Three Chaplin silent comedies "A Dog's Life", "Shoulder Arms", and "The Pilgrim" are strung together to form a single feature length film. Chaplin provides new music, narration, and a small... See full summary »
"One murder makes a villain; millions a hero. Numbers sanctify."
In his autobiography Charles Chaplin called this film his "cleverest and most brilliant" comedy, yet very few people at the time the movie was released shared this view. It was the first Chaplin US failure both with critics and audiences (though in Europe the film did quite well).
Here Chaplin plays Henri Verdoux, a serial killer who makes his living by marrying and murdering lonely reach women. Chaplin softened his character by making him a lifelong bank clerk who was laid off at the age when it was already too late to start life anew, meanwhile he has a family to support (a small son and an invalid wife). He's caught and put to trial where he accuses a hypocritical society of sanctioned mass murders and describes himself as an amateur in the field. Originally the idea belonged to Orson Welles who wanted to make a movie based on the story of a notorious murderer Henri Landru, a Frenchman who was executed in 1922 for murdering 8 women. Welles asked Chaplin to star in his film but the latter refused as he thought it was too late for him to play in a movie directed by someone else. But he bought the original idea from Welles and made what could have been a detective story or a thriller into a black comedy. It was certainly provocative and its sarcastic and ironic gravity was astonishing for the time. There is a scene, for instance, when Verdoux while waiting for the execution, talks to a journalist and pronounces the words that still fill me with horror (as they are as true nowadays as they had been fifty years ago):"Wars, conflicts - it's all business. One murder makes a villain; millions a hero. Numbers sanctify." Yet "Monsieur Verdoux" which is generally known as the most pessimistic of Chaplin films is not devoided of humour. On the contrary, at some moments it's extraordinary funny: take for instance the famous scenes with his "wives" (Annabella or Lydia)or those with madam Grosnay (my favourite bit is when Verdoux is talking to her from a flower shop, the look at the flower girl's face is wonderful!). I believe the film is one of the best I've ever seen and I highly recommend it to everyone.
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