Wednesday, March 29, 2023


Director: Ishiro Honda

Writers: Reuben Bercovitch, Ishiro Honda, Takeshi Kimura

Producers: Tomoyuki Tanaka, Kenichiro Tsunoda, Henry G. Saperstein

Cast: Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Haruo Nakajima, Yu Sekida, Nobuo Nakamura, Kipp Hamilton, Jun Tazaki, Hisaya Ito, Ren Yamamoto, Hisaya Ito, Yoshifumi Tajima 

Biologist Dr. Paul Stewart (Russ Tamblyn) is a specialist in giant animals. He has been called in to investigate reports of attacks by a giant, green, humanoid creature rising from the seas around Japan. It is suspected that this man-eating monster is a gargantua, the name given to the species when Stewart’s team had discovered and studied one infant creature years earlier until it escaped. Since the little, brown creature was always gentle and lived in the mountains, Dr. Stewart surmises that this deadly, sea-dwelling, green giant must be a full-grown, mutant offshoot. If the ferocious giant grew from cells of the gentle gargantua, destroying it with military firepower could scatter cells that could grow into more monsters. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

There is probably no better example of the helpless horror that the kaiju film realizes than the opening scene in The War of the Gargantuas. During a thunderstorm at sea, a giant octopus attacks a ship only to be attacked by a second sea monster, the green gargantua. It’s a real grabber and is elaborated on in a flashback when we see the sailors swimming for their lives only to become monster munchies. 

My favorite bit of mean monster etiquette is when the evil, green gargantua gobbles up his human hors d’oeuvres; after chewing up his victims, he spits out their clothes. It’s a fine, grisly touch that makes this monster’s behavior even more personally vindictive than just leveling buildings that a lot of those tasty humans might be occupying. 

Aside from the original Godzilla (1954) that initiated the Japanese kaiju films, The War of the Gargantuas is my favorite of the genre. Its appeal for me is mostly due to the humanoid appearance of the giant monsters that allows them more agility and expression. It also still operates as a horror film rather than just a monster rally and sci-fi fantasy aimed at the kiddies. Sure, kids will love it, as I did and still do (I’ll never grow up), but I appreciate its directness focusing on just one type of monster that we find out has a brother. Since one brother’s brotherly love won’t excuse snacking on human beings, we also get the monster fight action that delights kaiju film fans. 

The War of the Gargantuas is another one of those wild flicks that went through a twisted process of reinvention. It originated as a sequel to Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965), aka Frankenstein Conquers the World. The two giant monster brothers were supposed to be grown from cells of the Frankenstein monster seen in the previous film. The good, brown-haired giant was called Sanda and the evil, green-haired giant was called Gaira. The new monsters were not referred to as gargantuas until the American English dub for this film was done, which eliminates any reference to Frankenstein. The gargantua concept was probably more easily understood by American audiences who had not seen the earlier film. The Japanese take on Frankenstein was already outrageous enough. To somehow link two new and very different monsters to the Frankenstein monster of the previous film would be perplexing. 

The US alteration of the monsters’ origins makes them seem like enormous versions of the legendary Tibetan creature the Yeti, aka the Abominable Snowman. This furry, mountain-dwelling anthropoid had an American cousin called Bigfoot that was generating more media attention in the late ’60s around the time that the US version of The War of the Gargantuas was being modified. 

According to both director Ishiro Honda and US co-producer Henry G. Saperstein, their American star Russ Tamblyn was difficult, to say the least. Tamblyn ignored Honda’s direction and hated his lines, so he made up his own. Somehow, Tamblyn’s original voice tracks were lost. Then when it came time to dub his dialogue for the US English version, Tamblyn could not remember his original lines. Tamblyn had to recreate his dialogue from watching his filmed lip movements. I would have to say that he did a very fine job, as his words always seem perfectly in synch with his image. However, having to dub his lines in such difficult circumstances may be an additional factor contributing to the rather blasé air of his performance. 

As a result, we have a scientist hero in a sci-fi flick that often seems aloof and testy. There is even one scene aboard a bullet train to Tokyo when Tamblyn’s Dr. Stewart is squinting, pale, and sweaty; too much saki the night before? I’ve never been on a bullet train, but I know the feeling. 

