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Dialog Highlights This Marx Bros. Gem
ccthemovieman-15 April 2006
Well, here we are with another wild and hilarious Marx Brothers farce, this time with Groucho taking over a small country and winding up in war with a neighboring one.

There really isn't much of a story but with the Marx Brothers that doesn't matter. Many times their movies were vehicles for their vaudeville acts of funny lines, slapstick gags and musical talent.

Two differences in this film than most others from the boys: 1 - Zeppo has a number of lines. Usually, he's the almost-forgotten brother in this foursome, either with little to say or not even in the film. 2 - Harpo doesn't play the harp, but he gets in on his share of the gags, which are always dominated by Groucho and Chico (my personal favorite).

Fantastic dialog makes this version one of the best of them all. There are just tons of funny (and, yes, very dated) lines in this movie and having Duck Soup out on DVD making the sound clearer helps, too. Lots of laughs.
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I Wouldn't Join Any Country that Would Have Me.
jcohen128 November 2004
I'm shocked, shocked at all the negative comments covering this comedy classic. The puns, the insults, are all now comedy classics. The Lemonade Stand & the Mirror Scenes also memorable. I hadn't seen the movie in around 15 years but bought the DVD so my 15 year old son could experience the Marxes. He loved it too.

What I noticed for the first time was the satire of society, manners, government, the military, the bureaucracy (including Roberts Rules of Order). I can't recall any other comedy I've seen that satirizes on such a grand scale.

For Marx Brothers fans this is a must see. It's the boys with no love story or musical interludes in the way.

One word for those who disagree- "Upstart". :-)
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Firefly of Freedonia
jotix1003 April 2006
All the comedies in which the Marx Brothers appeared were extensions of their vaudeville days. In "Duck Soup", the visual gags that worked so well on the stage are incorporated into the film. Director Leo McCarey directed this zany movie in which the Marx Brothers do their best to entertain their public.

There are many interesting moments in the film, but the best sequence has to be the mirror scene in which Groucho, Harpo and Chico, dressed in the same costume are seen on either side of the looking glass following the other person's movements. The other asset in the film is the final conflict with Sylvania in which Groucho is seen dressed in many uniforms while leading the war against the enemy.

We had seen this film before, but took another look when it was shown on cable recently. The great Margaret Dumont is simply one of the best actresses that ever worked with the Marx Brothers in their comedies. She is amazing in playing the straight part against Groucho's antics. A young Louis Calhern cuts quite a figure as the Trentino, the Sylvanian ambassador to Freedonia. Raquel Torres is a nice addition to the film playing the exotic Vera Marcal.

The Marx Brothers do what they do best in "Duck Soup" guided by a director who knew what to do with them, Leo McCarey.
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Stephen-1211 January 1999
It narrowly beats A Night at the Opera as the best all-round Marx Bros film, though I find the humour more bizarre in Monkey Business. At least the musical numbers in DS are actually worth sitting through.

The reasons it scores so highly are:

1) The mirror sequence. The finest comic sequence ever committed to film. Sure, it's old-hat vaudeville, but it's professional, beautifully timed and spirals into wonderful absurdity.

2) The one-liners, puns and other jokes. Pick of the crop are the peanut stall interchange, the telephone sequence, the riddles ('what has four pairs of pants, lives in Philadelphia, and it never rains but it pours?') and the final battle (especially the stock footage of monkeys and elephants running to save the army under siege - the kind of thing the Zucker Bros pinched for their comedies). Oh, yes, and the motorcycle routines.

3) The satire on politics and warmongering. The Brothers simply deflate the pomposity of the whole deal.

4) The fact that Zeppo is actually given something to do.

Anybody who thinks the Farrelly brothers are the last word in comedy should be strapped to a chair and shown Marx Bros films over and over again, until they concede.
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The Marx Brothers At Their Very Best
Snow Leopard1 June 2001
There are a lot of reasons why so many different reviewers suggest that "Duck Soup" is a genuine candidate for the funniest movie ever made. It has the Marx brothers at their very best, with rapid-fire laughs combining with a satirical "plot" that is very funny in itself, without getting in the way of the individual comedy sequences that are the real highlight of the film. Their timing and material are as good here as they ever have been.

