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  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Czech, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Turkish, Icelandic, Croatian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, German - Hearing Impaired
  • Additional footage - Colour footage
  • 10 Teaser trailer - From The Chaplin Collection
  • Photo gallery - 18 posters
  • Documentaries - The Tramp and The Dictator
  • Outtakes - A scene from Monsieur Verdoux
  • Short film - Charlie the Barber

The Great Dictator: SE

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . B&W . 120 mins . G . PAL


The year is 1940. The world is at war battling the hopelessly misguided Adolf Hitler in a struggle he will eventually lose. Enter the esteemed social conscience of Charles Chaplin under the guise of Adenoid Hynkel and his attempt to take a little wind out of Hitler’s sails with a brilliant caricature of the most-renowned megalomaniac of the 20th century.

Chaplin is almost too Hitler in this brilliant film of biting satire, sardonic wit and scathing social indictment. Playing dual roles of Hynkel and a humble Jewish barber, Chaplin has concocted a story that is at once endearing, charming and funny, yet has his trademark darker undercurrent of social comment.

"I’m a veget-Aryan..."

We open during World War I. In the muddy trenches is a humble German soldier (Chaplin) causing all manner of kuffuffal, before being grabbed by a wounded pilot to help him fly back across to Nazi territory. Unfortunately, they crash and our soldier is struck with amnesia, while the pilot receives help and survives his injuries.

25 years later, our soldier is released from hospital with no idea of what is happening in the world. He returns to his long deserted barbershop and opens the doors thinking the war has just ended. However, things aren’t the same in the ghetto and soon he is in trouble with the bully-boys of the Nazi Party. Thankfully, he is spared by the appearance of the pilot he saved all those years ago, who has now risen in the ranks to have considerable sway. Soon, a strange friendship develops and our Nazi can’t help but notice an incredible likeness of our Jewish friend to a fanatical leader needing a stand-in...

The very thought of a Jew playing Hitler is an irony I’m sure wouldn’t have been too popular in Germany at the time, while the film itself is littered with such (perhaps not so obvious) anomalies of character. Holding off ‘cleansing’ until certain Jews have loaned the Nazis money and such. It’s a rich spiderwork of such digs at the Nazis and Hitler himself, and a rather brave one, given the circumstances. Heralded at the time as a masterpiece of propaganda filmmaking, it drew massive crowds and was received with tumultuous applause from the Allied community at large.

And rightly so. This is a brilliant movie full of subtlety and pinpoint-accurate portrayals of Hitler and Mussolini at war with the world and each other. For certain sequences, Chaplin doesn’t even need words to get his point across and these are more laden with caustic punch than some spoken scenes. For instance, as Hynkel addresses vast crowds with his rhetoric, the words are just German nonsense slung together humorously (words like ‘sauerkraut’ and ‘schnitzel’ leap out of the jumble).

First it’s a joke on Hitler then it’s a joke on his policies, and then it’s a joke on the German people themselves, cheering for such empty meaning... and then, therefore, a joke on those enforcing the status quo, making people cheer for this nonsense... and so on. As noted in my review for Modern Times, Chaplin’s levels of humour go much deeper than the surface slapstick in much the same way a Mandlebrot equation goes ever deeper the more you look into it.

The Great Dictator is a brilliant film from a brilliant man, and along with Modern Times was included among the all-time top 100 American Comedies as voted by the American Film Institute in 2000. And deservedly so.


Again culled from the depths of wherever, this film has been lovingly restored and surely looks as good, if not better, than it ever has. 4:3 and black and white doesn’t affect it at all, and in fact gives it that extra burst of authenticity (like Schindler’s List...). While there are naturally artefacts, the print is surprisingly clean and a real treat when considering the film turned 63 years old this year. This is as good looking as black and white film can be with nice contrasts, realistic blacks and an evenness throughout.


Again, they’ve taken the original mono track and streeeeetched it into Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, though again there’s little need for it and there’s little to be done by it. Some crowd scenes shuffle about a bit plus a little of the early war scenes, but overall this would have sufficed in original mono. I can understand that they may wish to make these films appear more appealing to modern audiences and for that I applaud them, but overall it is fairly unnecessary. Still, the original mono is also available herein and sounds just as good.


This is where the two-disc sets of the Chaplin Collection shine. While the film itself can stand alone, this is the sweetener that may well grab those folks who are still umming and ahing a bit.

Our first piece is an absolutely awesome documentary about the film and the world’s reaction to it. When considering the inflammatory nature of the piece, this brings to light some incredible facts about Chaplin and the time. This was shot in 2001 and runs for 54:57.

Recently some very dirty and decrepit 16mm silent film was discovered in the attic of the Chaplins’. Shot by Charlie’s brother Sydney, we have here 25:45 of colour outtakes from around the set during shooting of The Great Dictator. It’s quite amazing to see the costumes and such in colour (particularly when they don’t match the colour you imagined). A very nice inclusion (and should you wish any more information go here).

A 7:30 short film culled from an earlier Chaplin film Sunnyside has been included here as well. Relative in that it’s set in a barbershop and is actually quite funny. It’s unrestored and artefacty as all hell, but is worth checking out.

An excerpt from a 1947 feature entitled Monsieur Verdoux has been included here as well and this runs for 2:25, while the film poster gallery is excellent and features a wide variety of 18 posters from around the world at the time of release.

And, as usual, there’s the same ten-strong collection of teaser trailers for the other films in the Chaplin Collection that we see on each disc-set.

So again, a nice collection of stuff to add incremental value to the overall disc.


Well, this film would probably have played in schools of the time if they used film back then in classrooms. Perhaps it should even appear in classes today. It’s a well-honed barb aimed straight at Hitler’s arse and I’d bet it stung like hell. (Although in the documentary, there is a conversation with one of Hitler’s closest adjutants who claims behind the scenes he would have laughed like hell, so go figure).

Regardless, this is a brilliant film of lasting comment with some very funny (the ‘short straw in the pudding’ scene) and inspired moments (the analogy of who owns the stars) that combine to make a film as warm and as relevant today as it was in its time.

And I know, I said that about Modern Times too, but that just goes to show the brilliance of Charlie Chaplin and the ongoing importance of what he had to say.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3465
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      And I quote...
    "More Hitler than Hitler..."
    - Jules Faber
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