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Category:    Home > Reviews > Silent > Comedy > Shorts > Drama > Feature Films > Fantasy > Social Issues > Musical > Religion > Racism > Sou > Cut To The Chase: The Charley Chase Collection (1924 – 1926/Milestone DVD Set)/The Jazz Singer (1927/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD Extras/3-Disc Set)/Mary Pickford: The Rags To Riches Collection (1917 – 1926/M

Cut To The Chase: The Charley Chase Collection (1924 – 1926/Milestone DVD Set)/The Jazz Singer (1927/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD Extras/3-Disc Set)/Mary Pickford: The Rags To Riches Collection (1917 – 1926/Milestone Blu-ray Set)

 

Picture: C/B/B-     Sound: C+/B-/B-     Extras: D/A-/B     Films/Shorts: B-/B/B

 

 

Now we take another look at two of the biggest names in the silent film era and the film that brought an end to that era…

 

 

We start with a second collection of comedy shorts by one of the most underrated and forgotten big names of the silent years, Charlie Chase.  Cut To The Chase: The Charley Chase Collection (1924 – 1926) offers a double DVD set from Milestone of 16 of his shorts.  This is pretty good, but not as extensive as the 4-DVD Becoming Charlie Chase that All Day Entertainment issued a few years ago and we reviewed at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/8819/Becoming+Charley+Chase+(Comedy+C

 

 

However, you may not want that many shorts and here is the list of what Milestone is offering, including the two overlapping shorts on the other set marked with an * and showing less overlap than expected:

 

DVD One

APRIL FOOL 5/18/24 as Jimmy Jump

THE FRAIDY CAT 03/30/24*

BAD BOY 04/12/25 Charley Chase's first surviving two-reel short*

THE CARETAKER’S DAUGHTER xxx

BE YOUR AGE 11/14/26 with Oliver Hardy!

BROMO AND JULIET 9/19/26 with Oliver Hardy!

DOG SHY 4/4/26

CHARLIE MY BOY 1/24/26

 

DVD Two

UNEASY THREE 11/15/25

INNOCENT HUSBANDS 8/2/25

ISN’T LIFE TERRIBLE? 7/5/25 with Oliver Hardy!

WHAT PRICE GOOFY? 6/7/25

LONG FLIV THE KING 6/13/26 with Oliver Hardy!

MAMA BEHAVE 2/28/26

MIGHTY LIKE A MOOSE 7/18/26  Entered into the National Film Registry in 2007!

MUM’S THE WORD 5/9/26

 

Charlie My Boy and Uneasy Three are exclusive to this solid set and gives us more of the performer’s work who died too soon and has still not really been rediscovered as much as he should have been by now, but each such set as this one only helps and Chase’s pure grasp of comedy becomes more apparent the more you watch and then compare him to supposed comedy talent of today that is far from it.

 

There are no extras.

 

 

The biggest female star of her time, Mary Pickford: The Rags To Riches Collection offers a short film and three feature films from 1917 to 1926 from the international film sensation, but this time, in High Definition on Blu-ray again courtesy of Milestone.  We previously looked at the actress and her life in an impressive documentary Muse Of The Movies that I really enjoyed and everyone should see, now on DVD at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/11667/Mary+Pickford:+The+Muse+Of+The

 

This set has three feature films on three separate Blu-ray discs, all of which are serious must-see classics.  Poor Little Rich Girl (1917) was a massive hit as an early 20s Pickford played a pre-teen heroine making her way through the world in a comedy that starts out as simple fantasy on some level and becomes more involved and melodramatic as it goes along.  No doubt the camera loved Pickford and so did the public.  It also plays with class division in winning ways.  Hoodlum (1919) she is a young rich girl again, but bored, finds herself making a decision that stops her from traveling Europe and lands up having to stay in a not-so-moneyed tenement building in the city.  Sparrows (1926) boldly takes the class division/child victim idea to a new level as Pickford is the oldest of orphaned children on a baby farm where unwanted children are brought (or kidnapped, maybe from parents or guardians who loved them in more than a few cases), terrorized, forced into child labor, starved, hated, abused and exploited.  It is as relevant as ever, as institutionalized child abuse and its shocking recent cover-ups show.

 

At their funniest, Pickford doing children seems like a forerunner of Our Gang/The Little Rascals and the kind of poverty that existed before The Great Depression followed by that period of ugliness haunt these films throughout, though they all arrived before the 1929 crash, but you can see Pickford carrying the lead roles and could take the darker, brave, righteous side of things when the storylines got serious.  To see these films looking so good after years of lesser copies is a plus, but any serious film fan should get this set.  These films become more influential that they sometimes get credit for, especially on melodramas and what become the weepies or “woman’s films” well into the sound era.  Censorship the industry eventually made some of this content’s rawness impossible to portray as it does in these films, which is all the more reason to see them.  A star needs strong material, and Pickford got it.