The Marx brothers are still beloved today because when at their best, they treated their audience to a lot of riotous slapstick that cannot be watched without laughing, while at the same time rewarding their viewers for paying attention with a steady stream of puns, deadpan one-liners, brief sight gags, and other subtler humor. The more you watch, the more you notice.

"Duck Soup" has a lot of their very best material, and everyone has their own favorite scenes, whether it is the mirror sequence, or Chico and Harpo giving their report to Louis Calhern, or the street vendor scenes, or ... . The variety of comic settings and comic material is amazing, and when you add in the entertaining musical sequences (which again are particularly good in this one), it is a feast that never stops.

Any Marx brothers fan has seen this one several times, and does not need to be reminded what great fun it is. If you have never watched one of their films, give this one a try.
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The Best Comedy of All Time
JRenee15 August 1998
Many will say that Airplane or anything by Woody Allen rates this summary but I strongly disagree. There are very few pleasures on earth as hearing Groucho insult people, Chico's murder of the English language, or seeing Harpo's physical comedy. In this movie you have it all. From Groucho's entrance in the first scene to the bombing of the shelter while defending Margaret Dumont's "honor", there is not one slow moment. Like the great screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, this movie does not require special effects or offensive dialogue to make it watchable over and over again. The only thing that this movie does require is your attention and a quick finger on the rewind button. (For when you miss something, and on the first viewing you will) All in all, this is the all time best comedy, political or otherwise.
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Yes, it lives up to its reputation
MovieAddict20161 November 2005
Probably the Marx Brothers' most famous comedy, "Duck Soup" is a hilarious and wacky slapstick comedy that even manages to take a stab at politics. Groucho plays Rufus Firefly, who is appointed the new president of Freedonia. He has a dubious stance on work ethic and attempts to cut work hours by reducing the length of employee lunch breaks.

Mrs. Teasdale, who has donated twenty million dollars to the failing country, becomes the object of affection for Rufus, who has to battle for her hand against Ambassador Trentino of the neighboring country Sylvania. Soon their tumult escalates and war is declared between the two countries.

Most people who comment on this film seem to indicate that they saw it at a very young age and have grown up with it. I can honestly say I wasn't given the opportunity to ever see it until recently, when I finally managed to watch it on Turner Classic Movies, completely uninterrupted.

Although it is not consistently laugh-out-loud, tears-in-your-eyes hilarious, "Duck Soup" is very funny - and not quite as outrageous as I had expected. There's a lot going on here, aside from silly physical humor.

The Marx Brothers are great as usual and as usual Groucho steals the show.

