Monday, 3 September 2012

The Count

Charlie Chaplin’s fifth film for Mutual is a somewhat simpler film than its immediate predecessors The Vagabond and One A.M. and is more reminiscent of his Essanay work, albeit it more sophisticated and slightly funnier. Chaplin plays an inept Tailor’s assistant who gets fired for burning a Count’s trousers. His boss (Eric Campbell) finds an invitation to a party at the house of Miss Moneybags (Edna Purviance) and decides to impersonate the rich Count in order to marry the attractive, rich girl. Chaplin is also at the party having snuck in through the back door and beats Campbell to the impersonation. All hell breaks lose though when the real Count arrives, along with the Police to chase out the imposters.

The Count features lots of funny moments but lacks the knockout blow of the likes of One A.M. or The Bank. It’s testament to the quality of Chaplin’s Mutual films that I felt disappointed by The Count even though it is far superior to a lot of his Essanay films.

Although there were no huge laughs to be found here I still giggled a lot. For me the funniest scene was the opener in which Chaplin is taking a woman’s measurements. First he measures her ears, then her lips before mistakenly giving her a five foot waste and finishing off by measuring one finger. It was totally bonkers. I also liked his embarrassment with regards to going near any of her more private areas and measured her bottom with a ruler from about four feet away. Another funny scene comes late on in the final chase. Here Chaplin is chased through a house and across a slippery dance floor in a very well choreographed sequence.

There are obvious comparisons to be made between this film and A Jitney Elopement in which Chaplin again impersonates a Count to gain Edna Purviance’s affections. Chaplin is able to create humour in both films around the dinner table, a trait that continued into the rest of his career. Personally I prefer A Jitney Elopement to The Count but both films have their merits.

One final thing of note here is Eric Campbell’s beard. It is simply extraordinary even by his standards. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Ridiculous facial hair is something that is evident in most of Chaplin’s earlier films but I think it reaches new levels in The Count.


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