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Archive for October 30th, 2008

 

Duelling banjos!

Duelling banjos!

by Allan Fish

(USA 1933 68m) DVD1/2

Hail Freedonia, Hail Groucho!

p  Herman J.Mankiewicz  d  Leo McCarey  w  Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman, Nat Perrin  ph  Henry Sharp  ed  LeRoy Stone  m/ly  Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby  art  Hans Dreier, Wiard B.Ihnen

Groucho Marx (Rufus T.Firefly), Harpo Marx (Brownie), Chico Marx (Chicolini), Zeppo Marx (Bob Rolland), Margaret Dumont (Mrs Teasdale), Louis Calhern (Ambassador Trentino), Raquel Torres (Vera Marcal), Edgar Kennedy (Lemonade stall man), Leonid Kinskey (Agitator),

Just like the contemporary W.C.Fields, the Marx Brothers have been the subjects of a modern day cult, in no small way down to the championing and homages of Woody Allen in the seventies, and Duck Soup is their greatest film.  However, the film was originally a failure and caused them to leave Paramount, where they had done much of their best work, and go elsewhere. 

The Marxes had first come to the screen in two adaptations of their stage shows, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers.  Their next original features, Monkey Business and Horse Feathers, dropped the long suffering Dumont in favour of the sexy Thelma Todd, who added real glamour but then left to partner Laurel and Hardy.  These were all popular, but Duck Soup was not just the typical mix of Marxian insanity for insanity’s sake.  Marx Brothers comedies of this age are almost surreal in their gags, not just funny, and Duck Soup is no different.  Its reasons for failure have been well documented in divers books, but it must also be borne in mind that it wasn’t just a comedy as, whether deliberately or not (probably not), it was also a razor sharp satire of not only war but of financial deficits and borrowing.  Satire is generally not received well by your average audience.  Most modern audiences, for example, would rather have American Pie than a dozen Elections. Or maybe it might have simply been because Harpo never played his harp.  Who knows? (more…)

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Something very wicked this way comes - form a circle!

Something very wicked this way comes - form a circle!

by Marco Tremble

This film was the first of Hammer’s two Dennis Wheatley adaptations and also has another important first for a Hammer movie. It is the first and only Hammer where regular leading man Christopher Lee plays the hero in the form of the Duc de Richleau, ex-world war one fighter pilot and and expert on the occult.   In this foray into the darkness Mr. Lee is accompanied by another British leading man more known for his singing voice than his horror roles, Leon Greene better known to fans of “Comedy Tonight” as Miles Gloriosus from A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. As well as a very young Patrick Mower and Paul Eddington who is better known for his roles in The Good Life and Yes Minister on TV.   (more…)

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