Duck Soup

Film, Comedy
5 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

As the world’s media debate the future of satire, it’s an opportune time for the BFI to release the Marx Brothers’s most barbed film, a silly-serious sideswipe against war, politics and the entire concept of heroism. First shown in 1933, as humanity were busily gearing up for another round of death-to-everyone, the film doesn’t take the same direct potshots as, say, Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’.

But this is a spikier, subtler, far less sentimental film, using its timely mittel-European setting and Fascist-like decor to mask a pointed attack on American triumphalism and the lunacy of war, all the way back to Thomas Jefferson. The plot sees Groucho playing Rufus T Firefly, the populist revolutionary who takes charge of the remote nation of Sylvania and is pursued by a pair of spies played by Chico and Harpo. But all this is secondary to a series of wildly elaborate set-pieces – the mirror scene is perhaps the greatest physical comedy routine in slapstick history – and mind-scramblingly relentless one-liners (‘I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it!’). Genius just about covers it.



Release details

70 mins

Cast and crew

Leo McCarey
Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Margaret Dumont
Edgar Kennedy
Louis Calhern
The Marx Brothers