Got an assortment of short films to cover today. Rather than give each of them individual full-length reviews — I find it hard to justify giving a 20-minute film an entire day to itself — I thought I would cover the three of them in a single post. Two are comedies, one is science-fiction; two are effectively silent films, one is a talkie; and all are black and white and older than 1950.
The three films? The Three Stooges short Brideless Groom, Georges Méliès’s famous A Trip to the Moon, and the Charlie Chaplin Keystone short The Rounders. Continue reading →
Maybe I’ve seen too many of Charlie Chaplin’s short films already, or maybe just too many of them in the relatively brief span of time I’ve been writing on this blog. On a technical level, they are all very well done. But from a story standpoint, there’s a certain “sameness” to all of them. Granted, it’s difficult to fit a complex narrative structure and deep characterization into twenty minutes. But it seems we can always count on Charlie playing a cheerful bumbler (sometimes explicitly as the Little Tramp, and sometimes just as a similar character), dealing with a few loutish oafs, and charming a winsome girl played by Edna Purviance.
The Rink, a Mutual Films short made in 1916, is no exception. But it’s still worth a look due to showing off Chaplin’s roller-skating ability. Continue reading →
The Pawnshop is another of Charlie Chaplin’s short, silent films. Released in 1916, it also features frequent co-stars Edna Purviance and Eric Campbell, along with Henry Bergman and John Rand. As one might guess from the title, it takes place at a pawnbroker’s shop, where Chaplin’s character finds work as a new employee, and the comedy arises from Chaplin’s bungling.
Though the opening is very similar to Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” works, with his character being out of work and finding employment at an odd locale, the character Chaplin plays here isn’t quite the same as the Tramp. He’s not as meek and self-effacing as the Tramp; in fact, in many ways, he’s a bit of a jerk. He gets into frequent fist-fights with his coworker (Rand), and can be inconsiderate to the customers, having a very careless attitude to the property they come in to pawn. Continue reading →
The Charlie Chaplin Festival was released in 1938, and as the name implies, it isn’t so much a film as it is a collection of four of Chaplin’s short films from 1917. The four short films included are The Immigrant, The Adventurer, The Cure, and Easy Street. Though the shorts are labelled as “chapters” in the film, they are unconnected to each other in both theme and story. However, there are a few actors who show up in each film. Besides Charlie Chaplin himself, there is Edna Purviance, who as usual is playing a sweet innocent young woman in each short for Chaplin’s characters to fixate upon and woo. Additionally, Eric Campbell appears in different roles in each short as an obstacle for Chaplin’s characters to overcome in some form or other; sometimes he’s a romantic rival, other times he’s just a neighborhood bully. In all cases, Campbell’s wild-eyed takes help sell the story.
Unfortunately, the “festival” is a bit lacking, as the film isn’t particularly well-edited. The transitions from one short to the next are handled very abruptly — and in some cases seem like there’s a bit of the short cut off at the end. Additionally, sound effects have been added in places, and they don’t work very well in the otherwise silent films. So even when the shorts themselves are good, I would recommend viewing them on their own rather than in this collection. Continue reading →
It’s been remarked on by more than a few people that there was a passing resemblance between Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler, particularly brought on by the mustaches. Among the people who remarked on it was Alexander Korda, a filmmaker and a friend of Chaplin’s. Chaplin decided to use the resemblance to create a film to satirize Hitler and Nazi Germany, and The Great Dictator was the result.
Chaplin wrote and directed the film, as was his usual process, and starred in the film. In this case, this meant playing two roles; one role as Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomania, and the other as an unnamed Jewish barber who, after an injury during the first World War, spends years in the hospital before recovering and returning to his Tomanian home town. The barber bears some resemblance to Chaplin’s famous Tramp character, particularly in light of the fact that he’s a more innocent character than most of the people around him. But where the Tramp was simply a goodhearted naif, the barber’s innocence is more due to his long illness; he simply hasn’t been around to see what has happened to his home in his absence. Continue reading →
How long have filmmakers been blending the genres of war movies and comedies? Released in 1918, just shortly before the end of the first World War, Charlie Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms is possibly the first example; certainly it’s one of the first. Chaplin, as was usual for his silent films, wrote, directed, and starred in the movie, though he is not playing his “Little Tramp” character here. Here, he’s the otherwise-unnamed recruit #13, fighting for the Allies in the trenches in France.
It’s a short film — depending on the cut it’s either 35 minutes or 45 — and easily digestible. Being of such a small length, and having only minimal dialogue through title cards, it doesn’t have a particularly complex plot, and instead feels more like a series of sequential vignettes. There’s a definite storyline, but it’s told in short acts instead of a continuous block. We see recruit #13 in training camp, then on the front lines, then on a dangerous spy mission. Continue reading →
The Kid, released in 1921, was Charlie Chaplin’s first feature-length film (albeit only lasting about an hour itself). As with his earlier short works, Chaplin wrote, directed, scored, and starred in the silent film. It is, of course, the first full-length film to feature his classic character, the Little Tramp.
The film starts off with Edna Purviance, playing an unwed mother who reluctantly comes to the conclusion that she cannot support her newborn son. Attaching a note to please take care of him, she abandons the child in a fancy car outside a stately manor… and as soon as she turns the corner, a couple of criminals steal the car. Anybody who thinks dark comedy is a recent invention may stand corrected, as there are several hilarious yet awful moments in the whole sequence leading up to the final home of the infant. Continue reading →
I’m certain that comedic short films are a difficult medium to create for, and they definitely present different challenges than a long-form movie. There isn’t much time to develop characters, construct an intricate plot, or to set up gags that will pay off later on. When it’s an older film, such as Pay Day, with the constraints of a silent film, it has to be particularly difficult.
Pay Day was Charlie Chaplin’s final short; after this, he only created feature-length films. He wrote, directed, produced, and scored the short film, as well as starring in it. Supposedly it was one of his favorites of his short films. But watching it, I have to admit I didn’t find it as impressive or as funny as his feature, The Circus. Continue reading →
Released in 1967, A Countess From Hong Kong was the final film directed by screen legend Charlie Chaplin, who also wrote the script. However, the famous actor took only a cameo role in the film, having written for characters who were younger than he was at the time. In the lead roles, he cast Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. With such well-known names attached to the film, I figured there was a pretty good chance that this was one of those films that’s really good, but has become obscure simply due to age or other trivial factors.
Charlie Chaplin was one of the earliest film icons, and one of the few stars of the silent era to still be immediately recognizable to most film fans today. His character of “the Little Tramp” has been referenced by so many works and given so much lasting critical acclaim that people recognize the Tramp even if they haven’t actually seen one of the films (which is increasingly likely as the last one was made in 1936). Like a lot of modern viewers, I hadn’t seen a complete Chaplin film; I’ve seen bits and pieces here and there, and I’ve probably seen just about all of The Gold Rush in that fashion, but I had never sat down and watched one from beginning to end. So, I decided to take the opportunity to do just that, with The Circus, the third-to-last Tramp film and reputed to be one of the best. Continue reading →