Duck Soup (1933)

Rates: * * * *

Why Did I Watch It: Classic film club viewing with fatiekitz.

Cast, crew, etc

‘Hail, Hail, Freedonia!’

Groucho is put in charge of the tiny European nation of Freedonia, and immediately declares war on its neighbour Sylvania… for no reason at all. Viewed one way: it’s any sort of pretext to allow for the usual Marx Brothers blizzard of gags. Viewed another way, you could say it’s a satire of the pointlessness of war, and the shallow stupidity of our political leadership.

I mean, were any wars started for good reasons?

85 years after it was first released, one of the Marx’s most famous movies has dated, but still has an surprising number of bits that remain very funny. My favourite was Harpo trying to turn the radio off, eventually smashing it to pieces and throwing it out the window, and Chico mimicking Groucho in the mirror; both, flat out, hysterical. And both endlessly imitated.

One of the pleasures of watching ‘Duck Soup’ from this distance is you can see how influential it was; Looney Tunes, Woody Allen, Zucker-Abrams-Zucker, Funny or Die, countless others, have all either copied these bits outright, or borrowed the underlying ideas. The Marx Brothers cast an enormously long shadow.

There is probably not too much else you can say.

It only goes for 69 minutes, there is little of that that isn’t jokes, there are a couple of songs that must’ve seemed tokenistic even back in the day. Zeppo is in it (his last film appearance); love the final battle, and how Groucho is in a different uniform in each scene; love that Groucho’s character’s name is ‘Rufus T. Firefly’.

Had a blast. An anarchic riot.

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