Ultimately if you've never seen this, you need to go rent it out right now. If you have seen it, you already know how great it is and why it deserves its reputation as one of the most beloved comedies ever made.
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Worthy of several viewings.
gridoon11 October 2002
Very likely their best film. This is pure surrealism from start to finish, with some of their best-executed routines, and a welcome absence of (serious) musical numbers. Whether it has Harpo answering the phone, Groucho explaining his tax policy or Chico giving a detailed report of his weekly surveillance tactics ("On Wednesday we fool him: We no show up"), this is the epitome of the Marx Brothers movies. And here's one of the funniest lines that nobody else has mentioned: "Ok, I give up. How about your glass of water?" (well, it's only funny in context). (***)
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"You've gotta take up the tax before you can take up the carpet."
utgard1420 August 2015
The last of the Marx Bros. movies to feature Zeppo and the last made at Paramount is also my favorite. The brothers would go on to make some more good movies but, in my view, their Paramount films are when they were at their best. The nonstop zaniness and unpredictability of them was unlike anything else in film comedy at the time. This is a hilarious satire with Groucho in arguably his most famous role, Rufus T. Firefly, the newly-appointed leader of the small country of Freedonia who leads his country into war with neighboring Sylvania. The brothers are all terrific with some of their most memorable gags in this one. Margaret Dumont is back after missing two consecutive movies. Her scenes with Groucho are some of the film's highlights. Louis Calhern makes for a fine villain and Raquel Torres is one of the sexiest women from any of the Marx films. Edgar Kennedy is a hoot as a vendor that has trouble with Chico and Harpo. It's directed by Leo McCarey, who went on to win Oscars and direct some classic films with Cary Grant and Bing Crosby. Duck Soup also has probably the highest quality production values of any of the Marx films at Paramount. The sets and costumes are very nice. It's easy to see why this is considered the Marx Brothers' masterpiece. Aside from being funny from start to finish with hilarious songs and many great gags, it has been highly influential over the years on everything from Bugs Bunny to Woody Allen. One of the greatest comedies ever made and certainly one I recommend everyone see at least once.
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Apples for patriots
pbartholomew25 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Ditto to all the positive comments, but in these days of Homeland Security II (how many people know that "PATRIOT" Act is an acronym?), I must call special attention to the very end of the movie, after the leaders have led the citizens of Fredonia in the satirical call-and-response that has the common crowd following the jackass-kicks of their president. As Margaret Dumont begins to sing the national anthem after the country's entirely accidental, the Marxes pelt her with apples, a fitting fate for any knee-jerk patriot. This was one of the more extreme expressions of the American stage and screen that saw the Gershwins taking the United States into war against Switzerland over cheese in "Strike up the Band" and setting the Vice President up for execution in "Of Thee I Sing." It's a wonder that the FBI didn't seize the film during World War II as they did copies of the Almanac Singers' "Songs for John Doe." (Recall that Abraham Lincoln had Septimus Winner, composer or "Listen to the Mockingbird" and "Ten Little Indians" jailed as a subversive under his suspension of habeas corpus for writing a song criticizing the firing of Gen. George McClellan, who was popular enough to pose a threat to Lincoln in the 1864 election.) Let's hope that the current administration never notices that this was one of the first movies to make the National Film Registry.
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"Tell 'Em The Enemy Comes From Afar With A Hey-Non-Nonni And a Hot-Cha-Cha!"
stevenlshoup22 April 2006
There are two groups in the "Best Marx Brothers Movie Ever" debate. One favors the Marxes integrated into the traditional Hollywood formula: the excellent "A Night at the Opera"; the other insists it's the film where Hollywood is helpless while the boys unleash their anarchistic, trademark lunacy against conventions to new heights: "Duck Soup." I am in the latter group.

The plot in a nutshell: The Marx Brothers go to war.

The government of Fredonia has been mismanaged to the point that it must borrow $20 million from Mrs. Chester Teasdale to stay afloat. She, with single-minded termination, refuses unless the president resigns and hands the government to Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) who proceeds to bring the nation to a grinding halt. Adding to the national woes, neighboring Sylvania has been plotting to have the Fredonian government overthrown so that they can overrun it and this mission has been headed by Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern), with Vera Marcal (Raquel Torres) handling Mrs. Teasdale and his two crack spies Chicolini and Pinky (guess who) shadowing Firefly. It is presidential assistant Bob Roland(Zeppo) who suggests Firefly insult Trentino who will strike Firefly and they can force the ambassador to leave the country. Sounds good on paper, but Firefly winds up being insulted by Trentino then slapping him, which leads to a declaration of war! And what a war it is: Groucho is able to be uniformed as a southern general, northern corporal, boy scout, fur trapper and drum major -- and that's during the first assault! By the time the short-wave radio cries "Help is on the way!" what follows will have you rolling on the floor!

Duck Soup is the dazzling, frenzied, unrelenting, full-steam-ahead, no-holds-barred trademark brand of nose-thumbing, up-yours comedy that the Marx Brothers created in vaudeville, honed to razor sharpness in bus and truck tours, and finally exploded onto 1920's Broadway, making them national treasures. Where W.C. Fields had his muttering, cynical way of tilting at windmills with a pool cue, Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo stormed the windmills with surface-to-air missiles. No convention was too big, no icon too treasured, no societal norms too entrenched to be blistered by these madmen of surreal comedy. As with most classics, "Soup" bombed at the box-office and Paramount didn't re-sign the Brothers. But time and succeeding generations have elevated this film to one of the best movies in the annals of American film making.

Within "Duck Soup" is a treasure trove of priceless routines. To mention a few: Firefly's coronation and musical offering of how he'll run the country; Harpo and Groucho with a motorcycle and sidecar; Chicolini and Pinky's spy report to Trentino; Groucho's cabinet meeting; Harpo's phone conversation, the three (count 'em three) encounters with a lemonade vendor; three night-gowned Fireflys racing around the Teasdale mansion seeking the secret war plans, which leads to the legendary and Dali-like Mirror Sequence (Continuity be damned. Who cares if shattered glass disappears or a complete reversed room is behind that wall mirror -- this routine is CLASSIC); Chicolini's court-marshal and trial, all leading to the musical embodiment of national hysteria for warfare: "The Country's Going To War".