Dr. Stewart also has an unusually cynical attitude that is kind of refreshing. When referring to the comparison of the green and brown gargantuas with the biblical brothers Cain and Abel, Dr. Stewart says, “Brother against brother, huh? Sounds like some countries I know. Well, maybe this time the nonviolent one will win, huh? Ha. Ha.” What other scientist hero of ’50s and ’60s sci-fi flicks would make such a sour comment? 

Tamblyn’s performance may have been tapping into the attitudes of the 1960s disaffected youth. Some of his offhand quips actually play better due to his dour manner. In many scenes Tamblyn’s Dr. Paul Stewart acts like he is a paid-by-the-hour laborer that can’t wait to go home instead of the dedicated genius we expect to save the day. I get a kick out of all of the news reporters clamoring for insight from the esteemed scientist who acts like he doesn’t give a damn. 

Only Stewart’s assistant, the beautiful Dr. Akemi Togawa (Kumi Mizuno), seems able to mellow out the apathetic scientist. He manages to be a bit more relaxed and likable around her. They seem comfortable together, yet there is never any real indication of a romance between them, which is another deviation from the norm in sci-fi horror films of this period.

Due to the reproductive abilities of the gargantuas and this film’s somewhat open-ended conclusion, it seems likely that the film’s Japanese production company Toho was entertaining the possibility of yet another sequel. It would probably be inevitable that the gargantuas would tangle with other monsters in Toho’s kaiju universe, but I am glad that they never did. Despite this film’s origin as a loose sequel to the most far out Frankenstein variation ever, The War of the Gargantuas still remains its own offbeat spectacle.

Sunday, March 19, 2023


Director: Paul Landres

Writer: Pat Fielder

Producers: Arthur Gardner, Jules V. Levy

Cast: John Beal, Coleen Gray, Kenneth Tobey, Lydia Reed, Dabbs Greer, Ann Staunton, James Griffith, Herb Vigran, Paul Brinegar, (and uncredited cast) Wood Romoff, Brad Morrow, Hallene Hill, Mauritz Hugo, Chet Brandenburg, Arthur Gardener, Raymond Greenleaf, Michael Jeffers, Louise Lewis, Natalie Masters, Walter Merrill, Anne O’Neal, Carl Sklover, Christine Rees, George Selk 

When medical researcher Dr. Campbell (Wood Romoff) collapses in his home lab, family practitioner Dr. Paul Beecher (John Beal) is summoned. Campbell passes some pills he has developed to Beecher just before he dies of a coronary. It is discovered that Campbell’s pills were derived from vampire bats and could revert animal minds to a more primitive state. Once determining how to reverse that process, it was hoped that human intelligence could also be advanced. Unfortunately, Dr. Beecher accidentally consumes some of the experimental pills instead of his migraine medication. This causes a monstrous transformation in Beecher that compels him to feed on the blood of humans. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

At the very same time that Britain’s Hammer Films were resuscitating the gothic horrors of Frankenstein and Dracula in 19th century European settings, America was contemporizing old-world horrors. While all of these films were just striving to thrill and chill, the US productions had science creating new versions of traditional monsters. There had been an atomic age variation on zombies in Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), and radiation again was used to create The Werewolf (1956). Two more mad-science-made monsters were loping across movie screens in the two June 1957 releases I Was a Teenage Werewolf and The Vampire. 

I always enjoy sci-fi spins on things that go bump in the night. As in other science-spawned variations on old-world supernatural menaces, the monster in The Vampire does not adhere to traditional folklore. Aside from bloodlust, his only other vampiric trait is that the original serum used to make the pills that turn Dr. Paul Beecher into a monster were derived from vampire bats. When in monster mode, Beecher acts as bestial as the typical werewolf. The most interesting deviation from tradition is that Beecher’s dead victims do not return to undead life. Instead, they undergo a very rapid decomposition. 

The menace of The Vampire is just as tragically sympathetic as his cinematic werewolf brethren. Dr. Paul Beecher is a swell guy and a fine member of his community. He is the kind of doctor that still makes house calls and will let his patients pay their bills as soon as they are able. He is a single, loving parent raising his adolescent daughter while conducting his private medical practice. It is just bad luck that Beecher accidentally ingests a dead scientist’s experimental drug, which transforms him into a blood-drinking monster. 

