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The Great Dictator

DVD, Blu-Ray
In this, Charlie Chaplin's first talking film, he skewers both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini on sharp spears of ridicule. Since Adolf Hitler had the audacity to borrow his mustache from the most famous celebrity in the world
Charlie Chaplin
it meant Hitler was fair game for Chaplin's comedy.

The Great Dictator

Kevin Brownlow and Michael Kloft's absorbing documentary, "The Tramp and the Dictator," backgrounds Chaplin and Hitler (who were born a few days apart) and gives a detailed account of The Great Dictator's production. Since Adolf Hitler had the audacity to borrow his mustache from the most famous celebrity in the world--Charlie Chaplin--it meant Hitler was fair game for Chaplin's comedy. (Strangely, the two men were born within four days of each other.)

The Great Dictator, conceived in the late thirties but not released until 1940, when Hitler's war was raging across Europe, is the film that skewered the tyrant. Chaplin plays both Adenoid Hynkel, the power-mad ruler of Tomania, and a humble Jewish barber suffering under the dictator's rule. Paulette Goddard, Chaplin's wife at the time, plays the barber's beloved; and the rotund comedian Jack Oakie turns in a weirdly accurate burlesque of Mussolini, as a bellowing fellow dictator named Benzino Napaloni, Dictator of Bacteria. Chaplin himself hits one of his highest moments in the amazing sequence where he performs a dance of love with a large inflated globe of the world. Never has the hunger for world domination been more rhapsodically expressed. The slapstick is swift and sharp, but it was not enough for Chaplin. He ends the film with the barber's six-minute speech calling for peace and prophesying a hopeful future for troubled mankind. Some critics have always felt the monologue was out of place, but the lyricism and sheer humanity of it are still stirring. This was the last appearance of Chaplin's Little Tramp character, and not coincidentally it was his first all-talking picture. --Robert Horton

Product Features

  • The U.S. was not yet in World War II when Chaplin leveled his comedy arsenal at Der Fuehrer by playing the dual roles of Hitler-like Adenoid Hynkel and a Jewish barber who is a dead-ringer look-alike for der Nutsie. Puns, sight gags and slapstick abound as Chaplin skewers fascism, balancing his attack with poignant scenes of a ghetto in the clutches of storm-trooping terror. Immortal bits include

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