Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

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Released 16-Mar-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Introduction-David Robinson (Chaplin Biographer)
Featurette-Chaplin Today - Monsieur Verdoux
Gallery-Plan Drawings For The Set And Preparatory Sketches
Gallery-Photo
Gallery-Poster
Theatrical Trailer-2
Trailer-The Chaplin Collection
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1947
Running Time 119:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (87:04) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Charles Chaplin
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Charles Chaplin
Mady Correll
Allison Roddan
Robert Lewis
Audrey Betz
Martha Raye
Ada May
Isobel Elsom
Marjorie Bennett
Helene Heigh
Margaret Hoffman
Marilyn Nash
Irving Bacon
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Charles Chaplin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Italian
German
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Hebrew
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Czech
Greek
Hungarian
Polish
Turkish
Russian
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Set in France in 1932, this film tells of Henri Verdoux (Charles Chaplin), a furniture dealer who makes his living by marrying then disposing of rich widows. He has several wives simultaneously under assumed names, and when he needs money he forecloses on his marriages.

    Under the name Bonheur (ironically, the French word for happiness), he is married to the frightful Annabella (Martha Raye), who is seemingly indestructible. Verdoux is being pursued by the police, and is also trying to woo the reluctant Madame Grosnay (Isobel Elsom). He also ventures to try out an undetectable poison on a waif (Marilyn Nash), but has second thoughts.

    The film has the subtitle "A Comedy of Murders" and the credit "Based on an idea by Orson Welles". After Citizen Kane, Welles hit upon the idea of a film about Henri Landru, the famous Bluebeard who was executed in the early 1920s after a career similar to that of Monsieur Verdoux. He wanted to make a film with Chaplin as the killer, but Chaplin was reluctant to be directed by someone else, and eventually he bought the idea from Welles.

    The eventual screenplay was a black comedy. This was the first film by Chaplin which had a detailed script and predetermined shots. In the postwar era, film stock was much more expensive and Chaplin could not indulge in his usual lengthy film production habits. Also, advancing age meant that he had to look for roles where the comedy came from the character and the dialogue, rather than relying on slapstick. So this film is quite unlike any of his previous films.

    Given the political climate of the time and the increasing public vilification of Chaplin, Verdoux was a commercial failure in America. Today though we can see the satire of the times and mores that the filmmaker intended. It is in some respects Chaplin's response to the Second World War, and a critique of the war mentality with its disregard for the sanctity of human life.

    Monsieur Verdoux is the last of Chaplin's better films, and although it does not rank up there with his best, it is still entertaining and worth a look.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.37:1, so we are losing only a small amount of the original image.

    The film is pleasingly shot in black and white, with a sharp transfer. Shadow detail is adequate, though the contrast seems to have been boosted more than it should have.

    There appears to have been an attempt to remove grain using digital filtering, which has resulted in several artefacts, most noticeably a slight motion blurring. This is mildly distracting, but is not nearly as severe as the problems with the Limelight disc. There is also some mild aliasing from time to time.

    There are some white flecks and dirt in evidence, but these film artefacts are infrequent.

    The film and extras are presented on a single-layered disc which is RSDL-formatted. The layer break occurs during a fade to black between scenes at 87:04, and is therefore not disruptive.

    Subtitles are provided in 20 languages. The English subtitles are clear and readable, and seem to closely reflect the actual dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio tracks. The default track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with an alternative 5.1 surround mix.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, though the sound is a little lacking in body and depth. This is also true of the 5.1 mix.

    The music score is by Charles Chaplin, and is reasonable for the material without being distinguished. Audio sync is exemplary.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Introduction (5:16)

    The usual introduction by David Robinson, film historian and author of the definitive biography of Chaplin.

Chaplin Today: Monsieur Verdoux (26:58)

    The best of these featurettes that I have seen, this one was made by Bernard Eisenschitz and features an interview with the French master director Claude Chabrol. Chabrol has made a lot of films involving murder as a central plot device, including a film about Landru. He was also present at the French premiere of Monsieur Verdoux. There is also an interview with actor Norman Lloyd, who does not appear in the film but whose career was also affected by the political upheavals of the late 1940s.

Plan Drawings For The Set and Preparatory Sketches

    126 items here, with sketches and plans of the set shown with corresponding stills from the final product. This is pretty interminable.

Photo Gallery (5:08)

    Behind the scenes and publicity photos from the film.

Film Posters

    12 posters from various countries. These are accompanied by audio of American radio spots advertising the film. These commercials are quite repetitive and this gets a bit wearing after a while.

Trailers (4:51)

    An American trailer and a German trailer, both in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and not in the best of condition. The latter is dubbed into German and has no subtitles.

The Chaplin Collection (10:43)

    Excerpts from the other films in the collection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The first Region 1 disc was released by CBS/Fox/Image contains production records and photographs, storyboards, advertising materials, excerpts from the script and a copy of the contract between Chaplin and Welles. This disc was withdrawn from sale shortly after the Warners release was announced.

    The Region 1 equivalent from Warners has the same content as the Region 4, but also has motion blurring and ghosting caused by the PAL to NTSC conversion, so it can be ruled out. Unless you can find the Region 2 release at a cheaper price, the Region 4 is the best bet for this film.

Summary

    An entertaining, icy-cold black comedy from Charlie Chaplin. Quite a change of pace from his previous work, and worth seeing at least once. This disc can be recommended, though the transfer is not perfect.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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