I love Duck Soup, but I’ve never quite loved anything else the Marx Brother shave done until now. Everything else was pretty funny, but nothing came close to hitting the satirical and manic genius that is Duck Soup. A Night in Casablanca comes close, though. It does miss the more biting satirical elements, but the manic energy is pitch perfect.
1946. Casablanca. Rick and Ilsa are no longer there, instead there is a hotel that simply cannot keep managers alive. Three have died in short time. We see some nefarious looks from some waiters, but the mystery doesn’t last long for us. There are Nazis looking for a missing treasure. How the treasure actually got to its hiding spot between the fifth and sixth floor of the hotel is unclear (the straight man character who took Zeppo’s place seems to have something to do with it), but a mishap prevents the in hiding Nazi from taking the hotel manager position in the wake of the most recent death. Why he needs to be the hotel manager is also unclear. The first 15-20 minutes of this movie are really about setting this all up. We see Harpo doing his thing as the Nazi’s servant, but we don’t get introduced to Chico for about 10 minutes and Groucho doesn’t show up for about 20.
Once they’re all there, though, the plot and straight characters have been established, and we can continue with the manic insanity. And we get that in spades. Like the best of the brothers, there’s a series of sketches that loosely tie into the plot and carry their own energy. Each individual scene serves the plot some way (getting some cash so that Pierre, the Zeppo stand-in, can buy something to move the plot forward) but is mostly about the Marx brothers being zany (in this case, taking restaurant patrons’ money and filling a dance floor with tables and chairs).
That, alone, wasn’t enough to get me to quite love the film. I began to love it during a sustained sequence near the end. The Nazis know they’ve been found out, and they begin to pack their things in their hotel room. All three Marx brothers are there in hiding and move back and forth simply causing chaos, trolling the Nazis with complete impunity and completely incognito. It goes on for a solid ten minutes, playing with this simple concept (perhaps even a theme) in new a different ways. It’s such an inspired sequence of comedy that I left any resistance to the film behind.
Netflix Rating: 5/5
Quality Rating: 3.5/4