June 29th, 2014 by Calvero

Continuing on with Chaplin’s 125th anniversary of his birth and 100th anniversary of his first film! HUZZAH!

I was listening to a song, Perpetuum Mobile by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and it popped in my head of a scene from a not-so-well-known Charlie Chaplin film that was never released (until a few years ago).  The song itself does not necessarily remind one of Chaplin, but the tempo reminded me of the stop motion building of his studio from the film, How to Make Movies (a kind of “behind the scenes” type movie).  And other things just fell into place.

Below are embeds of the film (no need to adjust the volume, there is no sound at all for the film), and two different places to listen to the song (your choice). I start the song right after the “Hollywood, Cal.” title card (about 0:14), and the song ends as Charlie finishes eating the lemon and skips away from the camera.

Here is the song on YouTube:

Have Spotify? (Where I first heard the song.)

It’s not a 100% match, but it does match quite a bit of it especially since it’s not an obvious song choice (Maple Leaf Rag always reminds me of Chaplin), and ends at a good spot. Fun to watch 🙂

Some thoughts on the film:

Although the film was never released to the public, Chaplin did release the beginning part of it when he put together three of his silent films together, A Dog’s Life, Should Arms, and The Pilgrim, in 1959 for The Chaplin Revue. He added music (which is wonderful! Especially for guy who couldn’t read or write music) and narrated short intros before each of the three films. Right before A Dog’s Life, he narrates parts of HTMM.

Such as the scene where the 1918 Charlie arrives at the studio, older Chaplin says “Now you see my arrival. (Charlie gets out of car) That’s me. I looked much younger there. (laughs) That was at least ten years ago” he says, 40 years later! Always makes me chuckle.

I just tried looking for it online, and (as of right now) it’s been removed and I cannot find another one.

It is an amazing look (albeit staged) at how he worked at that time of his career. And a lot of fun to see him, for a good amount of the film, as his own person, no costume. Interacting with his cast, directing, going over gags, putting on, and later taking off, his famous tramp costume, and some golf outtakes from The Idle Class.

And like many of his other films, he wrote, produced, directed it, and starred in this one.

The lemon that Chaplin eats is from citrus trees that grew on the lot. The land was covered with them, and when Chaplin build his studio, he kept a few standing.

And now I’ll head off and watch one of The Chaplin Revue collection movies, Shoulder Arms…

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, classic comedy, Silent movies Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

June 2nd, 2014 by Calvero

Silent Scream, parts 1 & 2
Written by Tony Lee
Illustrated by Al Davidson

A few days ago, Humble Bundle was having a major sale of dozens of digital Doctor Who comic books.with part of the sales going to charity (Sorry, so sorry, it’s over now 🙁 ).  The max payment tier was just $15 for over 80 digital issues.  I have been interested in getting the digital comic books, particularly interested in the Silver Scream issue since it first came out in 2009 (I have enjoyed the few paper DW comics that I have) but never (though close) got around to buying it.  And in the spirit of Chaplin’s 125th birthday, 100th anniversary of his films, and the excellent price, I snagged it!

At the end of series 4 episode, “Journey’s End” of Doctor Who, Donna makes a request to meet Chaplin, just as she is having a mental breakdown due to her mind melding with the Doctor’s. (And I’m just re-watching on Netflix. Oh, the feels!).  And in this issue, the Doctor “helps to finish her last wish”.

Summary (no spoilers!)
The Doctor arrives in 1926 at a Hollywood party hosted by Archie. Two things brought him here: last request by his now departed companion, Donna, and a mysterious static point in space and time.  A bunch of bad things are happening. So the Doctor can’t help but investigate it.

A Sample Page
Which is also the beginning of the story, can be found here.

So why isn’t it actually Chaplin?
So, as you can see by the cover art, it’s not exactly Chaplin. It turned out that near the end of working on the issue, IDW (comic book publisher) was not able to work our an agreement with the Chaplin estate. So they had to make some changes to the name, Archibald Maplin, and his mustache, hat, and cane.

While the artwork was pretty good in the beginning, it had some room for improvement towards the end. But there were a number of things that impressed me about the story. When I first heard about this, I was just expecting the Doctor to pop-up and share some sort of adventure. I was not expecting Mr Lee to be familiar (or well researched?) with Chaplin’s life, specifically 1926.

So how many names changed?
So due to there being no agreement between the Chaplin estate and IDW (Boo on the CE…. ((don’t hurt me!)) but they missed a great opportunity of properly introducing him to Whovians and comic book fans), a number of things had to be renamed.  Here’s all the ones I noticed, in order of appearance

  • Achibald Maplin, Esq. – The big one.  And it’s you know who C|:=)
  • Kato – Toraichi Kono. You can read more about him below in the Cameos.
  • The Great Oppressor – The Great Dictator (1940).  Chaplin’s masterful satire of Adolf Hitler.
  • Future Times – Modern Times (1936). Chaplin’s comedic social commentary on the growing machine age.
  • United Actors – United Artists.  The film company co-founded by
    Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (all pictured left) in 1919 to give them the freedom to make movies they way they wanted.  “The inmates have taken over the asylum”
  • United Actors Studio – There was no actual “United Artists Studios” during this period, but there was Pickford and Fairbanks’ Studio, nicknamed The Lot (part of it was torn down just a couple years ago 🙁 ), and there was Charlie Chaplin’s Studios (still standing! Mostly :D)
  • The Fun Fair – The Circus (1928).  As the Doctor tells Archie this film “will be one of your best films ever.”  It certainly is.

