The Little Tramp brings his slapstick hijinks to the big top. Charlie Chaplin's film "The Circus" begins in a fading circus, where the equestrienne (Merna Kennedy) can't jump the hoops and the clowns can't make the audienc... more »e laugh. Outside on the midway, The Little Tramp falls into a series of wonderful comic routines that end when, pursued by a cop, he bursts into the tent's center ring and wows the audience. The circus owner/ringmaster (Allan Garcia) auditions The Little Tramp as a clown but discovers he is only funny when he isn't trying. He tricks The Little Tramp into joining the circus as a prop man who wreaks havoc with whatever he does and who unknowingly becomes the star of the show.« less
"It doesn't have the raw sentiment of CITY LIGHTS or the social relevance of either MODERN TIMES or THE GREAT DICTATOR, but for pure laugh-out-loud moments, THE CIRCUS is probably Chaplin's finest straight-ahead comedy.The plot is fairly straightforward -- Tramp joins circus, falls in love, tries to vanquish a rival suitor, then (in an ending of typical Chaplinian pathos) arranges for the rival suitor to get the girl. However, Chaplin packs the story with enough gags, extended jokes, and visual tricks to keep the film moving at a frenetic pace, even in its moments of sweetness.The setting of the circus naturally lends itself to plenty of comic elements, and Chaplin makes the most of them in some unexpected ways. For example, there's the expected Locked In The Cage with The Sleeping Lion joke (which has subsequently and successfully been played to the hilt in Bugs Bunny cartoons), but Chaplin gives it a graceful twist with the addition of a pan of water that'll have you on the edge of your seat as he tries frantically not to drop it.But Chaplin doesn't just use the circus to showcase gags -- he also uses the trappings to advance some extended and complicated jokes. The opening moments of the film, for example, feature the Tramp being mistaken for a pickpocket. After a full-out chase, the Tramp, the real pickpocket, and a policeman finally end up in a funhouse, complete with animated figures and a hall of mirrors. At this point, there are two wonderful visual jokes -- the first involves the Tramp's inability to pick up a dropped hat in a hall of mirrors(in what must have been an excrutiatingly technical shot to avoid reflecting the camera.) Chaplin, ever the perfectionist, executes the scene brilliantly. The second joke -- and the one which gets the biggest belly laughs -- involves the Tramp and the hapless pickpocket pretending to be animated figures to avoid being nabbed by the policeman. When Chaplin conks the crook over the head with his own cosh, then rotates mechanically to laugh giddily . . . well, there's hardly a funnier moment in film. Suffice it to say, the crook is caught, but only after ten minutes of gags to neatly bring the extended Mistaken Identity Joke to a neat end. Chaplin also plays out a jaw-dropping tightrope walking scene (and remember while watching that Chaplin actually taught himself to walk a tightrope for the film -- there are no stuntmen involved) which becomes all the more entertaining through the addition of some uncooperative monkeys. The impromptu results are funnier than anyone could have scripted.While the film stays free of social commentary, there is one telling bit of artistic elbow-nudging at one point in the film, when the Tramp, who has been hired as a clown, is lectured by the crabby Ringmaster on How To Be Funny. When the Tramp participates in the hackneyed skits himself, things go wrong from the start, making the skits funnier than imagined, but remarkably UNfunny to the know-it-all Ringmaster. The message is a subtle, but clear one on Chaplin's part -- don't tell ME what's funny; let me show YOU what's funny.While MODERN TIMES and CITY LIGHTS are the more effective films in terms of storytelling and blending humor and pathos, THE CIRCUS stands as Chaplin's funniest film in terms of successfully executed gags, jaw dropping visuals (including a remarkably advanced dream sequence), and some fall-over-laughing moments. This is the film I show to my friends who have never seen a Chaplin film (apart from some highlighted moments from MODERN TIMES or CITY LIGHTS) to give them an idea of Chaplin's talent. While it has sometimes (though rarely) failed to elicit a "Wow!", it has never failed to generate a room full of laughter -- the true testimony to Chaplin's art."
One Of Chaplin's Best; Certainly Underrated
Craig Connell | Lockport, NY USA | 04/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoyed this a lot more the second time when I could see it on a very clear DVD print. I don't know why that would make a difference with the story, but it did as I found it very good for the entire distance, although that's just a scant 69 minutes. The special two-disc edition does this film justice.