Scripted by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (they composed the music for the Marxes Broadway show, "Animal Crackers") with Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, the story is a smörgåsbord of laugh lines and hysterical visuals that skip merrily into surrealism. Kalmar and Ruby's music here (their "Hooray for Captain Spaulding," became the theme music for Groucho's quiz show and the popular standard, "Who's Sorry Now?" was theirs. MGM made them the subject of "Three Little Words") is enjoyable, albeit unmemorable and their lyrics an homage to Gilbert and Sullivan. The break-neck direction and pacing is courtesy of fabled director Leo McCarey (best remembered for directing Going My Way). Margaret Dumont returns as "the fifth Marx Brother" with her oh-so-refined and dignified Mrs. Gloria Teadale, Groucho's perfect foil for his mangy-lover/insult barrage. There are superb supporting cast members, too. Louis Calhern (Annie Get Your Gun) is dignified and oily as Ambassador Trentino (what better target for Chico and Harpo?). Also in tiny roles are Leonid Kinsky as the agitator in Trentino's office prior to the entrance of Harpo and Chico (Kinsky went on to be best remembered as Sasha the bartender in Casablanca) and Charles Middleton the prosecuting attorney best remembered as Ming the Merciless in the old Flash Gordon serials. Finally, there is the brilliant Edgar Kennedy, crowned "The Master of the Slow Burn," as the lemonade vendor. Kennedy was a staple of the silent film era, appearing in and directing hundreds of silent comedies and also producing them. A master craftsman and his work here with Harpo and Chico is a fitting tribute to his significant contribution to the movies. This film marked the farewell of Zeppo. Tired of playing the straight man and overshadowed by his brothers, Zeppo stepped behind the cameras after Duck Soup to become a Hollywood agent. He wasn't missed. Also, this is the only Marx movie where Harpo has no harp solo and one of two movies where Chico doesn't play the piano – and it doesn't matter. You're laughing too hard to care.

Despite an unintended racial slur that mars the film this is a movie to treasure. I introduced my six year old niece to the Marx Brothers last summer. Having been weened on a diet of TV kiddie shows, computer animated cartoon films, and the pablum and sludge that passes for comedy today, she fell in love with the Marx Brothers! Yes, Harpo is her favorite, but she enjoys them all. So please, please, please, sit your kids down in front of the TV, get this movie and enrich them with unrestrained, genuine laughter, and introduce them to the funniest comedy team this nation ever produced and arguably the funniest movie ever made.
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My favorite Marx Bros. Film
Marx_Bros_Fan8631 December 2007
It's hard to believe the most highly praised Marx Bros. film today, Duck Soup, was a disappointment at the box office. I believe it was Irving Thalberg who said the problem with Duck Soup was that it was too funny. Audiences weren't used to such fast paced comedy with little structure. I think there is an element of truth to this. Out of all of the Marx Bros. films with Paramount, Duck Soup is a contender for the weakest plot. However, I believe this is why it is praised so much today. It is sheer, unadulterated Marx Bros. anarchy, without the romance interludes or intrusive musical numbers. Some of the Brother's best material is in this film. There are too many hilarious jokes to mention, but the mirror sequence, Harpo's Paul Revere scene, and Groucho's opening song are priceless gems. A similar mirror sequence was featured in the now classic Harpo Marx episode of I Love Lucy. This film has aged better than all of the Marx Bros. movies. As Roger Ebert wrote in his book The Great Movies, many of the jokes in this film seem surprisingly modern. For example, Harpo has a tattoo of a dog house on his chest, and when Groucho meows like a cat, a real dog pops out of it and barks. I could easily see something like this happening in any comedy today, and it would be just as effective.

Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, the new dictator of Fredonia. Chico and Harpo play Chicolini and Pinky, two spies from Fredonia's enemy, Sylvania. The two countries go to war for reasons too silly to mention. Zeppo pops up every now and then. This was Zeppo's last film. He never really enjoyed making movies, and I believe it took some convincing to get him to do this film. Unfortunately he was always stuck playing the straight man, and he never got a chance to do anything funny. Zeppo actually was Groucho's understudy when they were on stage, and he supposedly got big laughs whenever he got the chance to play Groucho. Whether or not Zeppo could have been as famous as his other brothers if he had been given the chance will always be one of Hollywood's greatest mysteries.

