Monsieur Verdoux - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Monsieur Verdoux Reviews

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February 13, 2012
Chaplin's best "talkie"
February 8, 2012
The comedic genius that is Charles Chaplin deviates from his usual slapstick romance formula, and successfully takes the foray into the dark comedy. The dark comedy genre and even the serial killer genre are near and dear to my heart and it warms my heart so to see it done perfectly. It's daringly dark jokes with a combination of silly slapstick and dark subject matter. It's also the first film where I feel Charlie has developed a really well-written story, where the focus is more on the character like a character study, which feels far more different (in a good way)than his usual formula. Even though Orson Welles wrote most of the story, I can still feel Charlie's influence onto the film, and it's pure comedy brilliance. The result is a moving story of a man against the world, trying to fight against the forces that be. It's heart-wrenching in it's dialogue and the poetry within it, with the last half-hour of the film just one brilliant one-liner after another. It's Charlie's most introspective and poetic of his films, and it's a mind-gripping and powerful experience.
January 17, 2012
Must the good guys, in certain occasions, murder their wives or drop bombs on sleeping children? If so, Chaplin observes, we are in the darkest comedy there is.
½ December 16, 2011
After the first few disappointing and poorly played minutes, the movie launches into a delicious as well as touching black comedy. Chaplin's character, Verdoux, is quite distinct from his Tramp character (except in one relatively brief sequence where Verdoux reacts in a stereotypically Tramp fashion) and the insights we gain into this new character as the story progresses lend unexpected depth to the film.
November 23, 2011
Not Exactly the Tramp

This, too, is on a Films I Should See Before I Die list, as was yesterday's [i]La Femme Nikita[/i]. In fact, it is on all three. This is doubtless because it is a post-war, sound Charles Chaplin movie with a story by Orson Welles. (Welles was originally supposed to direct, but Chaplin couldn't stand the idea of having someone else direct him.) They also all three agree on [i]The Great Dictator[/i], though of course they can't all agree on [i]The Gold Rush[/i], as the [i]New York Times[/i] list has no silent movies. I have long maintained that, while one need not actually find Charlie Chaplin films funny, one must acknowledge the influence he had on film. This, indeed, is another film which is important at least as much for what happened offscreen. The film's chances were ruined by Chaplin's personal politics. There was much ado about how buying tickets for this movie might mean giving money toward Chaplin's suspect, possibly Communist, causes. The film itself is entertaining but not essential.

Henri Verdoux (Chaplin) was for thirty years a perfectly honest bank clerk, supporting a wife (Mady Correll) and son (Allison Roddan). And then comes the Panic of 1930. He is fired, and he must find another method of acquiring income. And so he marries rich women, takes all their money, and murders them. Often they are undesirable in some way; we spend the most time on Ugly American Annabella Bonheur (Martha Raye), whom he has of course married under the name of Monsieur Bonheur. He tells her that he is a ship's captain, which explains his lengthy and frequent absences. She is still alive because she has not given him control of her money. Almost more so than the cold Lydia Floray (Margaret Hoffman), she offends his every aesthetic sense. She dresses badly, is extremely unintelligent, and has a braying voice. (That last, of course, was accomplished by casting Martha Raye.) You know this won't end the way he hopes it will, but you can see why he thinks it might; these are not women who will meet anyone's sympathy.

I have read several reviews talking about whether or not you have any sympathy for Verdoux, and I think they rather miss the point. At bare minimum, you can understand why the man did what he did, even though it's a horrible idea. Chaplin gives himself a little speech at the end about how it's only shocking because he's an individual, not a country, and because he clearly didn't kill enough people. When you kill people in their millions, well, fortunes of war and all that. I think it detracts from the story. I think it would be better if Verdoux merely stuck to the truth--he's killing these women because he wants their money and doesn't think they deserve to stand in the way of his own comfort. That is a horrible truth, and perhaps Chaplin didn't want to play a character possessed of it, but it is why Verdoux does what he does. Doubtless Annabella's greatest crime was preventing him from marrying another victim.

