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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Great Dictator (Criterion Collection)
Format: DVD|Change
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on July 31, 2017
One of my favorite Chaplin movies. Charlie took quite a chance releasing this movie during the war. Hat off to You Charlie.
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on October 5, 2003
Without a doubt, Charlie Chaplin is the reigning king of silent comedy. His impeccibly limber gesturing, sense of timing and evocative facial features have made him a landmark artist, a masterful film maker and one of the greatest talents to ever grace the silver screen. What more can be said; does it get any better than the little tramp?!? And now, Warner Home Video proves that it does, indeed get better; a lot, lot better. Having had to contend with poorly transferred, badly worn VHS and primative bootlegged DVD copies for years, the home video audience at last gets to witness Charlie in his best video incarnation ever! This box set features four classics from the Chaplin legacy; Modern Times, The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator and Limelight. In each case, Chaplin illustrates the art of making movies as no one before or since. Great fun!
THE TRANSFER: No expense has been spared in making each film sparkle as never before. The gray scale is incredibly rich and beautifully balanced. Blacks are deep. Contrast levels show off Charlie's make up. Fine detail is gloriously realized. Minor edge enhancement and some pixelization do occur but nothing to distract or even hint that anything but absolute care has been taken to make these films look as good as they possibly can. Almost all age related artifacts are gone. Truly, I can't say enough to recommend these transfers. The audio is mono and nicely balanced.
EXTRAS: Each disc comes with a brief featurette on Chaplin's legacy and some interesting supplimental extras including outtakes in some cases and interviews in others.
BOTTOM LINE: No more to be said: don't walk - RUN to your nearest video retailer and make the Chaplin Collection a part of your home video library!
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on June 13, 2004
DVD is the perfect medium for many of Chaplin's films. He demanded a lot from his audience. Each film carries it's own message. Each section of a film addresses a part of that film's message. Every facet of a work has a purpose. He lightened the load through the use of humour. The viewer has to be thinking every minute though. It's possible to watch these films time and again, or to watch different segments repeatedly and keep finding something more. They really are that complex. Fortunately, the DVD medium makes doing that easy.
The Great Dictator is as relevant today as it was when it skewered Hitler and his gang of Fascist bigots back in 1940. It took aim at Hitler but its target could easily be any warmongering regime from any period of history. The parallels are all there. Chaplin addresses each of them and does it well. His character Hynkel is a bumbling and ineffective "leader". He's driven by greed. As the film unfolds it's obvious his greed is rooted in feelings of inferiority. The more his mouth moves the less he says. His economic policies are a disaster-to wage war he has to borrow money from the "enemy". He is petty beyond belief. Ultimately, without an "enemy" to point toward, he's nothing. His entire mantra-loss of liberty, racial persecution, lust for control and so on-is all for one thing: he has to cover the fact that he can't rise to the level of the most humble of those he torments. This is a fundamental truth about people who lust for conquest. Chaplin illustrates it brilliantly.
The film isn't perfect. Chaplin and his crew weren't entirely comfortable when working with sound. Many scenes have dialogue but lack background noise. It was a common fault of the time though. The players have an assortment of accents. The Tomanians (with the exception of Herring) sound British. As the Jewish barber Chaplin sounds British. Many of the Jews in the Ghetto sound Jewish but Palette Goddard as Hannah, sounds as if she came from Queens. There are at least a couple of interludes that interfere with the continuity of the film. These are small complaints though. There are many scenes that have never been bettered. One is the episode with the coins and the cakes. On its own it's pure comedic brilliance. Combined with the statement it makes about the utter ridiculousness of martyrdom for its own sake (not to mention the unwillingness of leaders to become martyrs) it's timeless. The scene with the cannon is a gem. The "ultimate" weapon is shown as the ultimate (and expensive) waste; this could easily be the Crusader Artillery System. The tenderness between Chaplin and Goddard is a thing of beauty. Jack Oakie is fabulous as a Mussolini clone. The scenes between him and Chaplin are hilarious. (Watch the scene with the hot mustard and do some thinking.) The innuendo in the film is brilliant. Who but Chaplin would conceive of Tomainia (after "Ptomaine, poisonous and putrefying organic matter), the "Sons of the Double Cross" or Hynkel's first name, "Adenoid"? The entire backdrop with its "Thinkers of Tomorrow" and other absurdities modeled on the vanity of the Dictator is amazing; it captures the madness completely. The ballet with the globe is beautiful and astonishing. The music representing the ideals for the greedy and the humble is identical. The message: people are alike. As is the norm for Chaplin he did it in a way that was subtle; it's the theme of the Grail Knight descending from Wagner's Lohengrin. Hitler loved Wagner's music. Chaplin would have known that. It's his way of saying Wagner's music wasn't to blame for Hitler's madness. There's more but this should give an idea.
What nobody seeing the film for the first time can be prepared for however, is the way it ends. I wasn't. I saw a few of Chaplin's films as a student but had missed this one. I was floored. His statement about the nature of the people who make war is valid in any age. It always will be.
Watch it and then look closely at the events of the present.
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on June 16, 2017
shipping was fast and they came neatly packaged. There's better out there Awesome! I wish I had another one. I have recommended this product to several of my friends and family. I am beyond pleased with this product I bought this product because my friend recommend me to buy.
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on July 17, 2004
Most have heard of Chaplin. Though many have not seen an entire movie of Chaplin's. This collection is a great way to expose and introduce a younger generation to the visual comic genius of Chaplin. Kids who happen to have a short attention span forget that Chaplin is B&W and silent when they watch this. That's how good he is. This collection brings honor to Chaplin's greatest achievements by presenting the movies with superior picture quality. The extra featues are great! This is a "must-have" for any DVD enthusiast.
