Great Dictator (1940)
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The Great Dictator (1940)

Few students of cinema dispute to statement that Charles Chaplin is one of the greatest pioneers of both the art form and the industry. His career as a writer, director, producer and composer as well as the star of most of his features spanned over half a century which coincided at the time period that encompassed motion picture going from me a novelty to the most popular form of entertainment. This film spanned the period of time silent movies shown with a hand cranked projector not only into the age of the talkies also the advent movies and color. Like many great innovators Mr. Chaplin exploring ideas different than those in the majority to just is professional interest. He was deeply committed to social issues of the time and stalwart defender of the common man. Undoubtedly this was greatly influenced by the point in history in which he began his career. Starting during World War I he witnessed a relatively minor events can escalate into a global conflict. One of the greatest influences of a large part of his body of work was the Great Depression. After the collapse of the stock market in 1929 entire world was plunged into economic ruin. Here in United States this is exacerbated by a major drought in the Midwest which had been aptly named the breadbasket of the world. Fertile land turned to dust only to blow away in massive storms. Mr. Chaplin greatly identified the disenfranchised people left hungry and homeless in the street which gave rise to his most iconic character, the Little Tramp. Little square mustache, bowler had been cane is funny walk and mastery of facial expressions combined with his uncanny ability for slapstick comedy made him one of the most beloved and highest-paid actors were 1940 Mr. Chaplin, as the rest of the world, watch this once again the entire globe was caught up in early armed conflict, World War II. People had noticed that his mustache on uncanny resemblance to one of the most despised men in history, Adolf Hitler. Prompted by his own socio political philosophy he undertook one of the greatest political satires ever made even though he was strongly advised it was far too controversial to release. The result is the film on the consideration here ĎThe Great Dictatorí released in 1940 now available for the highly respected Criterion Collection. This was long deserved since this was one of Chaplinís most commercially successful movies and praised by cinematic historians as being his most culturally significant and historically important films.

The family set in 1918 with the fictional nation of Tomainia, obviously a stand-in for Germany, during a major conflict. Two soldiers have a chance meeting between a Jewish barber (Charles Chaplin) and pilot named Schultz (Reginald Gardiner). The ball bounces to save the life of the pilot but the incident left the aviator with a concussion and a case of amnesia. 20 years later Schultz has been promoted while serving under the regime of ruthless dictator Adenoid Hynkel (also played by Charles Chaplin). The dictator orders a purge of all the Jews in the country an action found unconscionable by Schultz. He objects to the policy refusing to follow the orders is immediately incarcerated. Managed to escape and has to the ghetto he is taken in by the barber. His girlfriend, Hannah (Paulette Goddard) and her family are able to get out of the country for these of the relative safety of Osterlich (Austria). Just as they had managed to escape both the Bob and Schultz were arrested by storm troopers. After a failed attempt an alliance with another dictator, Napaloni ( Jack Oakie), the tyrant of the country Bacteria, Hynkel invades Osterlich trapping had her and her family in the now occupied country. Shelton the ball managed to escape again wearing stolen uniforms. As it so happens there is a huge parade to be a dictator just of the barber, now in his uniform, arrives. He is instantly mistaken for the real dictator. Meanwhile the real Hynkel is duck hunting in civilian clothes mistaken for the escaped barber and imprisoned. Schultz tells the barber that the only way to get out of this alive is for him to impersonate Hynkel and give the expected speech. As he takes the steps of the platform it occurs to him that he might as well try to make the best of the situation. Content of his speech surprises everyone in attendance as the barber, disguised as the dictator, tells the crowd that he has had a change of heart and he makes a for peace, goodwill and tolerance. Before closing the speech he has a little message directed to Hannah. Heather hears his voice over the radio and realizes who he is. She has left Osterlich and is working as a laborer on a farm out in the countryside.

As the various associations using this allegoric story are barely vailed with each character obviously tied to the real-life counterpart. Mr. Chaplin was exceptionally well read and although was famous for slapstick comedy he was exceptionally intelligent as demonstrated in this film fully capable of set innuendo in his approach to satire. His personal feeling those oppressive regimes and their dictators off little more than a disease upon mankind is obvious. The first name of the Tomainia leader in obvious standard for Hitler is Adenoid, a frequently infected and large mass of emphatic tissue in the back of the throat. Not-so-subtle placed nuance that what issues for from this manís mouth is infected the disease. This motif is even less subtly used in naming the allied country, Bacteria. There dictator, Benzino Napaloni, an obvious stand-in for Benito Mussolini. Although high-ranking officers advising Hynkel represent such heinous Nazis as Joseph Goebbels, and the personage of Garbitsch (Henry Daniell) as Henkelís Secretary of the Interior and Minister of Propaganda. Another loyal high-ranking official, Herring (Billy Gilbert), is a caricature of Hermann GŲring. Herrings functions as Henkelís Minister of War. His trust and failure at demonstrating new weapons that your source of annoyance of the dictator.

One aspect of this movie remains closely cinematic and world history is how Chaplin was influenced by the Nazis premiere propaganda filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl. She remains a controversial figure to this very day despite the fact that she was pivotal to the persecution of the Jews through her propaganda many of her films utilized major advances in the field of cinematography and editing. Chaplin was greatly influenced by wonderful films that depicted Adolf Hitler giving an impassioned albeit hateful speech captured by Riefenstahl. Chaplin made good advantage of this being a talkie by mimicking that speech in German sounding gibberish or perfectly emulating the nuances of Hitlerís body language and facial expressions. Chaplin spent many hours studying as film for the newsreels. This movie made some in the translation over the decades and would be best appreciated by those who are suitably knowledgeable about world history and some of the more innovative aspects of filmmaking. In any case remains one of the few examples of dark humor in Mr. Chaplinís oeuvre. Considering this is part of the Right Here in Collection every effort was made to ensure that the presentation is as close as possible to the original theatrical run. The high-definition video presented on the Blu-ray version of the film is the result of a painstaking full restoration of the movie.

bulletNew audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin historians Dan Kamin and Hooman Mehran
bulletThe Tramp And The Dictator (2001), Kevin Brownlow and Michael Kloft's documentary paralleling the lives of Chaplin and Hitler, including interviews with author Ray Bradbury, director Sidney Lumet, screenwriter Budd Schulberg, and others
bulletTwo new visual essays, one by Chaplin archivist Cecilia Cenciarelli and one by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance
bulletColor production footage shot by Chaplin's half-brother Sydney
bulletBarbershop sequence from Sydney Chaplin's 1921 film King, Queen, Joker
bulletDeleted barbershop sequence from Chaplin's 1919 film Sunnyside
bulletRerelease trailer
bulletBooklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Wood, Chaplin's 1940 New York Times defense of his movie, a reprint from critic Jean Narboni on the film's final speech, and Al Hirschfeld's original press book illustrations

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