10 June 2006

Marx (1940)

1940 - Go West - I like westerns. I like the Marx Bros. This film should've been great. I was looking forward to it. Somehow, however, the film was less than what it should've been.

The scene in which the three Bros. first meet might be a good indicator of why this is. It is essentially a re-working of the "tutti fruiti" scene from A Day at the Races and one of those rare scenes where someone gets the better of Groucho. The gag in Races cleverly builds: you need a code book for the tipsheet, then you need a codebook for the codebook, etc. In West, the gag just repeats itself: Groucho sells Harpo worthless piece of Western wear, Harpo and Chico scam him out of $9 in change. In the former, you can't wait to see what other goofy requirement Chico comes up with that Groucho will be forced to buy. In the latter, you just wait for the scene to end.

Even in the Old West, Chico and Harpo both manage to find their signature instruments. Like A Day at the Races, Harpo finds his harp within another object. This time he plays a Native American blanket in the process of being weaved. I thought this working prop was nicely constructed. It had me fooled and the song Harpo played on it sounded great.

The chase sequence with the steam train was impressive. They have the thing going off the rails and pushing houses around, while the Bros. run on top of it. It was exciting and funny enough to almost make up for the previous scenes. Still, I miss Margaret Dumont. (6/10)

d. Edward Buzzell