#38 A Night at the Opera

Watched: September 10 2016

Director: Sam Wood

Starring: The Marx Brothers

Year: 1935

Runtime: 1h 36min

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Is there anything left to say on the Marx Brothers? We think not, and so we will not, except to tell you to watch this one too. Boom! Shortest blog entry in 1000filmsblog history!

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Cue out-of-context pictures

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What we learned: we still love the Marx Brothers. Groucho is still the most quotable bastard in movie history. Chico is still our favourite pianist. Harpo is still creepily likable. Zeppo is still oddly replaceable…

Next time: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

#28 Duck Soup

Watched: August 27 2016

Director: Leo McCarey

Starring: The Marx Brothers

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 8min

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There’s very little we can say about this comedy classic that hasn’t already been said. The Marx Brothers are back with more zany antics, political intrigue and comedy gold, and we loved it.

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“Zeppo, show some skin, or you won’t be in this one!”

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The country of Freedonia is in dire financial trouble and its main backer, Mrs. Teasdale, will only help if the government appoints Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) their new leader. The ambassador of neighbouring Sylvania is trying to take over Freedonia, and sends in spies Chicolini and Pinky (Chico and Harpo, respectively) to get information on Firefly.

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“Sir, we couldn’t find a lot of dirt on him on account of our incompetence, but his dancing is surely criminal. Can you work with that?”

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After a series of insults between Firefly and ambassador Trentino, the two countries declare war and Freedonia gears up with a musical number.

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You can’t have a good war unless it kicks off with a musical number

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The film is hilarious throughout, but worthy of special mention are a few scenes. Most notable is the mirror bit where Harpo, dressed as Groucho, has to mirror his movements after shattering the actual mirror. It’s wonderfully funny and very impressive. Other great scenes include the rallying of the troops during the battle, where stock footage is used to show fire engines and elephants, among others, coming to their aid, and the doghouse tattoo including a live, barking dog.

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“Damn! I’m even more handsome than I thought!”

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What we learned: Incorporate more musical numbers into our daily lives.

Next time: Footlight Parade (1933)

#19 Monkey Business

Watched: August 19 2016

Director: Norman McLeod

Starring: The Marx Brothers

Year: 1931

Runtime: 1h 17min

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Another silly, silly Marx Brothers film – this time at sea. Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo play four stowaways who run around generally being disruptive and getting themselves into trouble on an America-bound ship. Nothing new there.

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Fact: this is how they travelled while they were still doing their stage shows.

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As always, the brothers are very entertaining and we could watch them just being the Marx Brothers all day. After about half an hour though, they decide to add in a plot where all the stowaways are roped into being bodyguards/”tough guys” for a couple of rival gangsters (two brothers on each side). Also, one of them (Zeppo, who actually gets to play a proper part this time) falls in love with one of the gangsters’ daughter. In between the great gags, excellent lines and equally brilliant music numbers, there is a kidnapping plot and a fight scene in a barn.

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And Groucho has a very strange and unlikely romance with a gangster’s wife. Which has remarkably few consequences.

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Some comparison to Animal Crackers, which we loved, must be made. We loved this one too, especially the stowaway-thing since we’ve both had a soft spot for stowaways since The Greatest Norwegian Movie of All Time: Haakon Haakonsen a.k.a. Shipwrecked (1990). Monkey Business feels slightly less theatrical than its predecessor, probably because there are more variations to the sets and locations. It features some amazing lines, such as “a man who’s licked his weight in wild caterpillars” and Zeppo gets to participate more – he even gets the girl!

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Which is fairly realistic, given the inclinations of most women as well as the competition.

Chico plays the piano again (yay!), Harpo attempts to rape random women (very much not yay!), Groucho is a cheeky fucker and Zeppo looks like their minder. In other words, it’s definitely worth watching. Although we missed the big musical number from Animal Crackers. And there’s no actual monkey.

What we learned: we need to step up our wordplay game.

Next time: The Public Enemy (1931)

#12 Animal Crackers

Watched: August 11 2016

Director: Victor Heerman

Starring: The Marx Brothers

Year: 1930

Runtime: 1h 37min

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have moved on to talkies! And a talkie with musical numbers to boot!

This is a very different kind of absurd from Un Chien Andalou, and thankfully free from eye-stuff… Animal Crackers is a silly Marx Brothers comedy with lots of physical and verbal humour which made us both snort with laughter throughout (but, you know, snort in a very charming, feminine way). Despite Harpo’s quest to rape that poor girl, the film is funny, farcical and very silly indeed. You can clearly see Mel Brooks (among others) being influenced by the Marx Brothers, and never has the word “suicide” been pronounced better.

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Chico Marx has the best piano playing technique you’ll ever see

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The plot goes something like this: a wealthy society lady throws a party in honour of famous explorer Jeffrey T. Spaulding (fittingly for this project, the T stands for Edgar). During the course of the party, a valuable painting is replaced and stolen several times. However, the plot is just an excuse to showcase the visual gags, brilliant one liners and general comedic and artistic skills of Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx, with poor Zeppo having a small part as the straight man. I can see why Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) would identify with him.

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Guess who is the one without superpowers…

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The film is whimsical, zany and hilarious as well as very quotable (our new chorus is “Pardon me while I have a strange interlude”). If comedy’s not your thing (really? You don’t like comedy? Who doesn’t like comedy?), then it’s worth watching for the musical numbers in the beginning as well as all the pretty dresses worn by the party-goers. Enjoy!

Next time: L’Age d’Or (1930)