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USA 1947
Directed by
Charles Chaplin
124 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Monsieur Verdoux

Chaplin called this black comedy about a polite little bank clerk who loses his job and takes up marrying and murdering old ladies as a form of wealth-creation, "the cleverest and most brilliant film of my career". Perhaps he was not such a good critic of his own work.

Monsieur Verdoux was based on an idea by Orson Welles (who would have, no doubt, made a much darker film of it) and was based on the real life French serial wife killer, Henri Landru. Although set in Paris, Chaplin rather incongrously sets it in the American vernacular of the time and as it had a relatively limited budget, with its cheap sets and low production values it is heavily reliant on the director's star appeal with the rest of the cast in markedly subsidiary roles. This sometimes means a relapse into his silent era style physical comedy (invariably the best moments) but there is not enough of that or verbal wit to lift the film above its considerable dependence on exposition. 

As was his want, Chaplin uses the story to draw some broad moral lessons, the less-than-hawkishly-patriotric nature of which drew strong criticism from the political Right and eventually led to his self-exile from the US in 1952.




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