Duck Soup ended the Marx Brother's contract with Paramount, and they went on hiatus for two years. Chico was able to negotiate a contract with MGM, and they made two more great films, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, before their careers took a major nosedive, from which only Groucho was able to recover.

It is said that there was a real town named Fredonia, and the mayor or town council sent a letter to the Marx Bros. complaining that the movie was ruining the image of the town. The Marx Bros. responded with a letter stating "change the name of your town, it's ruining our movie!"
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One of the finest comedies and indeed the wittiest of many.
braddugg7 September 2014
One of the finest comedies and indeed the wittiest of many.

Witty lines and scenes make this film a fantastic one to watch. It's a laugh riot and does full throttle. It's uncompromising in vision which is a rarity considering 1933 where studios determined what has to be shown. Marx brothers who are considered as comedy giants in their times, gave wonderful performances in this film. From a retort to "Tanks" (which is thought as "Thanks") with a "Welcome" to many many moments where it's tough to hold back our laughs, this film is spanned with nothing but wit and comedy.

I dare say, it is one of the funniest films I watched in a long time. It's hilarious and comical, it's also strongly satirical and political too. It takes on war, politics behind war and what kings or rulers do. The best part is it never takes itself seriously even for iota of a moment and gives out gags where each one is wonderfully joyful.

Groucho Marx as Firefly, gives a wonderful performance probably the finest of his life from the word go. He dances, sings, and utters some of the wittiest lines uttered ever on film screen. His act as a Mussolini like is wonderful and more so as excellency of Fredonia. From his entry till the last frame, he makes this film his own.

He is ably supported by his own brothers Harpo, Chico and Zeppo who give wonderful scenes too. My only crib is that it is too short. At 68 minutes, this film gives out so many wonderful moments that it leaves us yearning for more. Should this have been edited, I would be very disappointed, coz every frame is precious in this film and has to be embraced.

This film is now 80 years old and it is still so young and infectious in wit and the sheer energy on screen. I wish again, to see more than 68 minutes of this. One of the greatest comedies ever, a 5/5 for this. Wit, humor and outstandingly performed this a must watch for every film lover.
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Best comedy movie ever made
jjm_196520 June 2005
"Duck Soup" is so funny that you can watch it with the sound off and you will still laugh hysterically. Of course, then you would miss some of the best dialog in comedy history, especially from Groucho Marx, who may be the funniest human being ever. How many other comedians or comics can you name that have excelled at both physical comedy and at telling jokes? The sight gags are brilliant and perfectly timed; a big influence on other comedies that reaches all the way to "A Hard Day's Night," as well as the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" TV series. Some of the jokes in this movie fly by very fast, so each repeated viewing reveals something new. I believe this movie bombed when originally released, but then again so did "It's A Wonderful Life."
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Classic Marx Brothers
SnoopyStyle6 July 2015
The nation of Freedonia is in dire financial situation and wealthy widow Mrs. Teasdale is willing to help if only Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) is appointed the new leader. Sylvanian Ambassador Trentino and Raquel Torres are trying to incite a revolt. Sylania sends Chicolini (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx) as spies. Firefly appoints Chicolini as Secretary of War. As the crazy situation spins out of control, war is declared between Freedonia and Sylvania.

Groucho is relentless in his fast rolling jokes. It comes so fast that it's impossible to laugh at it all. Harpo is pure slapstick genius. This is pure comedic chaos. There is the great mirror scene between Groucho and Chico. It's not simply mirroring. It's that they go beyond and start changing places. It is simply a classic and so is this movie.
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Groucho gives the best State of the Union speech ever written.
mark.waltz9 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"If you think this country's bad off now, just wait till I get through with it", Groucho sings while being sworn in as President of Fredonia (no relation to the small New York city in Chautaqua County) where he actually rules as dictator. Ironically the same year as the rise of Hitler in Germany, this parallels the absurdities of dictatorships with Groucho not apologizing in any manner for his promise of "We stand them up against the wall and pop goes the weasel" for breaking any law he passes. Of course, he can't get out of his house because every time he does, his chauffeur (Harpo!) takes off in the motorcycle, leaving Groucho behind in the sidecar, and later switching places with hysterical results.

