Monsieur Verdoux

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
Image Entertainment
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Martha Raye
Extras: Script Excerpts, Production Records, Photographs

’Monsieur Verdoux’ was one of Charles Chaplin’s later films and is a gem that stands on its own. Although his trademark slapstick can be found in a very few select scenes in the movie, ’Monsieur Verdoux’ is a rather dramatic film that uses humor only to lighten up the otherwise serious subject matter. Always the keen observer of society, Chaplin plays a mass murders – marrying and murdering women to make a living – in this movie, in an attempt to make a bold statement about war and politics – which should later lead to his lifelong deportation from the US. An eloquent parable juxtaposing the mass killings of war to serve politics with the mass killings of an individual to serve his own life, the movie still contains plenty of laughs despite its somber nature. As always, Chaplin manages to make regular people his heroes and presents his social commentary in a way that is entertaining and accessible, yet very visible for everyone to behold.

Image Entertainment presents ’Monsieur Verdoux’ in its original fullscreen aspect ration on this DVD. Unfortunately the print exhibits quite some signs of wear and tear. Scratches and speckles, registration errors, density problems and broken splices are evident throughout the film’s presentation. While the contrast of the transfer does not exhibit the hard, overexposed quality of many other films of the time, the presentation lacks the depth of a really good black and white presentation since blacks appear generally a little too light. All that aside however, considering that this film is over 50 years old, as a fan of Chaplin’s work I am pleased to find the film in at least this condition, which makes watching it more fun than ever with its high level of detail.

The DVD of ’Monsieur Verdoux’ contains the movie’s original mono audio track. Age is even more noticeable here, as the audio is raspy throughout and contains quite some sibilance. The frequency response is limited due to the age, giving the presentation a thin sounding quality. Although efforts have been taken to reduce the noise on the audio, at times the noise floor is breaking through audibly and the noise gating sometimes removes parts of the ambiance in very quite moments.

’Monsieur Verdoux’ is not your standard Chaplin comedy. It is a very serious note that once again focuses on social commentary of Chaplin’s time. The Depression, the World War and radical change in lifestyle at the time was cause for many problems and poverty, and as in his previous films, Chaplin found yet another way to make his voice heard in an entertaining and thought-provoking way. I have always considered ’Monsieur Verdoux’ as one of Chaplin’s most sophisticated films and despite its technical flaws, this DVD is dear to my heart. Maybe some time we will get the change to witness a completely restored version of this beautiful film that shows us a very matured and extremely eloquent Chaplin, but for now this DVD will serve just fine.