Monday, 19 April 2010

Chaplin's Latest Release!

It's the kind of thing urban legends are made of, everybody dreams about finding an eBay bargain, an elusive bootleg or rare treat, but one man has topped them all with the discovery on a previously unknown film staring the one, the only Charlie Chaplin.

When Morace Park placed his £3.20 eBay order for an unassuming film tin he probably had no idea that he was ordering an piece of film history. Perhaps in some dusty recess of his mind the part of all of us eBay junkies that yearn for a bargain was hard at work, silent and unknown but always pushing us to venture online for that elusive bargain. But this isn't 37 issues of Woman's Weekly for 19 pence -this is the real deal.

For contained within this insignificant tin was a previously unknown film buy Hollywood's original big star: Charlie Chaplin. One can only assume that Park is either in possession of the kind of luck usually associated with higher powers or incredibly gifted when it comes to business savvy because his £3.20 investment could realistically be worth millions. Not bad for an afternoons browsing.

It seems a real shame though that we have to define something as important and artistic as a rare film find in terms of monetary value because that's naturally where all the coverage of the event turns in the end. For me, the most interesting thing about this find is that the film, titled Charlie Chaplin in Zepped, offers incredible insights into not only the history of the film industry, but also history in general.

For a start, according to experts Zepped is probably not a lost studio production, but a film cut together using outtakes from previous films. This has reputedly happened often with Chaplin films, particularly during the decline of Keystone Pictures where much footage was made freely available. So it could be argued that what we are seeing here is an early example of bootleg footage. What is certainly a first is that this film contains some of the earliest examples of stop animation a remarkable piece of film history indeed. Chaplin was certainly no stranger to new technology given his transition from silent films through to "talkies", in 1940 he released The Great Dictator, his first true talking film and an impassioned attack on Hitler's evil. This leads on to the historical interest surrounding about this film as it gives a real insight into what has happening in the world at the time.

Chaplin lived through trying times
As the title suggests the film centers around Zeppelins, the prime international terror weapon during the First World War. The film sees Chaplin, who was accused of not doing enough to support the war effort, dreaming of returning to England from the United States to fight along side the troops and later mocking the Zeppelins themselves. It's kind of like mocking nuclear weapons in modern times. From a historical stand point the film is thought to be the first piece of propaganda aimed at undermining the psychological impact of Zeppelin warfare against England.

It shows that the link between world events and the media was certainly as alive during the Great War as it is now in a world where you can't escape the influence of pro-war, anti-war and propaganda films centered around the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Which whatever your stance on world events makes this film a fascinating discovery and so much more then an interesting monetary discussion point.

So congratulations Mr. Chaplin on another release, I look forward to my advanced 3D screening in the coming weeks...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice article Drew.
I'm now off to visit ebay in the hope that there's an old dusty film canister somewhere going cheap - containing 'Sgt.Wilson's Little Secret' or perhaps all 7 episodes of Doctor Who's 'Marco Polo'.....


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