Charlie Chaplin’s 1947 film Monsieur Verdoux is rarely mentioned alongside his early classics like The Great Dictator, Modern Times, or City Lights, which is a shame, because it’s easily one of his funniest. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of his rare speaking roles, although that’s hard to believe—Chaplin is just as funny when he opens his mouth as when he’s cutting physical capers. I suspect that the movie is just too dark for some folks. It is, after all, a black comic take on the Bluebeard story, and I guess the story of a man who marries and then murders his wives as a form of careerism might not hold a general appeal. In any case, it’s hilarious. Here’s a compilation of clips that show off Verdoux’s seduction technique; these are some of the funnier moments in the film—
Monsieur Verdoux is hardly a romantic comedy though. Observed closely, it works as an allegorical commentary on the moral response to the horrors of WWII. These observations are made plain at the end of the film, as Verdoux, put on trial, must first account for his crimes—and then pay for them. Here is the extraordinary final scene of the movie, which contains spoilers, although I believe that one can still watch the ending out of context and later enjoy the film—
We see here the major hallmarks of Chaplin’s greatest films: not just comedy, but also genuine pathos and social commentary, all delivered with acerbic bite that nevertheless reveals a real love for humanity. Highly recommended.