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The Circus 1928

NR
4.7 out of 5 stars (63) IMDb 8.1/10

A little tramp (Charlie Chaplin) accidentally falls in with a down-on-its-luck circus and his acrobatic and comedic skills start drawing audiences to the big-top in droves, but not without a bittersweet brush with romance for the gentle clown.

Starring:
Al Ernest Garcia, Merna Kennedy
Runtime:
1 hour, 12 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Romance, Comedy
Director Charles Chaplin
Starring Al Ernest Garcia, Merna Kennedy
Supporting actors Harry Crocker, George Davis, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford, John Rand, Steve Murphy, Charles Chaplin, Albert Austin, Chester A. Bachman, Eugene Barry, Jack Bernard, Stanley Blystone, Heinie Conklin, Bill Knight, Toraichi Kono, H.L. Kyle, Betty Morrissey, L.J. O'Connor
Studio The Criterion Collection
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
It doesn't have the raw sentiment of CITY LIGHTS or the social relevance of either MODERN TIMES or THE GREAT DICTATOR, but for pure laugh-out-loud moments, THE CIRCUS is probably Chaplin's finest straight-ahead comedy.
The plot is fairly straightforward -- Tramp joins circus, falls in love, tries to vanquish a rival suitor, then (in an ending of typical Chaplinian pathos) arranges for the rival suitor to get the girl. However, Chaplin packs the story with enough gags, extended jokes, and visual tricks to keep the film moving at a frenetic pace, even in its moments of sweetness.
The setting of the circus naturally lends itself to plenty of comic elements, and Chaplin makes the most of them in some unexpected ways. For example, there's the expected Locked In The Cage with The Sleeping Lion joke (which has subsequently and successfully been played to the hilt in Bugs Bunny cartoons), but Chaplin gives it a graceful twist with the addition of a pan of water that'll have you on the edge of your seat as he tries frantically not to drop it.
But Chaplin doesn't just use the circus to showcase gags -- he also uses the trappings to advance some extended and complicated jokes. The opening moments of the film, for example, feature the Tramp being mistaken for a pickpocket. After a full-out chase, the Tramp, the real pickpocket, and a policeman finally end up in a funhouse, complete with animated figures and a hall of mirrors. At this point, there are two wonderful visual jokes -- the first involves the Tramp's inability to pick up a dropped hat in a hall of mirrors(in what must have been an excrutiatingly technical shot to avoid reflecting the camera.) Chaplin, ever the perfectionist, executes the scene brilliantly.
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Format: DVD
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. The special two-disc edition does this film justice.

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.

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.
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Format: DVD
While perhaps not up to quite the same fine level as, say, 'City Lights' or 'Monsieur Verdoux,' this film is a small minor masterpiece in its own right, and frequently cited as Chaplin's most underrated film. Viewing the film, it's hard to believe that the filming experience was such a nightmare, what with things like fires, heavy rains, theft, and Chaplin's messy divorce from his second wife. Generally speaking, Chaplin's features seem to have a bit more drama than endless gags (not that that makes them any less powerful or classic), with the focus being on the narrative storyline and not just a series of funny incidents, but this film rather plays like one of his earlier short subjects, where the laughs were far more frequent. The storyline is simple enough: The Tramp, on the run from the police yet again, even though he didn't really do anything that terribly wrong, eventually stumbles into a circus that's come to town. He makes friends with the horribly mistreated daughter of the circus owner, and falls in love with her, but like in just about all of his films, this love too is unrequited. The pretty bareback rider really loves Rex, the new tightrope walker. While in the circus, Charlie has all sorts of comic misadventures, most famously in the scene where the monkeys are climbing all over him while he's on the tightrope after he's accidentally lost the hidden wire that was keeping him balanced. After this latest mishap, it seems as though his future in the circus is over, though with the scheme he then hatches, things might not be so lost after all.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
Both "The Gold Rush" and "City Lights" are accepted as ciname classics, classic comedy films made by Chalrie Chaplin. In between is a much less known work, "The Circus".
"The Circus" is less well known because the film was not available from shortly after completing it's first release in 1928 until the early 70's, when it was finally re-released. It's re-release brought it to a new audience, who had some knowledge of the film, but not enough to truly value it.
The plot is rather simple - Chaplin's Tramp character stumbles into a failing circus, and is chased by police into the big top, where his chase is the funniest thing to have happened during the whole show. The Tramp is hired at the circus, who's cruel director doesn't let him know how popular he is. The director is generally cruel, abusing his daughter, yelling at everyone, and being generally mean. The girl is in love with a tightrope artist, the Tramp falls in love with the girl, and the film ends with the gril married to the tightrope artist and the Tramp staying behind.
The plot is fleshed out by some of the funniest screen moments that Chaplin would ever come up with. He tries to be a tightrope walker. He gets caught in a funhouse with a crook who is trying to steal from him and a police officer who thinks that he is the real crook. He breaks up a magicians act in the middle of the big top. He gets stuck in a cage with a lion.
Okay, I'm not doing ANY justice to this great film. My review is not funny - the film is.
The film was meticulously restored by David Shepherd, and was released in 1999 on DVD. This DVD is now out of print, and a new on will be issued next year, though likely without the corrections and restorations by Shepherd. This is a shame, since the 1999 DVD includes outtakes and a properly restored opening. The quality is superb, and there are few hints as to the film's age.
I highly recommend this disc!
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