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Charlie is in boot camp in the "awkward squad." Once in France he gets no letters from home. He finally gets a package containing limburger cheese which requires a gas mask and which he throws over into the German trench. He goes "over the top" and captures thirteen Germans ("I surrounded them"), then volunteers to wander through the German lines disguised as a tree trunk. With the help of a French girl he captures the Kaiser and the Crown Prince and is given a statue and victory parade in New York and then ... fellow soldiers wake him from his dream. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Charlie, disguised as a tree, enters a pipe to escape a German. When the German tries to pull Charlie out he seperates the lower part of the tree costume along with Charlie's shoes. When Charlie emerges from the other end of the pipe he is still wearing shoes. See more »
How did you capture thirteen?
I surrounded them.
See more »
The short opens with a title card showing a caricature of Chaplin dressed as a World War I soldier, and text reading "Shoulder Arms Written and Produced by" followed by a blank space. A live action hand appears and points to the title, then the drawing, then uses a piece of white chalk to sign "Charles Chaplin" in the blank space, then points to the caricature one more time. See more »
Shoulder Arms may well be the first war comedy ever released while the conflict was still going on. Opening before the Armistice Charlie Chaplin pokes fun at trench warfare and German officers from the Kaiser to field officers with Napoleonic complexes. In that it had never been done before Chaplin may well have put his career on the line with its release since the public's positive response was not a given.
Recruit Charlie drives his drill instructor crazy with his inability to drill properly. Driven to exhaustion Charlie collapses in his tent but is soon on the front lines dealing with the deprivations of fox hole life. On the battlefield he encounters an arrogant German officer, meets a pretty French farm girl and captures the Kaiser.
Shoulder Arms serious subject does not get in the way of Charlie's mirth making. A flooded trench with men sleeping in a foot of water, shooting the enemy and keeping score and the over the top charge to the wire are played for laughs and get them. After a hilarious segment with Charlie camouflaged as a tree the films pace slows a little when he impersonates a German officer and captures the Kaiser. Pace killer that it is, it more than likely must have brought cheers from a war weary audience in 1918.
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