With a name like Rufus T. Firefly, you know what kind of character Groucho is going to be, especially when he makes a pass at his benefactor, the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont, back with the boys after a two-picture absence), all the while insulting her at the same time. He creates an instant rivalry with the ambassador from another country (an imperious Louis Calhern) and when war is declared, all zany hell breaks loose. There's even a minstrel show musical number about the declaration of the war, and with Harpo and Chico as spies, you know that the spying game is going to be downright hysterical.

Chico and Harpo take up in a zany argument with fellow street vendor Edgar Kennedy which has some truly outrageous visual gags. Raquel Torres takes over for Thelma Todd, vixen from the previous two entries here, but no vixen, no matter how sexy, can get one over on Groucho. Ironically, the director this time around is Leo McCarey who usually went for sentiment. Here, the atmosphere is downright parody of an unsettled world on the verge of another war, perhaps a little ahead of its time, but a film that today is considered ingenious and probably the most famous of the Marxx Brothers' films. It was so controversial in its day that the politicians from the real Fredonia, New York wrote to Groucho in protest. You know who came out the winner.
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the best Marx Bros movie ever
Lee Eisenberg21 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Everyone remembers the mirror scene, but in case you've forgotten the plot, here it is: Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) becomes leader of Freedonia and decides to declare war on neighboring Sylvania just for fun. Naturally, Groucho cracks a series of serious-then-wacky jokes, Chico mangles words, and Harpo is silly every step of the way. Along with the mirror scene, another hilarious scene is the hat-switching scene with a short-tempered peanut vendor.

Obviously, the Marx Brothers always engaged in anarchic humor, but this one is so good because of how they mock the power structure, militarism, and everything such. It's an A+.
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Duck and cover
Tito-811 November 1998
I am genuinely mystified. Make a movie with silly sight gags, a barrage of one-liners and all-around craziness in the 1990's, and the film is labelled as a pathetic comedy. Yet that is all you find in "Duck Soup", and it is regarded as one of the classic comedies all of time. Sure, I can understand how people want to pay homage to the pioneers of film, but all that the Marx Bros. did was to introduce the film-going public to prolonged stretches of insanity. This was a HUGE disappointment.
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Marx Brothers Finest Film
marquis de cinema5 April 2000
Duck Soup(1933) is the funniest and most entertaining comedy that I've seen in my life. It was the last film the Marx Brothers would do for Paramount before going over to MGM. Duck Soup is an anarchic comedy where the main characters never live by the rules and rebel as a result. The Marx Brothers put out some of the greatest comedies that rarely has been matched. It is a satire about the nature of war, politics, and affairs of the state. Duck Soup(1933) is a great example of a film that can easily induce a person into bursts of laughter.
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Hopelessly dated
lord_pigeon5 January 2003
First I have to admit that I am not a big fan of physical comedies. However, it was said to be one of the best comedies in movie history so I thought I should pay my respect and give this a try.

Duck Soup was a short movie with only about 75 minutes but I couldn't help but to look at my watch when I was only 15 minutes into it. It wasn't boring, it was irritating: it filled with characters I didn't like or care about (they reminded me of grade school bullies who like to torture people just for the fun of it); through out the movie, the Marx brothers showered the audience with jokes after jokes but I only managed to get one smile out of it and every failed attempt only made it more irritating. Maybe people found them funny in the 30's and 40 years after that but by now many people would have seen those jokes in Bugs Bunny's cartoons (I understand it is unfair to the movie since it was the original but they where done in a far more tasteful fashion).

I regretted that I have just wasted 75 minutes out of my life watching people tried to be funny. If there were ways to appreciate this movie better, please enlighten me, until then I would rather watch paint dry.

1/10 (too bad there are no negative ratings)
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A soup that is missing several ingredients
El Cine26 January 2002
Having never seen a Marx Brothers film before, I watched "Duck Soup" not knowing what to expect other than what the hype led me to believe. My impression of the Marx Brothers beforehand was that they were a more socially-accepted, somewhat highbrow version of the Three Stooges that focused more on witty jokes than slapstick. There was Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and sometimes Zeppo, with Groucho being the best-known of the bunch due to his long career on the "You Bet Your Life" TV show and the "nose, glasses, and mustache" disguise based on his appearance.

