Monday, December 20, 2010

#136. Modern Times (1936)

DVD Synopsis: The Little Tramp punches in and wigs out inside a factory where gizmos like an employee-feeding machine may someday make the lunch hour last just 15 minutes. Bounced into the ranks of the unemployed, he teams with a street waif (Paulette Goddard) to pursue bliss and a paycheck, finding misadventures as a roller-skating night watchman, a singing waiter whose hilarious song is gibberish, a jailbird and more. In the end, as Tramp and waif walk arm and arm into an insecure future, we know they've found neither bliss nor a paycheck but, more importantly, each other.

One of Charlie Chaplin’s most beloved films, Modern Times is also among his funniest, with moments guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. 

In what might be the film's most hilarious scenes, Chaplin's Tramp, working tirelessly on an assembly line, is used as a guinea pig to test a gizmo that will keep hungry employees on the job by feeding them as they work. Things go smoothly at first, but before long the machine malfunctions, launching a hot bowl of soup onto the Tramp’s shirt! 

Along with the comedy, Modern Times relies heavily on Chaplin’s incredible pantomime. Hired as a night watchman for a department store, the Tramp invites a young lady he's befriended (Paulette Goddard) to join him for the evening, and the two spend some quality time together in the store’s 4th floor toy department. While there, they decide to try out some roller skates. The Tramp, showing off his skating ability, fails to notice that he’s entered an area where the guard rail has been removed, meaning one wrong turn will send him plummeting four stories to the ground below. The tension becomes unbearable as the Tramp, unaware of the danger, skates blindfolded, coming closer and closer to the edge each time around. 

Chaplin's precision is spot-on in this scene, making us laugh as he brings us to the edge of our seats.

Which he does over and over throughout Modern TimesCity Lights may be Chaplin's masterpiece, but this film is not far behind!


Klaus said...

I recently picked up the Criterion Blu Ray of Modern Times. Besides being my second favorite Chaplin film (behind City Lights), the Criterion disc is a real treat.

DVD Infatuation said...

Klaus: Thanks for the comment.

I have the Chaplin Collection release of Modern Times, and while it's a solid (2-disc) release, I do want to check out the Criterion version as well (because,'s Criterion!). And we agree on where Modern Times falls in Chaplin's's a tremendous movie, but City Lights will always be his masterpiece.