Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Duck Soup (McCarey. 1933)

"I can see you right now in the kitchen, bending over a hot stove. But I can't see the stove."

Classic comedy is really hit or miss for me. As I have written before, I am not a fan of laughing during movies. Some films are able to make me laugh, while others leave me closer to annoyed. A prime example of the former would be Leo McCary's Duck Soup. This Marx Brothers picture is a perfectly crafted comedic political satire that displays all of their timing and quirky ability. Filled with memorable and hilarious one-liners, Duck Soup is one of the funniest films I have seen from the 1077 Films to See Before You Die.

The film tells the story of an unqualified president/dictator from the bankrupt country of Freedonia. Rufus T. Firefly, the aforementioned dictator played by Groucho Marx, comes into the picture and immediately makes several unjust laws to show his power. He then starts a war with his neighboring country, Sylvania, over the love of a Slyvanian vixen.

Groucho is the most prominently displayed Marx brother in Duck Soup, and he gives one of the wittiest performances I have ever seen in a comedy. His humor is fast, limitless and bold for the time period. You need to pay close attention to everything that Groucho says- because if you miss anything- you will miss something hilarious.

Besides Groucho's stand out performance, Duck Soup is remembered for being a timely political satire. The Firefly character is strongly based on the former Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. The entire picture is a spoof of Socialism and Fascism in Europe. The parody is smart and campy, but it never gets TOO outrageous (which can happen with the Marx Brothers).

This is another film that you need to watch in the proper mindset. When watching Duck Soup it is important that you remember the year that the picture was made. For 1933, Duck Soup was really bold and pushed the envelope with political parody. The film is grainy and the editing is frantic, but the dialogue is silly enough to remain funny throughout. And with a 68 minute run time, it is a very easy viewing.

One particularly famous scene in Duck Soup is the mirror scene. Have you ever seen a cartoon where two identical figures stand at opposite sides of a broken mirror and mimic each others actions - even when the actions are ridiculous? This comic cliche was seen here first. This is a perfect example of how the Marx Brothers revolutionized comedy. I'll admit, the gag runs a bit too long, but it is still pretty hilarious.

Yes, Duck Soup is in black and white. Yes, the film looks dated. Yes, the comedy is a little silly. But this is a must-see for fans of any kind of wacky comedy. Duck Soup is a film that will keep you laughing. It is one of the greatest early comedies I have ever seen.

Duck Soup: B

My Next Film.....The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz. Keighley. 1938)

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