In association with the Progetto Chaplin and Lobster Films the bfi is engaged on an international project to restore all the Chaplin Keystone comedies. These films have an unwarranted reputation as unsophisticated slapstick. In fact they are captivating records of Chaplin, the delightful Mabel Normand and the regular Keystone team as well as a fascinating social record of pre-war Hollywood.
As a record of Chaplin's transition from master of music hall sketch comedy to master of the film comedy, the Keystone films are vital to our understanding, but before we can assess their importance we must see them in as near-original restored condition as possible.
A multiplicity of versions, reissues, re-edits, poor copies, changed inter-titles and butchered prints make it almost impossible for historians to work on the Keystone films.
Twelve titles have been completed already and four more (A Film Johnnie, The Property Man, His Prehistoric Past and Between Showers) premiered this year at the Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival in Bologna and the Chaplin Conference, both in July 2005, and at the Times London Film Festival in November 2005.
Restored prints to date are: Kid Auto Races, Mabel at the Wheel, Mabel's Married Life, The Masquerader, Laughing Gas, Twenty Minutes of Love, Tango Tangles, Caught in the Rain, The Rounders, Making a Living, The New Janitor and Getting Acquainted. All prints have been made at l'Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna and here at the bfi's National Archive.