Quick-Thoughts: Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

Charlie Chaplin Marathon Part VI of VII

“As for being a mass killer, does not the world encourage it? Is it not building weapons of destruction for the sole purpose of mass killing? Has it not blown unsuspecting women and little children to pieces, and done it very scientifically? As a mass killer I’m an amateur by comparison.”

Now that’s a f**king bar. 

History tells us that the public hated Monsieur Verdoux during its initial release for its malicious and offensive premise, that being about a man who murders middle-aged widows for their leftover wealth. Doubt it. Something more to the truth tells me people hated it for the sheer fact that adored figure, Charlie Chaplin, had the AUDACITY to use his giant platform to compare war with a serial killer who murders to provide for his family. Funniest part though when it comes to this juxtaposition is that it’s completely logical. America, for example, only three years before this film’s release, bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing around 200,000 innocent Japanese citizens in the process and for what? Well, to help end the war, or better yet, save a family — the people of the United States. You can pry and pry all you want that it had to be done in order for further violence and conflict to discontinue, but there is no ifs and buts when it comes to the decision vividly being made from the country’s self-interests. People act upon what they think is necessary for their “family,” as Chaplin would say, and as much as we hate to ponder on it, those acts can be rather immoral at times. 

Being Charlie Chaplin’s first straightforward drama, sacrifices are indubitably made that can be seen as losses to traits beloved in his previous motion pictures: no creative set designing, no irresistible comedy, and no more of those rare expressions of silent filmmaking. Sometimes, even the cartoonish plot here seems more fitting in one of Chaplin’s Tramp tales, as absurdism is what makes the goofy plots coordinate so well with the filmmaker’s usual comedy, but Monsieur Verdoux is a pretty serious movie so it can occasionally feel non-harmonic. 

Nonetheless, as overtly found as the messages in this film are, they’re still compelling ones, ones that make the slander of the film’s initial release feel only like added evidence to Chaplin’s stance on selfishness. Insecure much that your precious countries were called serial killers? 

Verdict: B

The Eternal Tramp (Chaplin Ranked)

“Monsieur Verdoux” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

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