Sunday, November 3, 2013


Judy and I and our house guest for the night Jeffrey enjoyed watching DUCK SOUP (1933) last night. I don't know how many times I've seen this film. It is far and away the best film the Marx Brothers ever made which means it's also one of the funniest films of all time. I laughed long and hard while watching it last night and Judy, who was seeing it for the first time, loved it.

DUCK SOUP is a surreal, bizarre film that finds one Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho), in charge of Fredonia, a tiny, middle-European country. There's international tension between Fredonia and neighboring country Sylvania and the Sylvanian ambassador (Louis Calhern) plots to seize Fredonia without going to war. To further his ends, he employs two "spies" Chicolini (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo). Eternal Marx brothers foil Margaret Dumont is also involved in the madness as Mrs. Teasdale, who installed Firefly as head-of-state.

That's about all the plot and narrative you need (and it's all you're going to get) as the brothers Marx (Zeppo is along for the ride as Firefly's secretary) go berserk. The usual Groucho insults (and fourth-wall breakage), word play, atrocious puns, sight gags and slapstick humor abound. There's even a couple of big musical numbers staged on an enormous art-deco set. Chico and Harpo wage an on-going battle with harried street vendor Edgar Kennedy (the master of the slow burn), Harpo chases everything in a skirt and there's the classic "mirror" sequence which plays brilliantly without music, dialogue or sound effects. There is no consistency in any of the military costumes and uniforms seen throughout the film. Some appear to be the real deal while others look like they were borrowed from a college marching band.

The climax of the film, which finds Fredonia and Sylvania engaged in a fierce battle is told in a series of sequences that shatter time and space as military uniforms and costumes change from scene to scene. DUCK SOUP scores some points for lampooning the (literal) insanity of war and international politics but the boys are too busy having fun to hit those points hard enough to be preachy.

After 80 years, DUCK SOUP stands as a comic masterpiece of a film. If you've never seen it, you are in for a treat. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. I love it!


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