Another short post today. Feeling a tad ill.
Nazis are a popular subject in movies. They have been for quite some time. The Great Dictator is one of the earliest examples of using the Nazi movement to prove a point about its cruelty, as the movie makes it abundantly clear its intentions. Those who still believe in Nazism would paint this film out to be propaganda, but it’s still enough of an actual movie to be considered such. It just has very clear expectations of the audience.
In this sense, it’s hard not to fault the movie for being transparent. On the other hand, what’s being promoted should be universally accepted. Unless you really enjoy war and violence and treating others as inferior. Just because a movie has a good message doesn’t automatically make it a masterpiece, though The Great Dictator has enough going for it to make it entertaining on its own accord.
Charlie Chaplin is most known for his role in the silent movie days, which makes his starring role in this film all the more intriguing, as it is his first feature film to have him speak. He certainly used all that pent up vocal expression to good use, as combined with his bodily acting prowess, Chaplin makes for a riveting performer. More so as Hynkel, the titular dictator, which ironically uses more of the vocal aspects of performing than anything else. What came as a pleasant surprise was just how funny his performance of Hynkel was, especially early on during his maddening speeches that were little more than gibberish. I really enjoyed how Chaplin used what many would call into question about his role in the film and blew away all of it out of the water with his acting talent.
Still, Chaplin alone doesn’t make the movie, as a number of other characters inhabit the stage along with him. To be honest, the best parts of the movie were when it focused on Hynkel’s empire and subordinates, rather than the people he was putting fear into. Not to say the characters whose roles were primarily that of the victims were bad or bland, but they didn’t exhibit the same charisma or charm as the attention dedicated to making the “evil” characters idiotic or menacing. There was more dimension to Hynkel and his men than to those they pursued, as their only role came to be the pursued, and little more. They act in accordance to their ordinary lives. There’s not much really interesting to them.
In essence, the great thing about this film is Charlie Chaplin. Others perform to varying degrees of quality entertainment or comedy, but Chaplin is the true star. He almost makes the whole movie, and the movie feels listless without him. A number of memorable scenes, from the ending speech, the globe dance (which I personally think is the best scene), and the food fight with the “Bacterian” dictator wouldn’t have been as tremendous if not for Chaplin’s energy. If not for the blatant device of peace and humanity, and a more endearing supporting cast, The Great Dictator would’ve been a more easy recommendation of mine.
Final Score: 6.5/10
The rating for all other films can be found on my IMDb account.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!