As Dr. Paul Beecher, John Beal appeals to our sympathies. Of course, his character is a decent person compelled to do horrible things, but he also is accidentally and instantly addicted to a drug that has caused his monstrous condition. His addiction is as stressful as his suspicions that during his blackouts he is responsible for the string of murders in his little town. In addition to Beecher’s stresses of addiction and guilt, he is also experiencing a lot of heartbreak at home. Due to his drug-related issues, he is afraid that he will no longer be able to raise his young daughter Betsy (Lydia Reed) and may have to send her away. This impact on his home life is a very down-to-earth consequence that keeps us all on Beecher’s side, regardless of his deadly loss of control. 

On hand to investigate the vampire killings is the John Wayne of 1950s sci-fi horror, Kenneth Tobey. This would be the last of a quartet of such films Tobey appeared in during the decade. Here, as Police Detective Buck Donnelly, he is as take-charge and likable as ever. Tobey’s secret weapon for being an effective movie hero was confidence, not cockiness. He always seemed like a supremely capable and manly nice guy. 

Of course, any manly hetero guy would have to take notice of gorgeous Coleen Gray. As Dr. Beecher’s receptionist Carol Butler, she immediately rouses Detective Donnelly’s interest. Although Beecher seems fond of Carol, there seems to be no overt attempt on his part to pursue a relationship with her. Beecher does ask Carol out to dinner one night just to help him stay distracted from his pills addiction. At one point, Beecher playfully tries to discourage Donnelly from checking out his new receptionist by describing her as someone unattractive. Curiously, this potential for a romantic rivalry and more mean monster motivation is never exploited. It seems that the addiction angle is meant to be the main focus of the turmoil in Beecher’s life, which keeps our sympathies for him steadfast. 

The main cast of characters is quite small and the story is simple and intimate. Despite the fact that we are ahead of most of the characters in this movie, we still remain engaged. The credit for this rests not only with the direction and performances; Gerald Fried’s music score provides plenty of creepy anticipation before the scenes of violence. Once that violence occurs, the music is appropriately savage. Fried scored a few other late ’50s fright flicks. In the following decade, he would contribute memorable themes to the original Star Trek TV series and a multitude of other television shows. 

Unlike many sci-fi flicks at this time, the consequences of atomic radiation are not the theme of this film. Here a drug developed for the benefit of human potential is what creates a menace. Perhaps the contemporary scientific concern addressed in The Vampire is the increasing prevalence of addictive prescription drugs. After all, amphetamines were becoming the go-to prescriptions for mood elevation and appetite suppression to ensure that many women could deal with the rigors of achieving perfection as 1950s housewives. However, then as now, when there was a buck to be made, many such addictive drugs were promoted and prescribed in excess. 

The lesson seems to be that as man strives for knowledge and progress, there will always be dangerous consequences that he can’t anticipate. As usual, man has to learn his humility the hard way. Unfortunately, sometimes a lot of innocent people pay the ultimate price.

Sunday, March 12, 2023


Director: Robert Day

Writers: George Eckstein, based on the novel The House on Greenapple Road by Harold R. Daniels

Producer: Adrian Samish

Cast: Christopher George, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Tim O’Connor, Barry Sullivan, Walter Pidgeon, Keenan Wynn, Peter Mark Richman (as Mark Richman), William Windom, Joanne Linville, Lynda Day George (as Linda Day), Burr DeBenning, Edward Asner, Lawrence Dane (as Laurence Dane), Ned Romero, Paul Fix, Eve Plumb, Alice Jubert, Paul Lukather, Olan Soule, John Ward, Geoffrey Deuel, Tina Menard, Rees Vaughn, Anthony Derek, Bob Duggan, Michael Harris, Tom Palmer, John Mayo, Selette Cole, John Yates, Frank Jamus, (uncredited) Kenneth G. Kemp 

In Santa Luisa, California, Detective Lt. Dan August (Christopher George) is investigating a violent crime. In the suburban home of George and Marian Ord (Tim O’Connor and Janet Leigh), the kitchen is found in a shambles and covered in blood. Although the amount of blood loss at the scene would have been fatal, no corpse is found, and both George and Marian Ord are missing. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

House on Greenapple Road was pretty damned intense stuff for this boob tube brat. The 1970 made-for-TV mystery made a lasting impression with its chilling opening showing the gory aftermath of murder in an empty kitchen and a series of color enhanced negative film clips of the violent struggle during the credits. The impact of this still registered through the low-resolution, black-and-white television set of my childhood. Unfortunately, the only other thing that I remembered since that one-time viewing was the discovery of the culprit. Nevertheless, my anticipation of finally being able to rewatch this intriguing police procedural was rewarded with an interesting story and good performances by many familiar television stars of the era. 

