Monseiur Verdoux is a black comedy made by Charlie Chaplin in 1947. It is the first film where he doesn’t portray the Tramp character. (The Jewish Barber from The Great Dictator is really the Tramp, despite what people say!) It was also the first film where Chaplin received negative reviews in America, but this could have been because of the political climate of the time, with the McCarthy era witch hunts and Chaplin’s sympathetic views of Communism.
There is a similarity in the theme of this film to Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt from four years earlier, where a man marries wealthy old widows and kills them for their money. Orson Welles sold the idea to Chaplin in 1941 and was based on the case of serial killer Henri Landru. Verdoux treats murder as a business, a way to make money. Although the films deals with a serial killer like most Chaplin films it has something to say about wider issues and is decidedly anti-war.
Wars, conflict – it’s all business. One murder makes a villain; millions, a hero. Numbers sanctify, my good fellow!
Martha Raye also features in the film as the woman who Verdoux cannot kill. All his attempts to murder her fail hilariously. Of all the women in the film she is the most crude and un-likeable, the one that we wish Verdoux could do away with. She plays the stereotypical loudmouth American to great comic effect.
While this is not Chaplin’s greatest film it is still quite good in a dark sort of way.