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on April 12, 2004
Charles Chaplin was the greatst cinematic genius of the 20th century. His brilliance was celebrated and recognized for decades, but then America brutally turned against him. How it grieved him that his adopted homeland, the country that had given him fame, riches and untold fortune, denounced him as a Communist and basically didn't allow him back into the country. What a singular disgrace. His story is told magnificently in these four films, spanning thirty years. We open up with the little tramp and conclude with the haunting, depressing, yet poignant "Limelight." This last film is my favorite of them all, with Charlie's unique, beautiful voice speaking so softly to a 19 year-old Claire Bloom. It was send chills down your spine to see his work (finally) restored to its original glory. The final scene, with Keaton standing behind, when they slowly draw the sheet over his face signifies the artistic death of Charlie Chaplin. No one went out with more grace and pathos.
If you're a long-time Chaplin fan or a Charlie newbie, this set has something for everyone, from the globe dance in "The Great Dictator" to the depressing scenes of Calvero unable to make his audience laugh anymore. It's all here and it will touch anyone with a love of film. There was only Chaplin and this set shows the entire spectrum. My highest recommendation.
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on June 28, 2004
This film is an excellent piece of anti-axis propaganda in the guise of a hilarious satire of totalitarianism. Chaplin portays two characters who's resemblance to one another is merely coincidental. One is a Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomania with a jewish name, the other a Jewish barber with impeccable instincts for sussing out trouble. Overall, "The Great Dictator" attempts to demonstrate the idiocy of war. By turning the key players into buffoons, it portays the war machine as a circus. This film is much more than a lampoon of the Nazis, however. The silliest characature of all is of Benito Mussolini. Jack Oakie's portrayal of the Dictator of Bacteria, Benzino Napaloni, is the highlight of the film. He's like a stereotype of one of those "larger-than-life" tourists who bluster with absolute authority wherever he goes. It is really hard not to picture him in the loudest hawaiian shirt know to man. It is really obscenely funny. The interaction between the two dictators provides the most sustained lunacy in the film. Their attempts to one-up one another are just brilliant.
"The Great Dictator" does have an extremely serious side. There is an attempt to portray the plight of the displaced Jews with care and much pathos. It works, more or less. The Jewish Ghetto is given enough attention that the viewer develops a connection with them as they attempt to get on with their lives. Maurice Moscovitch as Mr. Jaeckel is particularly effective. Paulette Goddard plays Hannah as a rather dim, dreamy stumblebum. She's cute, but occasionally annoying. Sometimes, it feels like Chaplin has transported Hannah back to the Wizard of Oz--she speaks in that same half-whimpering, dreamy manner as Judy Garland's Dorothy.
Finally, this film certainly transcends any single political agenda. The only agenda one can associate with it is the aim to bring laughter to a world torn asunder by the vagaries of milatary posturings. It seems telling (to me, at least), that Adolf Hitler viewed this film twice. I have always been curious as to what his thoughts were on this total classic send-up of the great men of the Blood-Axis in their own time. Perhaps by the end of the first viewing, he perceived that Mussolini got the worst of it. Then he watched it again--this time with pleasure. If you can't laugh at yourself...
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on July 14, 2003
I've never seen any of these films look more beautiful, and the packaging and extras are excellent! "The Gold Rush" is especially desirable as, previously, we have had to choose between the official release of the "sound" version with Chaplin's distracting narration and very uneven releases of the PD silent version. Here we have both the sound version (interesting as Chaplin's last word on the piece) and the artistically superior silent version, restored by Brownlow! "Modern Times" is a gorgeous restoration of a universally accessible masterpiece (here Chaplin has his cake and eats it too, working his social satire in seamlessly with comedy and character), and includes many amusing extras, including a few cut scenes, a clip of Liberace performing "Smile" (!), and "Por Primera Vez," a 1960s documentary on a travelling theatre, which sets up in a remote Mexican village where most of the inhabitants have never seen a motion picture and screens, yes, "Modern Times" to an enthusiastic audience. "The Great Dictator" is often hilarious (especially the scenes with Jack Oakie) and if the message gets in the way of the art at times, this can be easily forgiven considering the importance of the message. "The Great Dictator" includes the excellent TCM documentary, "The Tramp and the Dictator," much superior to the documentaries on the other discs, as well as Sydney Chaplin's color home movies of the production. The best thing I can say about "Limelight" is that at least Buster Keaton appears (briefly) and at least Chaplin doesn't actually preach (even if he does weep, smirk, and philosophize to trying lengths; I have often thought that Chaplin put off speaking so long because he had a feeling that, if he once started, he would be unable to bring himself to shut up). Still, "Limelight" is (at a bare minimum) of great historic interest, and, if you buy the set, you can consider it as being thrown in for free, so there's no reason not to. This set is required viewing for human beings.
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on May 25, 2011

This movie is still funny and timely today. Some great classic scenes (the bouncing globe scene is still amazing). The only Chaplin movie where his little Tramp character talks....the movie is funny, thoughtful, serious, and yet hopeful

So many of Chaplin's films are great, but in somewhat different ways.

If you haven't see it before, it is well worthwhile. If you have seen it, it is worth seeing again.
The only issue I have is pricing from in Canada. The movie is $12 more than on, this despite the CDN$ being slightly higher in value that the US $. No excuse for this (duty would not be 50%) just plain and simple gouging of Canadians.
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on October 2, 2003
Hey, living in Belgium, Europe, I bought the complete box (10 movies plus extras: it equals this volume one plus volume two, plus a complete biography and the movies "A woman of Paris " and "A King in New York") at Amazon Uk, and you can find my complete review there. But THIS material cannnot be avoided by anyone loving Chaplin's work: it is the supreme collection!
And 5 stars is far to little a reward for the job those people did by putting together such collection!
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