Movie #125 2020: Duck Soup (1933)

Wow, 1933. This is the oldest film so far on TQR, and it’s probably always going to be the oldest!

Duck Soup is one of those classics that everyone has heard of but few have ever seen. I mean, it’s not very often that movies from 1933 are shown on TV in this day and age, and can you even get it on DVD? Well… Yeah, you probably can. But have you ever seen a copy? Didn’t think so.

Although it has a reputation as a ‘classic comedy’, but of course some of the jokes in it are sexist and outdated. However, this film is almost a history lesson in itself. It’s really interesting to see what people considered to be funny in 1933, and a lot of it is still relevant today. For instance, poking fun at rich people/people in power is never not funny, which the Marx Brothers do in abundance here.

This movie gives the clear impression that this sort of slapstick is what inspired people like Morcambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, and Reeves & Mortimer. Its influence is so very evident, I’m not surprised that it was inducted into the National Film Registry in the States. Could we possibly credit Duck Soup with the birth of the comedy song? I’d say so. And that’s just one example of how this film influenced the comedy world.

Perhaps the biggest influence this movie had was via its mirror gag sequence. Here’s a picture so you know what I mean:

Remember that scene in The Vicar of Dibley where Dawn French sees herself as prima ballerina Darcy Bussell in the ”mirror”? Guess where she got the inspiration for that from. Yep. Duck Soup. This is a slapstick-type gag that so many comedians have utilised since, and are still using to this day. If there was ever a king of comedy, it started with these four men. They were truly 4 kings at once.

Duck Soup won’t be for everyone. It’s old, for one thing, and some people will struggle with that. But anyone with an interest in film history and film evolution will find it as fascinating as I did. Plus, the hat swapping sequence is simple physical comedy at its finest. It truly is a really funny movie, even in the year 2020.

Duck Soup is (regrettably) not available to stream for free – I caught it on Sony Movies Classic. Your best bet is the Google Play Store, where you can rent it for £2.49!

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