DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Monsieur Verdoux, Blu-ray (1947/2013)

Chaplin departed entirely from his Tramp character for this fully-talkie black comedy about a Bluebeard.

Published on April 8, 2013

Monsieur Verdoux, Blu-ray (1947/2013)

Cast: Charles Chaplin, Martha Raye, Marilyn Nash
Director: Charles Chaplin
Studio: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection 652 [3/26/13]
Video: 1.33:1 (4:3) 1080p HD B&W
Audio: English PCM mono
Subtitles: English
Extras: “Chaplin Today: Monsieur Verdoux” with Claude Chabrol (2003), “Charlie Chaplin and the American Press (new), Audio interview with Marilyn Nash, Radio spots and trailers, Illustrated 34-page booklet with essay by critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and pieces by critic Andre Bazin and Chaplin.
Length: 124 minutes
Rating: *****

For this 1947 effort, on a story which he purchased from Orson Welles (who wanted to star Chaplin in it but Chaplin wanted to direct it himself), Chaplin gave up his effort to keep silent cinema alive and made a totally talky movie that was actually ahead of its time. It doesn’t suffer from attempts to mix silent pantomime with sound films as did his films of the 1930s.  Instead of Welles’ idea of a drama about a famous French mass murderer named Landru, Chaplin created a dapper gent with numerous identities, who has a real family of an invalid wife and small son and following loosing his longtime bank clerk job, making a practice of marrying wealthy older women, killing them, and collecting their money.

He’s clearly playing against type, but there is plenty of comedy, part of it being his fumbling attempts to kill some of the women, which sometimes fail to work out, and a hilarious bit  in a rowboat with Martha Raye. At the end, Verdoux gives up all hope, partly due to the Depression ruining him, somehow (though unexplained) losing his real family, and his philosophizing about what he has done as a result of the return of the young woman with a positive life outlook, whom he originally was going to kill as an experiment and instead gave money to and sent her away.

Some might think the film is grim, and it didn’t do well when first released, but now is regarded by many as one of Chaplin’s greatest films. One of the included extras develops the terrible press which Chaplin began to receive in the 40s due to his probably true philandering, but mainly false accusations that he was a Communist since he had supported the idea of the U.S. joining more closely with the Russians to create a second front during World War II, which might have ended the war sooner.

—John Sunier

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