Pick of the Week: The Kid (Criterion)
Charlie Chaplin was a star well before he made 1921’s The Kid, his first feature film, thanks to a string of wildly successful two-reel comedies featuring his iconic Tramp character, in which he starred and served as writer/director. But nothing guaranteed that stardom would last. Chaplin’s most recent efforts, in which he’d attempted to branch out beyond The Tramp, had been coolly received and he was behind schedule on the slate of films he promised to deliver to his distributor. He was in the midst of an extremely tumultuous period in his personal life as well, having recently lost an infant child. Nonetheless, with The Kid he turned out the longest, most ambitious, and most emotionally complex film of his career to date.
As much melodrama as comedy, The Kid finds Chaplin’s Tramp caring for a boy (Jackie Coogan) abandoned by his single mother, a premise from which Chaplin draws comedy and pathos in equal measures, whether depicting the boy and his surrogate dad practicing genteel manners while digging into the most meager of feasts or an extended fantasy sequence in which the Tramp’s slum becomes a Heaven. Chaplin would make even better films down the line, but The Kid‘s mix of laughter and tears — a stated goal of the opening title card — is the filmmaker in quintessence.
Typically, Criterion has filled out the film with a rich assortment of extras, including an informative commentary track from Chaplin expert Charles Maland and a neat look at how silent filmmakers achieved odd effects by changing up the speeds at which they cranked cameras.
Steve Jobs (Universal) Trumbo (Universal) Black Mass (Warner Bros.)
It’s a good week to catch up on films that aren’t as much in the Oscars conversation as they might have imagined they would be, from Johnny Depp’s performance as Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass to Bryan Cranston’s turn as blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo to Michael Fassbender chewing on Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs.
I Confess (Warner Archive) The Wrong Man (Warner Archive)
It’s also a good week to catch up with Alfred Hitchcock movies that usually aren’t among the Hitchcock films most people see first. They’re both great, however. I Confess makes excellent use of Quebec City and stars Montgomery Clift as a priest who hears a confession and then can’t say anything as he becomes wrapped up in the crime itself. The Wrong Man, based on a true story, a rarity for Hitchcock, casts Henry Fonda as a man wrongly accused and seemingly unable to convince the world of his innocence.
The Vincent Price Collection Vol. 3 (Shout! Factory)
Shout! Factory has done a wonderful job gathering together key films from Vincent Price’s busy, colorful films in these collections. The third volume veers into for-hardcore-fans-only territory but notably features Tower Of London, one of the actor’s many collaborations with Roger Corman, and a healthy selection of extras. Every one-of-a-kind star should be so lucky as to have their legacy treated so well.
Death By Hanging (Criterion)
Similarly, Criterion has done a valiant job preserving the work of controversial Japanese director Nagisa Oshima, a pattern continued with this story of a man who’s sentenced to die by hanging — but survives.
Class (Olive Films) Secret Admirer (Olive Films) Beat Street (Olive Films)
Fans of ’80s cable staples are in luck this week, thanks to three Blu-ray releases from Olive Films. Class features a young Rob Lowe and an immortal tagline: “The good news is Jonathan having his first affair. The bad news is she’s his roommate’s mother.” Secret Admirer features Full House‘s Lori Loughlin and a lot of misunderstandings around a love note. Beat Street is the other breakdancing movie. Not Breakin’ not Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogalooo, the East Coast one with Rae Dawn Chong and a bunch of cameos from early hip-hop legends.