© 1947 Charles Chaplin Productions

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

Monsieur Verdoux was reportedly a huge financial and critical flop when it was first released in 1947. It was only Chaplin’s second talkie, and the first film since his very first in which he appears as a character not resembling his famed Little Tramp. Also, the theme of a man who methodically marries and murders women to get money to support his family was perhaps too dark for the period just after World War II. Chaplin’s script is based closely on the trial of a real serial killer who was sent to the guillotine in 1922. But  Chaplin was also seems to be making a political statement in the film about the little man who murders without remorse because he feels society owes him something. There was more success with a re-release in the ’60s, when darkly comic films like Dr. Strangelove had paved. But Monsieur Verdoux is a well-written, well-made film. The dialogue is both pointed and fun. There are also vestiges of Chaplin’s physical comedy from his silent film days. The scene in which he is try to sell his house to a rich widow and backs up against an open window, flipping backwards over the window sill is beautifully choreographed and become all the more amazing when you consider that Chaplin was pushing 60 at the time. As director, Chaplin cast a number of American actors in various roles. In the case of Martha Raye, who plays one of his more formidable foes, this was a stroke of genius, and the scenes of Raye and Chaplin together are certainly the funniest moments in the film. But William Frawley and some of the other American actors seem rather out of place in this film supposedly set in France.

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