I suddenly got the desire to watch The Kid, and couldn’t easily find my copy in my rather disorganized DVD collection. I popped out to my local video shop to rent a copy with a cheap cover that should have made me think twice. When I watch silent films, I usually turn down the soundtrack and put on some Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, or some other instrumental music, but I had some work to get through afterwords and just put the DVD on as is. The video transfer quality was terrible, and is was clear the DVD was made from a VHS master that was pretty bad to begin with. The soundtrack sounded like a nine year old fiddling around with a Casio keyboard. But still, the vestiges of Chaplin’s humanity come through. The problem with old and silent films and films in the public domain isn’t that they are is such bad condition, because we know that there are decent prints out there, but the fact that the people that turn out the DVDs obviously care so little about it.
The good news is that in the most recent e-mail newsletter from the Criterion Collection, they announced that they have acquired the entire Chaplin catalogue. There is no news yet of a release date, but they will sure take their time to do it right.