I didn't think "Duck Soup" was terrible, certainly not enough to prevent me from checking out another Marx Brothers film some time. A few scenes involved humorous takes on traditional comic themes like mistaken identity and the man-in-the-mirror routine. But after viewing "Duck Soup", it would seem that I was overestimating the Marxes. Partly to blame is the hype surrounding the film, which leads one to expect comic brilliance and intelligent satire, rather than the frequently abrasive gags to be found here (and the satire that is not to).

After the unsettling title image of live ducks flailing about in what looks like a pot of steaming water, the quartet of Marxes soon makes its presence known. Zeppo is barely noticeable, and so neither good nor bad, but Chico turns out to be an Italian stereotype, and, even sadder, the star Groucho is a rude, irritating punk rather than a hilarious funnyman. A disappointment, since he is the star around whom the plot revolves. Meanwhile, the "great" Harpo is one of the most unlikable, unappealing physical comedians I've ever seen. I found nothing amusing or clever about his habits of leering at people and destroying their personal property, either with scissors or his own brute force. Nor was it funny to see him continually lift his leg in the air in an inexplicable manner, as if he was a dog about to pee or something.

Some of the funny parts are at the end during the climactic battle. The thing is, it's just Three Stooges stuff that critics would scoff at if it appeared outside of a Marx film. Sticks of dynamite with extra-long fuses, getting locked in a closet, immobilizing the bad guy and throwing garbage in his face…these are all conventions of Stooge slapstick, and in "Duck Soup" seem to be filmed in the same style as those shorts. I am almost positive that I've seen Moe, Larry, and Curly do a military sketch that was much the same.

Many people have held this film up as a "comic masterpiece" and even a "brilliant political satire" about politics, with lots of tie-ins to fascism and the rise of Hitler, natch, although this film was made long before the Nazis went into full swing. I think that this praise is applied too liberally by adoring fans and critics who wish to appear well-informed and sophisticated and are only too willing to join the bandwagon. In his review for "Duck Soup", Roger Ebert quotes some British critic named Patrick McCray who called the film "an absurdist essay on politics and warfare [ that ] can stand alongside (or even above) the works of Beckett and Ionesco." Really, now, Beckett and Ionesco? Is "Duck Soup" deserving of such high regard? To me, the film seems more like a chance for a few comedian brothers to make a light comedy together, make some money, and have some fun. It's not an awful film, but not a great one, either, and certainly not a watershed in American film comedy.

I could detect little pertinent satire. While the targets being lampooned are fictional, they seem closest to the old excessive European monarchies that were around for centuries until World War One. The political environment consists of lavish palaces, grand balls with royal fanfares and pomp, and continental ambassadors in ornate uniforms. But absolute monarchies no longer determine world events, even in 1933, and so a good deal of "Duck Soup's" alleged relevance is nonexistent to begin with. It's easier to ridicule a style of government that hasn't led the way since decades ago. Perhaps the strongest joke arrives within the first few minutes of the film, when a wealthy donor threatens to withhold a political donation unless the current administration appoints a new leader of her choosing. This is a sharp parody of political systems in which money has become the deciding factor. Today the scene reminds US viewers how money and connections more than anything else brought our current prez (and many pols) to power, the controversy about campaign finance reform, etc. Unfortunately, after this opening bit, the film fails to offer anything else on this level, nothing to make the work as a whole a perceptive social satire.

After this comment was first posted, I gave the Marx brothers another chance when I watched "A Day at the Races," and was pleasantly surprised. Sometime I'll get around to checking out their other movies.
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Groucho the Master Chef ..Try His Duck Soup !
werefox084 April 2012
This is mayhem, and, chaos, and nutty, and havoc, and very funny. It proves once and for all that Duck Soup, if it is made by a great chef.......tastes wonderful. Made in 1933, this Marx Brothers classic is the funniest movie in motion picture history. Groucho delivers his one liners with machine gun precision.....and always hits the target. There will simply NEVER be any "funny guy" who will even come close to The Grouch. Its a fact.....during the past 79 years no comedy has bettered this. The last 25 years have been really bad....badly written, terribly acted....and NOT funny. Its all so pretentious, today. Will Ferrell ?? are we kidding ?? The guy is awful. And "the others" are only marginally better. Writers should remember a simple rule..........people who go to the cinema to see a comedy........expect to laugh.
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Enough To Make Anyone A Marxist
bkoganbing4 December 2007
When the Marx Brothers decided to leave Paramount, they did in the words of the old expression leave them laughing. In fact with Duck Soup, they left them rolling in the aisles.

