Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you’re probably aware of Hurricane Irene, which is slowly making its way up the east coast of these United States. But after you’ve gotten all your hurricane preparations in order, you’re going to want something to distract from the danger and noises outside, and what could be more distracting and unlike a hurricane than a classic comedy like the Marx Brother’s A Night in Casablanca (1946).
Set in Casablanca shortly after World War II, Groucho Marx plays Ronald Kornblow, the acerbic and newest manager of the Hotel Casablanca, who is unaware that he’s been hired because no one else will dare take the position since all the previous occupants had been murdered by escaped Nazi war criminal Heinrich Stubel (Sig Ruman), whose goal is to reclaim some stolen art treasures hidden in the Hotel.
After taking charge of the hotel, Kornblow eventually crosses paths with local Corbacchio (Chico Marx), who appoints himself as Kornblow’s bodyguard with the aid of Stubel’s valet Rusty (Harpo Marx) after learning of the assassination plot. In his efforts to murder Kornblow so that he can finally remove the treasure from the Hotel unnoticed, Stubel sends the beautiful Beatrice Reiner (Lisette Verea) to romance the clueless manager, which results in a number of comical misses and mishaps.
Made near the end of their careers to help out a cash-strapped Chico, A Night in Casablanca doesn’t possess much of the chaotic and high-energy spark that the Brothers’ earlier films possessed. Certainly, the film contains all of the usual brother’s beloved ingredients–Groucho’s quick wit, Chico’s mutilation of the English language, Harpo’s silent slapstick. And while a great number of their gags and jokes prove to be funny, Casablanca is much more bogged down in its plot and character development than previous Marx brother comedies, which ultimately results in there being fewer jokes and a loss of comedic momentum.
Chico’s and Harpo’s musical efforts, though very impressive, don’t add any humor to the film, and only end up slowing down the pace of an already mellowed out comedy. And because the Brothers rely more on sticking to a coherent script than on the creation of seemingly spontaneous gags, their film doesn’t have much of that distinctive Marx Brother’s feeling to it that Duck Soap, or their earlier films are froth with.
Though A Night in Casablanca is far from being a terrible movie, it isn’t the Brothers’ most impressive work either. Filled with enough gags and jokes to ensure at least a few laughs, the film remains one of their less-than-stellar performances. But as a testament to the talents of the Marx Brothers’, even a mediocre film of theirs like A Night in Casablanca is still cinematic gold compared to other, more recent comedies. So sit back, enjoy the laughs, and remember to stay safe until Hurricane Irene makes her way through the coast.
Find the nearest Blockbuster near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.