A Night in Casablanca (1946)
Who would have known that a comedy about Nazis would have been such a fun time?
Yes, the subject matter is a little borderline for some (particularly for a 40s movie). You can definitely tell as the Marx brothers's comedy progresses over time, how the jokes gets dirtier and the slapstick becomes more offensive. Now, this isn't Louis C. K. or anything like that, but for the time it's pretty revolutionary.
"A Night in Casablanca" seems, at first, like a spoof of "Casablanca" for reasons that should be blatantly obvious like the title city. There's a hotel in Casablanca and the last three managers of the hotel have all died, presumably murdered. The film opens as we see the third manager take a drink of alcohol, grab his chest, and collapse in a heap—poisoned. There's also the line about "the usual suspects" which is taken right from "Casablanca"; but as the movie ticks by it becomes its own movie and deviates from the classic.
As far as the Marx brothers's films go, this is near the bottom. There are too many long breaks with no humor that build for more dramatic purposes which don't do anything but show off—like the musical breaks from Chico at the piano and Harpo at the harp, playing jazzed up versions of Liszt's 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody. Yes, they're cool and I see that they can play instruments but what did it do to add to the plot?
The plot itself is simple enough. The Nazis were carrying a load of gold and treasure and were forcing an American pilot to fly them over Casablanca when he purposely crashed them. After all the dust settled, both figurative and literal, the treasure was gone! The young pilot assumes that the treasure is hidden somewhere in the hotel and that the Nazis are killing off the managers to get one of their own in the managerial position so they can smuggle the loot out.
Of cours, he is dismissed and told that he's an idiot, but we know that he's right. Why do we know that he's right? Because he's the only young, martially eligible man in the movie. The rest of the cast are slick business men or Germans with mustaches and distinguishing scars.
When the staff is at a loss for a new manager, they recruit the incompetent and Kornblow (Groucho Marx) to run the hotel for them and, naturally, many gags and jokes are made from this position.
What "A Night in Casablanca" lacks that all the other Marx brothers's movie have is a furiousness with which the jokes are made. The breakneck speed at which the puns are usually delivered is slowed down and drawn out for this movie which doesn't help the flow of things. The brothers seem out of their element at first but then the movie gets on its feet.
Once the steam had built up the movie becomes exponentially easier to watch and many of the physical stunts that the team are famous for are exemplified in stellar manner such as a smoke blowing contest and sneaking around a room, hiding from the big bad guy while driving him crazy.
Harpo and Chico are, like usual, the best part of the movie. Sometimes Harpo's whistling is a little ear-piercing and the snappy comebacks and puns aren't always perfect.
But hey, it's not perfection we're looking for. So "A Night in Casablanca" isn't fine art or the most brilliantly crafted masterpiece; but it is fun and enjoyable and that's enough for me.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones