Watched Dec 08, 2011
In the December of 2008 I received a complete Charlie Chaplin boxed set for Christmas and quickly decided to watch through each film one by one over the course of the weeks and months. I watched through The Chaplin Revue (a short film collection), The Kid, A Woman of Paris, The Gold Rush… and then I stopped. I was certainly enjoying all the films and I knew that some of his best films like City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator (all of which I’d seen prior) were on deck, and yet, other obligations got in the way and the longer I put the marathon off the more I just sort of forgot about the whole thing and took for granted the large boxed set that was sitting in the middle of my DVD collection.
No more, I’ve finally watched The Circus and it might just start off another marathon. When it was released in 1928 this film was every bit as successful as Chaplin’s other films and was one of the most profitable films of the silent era. However, the film has not had the same impact on popular culture that many of his other films have had and is generally seen as a relatively minor work in his canon. This is probably because there’s less to talk about with The Circus than there is with some of Chaplin’s other films. One can write volumes about the pathos in City Lights and The Kid, the political content in The Great Dictator, the dark streak throughout The Gold Rush, or about the reaction to modernity seen in Modern Times. The Circus… not so much, the film is probably the closest that Chaplin as come to making a really straightforward slapstick comedy out of one of his feature films.
As such most discussions about The Circus focus almost entirely on Chapin’s mastery of pantomime and his eye for good gags. Among these gags are a chase through a mirror maze, an adventure in a lion cage, and a masterful final sequence where The Tramp does a tightrope routine while strapped to a rope that allows him to defy gravity. Consequently I can’t say this is quite on the level of Chaplin’s masterpieces, but it is a very solid piece of silent comedy.