While perhaps not up to quite the same fine level as, say, 'City Lights' or 'Monsieur Verdoux,' this film is a small minor masterpiece in its own right, and frequently cited as Chaplin's most underrated film. Viewing the film, it's hard to believe that the filming experience was such a nightmare, what with things like fires, heavy rains, theft, and Chaplin's messy divorce from his second wife. Generally speaking, Chaplin's features seem to have a bit more drama than endless gags (not that that makes them any less powerful or classic), with the focus being on the narrative storyline and not just a series of funny incidents, but this film rather plays like one of his earlier short subjects, where the laughs were far more frequent. The storyline is simple enough: The Tramp, on the run from the police yet again, even though he didn't really do anything that terribly wrong, eventually stumbles into a circus that's come to town. He makes friends with the horribly mistreated daughter of the circus owner, and falls in love with her, but like in just about all of his films, this love too is unrequited. The pretty bareback rider really loves Rex, the new tightrope walker. While in the circus, Charlie has all sorts of comic misadventures, most famously in the scene where the monkeys are climbing all over him while he's on the tightrope after he's accidentally lost the hidden wire that was keeping him balanced. After this latest mishap, it seems as though his future in the circus is over, though with the scheme he then hatches, things might not be so lost after all.
The extras on the bonus disc are plentiful--movie trailers, a poster and picture gallery, a delightful excerpt from the cute 1923 Jackie Coogan film 'Circus Days,' three brief home movies, a whole extra sequence (26 minutes in length) that was deleted from the final cut of the film, the usual introduction by David Robinson, the trailer for all of the films in the Chaplin Collection, and the featurette on the significance and influence of the film today, footage of the Hollywood premiere in January 1928, a brief film shot by Chaplin's chief cameraman Rollie Totheroh, of 3-D test footage, and simulatenous footage from two different cameras during a scene from the deleted sequence. Unfortunately, none of these bonus films have any soundtracks, not even just some generic piano or organ accompaniment. With all of the care that went into assembling the DVDs in the Chaplin Collection, one would think that the producers would have cared enough to have found soundtracks for all of these bonus short films on the discs.
Quite possibly his most underrated silent feature, if not his most underrated feature period, this film is just as wonderful as all of his other features and, due to how it often plays like one of his shorts from the Teens instead of his more serious features, it could very well be an ideal introduction to Chaplin for a new fan.