This film is a pretty stark indication of how more adult content was creeping into prime time television. In addition to the bloody violence, the theme of sexual infidelity is very prominent throughout. 

Janet Leigh gets top billing as Marian Ord, the woman missing from her bloody kitchen. However, she gets plenty of screen time during flashbacks that many characters have about their relationships with her. Since she had achieved immortality as Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s creepy classic Psycho (1960), getting Janet Leigh to appear in another murder mystery must have been quite a casting coup for this ABC television film. It is also eerily reminiscent of her introduction in Psycho seeing her clad in her underwear during a series of bedroom scenes with a series of lovers. While these are nearly meta-movie moments, I am sure that any viewer’s familiarity with Leigh’s Psycho role could only work in this story’s favor. 

As the detective hero Lt. Dan August, Christopher George is the most prominent member of the cast. It takes a guy like George to keep our interest in a character that we only see doing his job. We really do not learn anything about his life off duty. The only way we discern anything about him is by seeing how he conducts himself during this investigation. He is handsome, intense, and honorable without any showboating heroics or theatrics. Most of the feelings that he conveys are those of irritation with other authorities that are more concerned with publicity than humanity and justice. 

Christopher George’s frequent co-star (and soon-to-be wife) Lynda Day plays a small role as Lillian Crane. Is it only a coincidence that two beautiful blonde characters in this film have names similar to Psycho’s Marion Crane? Day’s performance is a big departure from her usual manner as her character is high on weed during her single scene. 

It is fun to see many familiar television actors of the day portray the succession of horndogs using poor Marian Ord. Most of them are incredibly insensitive, which, of course, makes all of them appear to be likely suspects. Of special interest to horror buffs, young Burr DeBenning plays sports club lifeguard Bill Foley who wants to practice his breaststroke with married Marian Ord. DeBenning assumed a much more noble role as Dr. Ted Nelson in The Incredible Melting Man (1977). 

Apparently, House on Greenapple Road was a ratings success. It became the basis for the subsequent 26 episodes of the single-season Dan August television series later that year. A pre-superstardom Burt Reynolds took over the lead role from Christopher George. Ned Romero, as Sgt. Joe Rivera, was the only actor repeating his role from the pilot film in the weekly series. 

What could have seemed like a pretty routine police detective drama, House on Greenapple Road has a grisly and sleazy edge that distinguishes it from most television fare of the time. This morbid, little bugger knew a good thing when he saw it. Happily, this morbid, old bugger was obsessive enough to have tracked it down again.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Q (1982), aka Q - THE WINGED SERPENT

Director: Larry Cohen

Writer: Larry Cohen

Producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Larry Cohen

Cast: Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree, James Dixon, Fred J. Scollay, Malachy McCourt, Ron Cey, Peter Hock, Mary Louise Weller, Tony Page, Shelly Desai, John Capodice, Lee Louis, Bobbi Burns, Larry Pine, Larkin Ford, Eddie Jones, Fred Morsell, Ed Kovens, Linda Gilbert, Richard Duggan 

In New York City, people that venture out onto exposed places atop tall buildings are being attacked and eaten by an enormous flying creature. Small-time crook Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) discovers a gigantic nest inside the peak of the Chrysler Building. The perennial loser realizes that he has found the lair of the menace terrorizing the city. Quinn relishes his secret, which he will only share with the authorities for a steep price. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

Maverick filmmaker Larry Cohen made some very distinctive horror movies. As he would often write, direct, and produce his own films, Cohen would not have to compromise and could deliver movies that were unique. He would use outrageous menaces to deal with uncomfortable themes and contemporary concerns that both unsettle and amuse the audience. 

