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ReelclassicDVD's release of the Van Beuren Chaplin Mutuals

 
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WaverBoy



Joined: 29 May 2007
Posts: 285

PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:58 pm    Post subject: ReelclassicDVD's release of the Van Beuren Chaplin Mutuals Reply with quote

I just received this yesterday, and have been going through the films. I was hoping that these would be transfers I hadn't seen before, but they appear to be recycled masters from the old Media Home Entertainment series, Chaplin: Lost & Found Mutual Vols. 1-3, which used David Shepard's restorations from 1984 and was released by Image on LD in 1990. Except for redone opening credits and end titles featuring the Reelclassicdvd logo and new material copyright notice, the transfers are virtually identical, right down to the mix of Van Beuren and Blackhawk intertitles, a few video editing artifacts, slower projection speed (which makes the jazz band sound a bit sluggish and medicated) and often out-of-sync soundtrack (Charlie slams down a spitoon, the THUMP comes just a little too late). Ironically, the music playing over the DVD menu screens, taken from THE COUNT and THE CURE opening titles, is playing at the correct speed. At any rate, if my hunch is correct, Mark must've worked out a deal with the Shepard, and if so, it's cool that the Van Beurens are being kept alive in some form alongside the newer restorations, despite the aforementioned issues.

Not a bad release to have, if you want the Van Beuren versions on DVD and don't have them, as the visual quality is very nice, second only to the newer Shepard restorations; the extra Keystones are nice to have too. However, be aware of the sound issues (I'm admittedly more sensitive than most in this area, so your mileage may vary), and if you've already got the Lost & Found Mutuals series on LD, you don't need this release unless you gotta have it on DVD and you don't have a DVD recorder.

My preference for the Van Beuren versions is the LD series from Republic Home Video/LaserVision entitled Chaplin: The Early Years Vols. 1-4, which I believe was mastered from 16mm Blackhawk prints (originally restored by Mr. Shepard as well). These have all the Van Beuren intertitles replaced with Blackhawk's and even more intertitles restored than the Lost & Found versions (e.g. the Lost & Found EASY STREET is missing some intertitles contained in the Early Years version, such as "Charity" and "Love backed by force..."), as well as additional footage for some films such as BEHIND THE SCREEN and THE RINK. Also, they are projected at the correct sound speed for these versions so the music is at the proper tempo and everything is in perfect sync, just like it was on the old sound Super 8mm Blackhawk prints I used to check out of my old hometown library (the music pitch is the same for both the Early Years and Lost & Found series, so the latter must have been pitch-corrected). On the downside, the visual quality is inferior to the Lost & Found LDs, and the picture is zoomed in a bit, which most noticeably affects the left side of the screen. However, sound sync and missing footage issues tend to bug me more, so the Republic LDs must remain my Van Beuren Mutuals of choice.
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booklover



Joined: 28 Dec 2006
Posts: 644

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Somebody clue me in; were these films re-done with various noise effects? Call me uptight, but I usually don't enjoy those films that have been tampered with, for lack of a better word, unless it was done by the artist themselves. I really don't go for, say "Fractured Flickers," or those Youngson compilations with jokey narration, although from I have seen the "Funny Mann's" were nicely done. I don't mind if there is constructive narration, such as The Slaphappy series. Anyway, if it's a product by Reelclassic, then it's good quality. I was just curious about the films themselves.
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WaverBoy



Joined: 29 May 2007
Posts: 285

PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Van Beuren corporation bought the films in the '30s, redid the opening, closing and intertitles, and added fantastic bouncy jazzy scores to them, compiled and played especially for the films by bandleaders Winston Sharples and Gene Rodemich and some of the era's best session musicians. They also added sound effects that are sometimes overdone. (Some may not like the sound effects, but they would have been originally shown with sound effects played live in addition to the music, so it is relatively authentic.) Some intertitles are missing, some added in a few cases, the occasional bit of footage is missing here and there that has turned up in later restorations, etc., but the films aren't really altered any more than in other releases, and the music scores are FAR superior to any others I've heard, including Carl Davis'.

As I've noted, the Reelclassicdvd release just recycled the earlier Shepard restoration of the Van Beurens; except for the redone opening and closing credits, they are absolutely identical. This release was either taken from Shepard's master and altered, or ripped from the laserdiscs and altered (with permission of course, I'm assuming).

All versions of the Mutuals released on VHS/LD/DVD are missing footage and intertitles in one way or another, and none of them possess the original Mutual opening titles, closing titles, or intertitles. David Shepard redid all the titles in these films in the '70s at Blackhawk, and restored some that were missing from the original Van Beuren editions. The best versions of Shepard's "enhanced" Van Beuren editions are Blackhawk's 16mm film prints, which are represented in the Republic LD series I mentioned. Shepard's 1984 restoration used for the Media Home Entertainment LD series (and the Reelclassicdvd release) uses 35mm material, but is unwisely slowed down so the soundtrack sounds funny and is out-of-sync, and is missing some footage found in the 16mm prints.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive edition of the Chaplin Mutuals; David Shepard's latest restored set, although it finally contains the complete version of ONE A.M. and is by far the best visually that the series has ever looked, is still missing some existing footage, especially from THE CURE and THE IMMIGRANT, and the intertitles are in a hodgepodge of styles from Blackhawk and other distributors that have had these over the years. And, Carl Davis' scores are disappointingly lackluster. I still prefer the Van Beuren versions overall.
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snorrem



Joined: 31 Jan 2007
Posts: 704
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WaverBoy wrote:
And, Carl Davis' scores are disappointingly lackluster. I still prefer the Van Beuren versions overall.


I like the scores Davis composed for the Chaplin-Mutuals, and think they are quite beautiful, but do feel they tended to get a little too melancholic at times, somewhat contradictory in mood to that of the action in the films, especially in One A.M.
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WaverBoy



Joined: 29 May 2007
Posts: 285

PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

snorrem wrote:
WaverBoy wrote:
And, Carl Davis' scores are disappointingly lackluster. I still prefer the Van Beuren versions overall.


I like the scores Davis composed for the Chaplin-Mutuals, and think they are quite beautiful, but do feel they tended to get a little too melancholic at times, somewhat contradictory in mood to that of the action in the films, especially in One A.M.


Well, I don't have a problem with the music as music, just the music as Chaplin Mutuals scores. Davis is a wonderful composer, but as far as marrying music to film, he's largely off his game here in my opinion. And that's a rarity, because every other score of his I've heard attached to a silent has been nigh perfection. SAFETY LAST!, THE GENERAL, IT, THE KID BROTHER...I could go on and on.
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