The Best Blu-Ray and DVD Releases
of 2012 as decreed by Greg Klymkiw
This was a stellar year for Blu-Ray and DVD collectors that it's been difficult to whittle my personal favourites down to a mere 10 releases. So hang on to your hats as I'll be presenting a personal favourite release from 2012 EACH and EVERY single day that will comprise my Top 10. At the end of all the daily postings, I'll combine the whole kit and kaboodle into one mega-post with all titles listed ALPHABETICALLY. My criteria for inclusion is/was thus: 1. The movie (or movies). How much do I love it/them? 2. How much do I love owning this product? 3. How many times will I re-watch it? 4. Is the overall physical packaging to my liking? 5. Do I like the picture and sound? There was one more item I used to assess the material. For me it was the last and LEAST area of consideration - one that probably surprise most, but frankly, has seldom been something I care that much about. For me, unless supplements really knock me on my butt, their inclusion is not that big of a deal. That said, I always go though supplements with a fine tooth comb and beyond any personal pleasure they deliver (or lack thereof), I do consider the educational value of such supplements for those studying film and/or those who might benefit from them in some fashion (film students or not). So, without further ado, here goes.
Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best Blu-Ray & DVD Releases of 2012 (which will be compiled in alphabetical order in one final mega-post). Today's Title (more to follow on subsequent days) is none other than:
Cut to the Chase:
The Charley Chase Collection
Review By Greg Klymkiw
This DVD is a revelation. I know, I know. Some of you (and you know who you are, all of you, those dearest to me whom I can count on one hand), you must surely be shaking your collective heads and saying: "Greg, how could you not have discovered Charley Chase sooner? For shame, laddie, for shame!"
And yes, I should have discovered this gem sooner. I hang my head in shame - not too low, mind you, because that is why the magnificent Milestone Films exists. Its founders Dennis Doros and Amy Heller were placed on this Earth to bring overlooked classic cinema before those who should know better and, frankly, as much of the world as humanly possible. On those grounds alone - notably MY sustenance, MY awakening, MY illumination - are more than enough reason to cite this stunning disc as one of the most important DVD releases of 2012.
It sickens me to admit it, but the brilliant silent comedian Charley Chase was not an important part of my own cinematic vocabulary until watching Cut to the Chase: The Charley Chase Collection. That said, I do vaguely recall sampling a couple of his short comedies via 16mm prints over 30-years-ago and can only suspect Chase didn't grab me back then as the potentially less-than-ideal presentation of the films was swamped by the plethora of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd prints (also on 16mm) that so commanded my attention in the halcyon days when my voracious appetite for cinema was still in its burgeoning phases.
Well, that's my excuse. What's yours?
Seeing this beautifully curated DVD, I'm a bit shocked that I didn't make a greater effort to dive headlong into Chase. Seeing him now, he seems to be a perfect comic persona to worship during those years when I and a handful of movie-mad young drones in Winnipeg, my beloved city of retro-inspiration, sought to live our lives in a perverse amalgam of punk-fuck-you with anything pre-WWII and dapples of 50s post-war repression. Anyone needing further elucidation on this should watch Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, Cowards Bend The Knee, Brand Upon The Brain and Keyhole or the the legendary short films of John Paizs and his exquisite feature Crime Wave, all of which are as representative of this state of mind amongst the city's youthful miscreants living outside the vast majority of beer-swilling metalheads who dominated the -ahem- culture of our Winter City.
Charley Chase should have been our idol. That said, I think he probably was, though inadvertently - via, of course, his spirit, his ghost - haunting us, possessing us, demanding we follow his lead. Our own obsession with the periods and fashion of Chase's time surely contributed to the manner in which we lived our lives through the mid-to-late 70s and even through much of the horrendous 80s.
If anything, Chase exuded a personality of modernism beyond modernism in his own time.
