“Hellzapoppin’!

One of my absolute favourite mad comedy films is the 1941 production “Hellzapoppin'”. If you want to watch it, it’s on home media I am sure and it does appear that there is a copy on YouTube.

The film stars comedy act Olsen and Johnson and was adapted from their Broadway show. By all accounts, the stage show was total madness and, while some of this madness is still here, the unpredictability aspect has gone somewhat.

It is basically a ‘putting on a show’ movie. There are many familiar faces, including Martha Raye, Elisha Cook Jnr, Hugh Herbert (who plays a crazy magician), Shemp Howard (of The Three Stooges as the projectionist) and many more.

The film never forgets it is a film, being shown to an audience (in a cinema). They break the fourth wall often, there are jokes at the expense of the projectionist and other films, strange leaps in format (for example, suddenly becoming a western), running gags and general madness. Oh, and a soppy love story and multiple musical interludes.

Sadly, it’s not a film that gets shown in cinemas any more, even at film clubs and you do need to watch it with an audience if you can. The love story is rather draggy at times, but when the stars are on screen it’s a hoot.

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