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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 June 7, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Henry Daniell, Billy Gilbert
Director: Charles Chaplin
» See full cast & crew
The Great Dictator Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 7, 2010
Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" (1940) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Park Circus. The supplemental features on the disc include Serge Toubiana's documentary "Chaplin Today: The Great Dictator"; behind the scenes color footage; the short scene "Charlie the Barber" (1919); photo gallery; and trailer reel. In English, without optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "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 Adolph 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 British distributors Park Circus.
This is a very good high-definition transfer. Fine object detail is convincing, clarity pleasing and contrast levels very impressive. There are a couple of scenes where I noticed mild edge-enhancement creeping in, but overall the image looks fresh and natural. Macroblocking is not a serious issue of concern. I also did not detect any traces of heavy filtering (there are a couple of spot corrections, most notably during the second half of the film, after Napaloni visits Hynkel, but fine detail is intact, and grain is certainly present). Many of the Chaplin close-ups, for example, look wonderful. Furthermore, the color-scheme is terrific - the blacks are lush and vibrant while the grays and whites look fresh and cool. Additionally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. Also, unlike The Kid, The Great Dictator isn't plagued by inherited scratches, warps, or cuts. To sum it all up, this is undoubtedly the best presentation of Chaplin's The Great Dictator that I have ever seen. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Great Dictator Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Park Circus have not provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Similar to The Kid, Chaplin's The Great Dictator has received two very strong loseless audio tracks. I opted for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and was certainly not disappointed. Admittedly, the orchestral score has benefited the most, but Chaplin's passionate speeches now also sound crisper. The dynamic amplitude is, probably, the best it could possible be. The dialog is clean and stable, and there are no serious balance issues.
The lack of optional English subtitles is something that I am concerned about. Hopefully, Park Circus will address the issue, as optional English subtitles should be a standard feature on all Blu-ray releases.
The Great Dictator Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features are placed on a separate SDVD. They are encoded in PAL.
Chaplin Today: The Great Dictator - a wonderful documentary by Serge Toubiana and Costa-Gavras, produced by MK2TV, in association with France 5, focusing on the production history of The Great Dictator, its political message, Chaplin's relationship with his co-star Paulette Goddard, etc. In English, not subtitled. (27 min).
Behind the scenes color footage - raw footage from the shooting of the film. Without sound. (26 min).
Charlie the Barber (1919) - a hilarious short scene Chaplin shot years before The Great Dictator. Without sound. (8 min).
Photo gallery - a collection of stills from the film.
Trailer reel - trailers for The Kid, A Woman in Paris, The Gold Rush, City Lights, The Circus, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, Monsieur Verdoux, Limelight, A King in New York, etc.
The Great Dictator Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
In my opinion, The Great Dictator is Chaplin's most straightforward film - everything in it is painfully easy to process. Ironically, and unfortunately, it also proved to be his most visionary film. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of British distributors Park Circus, looks and sounds terrific. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Great Dictator Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Two Chaplin Films Announced for Blu-ray - February 15, 2010
UK film distributor Park Circus has announced that its new home entertainment label will launch in the second quarter of 2010 and that it will start with a bang, by being the first to release movies directed by Charlie Chaplin in high definition, licensed from ...
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