00 AM PDT
The grain in the opening titles is most likely because Chaplin re-shot the titles in the 1970's to post a new copyright renewal notice, removing the original title card with the clock moving in the background.
This alteration brought the picture image of the title section another generation away from the camera original.

The increase in grain is rather typical for many Blu-ray releases, it is usually the grain in the original film negative. Trying to 'scrub' this out can lead to losing details in the picture image.

Posted on Jul 21, 2013 7:14:07 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 21, 2013 7:18:40 PM PDT]
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details