Monday, March 15, 2010

Instant Marxism

Well, we've been watching more Watch Instantly streaming movies, but only because we've been running out of DVDs. Actually, we've had Kiss of Death at home for weeks, but never felt like watching it. So instead we streamed The Big Store and later, Duck Soup.

The Big Store is second-tier Marx Bros., but not bottom rung. Chico's friend Tony Martin inherits interest in a department store, but he just wants to sing. Someone (Douglas Dumbrille) wants to kill him before he can sell his share, so his aunt, Margaret Dumont, hires Groucho and Harpo to bodyguard him.

The comedy is just OK, the Martin's musical numbers pretty much stink (but that's normal in these movies), and Groucho's musical number was pretty weak too. Chico's piano and Harpo's harp are great but too short. On the other hand, Margaret Dumont is radiant as always, and Dumbrille makes a fine villain, with his little mustache.

Duck Soup, on the other hand, may be the best of the Marx Bros., and is considered by some the greatest movie never to win an Oscar. Margaret Dumont will bankroll the small nation of Freedonia only if they make Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) their President. Louis Calhern (another villain with a little mustache), ambassador of neighboring Sylvania, sets his spies Harpo and Chico to foment a war between the nations. To war! To war!

Not only an anarchic indictment of war-fever, Duck Soup has some of the funniest bits ever put on film, especially the Mirror routine - often imitated, never equaled.

Also available to Watch Instantly is A Night in Casablanca, but we didn't watch it.

This demonstrates what I am whining about over Netflix Watch Instantly: a very middling selection. One of the best Marxes (but one everyone has seen) and two less popular. Suppose I wanted to see the famous Night at the Opera, or the obscure Love Happy? I know this comes off as complaining about the free ice cream - "What, only chocolate and vanilla?" - but if this is the future of video, the future ain't here yet.

Fun fact: "The Big Store" is the technical term for a con that involves setting up a fake business, like a store or a brokage, or as in The Sting, a betting parlor.

Update: We got around to watching A Night in Casablanca. It was pretty good, like The Big Store.


mr. schprock said...

I've seen bits and pieces of Duck Soup. Maybe I'll watch the whole thing now.

Remember how the Marx Bros. came in vogue in the mid-70s? How did that happen? Channel 56 started rerunning Groucho's game show, which was kind of funny. A Groucho song became a minor hit on the radio. Maybe the Marx Bros. could be funny if you were in the right mood, but how in God's name did they become cool? It makes no sense.

Beveridge D. Spenser said...

Some people don't like them - too noisy, too random, maybe too cute. I just think they are the funniest thing ever.

You're lucky to have a chance to see these movies for the first time. Unless you don't enjoy them, which kind of cancels it out.