Intent on scuttling his ship, a financially-pressed shipowner conspires with the vessel's captain to collect the insurance money, unbeknownst to him that his daughter and her beau, Charlie, are aboard. Will they get away with it so easily?
A shipowner intends to scuttle his ship on its last voyage to get the insurance money. Charlie, a tramp in love with the owner's daughter, is grabbed by the captain and promises to help him shanghai some seamen. The daughter stows away to follow Charlie. Charlie assists in the galley and attempts to serve food during a gale.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
A ship owner intends to scuttle his ship and asks his Captain to round up a crew. The Captain in turn hires a Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) to help him 'Shanghai' (forcibly conscript) some sailors. This backfires for the tramp though as he himself is Shanghaied. On board ship the Tramp attempts to help out with a variety of different tasks but unsurprisingly is useless at all of them. Meanwhile the ship owner's daughter (Edna Purviance) has stowed away aboard ship in an attempt to stop the crime of scuttling and save her lover, the Tramp.
After the wonderful highs of The Bank, this film was a huge come down. It is by far my least favourite Charlie Chaplin film to date although there are inevitably some good moments to be found.
The only joke that made me laugh out loud was Chaplin's ridiculous naval salute which was somewhere between blowing a raspberry and a high five. While that is hilarious, the rest of the film isn't. The only other joke that made me even smile was when Chaplin throws a rescue rope behind him by accident. The rest of the gags were mediocre. Chaplin was to find success with a nautical theme just a couple of years later in The Immigrant and you can see the workings of some of the jokes from that classic film during Shanghaied. The most notable of these was the dinner during choppy seas. In addition to one or two decent jokes there is also some nice close-up work, something which was rare for Chaplin at the time. In one scene the fuse of some dynamite is shown in very close zoom rather than the traditional wide shot of the whole set. This marks further development of Chaplin's ever expanding film craft. The one final aspect of the film that I enjoyed was Chaplin's incredible tray handling skills. This is something he revisited years later in Modern Times but while it is more spectacular there, it feels much more real here.
As well as The Immigrant the film also has shades of Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Jr in that both central characters are bumbling buffoons in love with a ship owner's daughter. Keaton's later film undoubtedly takes some elements from Shanghaied but adds much more and is a far superior film.
My main problems with this film were that the story felt under developed and there weren't enough jokes. It feels like Chaplin got an idea of 'the Tramp on a ship' and just made it up as he went along (something that was often the case in early Chaplin films). While this was sometimes very successful, here it is far less so.
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