The Great Dictator: The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray) ~ Charles... Cover Art

The Great Dictator (The Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray)

Charles Chaplin


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Review

Since Adolf Hitler had the audacity to borrow his mustache from the most famous celebrity in the world--Charlie Chaplin--it meant Hitler was fair game for Chaplin''s comedy. (Strangely, the two men were born within four days of each other.) The Great Dictator, conceived in the late thirties but not released until 1940, when Hitler''s war was raging across Europe, is the film that skewered the tyrant. Chaplin plays both Adenoid Hynkel, the power-mad ruler of Tomania, and a humble Jewish barber suffering under the dictator''s rule. Paulette Goddard, Chaplin''s wife at the time, plays the barber''s beloved; and the rotund comedian Jack Oakie turns in a weirdly accurate burlesque of Mussolini, as a bellowing fellow dictator named Benzino Napaloni, Dictator of Bacteria. Chaplin himself hits one of his highest moments in the amazing sequence where he performs a dance of love with a large inflated globe of the world. Never has the hunger for world domination been more rhapsodically expressed. The slapstick is swift and sharp, but it was not enough for Chaplin. He ends the film with the barber''s six-minute speech calling for peace and prophesying a hopeful future for troubled mankind. Some critics have always felt the monologue was out of place, but the lyricism and sheer humanity of it are still stirring. This was the last appearance of Chaplin''s Little Tramp character, and not coincidentally it was his first all-talking picture. --Robert Horton

Release Note

In his notorious masterpiece, The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin (City Lights, Modern Times) offers both a cutting caricature of Adolf Hitler and a sly tweaking of his own comic persona. Chaplin (in his first pure talkie) brings his sublime physicality to two roles: the cruel yet clownish “Tomanian” dictator and the kindly Jewish barber who is mistaken for him. Featuring Jack Oakie (Thieves’ Highway, Lover Come Back) and Paulette Goddard (Modern Times, The Women) in stellar supporting turns, The Great Dictator, boldly going after the fascist leader before the U.S.’s official entry into World War II, is an audacious amalgam of politics and slapstick that culminates in Chaplin’s famously impassioned plea for tolerance.


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