Released in 1940, The Great Dictator is a thinly veiled parody of Hitler’s Germany, or to put it another way, a funny little man with an odd moustache having a go at one of history’s greatest monsters, who also happened to be a funny little man with an odd moustache. The movie opens with the nation of Tomainia on the losing side of World War I. We meet Chaplin’s first character, a simple Jewish/Tomainian barber who bares more than a passing resemblance to Chaplain’s world famous Little Tramp character. 20 years pass and a chap called Adenoid Hynkel has risen to power. He also happens to look like the barber. Hynkel is aided in his desire for world domination by Napaloni, played by Jack Oakie, who has more than a passing resemblance to Mussolini.
The movie packs a lot into two hours, helped by its skilful and cutting assessment of the world stage in 1940. This is an American movie and became many American’s first taste of the horrors that were happening in Europe at the time. Chaplin is ruthless in comedy and humanitarian in his direction. The movie ends with a, now famous, heartfelt plea for peace and understanding, and it is worth watching for this alone.
The Blu-ray/DVD extras aren’t that remarkable. We get a nice (if uncontroversial) documentary that correctly asserts that Chaplin was ahead of his time in both awareness of global politics and in production of funny movies. We get some rare colour footage taken whilst the movie was being shot, and the usual trailers and adverts for related products. It’s nothing terribly interesting all told, but then we can hardly expect an audio commentary from the long dead actors.
The Great Dictator is a classic for a reason, and if you haven’t seen it you should. Its complexity will no doubt surprise you, and its message will move you.
Special Features: Documentary / Rare colour footage / Trailers
THE GREAT DICTATOR / CERT: U / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: CHARLIE CHAPLIN / STARRING: CHARLIE CHAPLIN, PAULETTE GODDARD, JACK OAKIE / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 24TH