The Circus (1928)

Comedy, Romance
Charles Chaplin, Merna Kennedy, Al Ernest Garcia, Harry Crocker
The Tramp finds work and the girl of his dreams at a circus.
  • Allied Artists Company:
  • Unrated Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • N/A Released:
  • 08 Feb 2000 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Charles Chaplin Writer:
  • Charles Chaplin Director:
  • N/A Website:

All subtitles:



Trailer:

One Of Chaplin's Best; Certainly Underrated8/10
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.

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. (However, Kennedy's character is in question as she seems satisfied to marry either of two men. Huh?)

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.
The OTHER great Chaplin Film9/10

The Circus is probably Chaplin's most underrated film. It is (easily) one of the funniest movies ever, and the inventiveness of such shots as the Mirror Maze scene and the closing sequence are nothing less than brilliant. What separates Chaplin from other comedian filmmakers is his ability to evoke a sense of pity and/or sympathy for his character. How can you watch the closing scenes of this film and, even after all of the laughter, NOT sense a
bit of melancholia welling up in your heart? Truly one of the greats.
The Circus (1928)9/10

Charlie Chaplin is a film-maker who isn't given enough credit, in my opinion: sure, people think he's funny, but few seem to recognize the underlying melancholy of his work. In The Circus, our favorite little tramp is running from the law and stumbles upon a carnival, unwittingly becoming the center act and falling in love with a beautiful trapeze artist (Merna Kennedy). Even though this seems like the recipe for a feel-good romantic comedy, in Chaplin's vision, the guy doesn't get the girl. We essentially find ourselves laughing at an unemployed homeless man who needs to make an ass out of himself in order to escape the police -- which is nothing worth laughing at, when you really think about it. Nevertheless, Chaplin created some of the most uproarious scenes in movie history, combining his ingenious slapstick with a genuine humanity that made his character feel like more than just an object of humiliation. The Circus is certainly one of his most under-rated features, showing a darker sense of love and longing than any of his other work: the film opens with a repeated shot of his object of desire swinging on the rings with a forlorn gaze drifting into space. The final shot has the little tramp walking away from the woman he loves, alone: never before (or since) have we so sensed Chaplin's true gloominess. But if I'm making The Circus sound like a serious film, then I've been deceiving you, for it is a very funny movie indeed: Chaplin's gags are innovative and perfectly timed, and he always managed to keep his running time perfectly suited to the audience's interest. Yet in spite of how funny this movie truly is, the parts I remember most are still those that reached a deeper level of human emotion: the scenes between Chaplin and his lover are meant to be comical, but I couldn't help but notice the honesty and poignancy he injected into each vignette. This is as much a romance as it is a comedy -- and a drama, for that matter. It has been said that, two thirds during the shoot of the film, Chaplin had a nervous breakdown; considering the mostly morose tone of the film, that doesn't surprise me. But when film-makers have personal struggles, it typically only increases the authenticity and greatness of their work (just look at Woody Allen's career). Quite simply, The Circus is an American classic: Chaplin not only directed and starred in, but he produced, edited, and even composed original music for his films. His direction is superb -- not only from a comical standpoint, but from a cinematic one as well; one particular scene comes to mind that takes place in a house of mirrors, in which Chaplin uses a repeated set-up to convey a feeling of simultaneous order and confusion. His acting is plain brilliant -- if you can call it acting: he's one of those performers that you watch and smack your head in awe of how extraordinary he is. In a way, The Circus isn't a masterpiece, nor a perfect film, nor even a particularly great one -- but in another way, it is all those things and more. It is a splendid example of just how much can be done within a simple genre movie, and modern film-makers would do themselves a favor by learning from it.

Grade: A
Alternately touching and hilarious; one of Chaplin's finest achievements5/10

Although movie buffs seldom mention `The Circus' in the same breath as Charlie Chaplin's more touted masterpieces (`City Lights,' `Modern Times,' `The Gold Rush'), this film contains some of his best work manifested in a number of ingenious sequences. Chaplin once again dons the role of the tramp, this time having all sorts of adventures (and misadventures) under the big top.

In order to evade the police who suspect him of being a thief, the tramp ducks into a circus tent and acts as if he is part of the show. The cops follow him into the tent and try to apprehend him, with comical results. The crowd goes wild, believing all this was planned ahead of time. The audience's reaction is so strong that the tyrannical circus owner hires him on the spot. When it is discovered that Chaplin cannot be funny intentionally, the owner gives him a job as a prop man, clumsily lugging equipment around the tent as part of the show. Again the crowd roars its approval at his inadvertent antics, and soon the tramp is the circus' main attraction. In the meantime, he falls in love with the owner's daughter, a bareback rider who herself loves the tightrope walker, and romantic complications ensue.

`The Circus' is an all-around Chaplin effort. In addition to playing the lead role, he wrote, directed, produced and edited it, and composed the music as well. It is a meticulous production on all counts, with each sequence choreographed to elicit the maximum capacity of laughter from the audience. The scenes in which the tramp is pursued through a hall of mirrors, trapped inside the lion's cage, and forced to double for the missing tightrope walker stand alongside his finest achievements. The ending sequence is especially heartrending, as many are in his films. Here is a movie to be cherished by all fans of Chaplin, but appreciated even by casual viewers. This is because it achieves a rare blend of comedy and poignancy through appealing, sympathetic characters and with genuine honesty adding a note of realism to counterbalance the clowning.
A terrific comedy, despite what some may say...5/10

Do not be mislead by the ne'er do wells who claim this movie as Chaplin's weakest.

The plot is not intricate, but Charlie doesn't need an intricate plot to make us laugh out loud. "The Circus" proves this.

Saying that this film is boring is perfectly ridiculous: there are many moments of pure Chaplin genius and, if nothing else, you simply must see this film for the tightrope-walking scene. No, it's not trick photography: that's really Charlie tightrope walking with no stuntmen of any kind. If THAT'S not exciting, I don't know what is.

Oh, and just as a side note, this film was made during a time when Charlie was going through a very dirty and very public divorce-- his ex successful at having his funds frozen during the divorce, he was sued for a million in back-taxes and faced possible jail time, AND the ENTIRE SET to the circus burned down in a fire.

He most definitely deserved the special Oscar he received for this film. That's right: OSCAR.