Charlie Chaplin — a lost, um, not-treasure

If money were no object, I’d snap up the Chaplin Collection DVD boxed sets in a heartbeat. Except for three anthologies of his earlier short films that were compiled in 1938, and that are not included here, these two sets include all the feature films he directed between The Kid (1921) and The Chaplin Revue (1959), plus they have all sorts of delicious bonus features, too.

One film, however, is conspicuously absent from these sets. That film is Chaplin’s final directorial effort, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967). I have seen all of his other feature films — whether on video, in film school (where I wrote this essay), or at a retrospective hosted by the Cinematheque (in anticipation of which I wrote this preview) — but this last film of his was missing from the line-up even at that otherwise exhaustive event.

At the time, someone who had seen A Countess from Hong Kong told me it was awful, so I assumed the Chaplin estate had put an embargo on it, kind of like how Stanley Kubrick put an embargo on his first feature-length film, Fear and Desire (1953). This impression was bolstered by the fact that this film was left out of the otherwise exhaustive Chaplin Collection DVD sets.

But now I discover that the film is available on DVD after all — in a collection of Marlon Brando‘s lesser films! Brando starred in Chaplin’s film, so it is one of four films you’ve probably never heard of — including The Ugly American (1963), The Appaloosa (1966) and The Night of the Following Day (1968) — that are included in this set. And FWIW, the e-mail from Videomatica that announced their acquisition of this DVD describes it like so:

When given powerful material, like “On The Waterfront” or “The Godfather”, Marlon Brando was virtually unmatched as an actor. But he was perhaps even more fascinating when given material he might have felt was beneath him. Like Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Carribean”, Brando had a way of amusing himself in a role regardless of what was going on in the rest of the film. This collection brings together four often forgotten Brando films from the sixties.

“The Countess From Hong Kong” (1967) finds Brando playing a wealthy diplomat en route to Hawaii to reconcile with his wife played by Tippi Hedren. He finds himself distracted by a shipboard romance with the irresistible Sophia Loren. Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin (it was his final film).

The completist in me wants to see this, now. Even if it sucks. And perhaps especially if it sucks!

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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