The Killer Tramp

The rap against Charlie Chaplin, voiced by fans of fellow silent-screen comic giants Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, is that he was sentimental to the point of maudlin. It wasn’t sufficient for Chaplin to earn the audience’s laughs; he had to milk every last droplet of their love. So imagine how stung he must have been by the savage reviews of Monsieur Verdoux, his sardonic 1947 portrait of a laid-off Parisian bank clerk who wows, woos, weds, and kills wealthy widows — all to keep his crippled wife in clover. Critics and moviegoers should have been attuned to Chaplin’s blend of social criticism and comedy after The Great Dictator, but his targets this time were a little too close to home. Set in the ’30s, between the bloody world wars and during the worldwide depression, Monsieur Verdoux questions the outrage over a small-time serial killer while plaudits are heaped on large-scale munitions makers. The film’s relevance at a time of Wall Street bailouts and Main Street foreclosures is as apparent, and enjoyable, as Martha Raye’s delicious performance as a clumsy dowager immune to Verdoux’ lethal shenanigans.
Thu., Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 10-11, 2:30 & 7:30 p.m., 2009

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