DVD review: City Lights

Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers
Director: Charlie Chaplin

city-lights 1This fondly regarded film – in which the Tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) and is repeatedly taken up and dropped by a wealthy swell (Harry Myers) who only acknowledges him when he’s drunk – may not have the spectacular set-pieces of The Gold Rush, but it offers a flow of sophisticated, faultlessly choreographed comedy. Take for example the Tramp’s visit to the nightclub, which is a tapestry of small misunderstandings – lighting the wrong cigar, sitting in the wrong chair, eating the bunting instead of his plate of spaghetti. The Dickensian sentimentality is there is full spate, of course, but it’s counterbalanced by some inspired gags, as when a drunken Chaplin swallows a whistle just as an opera singer is about to give a recital – and then there’s the great sequence where he takes to the boxing ring, only for the fight to subside into a kind of punch-drunk, lurching square dance. Chaplin at pretty much his best. The DVD transfer is clean, sharp and silvery-toned, with no damage. 8/10

26-min piece on the film with contributions by Peter Lord of Aardman Animations, outtakes and behind the scenes footage. ~ Brisk 5-min introduction by David Robinson, who talks about how Chaplin laboured on the film for two years. ~ 2-mins of footage of Winston Churchill meeting Chaplin on set. ~ 10-mins of footage of a trip to Bali, with shots of Chaplin in a pith helmet. ~ 7-min deleted scene, almost a one-reeler in itself, in which the Tramp becomes fascinated by a piece of wood stuck in a grating. 7/10


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