Historical accuracy

In real life, Chaplin was making The Circus in 1926.  Just as Archie tells the Doctor, the set burned down twice, and there was a really nasty public divorce battle between him and his second wife.  It was so stressful for him, that his hair went white.

The photo to the right is one of my all-time favorite photos of Chaplin.  It’s of him with his (first? second?) burned down set.  His face says it all.

And after reading the comic, now we know the *real* reason why he was having all those problems! As with the Great Fire of Rome (64 AD) and London (1666), the baddies were trying to take over and the Doctor had to stop them.  And fires broke out.

“They named a pub after you in the Elephant and Castle though. No, wait, That was for the other guy. The one in the bowler hat” – The only time Chaplin himself is referred to.  And yes, there is a pub in Elephant & Castle named after him.  I’ve been there quite some time ago (but that’s another story).  Even Chaplin had visited it.

Mentions

Mentioned were the Keystone Kops, Rudolph ValentinoHarold Lloyd (as well recreating Lloyd’s famous stunt as the Doctor and baddie hanging off a giant clock), and Douglas Fairbanks who was a big silent film star and Chaplin’s best friend.

Cameos
For these pictures, I found photos that were very close to how the real counterparts looked like around the time of the story.

      • Toraichi Kono (renamed Kato, you can see him on that sample page) who was Chaplin’s chauffeur/secretary/ bodyguard/confidant.  Kono immigrated from Japan to the US and after being in the US for a few years, applied to be a driver unknowing for Chaplin in 1916.  He became in the close circle of Chaplin’s associates. It got to the point where if you wanted to communicate with Chaplin, you went through Kono. Image to the right is of Kono and Chaplin, circa 1932.  Interesting info about a documentary of him here.
  • Buster Keaton (using his real name!), one Chaplin’s major comedic (friendly) rivals and, to many fans, his equal..  Just as he and his cameraman witness the Doctor yank Archie into the cutout window of a falling front of a house which inspires Keaton this famous bit from Steamboat Bill Jr (and,no, it’s not a stuntman, that really is Buster):
  • Laurel and Hardy (maybe?).  In the footage that
    Keaton shoots (cleverly drawn in black and white, with subtitles), we see  the Doctor and Archie chasing the baddie on a motorcycle, and they encounter two gentlemen who closely resemble Stan and Ollie, with goatees, carrying a ladder.  They would later appear in an actual episode of Doctor Who, series 6, “The Impossible Astronaut”. The three of them dance 🙂

My brief review
Pros – The Doctor and a Chaplinesque character! Good story (I always liked it when the Doctor arrives in Earth history), great nods to not only Chaplin but silent comedy in general. Fun cameos (KEATON!)

  • ConsIT’S NOT CHAPLIN! I mean, seriously?!? (but they did give it a honest go at it). Could have done away with the stereotypical person tied to the train tracks. Ahh well. Drawing was a bit off in the second issue. IT’S NOT CHAPLIN! (did I mention that already? I did?)
  • Orverall — Despite the major flaw, I really liked it. I might just get it in it’s physical form!

Where to get it?
Amazon currently has issue one for the Kindle and Kindle app, as well as the full volume of Fugitive (includes the 2 parter Silver Scream as well as following 4 issues)  The Fugitive is the first in 3 volumes (I am in the middle of the second volume, Tesseract),a big story arc involveing Emily Winter and Matthew .  If you check out the Fugitive on Amazon’s site, you can get a sneak peak at several of pages.

And of course, I put links for The Circus DVD and also Streaming on Amazon or Hulu Plus. The music, BTW, is composed and opening song sung by him :).


Extra Links
Just a few places (of many) to go for more info

Doctor Who
Official site
Tardis Data Core
a Doctor Who Wiki that also has a chat, forum, videos, episode list, etc.  Also where I found out about the Humble Bundle package!
Doctor Who Online
 – Huge fan site that provides news, information, apps, forum, and more.
Gallifrey Base – biggest fan forum (you need to register to view it) and wonderful News page
Radio Free Skaro – excellent podcast discussing all things Who
Blogtor Who – excellent blog containing news about the show

Charlie Chaplin
Official
Chaplin Then and Now – long running site that show locations that Chaplin shot at and what they look like now (or, in many cases, a few years ago)
Discovering Chaplin – wonderful blog of photos
Charlie Chaplin Is For The Ages – great tumblr blog sharing photos of Chaplin

Silent movies/comedy
Silent Era – One of the longest running sites dedicated to the silent film era
Movies, Silently – awesome blog containing review and information, and provides great info for those just getting interested in silent movies.
Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more) – similar to Chaplin Then and Now, shows present day locations of Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd films.
The Silent Clown Film Series – If you are in the New York City area, this group play silent comedies at various time of the year. Admission is free!
Nitrateville – Forums discussing both silent and talkies.
Silent Comedy Mafia – active forum focusing on silent comedy
Golden Silents – info on famous stars of that era, and a messageboard

Bonus trivia:
William Hartnell (most famous for playing the first Doctor), became inspired to become an actor after watching Chaplin.

Bonus image:
The original cover artwork for the issue, before things had to change around

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, comic books/graphic novels, Doctor Who, History Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

April 27th, 2014 by Calvero

This is a great video of clips from Buster’s films.  Keep in mind that he did his own stunts and there were no special effects:

My kids love the video (15 and 7) and will repeat it on the way to school.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

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