Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Monkey Business.

Oh boy I love me a monkey how could I not love me a movie called Monkey Business. It is the second movie on the Marx brothers DVD Boxed Set I was gifted by a dear pal and it is the gift that just keeps on giving. I almost cheered as the opening credits revealed a series of barrels rolling down a gang plank each one displaying a charming caricature of one of the brothers. Imagine having these barrels standing in the corner of a garden, a Marx Brothers corner where you were never quite sure what was going to happen. The movie begins all at sea on an ocean liner about to dock in America with the four brothers stowaways hiding out in pickled herring barrels. There are also two rival gangsters aboard ship and both pairs of brothers find themselves in uneasy and completely bonkers alliance with them whilst also avoiding the enraged liner crew who chase them around the ship. There is a fantastic scene involving a saucy mobster moll and Groucho who is hiding out in her closet. There is great chemistry between the pair and I have since found out the actress playing her Thelma Todd was found dead in most suspicious circumstances. A smoke filled garage and it has been suggested that this was a murder dressed up to look like a suicide. A stark reminder of the cruel and capricious nature of The Hollywood Babylon a lot of these entertainers from that era found themselves swathing through. It is a tragic end for a very talented young woman who holds her own with one of the sharpest talents of her age. The Punch and Judy scene with Harpo is probably my favorite moment in the movie. Harpo ducks into a cabin where a crowd of howling children are being entertained by a Punch and Judy show in a tent that appears to have no operator and is possibly transcendental. Harpo climbs into the tent and dangles a tiny puppet body under his chin and using mostly his rubber face to throw shapes he convinces the ships captain he is only a puppet. The ships first mate thinks otherwise and chaos ensues.The increasingly frustrated first mate and Harpo enjoy a ballet of cartoon like proportions before Harpo exits the scene in a wee car with a face mask on the back of his head. Harpo also manages to get himself a pet frog which he discovered living on board the liner which he moves in under his top hat. I know this stretches credulity somewhat but I know from experience frogs can turn up in the most unlikely of places. At one point he attempts to retrieve the frog from a passengers mouth when he overhears him hoarsely complaing of a frog in his throat. Ribit, ribit.
                  The jokes and verbal wordplay come so fast and so furiously that it would be more than possible to miss a line of dialogue whilst still laughing at a proceeding line. The script is delivered with such skill and joyful aplomb that it feels almost as if they are making it up as they go along and I mean that in a great way. Even though this movie was released way back in 1931 Groucho is cracking knowingly ironic jokes about restricting immigration in order to prevent cultural and social disintegration, the same bogeyman, all these years later, which haunts the pages of almost every newspaper sold throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. It would seem the cultural zeitgeist is older but no wiser.
                  To think the brothers performed these scenes live as part of their vaudeville act is just astonishing. The different energies generated by each of the brothers leap like sparks from scene to scene. It is a remarkable chemistry shared by these men, all four of them. What amazing and complex set of variables combined to produce these remarkable men, some unique set of circumstances which to my knowledge has never been repeated.
                   There has only ever been one set of Marx brothers.
                   I wonder if The Doctor ever met them.