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The Great Dictator(1940)
Chaplin plays two characters in his first full talkie. Adenoid Hynkel, the dictator of Tomania, and a Jewish barber. The barber recovers from amnesia to discover Hynkel is persecuting all the Jews in his country. The film ends with a message of hope for the world.
For more about The Great Dictator and the The Great Dictator Blu-ray release, see the The Great Dictator Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on April 30, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Charles Chaplin
Writer: Charles Chaplin
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Henry Daniell, Billy Gilbert
» See full cast & crew
The Great Dictator Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 30, 2011
Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" (1940) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; new audio commentary by performer and author Dan Kamin and silent-film historian Hooman Mehran; Kevin Brownlow and Michael Kloft's documentary film "The Tramp and the Dictator"; visual essay by Cecilia Cenciarelli; deleted scene; and more. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet containing an essay by film critic Michael Wood and an article by Charlie Chaplin. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Charlie Chaplin plays two very different characters in his notorious mockery The Great Dictator. The first is an unnamed poor and not terribly smart private who loses his memory and becomes a barber. The second is Hynkel, the ambitious leader of Tomania, who thinks, acts and looks a lot like Adolf Hitler.
The Great Dictator opens with the Tomanian War. After a series of battle scenes, the private miraculously saves the life of a wounded pilot, Schultz (Reginald Gardiner), on his way to deliver important documents to his superiors that could decide the Tomanian War. He crashes the pilot's plane, however, and loses his memory.
Twenty years later. Hynkel dreams of exterminating the Jews and conquering the world. Assisted by Herring (Billy Gilbert), Minister of War, and Garbitsch (Henry Daniell), Minister of Propaganda, Hynkel is convinced that it is only a matter of time before his dream becomes a reality.
A surprising visit by Napaloni (Jack Oakie), leader of Bacteria, who opposes Hynkel's plan to invade Osterlich, a neighboring state, changes everything. During a military parade, the two challenge and then openly attack each other - and Hynkel realizes that he is not the only one dreaming about conquering the world.
Meanwhile, the private who once fought in the Tomanian War opens up a barber shop in the middle of a giant ghetto and falls in love with a beautiful Jewish girl, Hannah (Paulette Goddard). Shortly after, he is shocked to discover that Tomania is ruled by a fascist dictator.
One day, the private turned barber is nearly killed by a group of angry storm troopers. He is miraculously saved by Schultz, who has become a trusted member of Hynkel's government. At first the barber cannot recognize Schultz, but after he describes to him how he saved his life during the Tomanian War, he instantly regains his memory. Before Schultz leaves, he orders the storm troopers not to bother the barber or his customers ever again.
Meanwhile, Hynkel, who has decided to invade Osterlich despite Napaloni's opposition, is informed that Schultz has openly criticized his plan to exterminate the Jews. Stunned and angered, he immediately orders Garbitsch to get rid of him, but Schultz manages to evade Garbitsch's men and ends up at the barber shop.
Dressed as Tomanian soldiers, Schultz and the barber head to Osterlich. Once at the border, however, something strange happens – the barber, who looks exactly like Hynkel, is mistaken for the dictator and escorted back to his palace to deliver a speech to commemorate the invasion of Osterlich, while the real Hynkel, who is on a hunting trip in the countryside, is mistaken for the barber and detained.
Nominated for five Oscar awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role, The Great Dictator is Chaplin's most serious comedy. Generally speaking, it is fairly effective in delivering clear and well calculated jabs at the leaders of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
The Great Dictator, however, is also Chaplin's most predictable film. While there are many memorable scenes in it, its main characters are notably one-dimensional, even dull. If not for Chaplin's occasional brilliant improvisations, almost none of which rival those of his earlier films, The Great Dictator would have likely remained unnoticed.
The Great Dictator 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 The Great Dictator arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 2K Datacine from a combination of a 35mm fine-grain master positive and a 35mm duplicate negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Yannick Folliard/Vdm, Paris.
Color correction: Cecile Cheurlot, Pierre Hotte/Vdm, Paris.
Sound restoration: L. E. Diapason. Paris."
Criterion appear to have struck their high-definition transfer from the same restored master, courtesy of French distributors MK2, which British distributors Park Circus had access to when they prepared their Blu-ray release of The Great Dictator. Naturally, the difference in quality between the two is minimal at best.
Criterion have performed various small contrast adjustments and slightly enhanced black levels; grays also appear slightly richer on the Criterion release. Once again, during a couple of scenes I noticed some extremely light edge-enhancement trying to creep in (see screencapture #16), but in motion the overwhelming majority of it is absolutely harmless. Detail is very good, especially during the daylight scenes. Clarity is also consistent. Additionally, I did not see any traces of heavy noise reduction, though various minor corrections obviously have been performed. Yet none of them have affected the integrity of the presentation; on the contrary, the image has been effectively stabilized (there are no lumps of pulsating noise popping up, etc). The film's grain structure is also as consistent as I assume it could be. All in all, Criterion have once again delivered a strong, thoroughly satisfying release of an important classic film. (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).
The Great Dictator Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was transferred at 24-bit from the sound negative and restored by L.E. Diapason using Pro Tools and Cedar. Additional restoration was done at Criterion, where clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The English LPCM 1.0 track is solid. It has a decent dynamic amplitude and pleasing depth. I did a few tests with Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 5." - the Park Circus release has English LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks - and felt very satisfied with the English LPCM 1.0 track. The strings sound rich and colorful but slightly distant, while the timpani sound a bit soft. The dialog is clean, stable and easy to follow.
The Great Dictator Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Great Dictator Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The supplemental features alone are a good enough reason to enthusiastically recommend Criterion's Blu-ray release of Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. Kevin Brownlow and Michael Kloft's documentary film, in particular, is outstanding. As far as the technical presentation is concerned, I like Criterion's release slightly more than the one Park Circus produced for the UK market. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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