Directed by Charles Chaplin
Written by Charles Chaplin
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Mady Correll, Allison Roddan, Martha Raye
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime
B & W 124 Minutes
“One murder makes a criminal, millions a hero”. Charlie Chaplin’s second talkie film would be another quite controversial film that would on things other filmmakers of the time would not dare. By this I mean, suicide and murder. This is perhaps Chaplin’s darkest film, as it portrays a man who marries widowers for money- like a ‘gold-digger’. The character in which we see is not a hero nor a villain, but simply a good man who makes mistakes and fails while uncovering faults in society. Once again, Chaplin does not fail to impress with great slapstick and a terrific script that provokes thought and humours you at the same time.
Our story follows Verdoux, a rich cynical man and a gold-digger who marries women for their money, then murders them and flees without a trace. He does this thirteen times with success, but wife #14, brassy Martha Raye, proves impossible to kill (nor does she ever suspect what Verdoux has in mind for her).
The most charming thing about the film is how once again Chaplin has expressed his views on society, murder, humanity and even war. One thing I diligently respect about Chaplin is his views on such things as they are unbelievably similar to mine. When reading his autobiography (highly recommended) I realised that he has many ideologies and thoughts that I have had. I will not go into detail on them but one is War, and from the quote mentioned at the start of this review, you can see how well he explained the tragedy, insanity and ruthlessness of war. But, I will not go into much detail on that as it is irrelevant to this review.
Chaplin’s character of Verdoux is not a villain or dissident in the story, and as a viewer, I certainly did not see him that way. It is clear that he is a cynical murderer, but a justified one who has simply made mistakes and failed while also uncovering the faults in dysfunctional society. By stating this I do not mean to say murder is okay (which it most certainly isn’t), but Verdoux is a caring and intelligent gentleman that makes errors, but most certainly uncovers society’s faults. The acting from Martha Raye was beautiful. Her character is an independent and intelligent woman who Verdoux sees in the rain and soon attempts to kill her. However, he has pity on her and does not in a scene that will be memorable for most people.
The other characters in the film are equally enjoyable to see on screen. The relationship Verdoux shares with the young girl, whom he spares her from murder. It is in this scene that we see Verdoux’s understanding.
Let us not forget the comical side of the film that will have Chaplin fans (like me) highly amused. One scene involved Verdoux counting money at an incredible speed. What made the scene funny is it showed just how often he has counted large sums of money, and as to how many times he has done this routine of murdering.
There are a few hilarious scenes and a moderate amount of gags in the film, but not as many as in films like City Lights and The Gold Rush, but enough to satisfy Chaplin fans. Another thing that impressed me here was partially Chaplin’s athletic ability, even at the age of 56-58. Some of the early scenes have him bolting up and down the stairs, and how he moves still shows his physical ability to be funny and energetic.
Once more, we see Chaplin working in most of the films major departments as Director, actor, writer, producer and even composer. The idea came originally from Orson Welles and Chaplin bought this idea (for $5, 000) and soon began to develop a script. So, I guess we can thank Welles for the idea, which lead to a great film. The music in the film was very well composed indeed. One scene has Verdoux talking gracefully about the moon, then walking into a bedroom where there is a woman. The camera stays in the corridor, suggesting he is going to kill her, and suddenly, we hear the musical score rising as if it were screaming; an excellent replacement of a scream.
This Chaplin film shows that he could be masterful in craft whether his films were silent or not, as each of his films have something special. In this film’s case, it has a daring social satire-side.
Verdict: While not the stronghold of Chaplin’s films, it presents you with thought-provoking dialogue from a character with a despicable, but ironically correct mind through his homicidal escapades. A film with old fashioned execution, but an ahead of its time concept.
Great news is it can be watched on youtube for free:
Age Certificate: PG