Q seems like Cohen’s take on King Kong (1933), another movie about a giant monster loose in New York City. In King Kong, showman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is responsible for the widespread death and destruction his exploited monster deals to New York City, but that aspect is not explored. Q also shares with that earlier classic a protagonist exploiting the creature he discovers to make a profit. However, in Cohen’s story, his hustler Jimmy Quinn is not a globetrotting adventurer and showman, just an insecure nobody incapable of making an honest living. In the process of using this sort of a character for his protagonist, Cohen deals with the morality and conflicts involved with his anti-hero exploiting such a situation while a menace to his fellow citizens is at large. In Q, there is a lot of time spent with the selfish Jimmy Quinn and it is shown that he could promptly reveal information to put an end to the danger facing the city. 

We can appreciate Quinn’s plight of being a nobody who wants success and respect. However, we should also realize that withholding life-saving knowledge until a lucrative deal is struck is wrong. The real dynamic in this story is waiting to see how soon our flawed hero will do the right thing and if it is done for the right reason. 

Cohen also returns to a theme that he dealt with earlier in God Told Me To (1976). In that film he was exploring man’s relationship to faith in the Christian God. In Q, Cohen’s take on faith is that the title monster may be the ancient Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. It may have been summoned through a series of sacrificial rituals or could even have been prayed into existence. Both films deal with the same conundrum: Do the gods man worships actually exist or does man simply assign divinity to inhuman beings because he can’t fully comprehend them? 

Michael Moriarty delivers an eccentric performance as the pathetic Jimmy Quinn. He holds our attention in every scene despite Quinn being the kind of person that is usually beneath everyone’s notice. He is the loser we can pity till he shows how selfish he becomes with an opportunity for fame and fortune. Later we learn of the grievances he has due to previously being framed by law enforcement for his first arrest and conviction. Jimmy Quinn is a flawed character with a questionable set of values that challenges us to decide if we should root for him. Whether he is hero, villain, or loser, Moriarty’s Quinn is always an interesting character. 

Candy Clark, as Quinn’s girlfriend Joan, is that anchor of morality and common sense in Quinn’s empty life that he really does not seem to deserve. She must be just as quirky as Quinn to put up with this self-absorbed and dysfunctional individual. You really have to love Joan when she tries to see the good in him and stands by him when he is at his most neurotic. This is actually another pretty gutsy way of writer-director Cohen demonstrating that this story’s hero is challenging our acceptance of him. Cohen has the daring to keep presenting a character as pathetic as Quinn as the protagonist and still maintain our interest in him. 

This movie gives David Carradine the closest thing to a “regular guy” role I had ever seen him play. His Detective Shepard expresses humor and exasperation, and he even patronizes Quinn at one point trying to get his cooperation. Carradine is not just stoic or enigmatic in this film; he is actually quite amusing and likable. 

Richard Roundtree’s Sgt. Powell provides an antagonistic foil to both Jimmy Quinn and Detective Shepard. Initially, we think that Powell and Shepard will be partners that are always on the same page, but Powell’s friction with Shepard is another quirk in this film’s character interactions. This friction also demonstrates the workaday stress in big city law enforcement that is bound to affect those working relationships. This friction is not a gimmick used to develop character or plot; it just enlivens the police procedural scenes with a bit of emotional authenticity to keep them from seeming like scripted plot points. 

It is Cohen’s characters, their conflicts, and their eccentricities that make Q an involving film and not just a monster movie. It also creates interest that allows more screen time to be spent on the personal interactions of the characters rather than devoting extra time to monster action. This is not only a budget-conscious strategy (more effects cost more money), it also prevents us from becoming all too familiar with the creature so that it will still have some impact when it really lets loose. 

This movie’s menace is referenced as “Q” in the title. However, that initial actually references two menaces in this story: the mythical god of ancient Aztec culture Quetzalcoatl and the dangerously selfish Jimmy Quinn. This is an indication of how Larry Cohen’s horror films give the audience more than one thing to ponder about morality and culture along with plenty of dark humor. These qualities make Q a far more satisfying experience than many of the effects-driven fantasy films that were becoming evermore frequent in the ’80s.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

DUCK SOUP (1933)

Director: Leo McCarey

Writers: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman, Nat Perrin

Producer: Herman J. Mankiewicz (uncredited)

Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Edgar Kennedy, Raquel Torres, Edmund Breese, Edwin Maxwell, Charles B. Middleton, William Worthington, Davison Clark, Leonid Kinsky, Verna Hillie, George MacQuarrie, Fred Sullivan, Eric Mayne, Wade Boteler, Carrie Daumery 

Wealthy widow Gloria Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) will loan millions more of her dollars for the failing economy of the country of Freedonia on one condition: Statesman Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) must be appointed Freedonia’s new leader. The shifty Firefly comes to power and becomes a suitor to the rich widow. Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) of the neighboring country of Sylvania is also trying to court the widow Teasdale as he schemes to try to have his nation annex Freedonia. The clashes between the two men threaten to start war between the two countries. 