Duck Soup is helmed by the greatest director the Brothers ever worked for in their film career, Leo McCarey. He guided this anti-war lampoon of Ruritanian pictures with a sure hand. It's the shortest film the brothers ever did, but there's hardly a minute in it without a gag or three.

I think that Leo McCarey had in mind a satire on the Merry Widow, where if you'll recall the plot has the richest widow in Marovia ready to leave the country bag and baggage for Paris. It's up to Count Danilo to woo her for the country. People have done worse for patriotic motives.

A silent version by Erich Von Stroheim was already made of The Merry Widow and next year Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier would do it for MGM. But here we have Freedonia's richest citizen, Margaret Dumont not willing to underwrite her little country unless she names its prime minister. And of course she names the man wooing her, Groucho Marx.

Of course that foils the plans of Louis Calhern, the ambassador from neighboring Sylvania. War eventually breaks out between the two countries over some absurdities you'll have to see to believe.

Harpo and Chico play a pair of hapless spies who change loyalties at the turn of a dime and seem to wind up doing more good for whoever they're working against at the moment. They even take time to have a battle with poor Edgar Kennedy. Note that scene in the bathtub with Edgar Kennedy and Harpo, it may be Harpo's best moment from their films.

This was Zeppo's last film, he did not make the journey to MGM with his three brothers. I'm not sure too many people noticed because his contribution seem mostly to act as a foil for Groucho's barbs. He became an agent and as a comic he was a good agent.

Duck Soup is only 68 minutes long, but you cannot believe how many laughs you can get in a picture that short.
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Hit and miss
grantss6 June 2017
The country of Freedonia is in the middle of a financial crisis and on the brink of revolution. In order to gain a bail-out from the wealthy Mrs Teasdale, the government appoints Rufus T Firefly (Groucho Marx) as its president. However, Mr Firefly shuns the pomp and pretentiousness of government...and the prudence and rationality of it too. Meanwhile, the neighbouring country of Sylvania is plotting to overthrow Freedonia and sends Pinky (Harpo Marx) and Chicolini (Chico Marx) to spy on Firefly. War seems inevitable.

Starring the Marx Brothers and viewed as a comedy classic, I was expecting great things from Duck Soup. However, while it has its moments, it was largely a disappointment for me.

Having seen several of their previous movies, I knew what to expect. However, even then, this movie seemed quite silly. The others revolved around Groucho's quickfire wit and Chico and Harpo's slapstick comedy and Duck Soup is no exception. However, here it seems less clever than the best of the others, especially A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races.

Here, Groucho's witticisms wander into the territory of dad jokes and Harpo and Chico's clowning is often quite silly.

The plot is okay, though not brilliant. Hardly the powerful anti- war and political satire movie it is made out to be.

This all said, there are some great laugh-out-loud moments and these are enough to sustain the movie.
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Words Can't Manage
dougdoepke16 July 2015
Lunacy from start to finish. The routines never cease and almost all are belly laughs, at least for us Marxists. There's something of a plot, which happily never gets in the way. It's something about Groucho's country of Freedonia and a rivalry with Calhern's Sylvania. Meanwhile zillionaire matron Dumont is the dubious prize. Naturally, the boys comically foil every plot to snatch her away.

Trouble is words don't come close to capturing the non-stop lunacy of the 70-minutes. What's generally overlooked, however, is how well produced the feature is. The royal hall is huge, well decorated, and staffed with armies of costumed extras. Thankfully, Paramount cut few corners and it shows. And catch that mass scene of squirming bodies near the end that borders on a surreal even as the routines continue. Comic highlights include the famous mirror scene, getting hats on straight at the hotdog stand, and Groucho's many throwaway lines. I can just imagine what it was like trying to direct this madness from a director's chair. Whatever they paid McCarey, it wasn't enough.

Anyway, the boys are in top form including the uncertain Zeppo before he wisely became a Hollywood talent agent. So, for younger folks, don't miss the well-crafted 1933 craziness. As the goofiness shows, surreal comedy didn't begin with the wacko likes of Bill Murray, Jim Carey, or even The Three Stooges!
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