Tag Archives: Black and White

Review: The Great Dictator

Director: Charlie Chaplin
Year: 1940
Score: 8.5/10

Why don't you stop reading this review, google 'great dictator speech', and strap yourself in for the speech from which this still was taken. Go on, do it!

Stop reading this review, scroll to the bottom, click ‘play’ on the embedded video, and strap yourself in for the speech from which this still was taken. Go on, do it!

Unique blend of satire, comedy and deeply felt drama, the latter of which comes mostly in the form of the beautiful speech at the very end of the film. Even in isolation, that speech – embedded at the end of this review – is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Some of the sillier humour in other scenes, left over from Chaplin’s silent film days, detracts from the rest, but not enough to ruin it. All the Germanish gibberish spouted by Adenoid Hynkel is hilarious, largely because of Chaplin’s excellent performance aping Hitler. Beyond the dictator himself, there’s plenty of delicious irony and satire elsewhere in the film, such as the scene in which a Tomainian storm trooper protects a group of Jews from being attacked by a mob of his fellow storm troopers, not because he wants to, but because he’s ‘just following orders’.

It really is quite remarkable that this was made when it was, with filming commencing a week after Germany invaded Poland and the film being released before the US had joined the war. Chaplin apparently later said that he wouldn’t have made the film had he known the extent of the Holocaust (which was really only just getting started at that point), but I think the timing actually gives it greater power. It’s by far the best of the two Charlie Chaplin films I’ve seen.

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Review: Modern Times

Director: Charlie Chaplin
Year: 1936
Score: 5/10

A woman, clearly in fear, being chased by a strange man. Fear of rape = comedy gold..? Not so much.

A woman, clearly in fear, being chased by a strange man. Fear of rape = comedy gold..? Not so much.

Hugely disappointing not-quite-but-almost silent film from Charlie Chaplin, inexplicably one of his most acclaimed.

It really didn’t work for me; I appreciated the obvious commentary on the ills of the modern industrialised world, and the ending – though abrupt – was quite nice, but the actual comedy largely fell flat.

Maybe I’m just not a fan of simplistic physical comedy? That would explain why most of the bits I laugh at in Marx Brothers movies are clever wordplay rather than slapstick humour. Speaking of which, it’s somewhat amusing that Modern Times has 100% more duck-related comedy than Duck Soup does.

Review: Escape From Tomorrow

Director: Randy Moore
Year: 2013
Score: 4.5/10

Creepiest cameo appearance by Winnie the Pooh and his friends in cinematic history.

Creepiest cameo appearance by Winnie the Pooh and his friends in cinematic history.

A film worth watching only to see how Randy Moore and his small cast and crew managed to shoot it surreptitiously on location at Disneyland and Disney World without permission from the murine authorities. It’s a low-budget black-and-white psychological horror flick with some pretty awful acting and even worse visual effects (which appear to be used whenever particular scenes couldn’t be practically shot at the theme parks themselves). There are some effective parts, particularly in the first half, mostly those that riff on the interpersonal conflicts that invariably crop up between family members at theme parks. The second half, though, goes off the rails and veers into surrealism and narrative ambiguity that don’t really work; it ends up becoming quite a slog to get through. Nonetheless, if you have any interest in ‘guerrilla filmmaking’, or you’re a fan of the Disney parks, it’s probably still worth checking out. The most disturbing line of dialogue (by a considerable margin) is the following, yelled out by a woman during a sex scene: “Fuck me. Feel my vagina. I think you found my Hidden Mickey. Hysterectomy!”.

Review: Duck Soup

Director: Leo McCarey
Year: 1933
Score: 7/10

Hugely influential film. This scene clearly inspired one of The Godfather's most memorable moments.

Hugely influential film. This scene clearly inspired one of The Godfather’s most memorable moments.

Considering it was made 80 years ago, this Marx Brothers comedy – regarded as their best – holds up well. I only belly-laughed occasionally, but I smiled, snorted and chuckled throughout. Some of the physical comedy is good (the mirror sequence being a special highlight, later reprised by Woody Allen in Sleeper to less success), but it’s the dialogue and wordplay that’s most amusing. In contrast, the musical interludes aren’t very funny. At 68 minutes, it’s short for a feature film, but the length feels just right. I imagine it plays very well to young audiences, presuming they can stomach its obvious age.