The Price of Fame (2014)
It may not have been a crime that shook the world, but it sickened it nonetheless. A few months after Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day 1977, his coffin was dug up and held for ransom. Almost forty years later what was once a cause of revulsion has, in the mind of French filmmaker Xavier Beauvois, become a tale of comic potential. If so, it is potential unfulfilled in his film The Price of Fame.
Thankfully, any attempt to duplicate Weekend at Bernie’s is avoided, as Chaplin’s remains remain in his coffin. Instead, comedy is prised out of criminal’s bungling attempts to extort money from the grieving family. Belgian comic Benoît Poelvoorde stars as Eddy, whose release from prison coincides with Chaplin’s death. In an effort to help his friend pay for his wife’s operation, Eddy suggests they ‘borrow’ Chaplin’s body. After all, he reasons, the little tramp was a friend of the homeless, the immigrant and the poor. As the two criminals fall into all three categories, Chaplin surely wouldn’t mind helping them out.
He certainly could have been of some assistance to the filmmakers. Beauvois use of silence seems less of a homage and more like the desperate padding out of a thin story. The soundtrack is jarring, the storyline is meandering and when all seems lost, a circus is thrown in for good measure.
As for Peter Coyote’s performance as Chaplin’s former butler, his attempts at adding gravitas to proceedings is unintentionally the most laughable aspect of the film.
No film personalities were harmed or portrayed during the making of this film.
Though inspired by a true story, The Price of Fame does not purport to be a factual retelling of the events surrounding the theft of Charlie Chaplin’s dead body. Nevertheless, here are a few of the differences between fact and fiction -
Mastermind of crime was a Belgian immigrant who was employed as a clown in a circus.
Accomplice was an Algerian immigrant
Buried coffin in open land
The criminals had to dig up Chaplin’s coffin for a second time to obtain a photo of it
The criminals threatened life of Chaplin’s butler
Mastermind of crime was a Polish immigrant who was employed as an auto-mechanic.
Accomplice was a Bulgarian immigrant
Buried coffin in a cornfield
The criminals took a photo of the coffin before they made their ransom demand
The criminals threatened lives of the younger Chaplin children
Film features no scene recreations.