People who watch Charlie Chaplin movies on TV and home video may not realize how muddy and incomplete those prints are until they compare them to the immaculately restored versions that will be available on laser disc next month through CBS-Fox/Image Entertainment.
At a news conference in Hollywood Thursday, executives from those companies highlighted the dramatic contrast by showing both video and laser disc versions, using clips from such Chaplin classics as "Modern Times" and "City Lights," both due out on laser disc in November.
USC film historian David Shepard, the chief consultant on the project, explained that the laser discs were mastered from original negatives and prints made available by the Chaplin archives for the first time.
"The Great Dictator," "Monsieur Verdoux," "The Gold Rush, "The Kid," "A Dog's Life," "Limelight" and "King of New York" are among the Chaplin films that will be released through the first half of next year at $70 per disc.
The laser disc versions, restored using the latest digital technology techniques, should be free of the usual audio and video noise and cropped properly. On some Chaplin videos, it's not uncommon for part of his head or his feet to be cut off in some scenes.
The laser disc versions of the movies will also include restored footage. Chaplin often edited the reissues of his films, so that later versions were shorter than earlier ones. Sometimes, Shepard said, Chaplin merely trimmed bits of scenes; other times he cut out entire sequences. Many have been restored on the laser discs.
Also accompanying some of the laser releases will be production logs and parts of scripts that will demonstrate what an extraordinarily meticulous filmmaker Chaplin was.
These laser discs are being released to capitalize on the Chaplin boom expected to accompany the December release of the Richard Attenborough film about his life.