Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hellzapoppin (1941)

This film version of the Olsen and Johnson stage hit is as manic as a film can be. It's also near impossible to see in the US because of rights problems with the estate of Nat Perrin. If you are going to track down a copy of this, and I really do think you should, you're either going to have to get this from over seas or from a dealer at a nostalgia show.

Hellzapoppin is a 90 minute movie of near endless laughs. Its a film almost devoid of plot, which only slows down for the musical numbers. Its total insanity on a grand scale and any attempt at truly explaining the film will be futile since there is too much going on and the jokes are best left for discovery with in the confines of the film.

However since to leave it there would be anti climatic I'll try to explain something of the film.

The plot of the film has the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson making a movie. They then go to a home for the weekend where as part of the festivities a show is put on. I can't tell you more than that because there really isn't more than that. Most of the film is one joke after another. Its a never ending series of songs and jokes and jokes in songs and total sheer madness.

Its like being trapped in the writers room of the best comedy show and having the staff and writers throw joke after joke at you. Sure some don't hit their mark, but wait two seconds and another will be coming. What I like about the film is that its often so fast and furious that its impossible to catch everything that's happening. There are references to things that only make sense if you've seen the film before. Sure they're funny the first time but they are even funnier the second or third or fifth time.

Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson excelled at comedy where anything could and did happen. In films like Crazy House (a Quentin Tarantino favorite), this or All Over Town they took simple premises and then bent them so that jokes and laughs could flow freely all around them. The freer they were of plot, the better things went. This was probably the one film, followed closely by Crazy House, where they pretty much dispensed with the plot and just let things fly (Think of it like an American precursor to The Goon Show or Monty Python)

Things fly here like you wouldn't believe.

The fact that this film tied up because of legal problems in the US is a shame.

This is a film to search out. Its one of the great hidden gems.

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