5 April 2006 | LomzaLady
Better Than You'd Expect
When I saw the opening credits announcing "A James Whale Production," I thought - yes, there will probably be outsized and grotesque sets, just like in Frankenstein. I wasn't mistaken. The weird decor of the house and restaurant where the action takes place is a movie in itself. The entire film plays like one big in-joke, like the sorts of things film studios put together to show to employees at Christmas parties.
But that doesn't mean this movie isn't funny, and enjoyable. The two lead characters are the boozy, over the top kind that you know are going to get into more trouble than they can handle. To me, they were sort of a combination of Nick and Nora Charles, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Their wild party was one of the wildest you'll ever see on film, and no nudity or foul language, either. Of course, there is the matter of that really tasteless, racist bit at the party. I suppose in 1935 some would have considered that funny, but it is painful to watch.
I really liked Constance Cummings. The only other thing I've seen her in is Blythe Spirit. She was very good here in a screwball mode, and she was cute and perky without being obnoxious about it. Robert Young was winning as her not very much more sober and serious husband. The whole mystery with all the suspects in one house thing was pretty silly, but I really think it was supposed to be. This film is to be viewed with tongue in cheek. It's a joke, and a funny one. It has all the stock characters you would expect to find in such an old-fashioned mystery - the rich and careless, the hardbitten law, the ex-con and suspicious (but innocent) servants, and that great, supercilious, snooty butler. Arthur Treacher was the master of that genre. I thought it was hilarious the way he made all those snide comments whenever he turned his head from his employers. The dialog is really very funny, and goes by fast, but not too fast.
I thought the funniest scene by far was where the hero is racing his car to get home, and he almost collides with a truck at a road construction site. The truck driver lets loose a stream of curses, without actually uttering any four-letter words. And listen carefully for the very last thing he says -- well, I won't give it away -- it caps the whole scene and makes it even funnier.