Watching him now, it's as if he was completely instep with his time by being skewed ever-so slightly out-of-step. Chase's distinctively dapper haircut, a pomade-infused pate that often tapered its way into the sudden burned-in definition of his oh-so elegant mini burns. And then there was the hippest, most happening moustache this side of The Little Tramp (or Hitler, take your pick). His long, thin 'stache and glistening dome seemed to be the ideal crown (when his cooler-than-cool hats and caps were doffed) to those adornments below his neck - blending 20s chic with an-ultra-casual-not-so-chic attire (but chic, because of its un-chic qualties). All of these physical accoutrements contributed to a persona embodying the future, with a kind of 10-seconds-into-the future soul and comportment.
Unlike, Chaplin and occasionally Keaton, who brought their sensibilities to the past and Lloyd who so often seemed of his time (though universally so), Chase seems (at least based on this two-disc set of DVDs) something else altogether.
So what are you going to get if you get this disc?
2 discs, 300-minutes and 16 shorts without the encumbrance of any extras save for a sleek, simple and easily navigable menu design. The transfers themselves range from watchable to first-rate and thankfully they're all window-boxed to present as much of the 1:1:33 full screen images as possible. This a frills-free edition and for me, it's another great example of a DVD where the films themselves are frills-enough.
The movies on this disc are, in a word, tremendous. They're so funny that during my first helping of them, I was not the only one roaring with laughter. My wife and notably, 11-year-old daughter, were equally enthused. My daughter so fell in love with Charley Chase that she petulantly refused to allow me to shut the home entertainment system down after the first disc to allow her a decent bedtime.
Oh, to paraphrase Ruskin, that impudent little crystal!
I'm happy she did this, actually. Her petulance paid off in spades. Watching the 16 films back to back in one sitting was, from a pure level of entertainment value, an absolute blast. From an aesthetic and pedagogical standpoint it was a double-your-pleasure burst of joy being able to see the sophistication level of the humour and being able to experience both a voice and consistency in Mr. Chase's short films and his approach to comedy. The narratives - always simple, but engaging hooks for Mr. Chase to hang his humour and style upon - are rooted firmly in laughs derived from embarrassment - Chase's, of course, but by extension, ours.
Many of the shorts were directed by the inimitable Leo McCarey (in close collaboration with Chase). McCarey, of course, was no slouch to several generations of movie lovers having directed one of the great screwball romantic comedies of all time, The Awful Truth and the beloved sentimental tale of inner city priests Going My Way (both of which won McCarey Oscars for Best Director). (Let's also not forget he directed The Bells of St. Mary's, a film title that adorns the movie theatre marquee in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life and as such, is a movie, captured as a piece of time and playing forever in the mythical town of Bedford Falls.)
In addition to making people laugh with a clutch of other great comedies like the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (as well as being the brains behind developing the personae of Laurel and Hardy), McCarey made millions upon millions of viewers weep copiously - first with Love Affair in 1939 and then its wildly successful remake An Affair to Remember (with Cary Grant) in 1957.
The story goes that studio head Hal Roach was looking to generate a new comic star in the tradition of Harold Lloyd AND find directing gigs for Leo McCarey. Chase had long abandoned acting in favour of being Roach's most trusted and talented creative production chief, but Roach coaxed him to return to his place in front of the camera, with McCarey behind. McCarey often credited Chase with being the real brains behind their collaborations, but the fact of the matter is that they were great pals and creatively, like two positively combative peas in a pod, they managed to generate over 50 films together. McCarey purportedly detested the humour of embarrassment, but the best versions of these (some of which are in this DVD release) are among the best comedy shorts ever made.
The McCarey contributions in the Cut To The Chase DVD are admittedly better than many of the others in the set, but frankly, that's kind of like saying Godfather Part II is better than The Godfather.
If you love silent cinema, this DVD is for you. If you love discovering new/old talent, ditto. If you want to laugh so hard that you'll soil yourself on more than one occasion - Charley Chase is your man and Cut To The Chase has your name on it.
Cut to the Chase - The Charley Chase Collection is available via Milestone Films through Oscilloscope Releasing. If you're interested in purchasing it, feel free to order through the direct Amazon links below which will not only be especially convenient, but will allow you to contribute to the ongoing maintenance of this site.
in USA and the rest of the WORLD - BUY Charlie Chase Cut to the Chase - HERE!