 

Extras include Intro/Outro pieces you can choose when watching the films, while Girl adds about 8.5 minutes of home movies from Pickford’s famous home Pick Fair and a feature length audio commentary track by film scholar & historian Scott Eyman, Hoodlum adds the 17-minutes Ramona (1910) short by D.W. Griffith (her brief co-founder in United Artists) where she is half Native American falling for an all-Native American man and running into prejudices as a result.  Sparrows adds over 4 minutes of outtakes, an Original Theatrical Trailer from 1926 (!), featurette The Mary Louise Miller Story about a Pickford co-star in this film and a feature length audio commentary track by film scholar & historians Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta.

 

All in all, this is a remarkable set.

 

 

Finally we have the original 1927 classic The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson, now from Warner Bros. on Blu-ray upgrading the 3-DVD set we covered a few years ago on the film’s 80th Anniversary in 2007 at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/6086/The+Jazz+Singer+%E2%80%93+The

 

This new Blu-ray edition repeats DVDs 2 & 3, but DVD 1 has been replaced by a Blu-ray where all the extras are the same standard definition copies from before save the film and the great animated 1936 Warner Bros./Merrie Melodies/Technicolor classic I Love To Singa now in High Definition in a stunning transfer that debuted recently on the first volume of the Looney Tunes Blu-ray Platinum Collection (unreviewed, but highly recommended) that will challenge any serious HD (or even Ultra HD) projector or monitor.

 

Released at the top of 2013 for Warner Bros. 90th Anniversary, the one thing that has happened since I last watched the film is that we have twice seen the election of an African American President Of The United States, so the blackface racism in the film is more pronounced than ever (plus having films like Django Unchained and Lincoln be hits at the same time and in tome for this awards season further adds to the oddness of this film.  Al Jolson is still an amazing singer and actor for his time, understanding how to he was so famous and why the actually Warner Bros., bet the house on him and sound to have this giant blockbuster.

 

On Blu-ray, you can really see the camerawork, the use of lenses, get a better sense of the impact of the editing, the use of sound and really experience what it must have been like to see this for the first time in a world of silent films.  Much of it is still silent itself with intertitles, so new was sound at the time.  It is worth seeing if you never have for historic reasons, to see what does work and how a family who started with a single movie theater in New Castle, PA well over a century ago kept making decision that built what was, now and will always be one of the biggest major movies studios of all time.

Warner has issued this 3-disc set in what might be the thickest DigiPak booklet they have come up with to date, including a new booklet (using the same art as the DVD set) that tries to include all the paper goodies the older DVD set had on the usual high-quality paper and the extras including a crash course on Vitaphone shorts and the history of the sound format that made sound motion pictures permanent well into the digital age and beyond.

The Jazz Singer is haunting for many reasons, some of which are not good, but for all its influence, it is amazing how few have actually seen the whole film.  This upgraded set should help change that.

 

For more on remakes of this film, the above link has our coverage of the 1980 hit Neil Diamond film and since then, we got to covert the restored 1959 Jerry Lewis version on DVD and you can read more about that one at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/11411/Chet+Baker:+Candy+(1985+Live/MV

 

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 Black & White image on the Chase shorts range from rough to sometimes surprisingly impressive throughout, with a few getting some nice restoration treatment, though softness can be an issue, but it is amazing they survived.  The 1080i 1.33 X 1 digital Black & White High Definition image transfers on the three Pickford feature films and Ramona short can also show the age of the materials used, but they look better than any previous DVD versions and really deliver how good looking these films were when they first arrived on what is now 96 years (103 years if you count Ramona) in work that was built to last.

 

But most impressive of all is the 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital Black & White High Definition image transfer quality of The Jazz Singer which is superior to its solid DVD version from a few years ago with strong Video Black, amazing Gray Scale and some shots so good that the depth, use of diffusion lenses and money on the screen is more vivid than just about any material from its time (we’ll say 1922 – 1932) than I have seen on Blu-ray and even many film prints (16mm, 35mm) to date.  This sets a new high standard for such picture reproduction (think Kino’s restored version of Metropolis (1926, reviewed elsewhere on this site) in its own new, longer version.  Yes, it is that good, including a few demo shots.

 

The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 sound on Chase is just fine, equal to the All Day 4-DVD set, though the actual music is hit or miss for me.  The PCM 2.0 Stereo on the Pickford films are newly recorded scores and are just fine for what they are too, but when you have a silent film in HD, the music is harder to take when it does not work.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless mix on Jazz Singer is warmer and smoother here than on the lossy Dolby Digital DVD version, also likely sounding better because they had the original Vitaphone acetate discs to restore the sound from, so this will impress for a film its age more than many might expect, including more than a few audiophiles.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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