Of note is that the wife and child disappear. He tells The Girl (Marilyn Nash, who died last month) that he lost them earlier, but it's never quite clear how. There is speculation on the internet that he killed them, which would also explain why he is so calm about going to the guillotine at the end of the picture. He is not atoning for the wealthy victims, as he feels no remorse at their deaths. But if he killed his wife and son so they would not have to live in poverty, that would be something for which he would feel regret. Some people comment with surprise that he doesn't kill The Girl, but why would he? He kills because he can get something out of it. There is nothing to be gained from killing The Girl at any point at which he meets her. But it is still possible that his wife and child might be spared from suffering, and it is possible that he is the one who did it. In a new way, since the supply of rich victims dried up at an inopportune moment.

Possibly the real reason this made all three lists is that it is the movie with which Chaplin was hoping to escape the Tramp. An advertising slogan which pops up frequently in the bonus materials for the DVD (and any DVD designer should have enough good sense to always have an indicator for what you're about to select somewhere) is "Chaplin Changed--Can You?" Even [i]The Great Dictator[/i] had a Tramp-like character, if not the Tramp himself, and this film doesn't. Verdoux is suave, debonair, and amoral. Early in the story, he is tending his roses while what we can only assume is one of his victims burns in the incinerator behind him; he assures Inspector Morrow (Charles Evans) that the bodies will never be found. (And makes the same [i]corpus delicti[/i] error that everyone else does, alas.) Not the Tramp at all. And it's entirely possible that that absence, more than the possible presence of dirty, dirty Commies, is what destroyed this film at the box office. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all.
November 9, 2011
Fantastic killer movie.
½ November 8, 2011
Brilliant. No wonder he was so proud of this film.
October 13, 2011
Equal parts a black comedy and sweet romance, the first Chaplin film to not feature his Tramp is, astoundingly, one of his best. The irony hits as hard as the dark subject matter, while also retaining the charm and hilarity or his earlier films. One particularly laugh-out-loud moment is when the titular character, a Blue-Beard-esque figure who murders wealthy widows to help his ailing wife, woos a potential victim and quickly covers himself when her realtor catches him and he ends up falling out a window. He still knows how to make us laugh, even when the sound is on, so I commend him for being the genius that he is.
July 20, 2011
Probably Chaplin's most courageous film, he attempts to carve out a place for humanism in a world that he believes has given itself over to war and death-dealing. He does it through the blackest comedy of his career. While Chaplin beautifully renders numerous lengthy shots, witty dialogue, and the occasional use of physical comedy, that he does all this while also keeping his murderous protagonist likable is quite the achievement.
July 18, 2011
Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin, 1947)

Monsieur Verdoux, which sprang from a falling-out Chaplin had with Orson Welles (more on that in a few), was Chaplin's favorite of his films. It was his first in seven years, the longest period to date between Chaplin films (and the second-longest ever), it landed him one of his surprisingly few Oscar nominations (for Best Original Screenplay; he lost to Sidney Sheldon, of all people, for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and the three other films nominated that year you've never even heard of), etc. For all that, it was a monumental flop at the box office, the post-WW2 equivalent of Heaven's Gate. Like that film, Monsieur Verdoux is a good deal better than you may have heard it is. On the other hand, don't go into it expecting another Modern Times, or for that matter another Heaven's Gate (a movie every critic outside the US finally seems to have given its due as one of the great American movies).

The plot of the film is based loosely on the life of Henri Désiré Landru, the Bluebeard Killer (the first of, to date, four movies based on Landru's life), who started off scamming wealthy widows he met through the lonelyhearts pages, then progressed to marrying them, getting their wills changed, and bumping them off. Before his four-year spree ended, Landru had killed eleven widows. As we open, Henri Verdoux (Chaplin), a banker who'd been laid off from his job thanks to the economic crash, has just killed one of his victims, tossed her body in the incinerator, and then gone back to happily trimming his rose bushes, avoiding stepping on a caterpillar on the way back to the house. A lovely man indeed. Once her fortune is collected (and subsequently invested; Verdoux plans to support his legitimate family through the stock market), Verdoux puts the house on the market, and we see how he interacts with other human beings. (He's not as nice to them as he is to caterpillars.) The movie is concerned with Verdoux's cycle of marrying-and-murdering, naturally, and he gets himself hitched to some real shrews for comic relief, but the real meat of the story comes when Verdoux meets the nameless woman (as so many of his female leads are) known in the credits only as The Girl (Marilyn Nash, in one of only two of her big-screen roles, the other in a forgettable sci-fi film), whom he lures back to his Paris apartment in order to experiment with a new poison he's concocting, only to let her go. (This becomes important later, for reasons that are spoilerific, but lead to a great deal of the movie's comedy.)

It's not a bad film by any means, and if you're a Chaplin fan you'll enjoy it a great deal simply because it's Chaplin (and, according to Robert Lewis, the Chaplin film over which he had the most control: he not only directed, starred, produced, casted, and composed, but supervised every other aspect, from costume design to "crawl[ing] around on the floor with a knfe, scraping up bits of old chewing gum stuck to the floor"). But the story behind the Welles/Chaplin rivalry that birthed the film in its present form is in many ways more interesting than the movie itself. Welles originally wrote the script and approached Chaplin with it; Welles was to direct, Chaplin to star. Now remember, this was still the forties, when everything Orson Welles touched turned to gold; he'd just come off Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, and what Orson wanted, Orson got. Except Chaplin, that is. After reconsidering, Chaplin is reported to have told Welles that "no one else has ever directed me, and I'm not going to change that now". We do know that Chaplin bought the script from Welles (who would later say he parted with it because it was "one of my minor works", which may well have been sour grapes) for five thousand bucks, rewrote some of it, and made it into Monsieur Verdoux. How different would this movie have been had Welles directed it? There's no way we can ever get an answer to that question, of course, but Welles was capable of getting such greatness out of even our most iconic actors (Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil, Edward G. Robinson in The Stranger, and Anthony Perkins in The Trial are only three obvious examples) that one can only salivate while imagining what he would have done with someone as brilliant as Chaplin.

As with most black comedies, note that some of the laughs are bound to sound more like uncomfortable chuckles, especially in the first half; the second is more reminiscent of the little tramp and his slapstick days (the chase scene in the dance-hall could have been filmed in 1920, save the sound). But in the end, it's still Charlie Chaplin, and you'll still like it. ***
June 12, 2011
Chaplin generates little sympathy. His broad-mannered antics, as a many-aliased fop on the make for impressionable matrons.
½ June 11, 2011
Charlie Chaplin as a married man who supports his family by marrying and killing women. Because of Charlie's leftist leanings the film was not a success and Charlie was forced to leave the US. He only returned once, in 1977 to receive a honourary Oscar.
½ June 11, 2011
Yet again proving how much a talent Chaplin was, this time showing he was very skilled at dialogue centered comedy instead of physical comedy, tho there are some physical comedy scenes, in addition to being funny, chaplin gives a great overall performances, it challenges us since hes not blatantly bad or good, a vague middle ground, i loved the relationship he made with the girl from jail and i love where it went to at the end, a great film
½ April 25, 2011
The script is so good that Chaplin's superb acting chops almost go unnoticed because of the great speeches he gives. It's becomes a bit preachy towards the end, perhaps the social commentary is a tad too blatant, but it does not overshadow the great screenplay and absolute enjoyment of this film.
citawijaya
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2011
Damn, only Chaplin could mix a dark movie about bluebeard killing women with some comedy. It's the best dark comedy I've ever seen.
½ March 30, 2011
After the first few disappointing and poorly played minutes the movie launches into a delicious as well as touching black comedy. Chaplin's Verdoux is quite distinct from his Tramp character (except in one relatively brief sequence where Verdoux reacted in a stereotypically Tramp fashion) and the insights we gain into this new character as the story progresses lend unexpected depth to the film.
March 26, 2011
An underrated masterpiece of cinema. This film really has it all, it contains practically all the ingredients that films require to be great. There's a peculiar tone in almost every aspect, and it's all carried by an outstanding work of direction by one of the greatest geniuses in film history: Charles Chaplin, who also of course plays the title role, which is one of the most fascinating characters I've seen in a film... the guy is a murderer (a psychopath maybe) but his true nature is very far from that, he's in some way a hero, a role model, a representative of the world society and a man who speaks for all of us; but also it's a common man, and despite the things he does (everything decorated by a fantastic dark comedy, with some touches of physical comedy), easily anyone could identify with him. The cast was fantastic in general. The narration was perfect, so many parallel storylines with one character in common (changing his identity), but the film is incredibly easy to follow and connect with. The score (composed by Chaplin) was very good too, perfect for this unique film. Almost every scene is absolutely memorable, filled with Chaplin's trademark humanism and sensibility, but without losing the dark tone of the movie.

