Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

monsieur verdoux poster 1947 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Interesting and different Chaplin

Some of the classic Chaplin in the movie doesn't mix with the darkness of the movie

Movie Info

Movie Name: Monsieur Verdoux

Studio: Charles Chaplin Productions

Genre(s): Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  April 11, 1947 (Premiere)/September 26, 1947 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

monsieur verdoux charlie chaplin martha raye

Don’t mind me…I’m just going to murder you!

Henri Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin) has his life turned upside down when he is laid off as a bank teller.  Trying to support his wife (Mady Correll) and child (Allison Roddan), Henri turns to a life of crime.  Adopting different identities, Henri becomes a modern day Bluebeard by marrying women for their money and “disposing” of them when he gets it.  Monsieur Verdoux is cutting it close with multiple women as the trap begins to tighten on him…can he get out before it is too late?

Directed by Charlie Chaplin, Monsieur Verdoux is a dark comedy-drama.  Orson Welles originated the story but Chaplin and Welles disagree on the path it took to the screen though Chaplin took screenwriter credit.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #652).

monsieur verdoux charlie chaplin marilyn nash

Oops…I put a bunch of poison in your glass, my bad

When you think of Charlie Chaplin, you generally think of his Little Tramp/silent movies.  Movies like Limelight and Monsieur Verdoux do have their own following, but it took longer to get to over his classic Tramp movies.  If you think you know Chaplin, Monsieur Verdoux might change that.

The movie is a dark comedy and frequently has comedic moments, but it also can get really dark.  Chaplin isn’t an accidental killer, he’s deliberate.  The story is loosely based Henri Désiré Landru (April 12, 1869-February 25, 1922) who was known as the Bluebeard of Gambias and was tied to the death of ten women and a man before his execution.  The movie has such a contrast at points and the ending is dark as Verdoux recognized his fate following financial collapse.

Chaplin has Chaplin moments during the film.  There are some sight gags involving poisoning and some classic Chaplin looks while he tries to kill his vocal wife played by Martha Raye (who is a scene stealer).  Chaplin looks and feels much older in the film than even The Great Dictator which was released only seven years before.  He had gone through a lot of personal things and many see this as the film that “broke” him because of its darker turn.  Marilyn Nash also deserves recognition as the girl who is spared Chaplin’s killing streak and in turn ends up trying to help him.

monsieur verdoux courtroom speech charlie chaplin

…not as inspiring as The Great Dictator speech

The movie isn’t very flashy but Chaplin directs it with skill.  As mentioned there are “gags” meant to take away some of the morose nature of a man willing to kill to support his family but they sometimes feel too goofy even for a dark comedy (like falling out the window).  It fits with the silent films or even the silent-talking mergers like The Great Dictator, but the movie is so dark that the comedy isn’t merged perfectly.

Monsieur Verdoux is a good film and a definite must see for fans of Chaplin.  There definitely is an Orson Welles tone to the film and a real and agreed Welles-Chaplin venture would have been interesting to see.  Monsieur Verdoux is as close as we’ll get, but it is a different Chaplin that is worth diving into.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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