Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
United Kingdom, 1967. Chaplin Film Productions Ltd., Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Charles Chaplin. Cinematography by Arthur Ibbetson. Produced by Jerome Epstein. Music by Charles Chaplin. Production Design by Donald M. Ashton. Costume Design by Olga Lehmann, Rosemary Burrows. Film Editing by Gordon Hales.
Charles Chaplin waited ten years to release anything after the box office disappointment of A King In New York and, sadly, fared little better in this his last feature film. Marlon Brando plays a wealthy oil tycoon who is traveling home to America from Hong Kong, poised to take on the role of American ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The morning they set sail he finds a stowaway in his room: a gorgeous Russian countess (Sophia Loren) who was one of the three women that he and his friend (Sydney Chaplin) entertained the night before. Loren has been, like all emigres left impoverished or stateless after two World Wars have destroyed their lives in Europe, surviving in Hong Kong and is now determined to make her way to America and start all over again. Keeping her hidden in his rooms won’t be a problem, she insists, but Brando will have none of it and does his best to get rid of her until he falls madly in love.
The whole thing should work so very well, dripping in movie star glamour and touched by Chaplin’s usual combination of political awareness and human vulnerability, but it’s a flat bore. Loren and Brando have no chemistry, so when the film is not funny (which is often) it is not charming either, despite the fact that the both of them are working so hard to make it happen. We are seeing Loren at the height of her fame, looking ravishing in a white dress and clearly blessed with comic timing that is undone by bad editing and sloppy direction, while Brando is surprisingly on point in a light hearted role that never reveals the actual misery he experienced on the set (he found Chaplin too strident and official for his own wilder ways).