The Flashback Fanatic movie review 

In 1933 Duck Soup was not as successful as some earlier Marx Brothers films. Perhaps many looking to the movies for escapism during the Great Depression did not want any dark themes like war in their comedies, but that is what gives this movie its edge. One wonders if this finest of the Marx Brothers comedies would have been better or worse received had it been made several years later once it became apparent that Hitler’s Germany would become a worldwide military threat. Duck Soup’s depiction of war as an utterly petty form of lunacy may not have gone down very well once America entered World War II, but there may have been a need to try and laugh off the concerns of war’s storm clouds gathering in the late 1930s. 

As far as comedy is concerned, Duck Soup isn’t watered down. This story is totally bereft of sentiment. There are no romantic subplots with a pleasant, bland couple distracting from the schemes and shenanigans of the Marx Brothers. The comedy is so concentrated that even the nearly invisible straight man and fourth Marx brother Zeppo (in his final film) is part of a couple of gags. 

Another reason that the film has become so well regarded is that it does not have the usual musical interludes of many other Marx Brothers films. There are no music solos by Chico or Harpo and there are no singing performances by other characters involved in a romance. Such scenes are probably a carryover of the variety provided in vaudeville shows where the Marx Brothers honed their craft. I usually don’t mind the music bits, but most Marx Brothers fans want their comedy non-stop. The few instances of the characters breaking out in song during Duck Soup are funny and playful and involve the Marx Brothers.


There are many scenes and gags that are surreal and plenty of saucy innuendo from Groucho. This film is full of bits that are funny regardless of the storyline. However, the theme of war is what this crazy story keeps returning to. War seems to be inevitable due to Ambassador Trentino’s ruthless ambition and Firefly’s volatile vanity. My favorite bit is when Groucho’s Firefly manages to squander a chance of avoiding war a third time by simply supposing what would happen to his reputation if his offer of reconciliation with Ambassador Trentino is rejected. Firefly is so offended by his own supposition that he strikes the Ambassador with a glove a third time for no reason resulting in a declaration of war. 

The concept of war providing sight gags and more opportunities for Marx Brothers puns seems pretty daring. In the midst of battle we see Groucho’s attire changing to a different era of battle dress from minute to minute. Only the Marx Brothers would treat war as an excuse for cosplay. 

Duck Soup was my introduction to the madcap mischief of the Marx Brothers. It presents them at their very best demonstrating complete irreverence for social niceties, institutions, and elitism. In doing so they are not part of any solution, but they make us all realize how flawed, phony, and ineffectual people of the upper crust and their conventions may be. The Marx Brothers are often conniving, yet absolutely obvious in their motives despite the distraction of their silly behavior. 

A Marx Brothers comedy is funny because it shows how quick-thinking, spontaneous clowns can usurp the social order. This was never more apparent than in Duck Soup. 

This is not the sort of comedy meant to be reassuring by pandering. It does not tell us that we are okay because we are more conventional and accepted than some schlub we are laughing at. 

Duck Soup also does not give us characters to root for because they are idealized representations of who we think we are or want to be. We may envy Groucho’s knack for mile-a-minute puns and put-downs, admire Chico’s word games and scams that can confuse and con almost anyone (especially Groucho), and appreciate Harpo’s complete lack of inhibitions, yet we do not aspire to be any of them. The Marx Brothers are beings beyond us mere mortals. They puncture the balloons of pomposity and deflate our anxieties by just not giving a damn.


Director: Ishiro Honda Writers: Reuben Bercovitch, Ishiro Honda, Takeshi Kimura Producers: Tomoyuki Tanaka, Kenichiro Tsunoda, Henry G. S...