This is a parody of two "Carmen"s, Bizet's opera and a movie (1915) starring Geraldine Farrar. Smugglers come ashore. Their leader sends the gypsy Carmen to lure Don Jose (called Darn Hosiery) away so they can get the contraband to town. There are grand swordfights, deaths, returns to life.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
This combination of Charlie Chaplin's familiar slapstick and mannerisms with some of the plot ideas from "Carmen" works pretty well. Although Chaplin retains many of the features of his usual screen persona, playing even a parody version of Don José is still a change-of-pace that he handles well. Edna Purviance combines enough of the expected Carmen character with her own style that so often complemented Chaplin in numerous successful comedies.
Note that, of the two "Burlesque on Carmen" titles that list Chaplin in the cast, this (the 1915 filming) is the one to see for Chaplin fans. The 1916 release was created when someone apparently decided that it might be a good idea to take this perfectly good original and pad it with a lot of extraneous, non-Chaplin footage to produce a much longer movie.
Parody is an inherently fragile genre. For it to produce anything of lasting value, the source material has to be both familiar and worthwhile, and then the adaptation has to be clever without forcing too many artificial parallels. Many parodies are over-praised upon their release, enjoy a vogue while their source material remains popular, and then fall into deserved obscurity.
The story of "Carmen", though, has a timeless combination of themes, and yet it is not at all stuffy or highbrow. While the original classic is now, unfortunately, less widely-known than it was in Chaplin's day, the material itself is still far more worthwhile than are the pop culture elements that are used as fodder for many parody films of the present era. While by no means one of his very finest efforts, Chaplin's "Burlesque on Carmen" is an enjoyable comic adaptation of the basic story, and for that reason it will always retain an appreciative, if small, audience.
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