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A suave but cynical man supports his family by marrying and murdering rich women for their money, but the job has some occupational hazards.
For more about Monsieur Verdoux and the Monsieur Verdoux Blu-ray release, see Monsieur Verdoux Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Charles Chaplin
Writers: Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Martha Raye, William Frawley, Isobel Elsom, Marjorie Bennett, Irving Bacon
» See full cast & crew
Monsieur Verdoux Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 2, 2013
Charlie Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailers for the film; documentary film directed by Bernard Eisenschitz; new documentary featuring Chaplin specialist Kate Guyonvarch and author Charles Maland; new video essay featuring an audio interview with actress Marilyn Nash; and radio ads. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and reprinted pieces by Chaplin and Andre Bazin. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Charlie Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux tells the story of a dangerous chameleon that roams the streets of Paris and kills wealthy middle-aged women for their money. A man very much like the one Chaplin plays in his film was captured by the French police and guillotined in 1922. His name was Henri Desire Landru.
Early into the film, Chaplin's character points out that he was forced to become a murderer shortly after the financial markets crashed (the exact period he refers to is the Depression of 1930). Then he calmly explains what it took to seduce his targets before he started marrying the most naive amongst them. The most curious ones disappeared rather quickly, but some were around for a long period of time. The majority of the film follows Verdoux as he travels from one place to another to spend time with these women.
Eventually, during a small party a friend of one of Verdoux's wives casually mentions a formula for a banned substance that could kill a woman in a way that would have any doctor conclude that she had died from a heart attack. Verdoux copies the formula, prepares the substance in his home, and begins eliminating his wives. Very soon, however, much to Verdoux's surprise things go terribly wrong, and he is eventually captured by the French police.
The first half of the film is light and very entertaining. Chaplin's moves and especially facial expressions often remind of those seen in his classic films with the Tramp. There is one particular sequence where he desperately tries to impress a much older than him widow looking for a new house where, without the familiar clothes and make-up, he once again becomes the Tramp – his improvisations have the exact same type of energy and fluidity the best ones with the Tramp have. The editing is also as precise as that from the classic films.
After Chaplin prepares the deadly substance and proceeds to eliminate his clueless wives, however, the tone of the film changes dramatically. Now Chaplin does a number of monologues in which he targets the rich, and after he is sent to prison he delivers carefully scripted political statements that address those that are pushing the world towards disaster.
The trial at the end of the film is what effectively changed the popular image Chaplin created and promoted for years. His character's final words reveal a man deeply concerned about the world he lives in and the morality of those capable of determining its fate: "As a mass killer… I'm an amateur by comparison. Wars, conflict – it's all business. One murder makes a villain… millions a hero."
History tells us that the film's subversive nature and strong political overtones infuriated and then inspired a lot of critics and casual viewers to question Chaplin's intentions and later on political orientation. Unsurprisingly, in the U.S. the film's box office receipts were shockingly poor.
After numerous calls for a national ban, United Artist eventually decided to withdraw the film from the U.S. market. Around the same time, prominent voices also demanded that Chaplin is deported. In 1952, while attending a screening of Limelight in London, Chaplin's U.S. visa was revoked because it was determined that he had become a security risk. Unable to return home, he relocated to Switzerland.
Note: In 1948, Monsieur Verdoux earned an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Charlie Chaplin).
Monsieur Verdoux Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Charlie Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new digital transfer was created on a 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative at L'Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix wasused for small dirt, grain, noise reduction, and jitter.
The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a sound negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.
2K Scanning: Irene Messina, Adriana Noviello/L'Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna, Italy.
Colorist: Lee Kline."
Excluding a few inherited vertical lines and extremely light scratches that could not be fully removed with current digital tools (see screencapture #10), the film looks remarkably healthy. The new 2K digital restoration has obviously enhanced detail and contrast and dramatically improved clarity. The indoor and outdoor sequences both look quite wonderful now, with close-ups in particular often conveying very good depth (see screencapture #14). The variety of blacks, grays and whites are also lush and stable. Grain is very well resolved and evenly distributed throughout the entire film. There are no traces of sharpening corrections. Also, there are no purely transfer-specific anomalies, such as banding and aliasing, to report in this review. Viewers who like to project their films will also be pleased to know that from start to finish the film remains tight around the edges. All in all, the new restoration has produced marvelous results, and I feel confident stating that Monsieur Verdoux has never looked as healthy and vibrant as it does now. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Monsieur Verdoux Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Charlie Chaplin composed the soundtrack for Monsieur Verdoux. There are sequences where the music is prominent for a short period of time, but overall dynamic movement is indeed quite modest. Clarity and depth, however, are excellent. The dialog is consistently crisp, stable, and very easy to follow. Also, I did not encounter any problematic audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review. Background hiss is also not an issue of concern.
Monsieur Verdoux Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Monsieur Verdoux Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The riskiest and most thought-provoking of all Charlie Chaplin films, Monsieur Verdoux enters the Criterion Collection having undergone a new 2K digital restoration. The film looks healthy and vibrant now, the best it ever has. Also included on this Blu-ray release are two very good documentaries that shed some light on the controversy surrounding the film's release and Chaplin's history with the American press. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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