Monkey Business

Out of barrels in the hold, up to the captain’s quarters, onto the deck and out on the pier that leads to a great estate and “the old barn”, a complete picture.

Two wealthy racketeers, one wants the other’s territory. The flurry of jokes in every scene is a manner of expressing the film, which includes a lot of satire. The Four Marx Brothers are enlisted on either side for a kind of standoff, the aggressive racketeer kidnaps the daughter of his rival and must be stopped.

There is the action mostly overlooked in considerations of this picture, which was well-reviewed at the time as a producer of laughs.



Horse Feathers

The very odd central premise is a football rivalry between Huxley and Darwin. Rudy De Luca’s great echo gag in Life Stinks finds its provenance here (Trouble Along the Way, also). Thelma Todd as “the college widow” graces a very pure surrealism in the seduction scene with blocks of ice and an umbrella, and the upshot of it all, as Mark Twain would say, is hold onto the ball (and have more than one under your belt).


It’s a Gift

The horrible store where the clientele is reckless and unheeding.

The apartment house more hellishly suffered than the locataire at the Dakota.

The final disharmony on McKillon’s ranch, and then the sun shines on Bissonette’s (pronounced Bis-on-ay) Blue Bird Oranges.

Critics haven’t seen a plot or much in the way of sense (“nothing in the way, I can get right to them”) amid “the third-rate vaudeville katzenjammer of the work” (Sennwald) but admire it just the same, except Variety.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

He feeds the pigeons for Pierce Publications in New York.

It was directed in England as Billy Liar, but that’s another story.

A work of pure surrealism as perfect as any.

His mind is the only defense against a mother-dominated world, and he’s something of a genius. He meets the girl of his daydreams aboard a commuter train, it’s pure Hitchcock, and as perfectly directed as anything.

Now, like the magazine publisher in Thorpe’s Ten Thousand Bedrooms who fell in love with his mark, a working girl, it’s all too real. Murder and beauty and international mayhem, the stock in trade, the lingua franca of Pierce Publications.

North by Northwest arises from this, also. The drop of a hat, James Thurber.

Art is the theme, hidden before the war in a little black book, the Boot wants it badly.

Simple as bread in a toaster for tea.

Danny Kaye at a department store counter is a student of Chaplin l’improviste, amid his other qualities.

The boss always comes up with Mitty’s productive ideas “two years ago”.

“I know of a way to kill a man and leave no trace,” says Boris Karloff introducing himself, medical man, would-be author, assassin.

The new baby at Pierce is Hospital Love Stories, something about nurses (Mitty in his mind is an astounding surgeon and mechanical whiz).

Russ Meyer’s style was born in the woolgathering interludes, not to mention the psychiatrist’s office.

“It degenerates into slapstick at the end,” says Time Out Film Guide, which is just the perfect place for it.


Never Wave at a WAC

This might as well be a Bugs Bunny cartoon, which tells you something about Termite Terrace, and about the abilities of actors of this stature placed in certain circumstances and directed by McLeod.


Alias Jesse James

Otherwise it’s Charles Ives and Wallace Stevens at their desks.

In the event, and with Bob Hope as Milford Farnsworth, agent, it’s Jesse James’ plan to rob Plymouth Rock of $100,000.

Simple Farnsworth is to die as Jesse, who paid the one-third premium in cash.


Once Upon a Time
The Twilight Zone

Sherwood Schwartz analyzed this brilliantly as It’s About Time.

Keaton lends himself, as he did on The Ken Murray Show, to a spoof of silent films, and contributes some of his best work.

One of the best gags has the 1890 time traveler switch on a television, which mocks him by camera angle. Criticism of this episode is all over the place, rather than as usual either getting the point or missing it altogether.

It’s Keaton minus his pants in 1960, and Stanley Adams minus his cathode-ray tube in 1890, and both happier where they were in an elaboration of Frost’s “Mending Wall”.