It was the eight work I've seen of Chaplin (7 films and a short), and this is the 4th that is added to my list of favorite films, though I really liked the other 3 too. A superb masterpiece that deserves a lot of more recognition, and to be considered one of Chaplin's absolute best (along with City Lights, Modern Times, The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator,...). But no matter that, I loved it, and for me it's a undisputed masterpiece. There's so much of Chaplin I still got to see, and surely there must be a bunch of great films (or shorts) expecting to delight me with the incredible talent of that little man called Charles Chaplin.
March 26, 2011
An underrated masterpiece of cinema. This film really has it all, it contains practically all the ingredients that films require to be great. There's a peculiar tone in almost every aspect, and it's all carried by an outstanding work of direction by one of the greatest geniuses in film history: Charles Chaplin, who also of course plays the title role, which is one of the most fascinating characters I've seen in a film... the guy is a murderer (a psychopath maybe) but his true nature is very far from that, he's in some way a hero, a role model, a representative of the world society and a man who speaks for all of us; but also it's a common man, and despite the things he does (everything decorated by a fantastic dark comedy, with some touches of physical comedy), easily anyone could identify with him. The cast was fantastic in general. The narration was perfect, so many parallel storylines with one character in common (changing his identity), but the film is incredibly easy to follow and connect with. The score (composed by Chaplin) was very good too, perfect for this unique film. Almost every scene is absolutely memorable, filled with Chaplin's trademark humanism and sensibility, but without losing the dark tone of the movie.

It was the eight work I've seen of Chaplin (7 films and a short), and this is the 4th that is added to my list of favorite films, though I really liked the other 3 too. A superb masterpiece that deserves a lot of more recognition, and to be considered one of Chaplin's absolute best (along with City Lights, Modern Times, The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator,...). But no matter that, I loved it, and for me it's a undisputed masterpiece. There's so much of Chaplin I still got to see, and surely there must be a bunch of great films (or shorts) expecting to delight me with the incredible talent of that little man called Charles Chaplin.
½ March 2, 2011
Se me hizo algo larga
January 6, 2011
I really love so many elements of the film, including its great story. Monsieur Verdoux has a great talkie performance by Charlie Chapman (the first talkie I've seen him do), and his comedic timing is still right on. The original story by Orson Welles is great, but I feel like it lacks in organization within the script. Some of the women were brought up too many times or too long. The old woman that he kills after looking out the balcony was an awful actress. I couldn't even listen to a word she said after a while. But every single shot in her house is absolutely beautiful. I laughed a lot throughout the film, and I understand what it says (in fact it might have spelled it out a little much), but it just needed to be told in a better way. The film was a little over 2 hours, and I can just think of some moments that could have been cut down or taken out completely. But overall, it's a good film.
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