Lawrence O'Toole
March 29, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

Charlie Chaplin’s last film as director, A Countess From Hong Kong, is a doddering affair made by a genius long past his prime. Even worse for home viewers, Countess was shot in wide-screen and, available for the first time on video, looks strangely squeezed. The story is absurdly slight: A Russian countess-cum-dance-hall girl (Loren) stows away in the ship’s stateroom of a jaded millionaire-cum-diplomat (Brando) and eventually wins his heart. Loren, at the peak of her physical beauty, is a charming presence, but Brando has all the comic timing of a pound of liver. (Chaplin appears briefly in a cameo as a steward.) To call Countess old-fashioned would be an understatement. Yet painfully restricted to a soundstage, it is so out of step that it’s almost fascinating.

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