Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Shoulder Arms

Shoulder Arms (1918)

In the final year of WWI, Chaplin releases this comedy about the soldier’s life in the trenches. There is a long tradition of films that cater to the enlisted man, and this would be close to the first one.  Unlike most of those films, this one is actually funny-- still, almost a hundred years after it was made.

The set is quite reminiscent of Kubrick’s trenches in Paths of Glory, which probably just means that’s what the trenches looked like.  Still, it almost seemed a comic take on Kubrick’s classic, although I’m certain they had nothing to do with each other.

Chaplin fails boot camp, unable to follow a single order.  In the trenches it’s even tougher where it’s so wet that even the bottom bunks are covered in water.  But Charlie soon becomes such a great soldier that he captures a whole trench because he surrounded all 13 of them.  But then comes the challenge of his military career—going behind enemy lines.

The film is well paced and the jokes feel fresh, although I could see some of them telegraphed well in advance.  As a solid comic film, this is one of Chaplin’s best.


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