Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Circus


I don’t know how this one slipped by me. I became a Chaplin fanatic in college, when I discovered he wasn’t just this jerky (people often project old silents at 24 fps, when they were shot in 16 fps) little man, but a comic genius. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of his two-reelers, and thought I had seen all his features. But not this one. It is very, very good, like all his features (I’ll pretend A King in New York and A Countess From Hong Kong never existed), but doesn’t quite rise to the genius level. Taken set-piece by set-piece, it is hilarious, uproarious, but put them all together and it doesn’t measure up to his true masterpieces. Best bit: the little tramp walking a high wire and bedeviled by a bunch of monkeys. It must have been harrowing to film. Chaplin actually learned to wire walk for this sequence. In some parts he is held up by a wire and harness, which actually makes the walk more dangerous instead of less. And funnier. Chaplin always knew how to make a scene funnier.