Film Review: Shoulder Arms (1918)

Release Date: October 20th, 1918 (limited)
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Sydney Chaplin

Charles Chaplin Productions, First National Pictures, 45 Minutes, 36 Minutes (TCM print and DVD)


Shoulder Arms came out around the same time as A Dog’s Life, which I loved. Both films are early Charlie Chaplin works but also helped to bolster his growing popularity and lead to him being one of the most celebrated comedians of all-time.

This is Chaplin’s shortest feature film but it is also the first feature length picture that he directed. It was his most popular film commercially and critically up to its point of release in 1918.

The film has some solid material from the master of slapstick.

Charlie is at war and he hasn’t received any letters from home. However, one day he gets a package of some pretty stinky cheese, which he needs a gas mask to handle. After throwing it into a German trench, he captures thirteen enemy soldiers. He then spends some time wandering around behind the enemy lines disguised as a tree. The tree stuff is some of my favorite Chaplin material that I’ve seen. Most of the film ends up being a dream sequence.

Even though this is an early film in Chaplin’s long career, he was already a veteran at comedy and his shtick is just as effective here, as it has ever been.

The film is light, amusing and a quick watch.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Chaplin’s early films for First National: A Dog’s Life, The BondSunnysideA Day’s PleasureThe KidThe Idle ClassPay Day and The Pilgrim.


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