Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Night in Casablanca

Are there people out there who don't find The Marx Brothers funny? I'm sure there must be, but I just don't understand how. Their brand of comedy is so chaotic and fast paced, blending superb physical humor and witty dialogue, that it's hard to imagine it not working for somebody.

A Night in Casablanca is kind of a spoof of Casablanca, but not really. It isn't copying the story outright, though there are some hints of it. There's a Nazi war criminal in hiding at Casablanca, on the search for hidden Nazi treasure. He has killed the last three manager of the hotel he is staying at, though he has finally met his match with Ronald Kornblow (Groucho Marx), the new manager. Chico plays an opportunistic camel rental owner who takes it upon himself to be Kornblow's bodyguard when he realizes Kornblow is in danger. And of course, Harpo plays the Nazi guy's mute valet, who infuriates him at every turn, seemingly both innocently and intentionally at the same time.

I love that the Marx Brothers could just be transplanted into any setting and there would be a million new opportunities for gags. Here we see Harpo Marx's amazing physical skills in the form of a hilarious sword duel, and Chico's ability to even make the act of piano playing look funny (while actually playing a song, at that!) Groucho does his thing too, usually making snappy jokes at the expense of stuffy, upper class hotel guests and the like. No matter where these guys go, they bring anarchy with them. It's a shame they never did a movie called "A Night on the Moon". Or maybe it isn't.

A Night in Casablanca is actually one of The Marx Brothers' later films, made long after Zeppo Marx left the group. The Marx Brothers are maybe a little past their prime, but they still manage to bring the laughs. Their comedy is timeless.

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