In the story, Charlie Chaplin does his normally-great physical slapstick so well that he accidentally becomes a hit at the circus, which is run by a nasty man (Allan Garcia) who regularly beats his sweet step-daughter, played by a very pretty Merna Kennedy. Charlie, of course, gets smitten by her and comes to her rescue.
This movie has a different kind of ending that what you'd normally see for a comedy but it's inspiring as Chaplin performs a noble deed.
Chaplin's timing and clever slapstick routines never fail to amaze me. Even though silent films aren't seen by many people these days, it's works of art like this that will endure forever. This is not of one of Chaplin's more famous movies.....but it should be. I think it's one of his best."
Possibly his most underrated
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 12/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While perhaps not up to quite the same fine level as, say, 'City Lights' or 'Monsieur Verdoux,' this film is a small minor masterpiece in its own right, and frequently cited as Chaplin's most underrated film. Viewing the film, it's hard to believe that the filming experience was such a nightmare, what with things like fires, heavy rains, theft, and Chaplin's messy divorce from his second wife. Generally speaking, Chaplin's features seem to have a bit more drama than endless gags (not that that makes them any less powerful or classic), with the focus being on the narrative storyline and not just a series of funny incidents, but this film rather plays like one of his earlier short subjects, where the laughs were far more frequent. The storyline is simple enough: The Tramp, on the run from the police yet again, even though he didn't really do anything that terribly wrong, eventually stumbles into a circus that's come to town. He makes friends with the horribly mistreated daughter of the circus owner, and falls in love with her, but like in just about all of his films, this love too is unrequited. The pretty bareback rider really loves Rex, the new tightrope walker. While in the circus, Charlie has all sorts of comic misadventures, most famously in the scene where the monkeys are climbing all over him while he's on the tightrope after he's accidentally lost the hidden wire that was keeping him balanced. After this latest mishap, it seems as though his future in the circus is over, though with the scheme he then hatches, things might not be so lost after all.
The extras on the bonus disc are plentiful--movie trailers, a poster and picture gallery, a delightful excerpt from the cute 1923 Jackie Coogan film 'Circus Days,' three brief home movies, a whole extra sequence (26 minutes in length) that was deleted from the final cut of the film, the usual introduction by David Robinson, the trailer for all of the films in the Chaplin Collection, and the featurette on the significance and influence of the film today, footage of the Hollywood premiere in January 1928, a brief film shot by Chaplin's chief cameraman Rollie Totheroh, of 3-D test footage, and simulatenous footage from two different cameras during a scene from the deleted sequence. Unfortunately, none of these bonus films have any soundtracks, not even just some generic piano or organ accompaniment. With all of the care that went into assembling the DVDs in the Chaplin Collection, one would think that the producers would have cared enough to have found soundtracks for all of these bonus short films on the discs.
Quite possibly his most underrated silent feature, if not his most underrated feature period, this film is just as wonderful as all of his other features and, due to how it often plays like one of his shorts from the Teens instead of his more serious features, it could very well be an ideal introduction to Chaplin for a new fan."
A Friend's Photo
John T. Stanley | Aptos CA | 10/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The technical quality of the DVD is excellent. My interest in the movie is the result of seeing a photo on a friend's wall of Charlie Chaplin and an actor. The actor, Hugh Sasson, was the Uncle of my friend's mother. He appears early in the movie as the person who has his pocket picked. The photo is the shot in front of the hot dog stand when the victim sees the tramp paying for a hot dog out of his wallet. We set the photo on the TV and stepped through this scene on the DVD one frame at a time. It gave us all goose bumps as somehow the extreme slow motion made them seem alive in real time. Additionally, the story of the production difficulties found on disk 2 are fascinating."
A Great Chaplin Film
M. Garcia | Moz Angeles, California | 09/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't pretend to be an expert on Chaplin's history, but I do own the Chaplin Collection (both sets) and I have also seen other Chaplin shorts.
I read other reviews stating that this movie was mediocre...I strongly disagree.
This movie is just as funny as the other films. The main difference is that the story is not as complex as most of his other films.
Everyone talks about how wonderful the ending to City Lights was. I loved City Lights (especially the boxing scene) but I find the ending of The Circus a heck of a lot more moving than that of City Lights. As is the case with just about every other Chaplin film, the social commentary is evident, but the message at the end of The Circus will really hits home.
Again, I highly recommend this movie for a good laugh, which does NOT get boring toward the middle, and a very emotional ending."