Big Jim: I thought you was a chicken.
F: Yet another one I’d not seen!
F: Disclaimer: we watched the wrong version! I did think that this was earlier than Modern Times so was surprised to hear Chaplin’s voiceover! So this review is based on the 1942 version rather than the original 1925 silent film.
R: An easy mistake to make when you’ve got two discs, the first of which is labelled “disc 1: the movie”, the second says “disc 2: special features”, but the original theatrical release is on the second disc. The lesson I guess is that we should do a little more research before charging in to watch these old movies.
F: Yes – from what I understand the 1942 version is the most readily available so if we didn’t have the special edition DVD we probably would have seen it by default anyway. I think the overwhelming feeling I had with this was one of familiarity. From the first time Chaplin was on screen I knew we were in safe hands and I found I could just relax and enjoy the film. Coupled with the very famous moments in this which everyone has seen before and I felt very at ease with this movie.
R: It’s slightly amazing that it’s still funny. Whereas when we watched the Marx brothers it felt like they prioritised the quantity of jokes over the quality, Chaplin here gives us much more focused and carefully worked comedy. He’s not afraid to go a minute or two without any laughs if it makes the next joke funnier. That also helps him deliver a plot that’s worth giving a damn about.
F: I completely agree. Parts of this film were even a bit sinister! I thought the supporting characters were also all quite strong as well. All had their place in the story and didn’t get in the way of Chaplin doing his thing – maybe even enhanced him!
R: I think the variety of the supporting cast is a key part of what makes this so successful. The film keeps changing things up, and never gets stuck on one type of joke. But as you say, it’s not just about the laughs; there are also moments of real sorrow and creepiness. What did you make of the love story?
F: I actually found it quite realistic. She acted the way I thought she would in the beginning (quite cruel), then starts to pity him and eventually falls for him. And I think his complete infatuation and naivety towards her is charming (rather than creepy). Is there anything about the film you didn’t particularly like?
R: I think it needed more explosions. And maybe a couple of gunfights. Would help liven things up a little.
R: I jest of course! I loved it, and I’m not going to start picking holes in a 100 year old film that’s stood the test of time – certainly not after just one viewing. Is there anything you’d change?
F: Well having watched the version with Chaplin’s narration I’d probably take that out! But luckily there is a version without it so will be interested to see that!
R: I’m not sure the narration is as terrible as some of the purists suggest. Chaplin has this deadpan delivery that I think is often a very effective foil to some of the more outrageous antics playing out on screen, and there were at least a couple of times it made me properly laugh out loud. I accept there are also a few moments where it might be a bit surplus to requirements, but I wouldn’t say it limited my enjoyment of the film whatsoever.
F: I think it’ll be an interesting comparison to watch the silent version though! Do you prefer this over Modern Times?
R: This feels more accessible and uncomplicated, but really the surprising thing is that they’re both pretty different films. What I can say is that if City Lights (at number 11 in this list) is as good as these first two have been I will happily call myself a fully fledged Chaplin convert.
F: Probably worth doing this list just for that!
Is it worthy of the top 100?
F: Any fears I had that this wouldn’t live up to the first Chaplin we saw were immediately forgotten. A yes for me.
R: No surprise – it’s a yes from me.