Charlie Chaplin [DVD]
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Overview

Synopsis

Easy Street
The Champion
The Champion, Chaplin's third film for Essanay, is easily one of the funniest and is his most advanced film to date in plotting and characterization. We meet Charlie and his bulldog sharing a found hot dog, which the dog won't eat until it is salted. They pass a gymnasium advertising for sparring partners. Charlie finds a lucky horseshoe and after witnessing the condition of the previous sparring partners, he decides to employ it in his left boxing glove. He thereby kayos the club champ and becomes the new golden boy. He begins to train for the big championship fight against Champ, Bud Jamison. The beautiful daughter of the Gym owner, Edna Purviance gets his interest and seems taken with him. A shady character Leo White, a slimy betting tout, oozes into camp and tries to bribe Charlie into throwing the big fight, but while Charlie takes his money, he treats him with total contempt. On the day of the fight, Charlie says an emotional goodbye to his dog and enters the ring. In the audience are cowboy-star Bronco Billy Anderson, one of the founders of Essanay (whose initials, along with partner George K. Spoor's are the source of its name), and Ben Turpin as the vendor. The hilarious slapstick prizefight is pretty even at first, but by the fourth round Charlie's getting the worst of it. Seeing the trouble his master is in, the bulldog jumps into the ring and restrains the opponent by the seat of his pants while Charlie delivers a series of coup-de-grace punches. Charlie is hoisted on the shoulders of his cornermen as the new Champion. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

The Tramp
The Tramp, Charlie Chaplin's sixth film for Essanay, is generally considered his first masterpiece. It is the first of his films that blended pathos with comedy and contains subtle pantomime along with the knockabout slapstick. Charlie is truly a tramp in this film, wandering down a dusty country road carrying his bindle. He is knocked down by near misses from two passing autos and pulls a whisk broom from his pocket and dusts himself off. He sits by a tree to eat his lunch, but it is stolen by a hobo (Leo White). Despondent, Charlie salts some grass and eats it. We next meet a farm girl (Edna Purviance) and her father (Fred Goodwins), who gives her some cash and sends her on an errand. She stops on her way to count her money and is robbed by a sinister hobo (Leo White). Her cries bring Charlie, who rescues her from the hobo and two other tramp thieves. The girl brings Charlie home to the farm, where he is rewarded with a job as a farmhand. He is inept at the job, the source of several funny scenes with a fellow farmhand (Paddy McGuire). The three thieving hoboes show up and try to involve Charlie in a scheme to rob the farmer's money. Charlie foils their efforts by hitting them on their heads with a mallet as they reach the top of the ladder that he has set up at his bedroom window. Farmer Fred, alerted by the noise, grabs his shotgun and chases off the crooks, but Charlie gets shot in the leg accidentally. This scene is played completely straight and is utterly convincing as Charlie passes out from the pain. Charlie is next seen recuperating from his injuries, lounging at an outdoor table with the farm girl and squirting seltzer into his drink. But his happiness is short-lived. Her boyfriend (Lloyd Bacon) arrives on the scene and Charlie, seeing that his love for her is unrequited, goes into the farmhouse and writes a note: "i thout your kindness was love but it ain't cause i seen him." He turns his back to the camera and picks up the girl's hat, kisses it, and walks outside. Bidding the two farewell, Charlie refuses the money offered by the boyfriend. The film closes with what would become Chaplin's classic ending -- Charlie walking sadly back along the road, but suddenly putting an optimistic little spring in his step as the camera irises in. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

Work
Work, Charlie Chaplin's eighth film for Essanay casts Charlie as a wallpaper-hanger's assistant who must pull the wagon containing the boss (Charles Insley) and all his gear through the city streets and up some imposing hills (created by using tilted camera angles). Charlie is little more than a beast of burden and must do all the work when they arrive at a wealthy couple's (Billy Armstrong and Marta Golden) home. The woman of the house suspects the workers of being dishonest when she catches Charlie admiring a small statue, and she locks up her valuables in a safe. This prompts Charlie to "lock up" his and his boss's watches and cash by pinning them into his pants pocket. Charlie proves to be an inept decorator, making a huge mess and causing his boss to get a bucket of wallpaper paste over his head. He befriends Edna Purviance, the maid, and in a rather intimate scene, tells her his story and his hopes for the future. The wife's lover, Leo White arrives, but when he sees that the husband is still home, he pretends to be a workman. The husband is wise to the dodge and attacks his wife's lover, eventually pulling out a revolver and chasing him around the house. A stray bullet hits the gas stove which explodes, partially burying everyone. In the famous last scene, Charlie emerges from the inverted oven door, exhales some smoke, and, sizing up the situation, smiles into the camera. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

The Kid
Shoulder Arms
Kid Auto Races at Venice
The Vagabond
The Knockout
Although better known as Charlie Chaplin's 17th appearance in a Keystone comedy, The Knockout is really a Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle film. The big event in Fatty's town is a prizefight in which champ Cyclone Flynn will meet all comers. Fatty is tricked into accepting the fight by two hobos who are making book on the fight. Through a note ostensibly from Flynn, they offer Fatty a split if he throws the fight, but Fatty, thinking one of the hobos is Flynn, refuses. The real Flynn arrives and dispatches the impostors. The match proceeds with heavy betting going on and Fatty's girlfriend dressed as a boy in order to gain entrance to the arena. Charlie is the referee who is constantly being knocked down by the fighters because he keeps getting in between them. Angered by losing after a short count, Fatty grabs two six-guns from a gambler at ringside and begins firing in all directions. Cyclone takes to his heels and a classic rooftop Keystone chase ensues, with the Keystone Kops in pursuit of Fatty, in pursuit of Cyclone. When the Kops lasso Fatty, he drags six of them along the ground by the rope until he leaps off a pier taking them all with him. With everyone treading water, the Kops surround Fatty as the film ends. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

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