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Charlie Chaplin Mutuals [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Adventurer
The Rink
Charlie Chaplin's 2-reel laugh parade The Rink was based on "Skating," a sketch Chaplin had previously performed while a member of the Fred Karno stage troupe. Chaplin plays a waiter who determines what his customers have had for dinner by checking the food spots on their clothes. After quitting time, Chaplin repairs to the ice skating rink, where his skill and grace catches the eye of pretty socialite Edna Purviance. She invites him to a soiree, where he runs afoul of massive Eric Campbell for the third time that day. A melee results, whereupon Chaplin hooks a passing auto with his cane and makes his escape. The Rink was the eighth of Chaplin's "golden dozen" short subjects filmed during his stay at Mutual Studios. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Count
The Count, filmed during Charlie Chaplin's 1916-17 Mutual period, is a rowdy throwback to his Keystone days. Chaplin plays the assistant to bombastic clothes-presser Eric Campbell. While dallying with the cook at the Moneybags Mansion, Charlie spots Eric, posing as Count Broko. Eric tries to hide his subterfuge by introducing Charlie as his secretary. In this guise, Charlie is invited to a formal dinner dance presided over by lovely socialite Edna Purviance. When the real Count Broko (Leo White) shows up, chaos reigns supreme. The Count was the fifth of Chaplin's "golden dozen" Mutual two-reelers. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Pawnshop
Behind the Screen
In Behind the Screen, the seventh of his 12 Mutual Studios two-reelers, Charlie Chaplin pokes some less than gentle fun at his former employer Mack Sennett. Chaplin and Eric Campbell play a couple of bumbling stagehands at Gigantic Picture Studios. They knock each other about, break for lunch, and knock each about again. Pretty Edna Purviance sneaks into the studio disguised as a boy. Chaplin finds out her secret and steals a kiss -- drawing a very suspicious glance from Campbell. The film ends with a combination union strike and slapstick pie fight. Best bit: a temperamental movie comedian refuses to throw a pie without proper "motivation." Chaplin spent so much time achieving perfection in Behind the Screen that Mutual was obliged to apologize to its exhibitors for missing the scheduled release date by two weeks. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cure
Easy Street
One A.M.
Charlie Chaplin's fourth film for Mutual is a tour de force solo performance, with Chaplin playing his classic drunk, returning home in the wee hours. The only other character in the film is the taxi driver who is oblivious to Charlie's difficulties getting out of the cab. Charlie has equal problems getting into his house. He can't find his key and enters via a window, but he soon finds his key in his vest pocket and exits via the window, reentering in the proper way, through the door. His house is filled with inanimate objects, which to his mind, are ganging up against him. The stuffed animals seem to attack him as he slides on throw rugs along the slippery floor and tries to reach a liquor bottle on a revolving table that keeps eluding him. When he attempts to climb the stairs, he is repeatedly struck by the oversized pendulum of a wall clock and sent tumbling down the staircase. Finally reaching his bedroom, his automatic Murphy bed seems to have a mind of its own, trapping him as it revolves round and round inside its wall compartment, bucking him like a bronco when he sits on it and falling on top of him when he lays on the floor. Finally abandoning the bedroom, Charlie goes to the bathroom, soaking himself as he tries to get a drink from the shower stall and then settling down for the night in the bathtub. Although essentially plotless, One A.M. is a brilliant clinic in physical comedy and the psychology of alcoholic delusions. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

The Fireman
The second of Charles Chaplin's Mutual two-reelers, The Fireman is virtually wall-to-wall slapstick. Chaplin is an earnest but inept member of a ramshackle small town fire department. His boss, Eric Campbell, has entered into an unhanded deal with the wealthy father of heroine Edna Purviance; the father plans to burn down his house for the insurance and split the settlement with Campbell, provided that the latter does not attempt to extinguish the blaze. Chaplin, of course, knows nothing about this set-up, and when the house catches fire, he rushes to the rescue. And a darn good thing too: Purviance, also unaware of her dad's machinations, is in the house at the time it is torched. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Floorwalker
Charlie Chaplin launched his 670,000-dollar contract with the Mutual Film Corporation with the hilarious The Floorwalker. The film's chief comedic device, the store escalator, was inspired by Chaplin's visit to New York, where, at an elevated train station, he saw a minor accident involving one. The manager of the store receives a letter -- his superiors are coming to investigate him. He's been skimming money from the store, in cahoots with the bossy and mean floorwalker who bears a striking resemblance to Charlie. The pair decide they're going to take off with the cash and begin emptying the safe in the office upstairs. Meanwhile, Charlie comes wandering into the store, trying out everything but buying nothing. The store seems to be infested with shoplifters and store detectives. Charlie gets caught by one of the latter when he tries to buy a display rack. He escapes upstairs where he encounters his doppelganger who has just knocked out the manager and is escaping with a suitcase full of money. The lookalikes do the classic mirror routine, copied later by the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup. They agree to exchange clothes and identities, but the real floorwalker is arrested as the Tramp, leaving behind the satchel full of loot. Charlie takes over the floorwalker's duties, getting involved with various customers, especially the ladies in the shoe department. When Charlie finds the case, he's ecstatic, until Eric Campbell awakens and, mistaking him for his crooked partner, begins a merry chase up and down the escalator and all around the store, hampered only by the ever-vigilant store detectives. The real floorwalker returns in custody and comes clean, implicating the manager. The chase continues until Charlie is caught in the elevator by a detective as it descends upon the head of Campbell who is also apprehended. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

The Immigrant
Charles Chaplin's next-to-last Mutual Studios 2-reeler is as funny as his other 11 Mutual entries, though there's a stronger inner lining of poignancy. En route by boat from an unnamed country, immigrant Chaplin tries to make the best of the nausea-inducing rough seas. He then befriends fellow emigree Edna Purviance and her ailing mother. Months pass: Chaplin meets Purviance in a restaurant. Quickly ascertaining that her mother has died, Chaplin appoints himself Purviance's protector. He even promises to pay for the meal; after all, he's just found a silver dollar on the street. But when the dollar lands on the ground with a leadlike thud, Chaplin realizes he's as broke as ever--and now he's at the mercy of blood-in-his-eye headwaiter Eric Campbell. But fortune smiles on Chaplin and Purviance when a famous artist decides to hire the girl as his model. Chaplin negotiates an excellent contract for his bride-to-be, and everything comes up roses. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Vagabond
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