A film of serene elegance and sharp teeth, Charles Chaplin's 1947 masterpiece was met with violent hostility on its first release, and contributed strongly to his political exile in the 1950s. Chaplin steps out of the tramp character, playing a soft-spoken French gentleman who supports his lovely children and crippled wife by marrying rich widows and killing them. The moral—“if war is the logical extension of diplomacy, then murder is the logical extension of business”—has a Brechtian toughness and wit, but the style is soft, seductive, elegiac. Chaplin clearly loves the monster he has made, and when the tramp's walk returns for a moment as Verdoux is led to the gallows, we see death with a smiling, human face. With Martha Raye and Isobel Elsom.
By Dave Kehr