Movie Club Poll: Dark Comedies
With the current election season fully upon us, I’m feeling like we all need a laugh, but a simple escapist movie just won’t do. So I’m proposing one of these three comedy classics:
Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
This is the good Preston Sturges version, not the crappy remake with Dudley Moore. If you’ve never seen a Sturges film, he was able to walk the line between comedy and tragedy better than anyone else in classic Hollywood, and he seemed to consider the Production Code to be a series of suggestions, not something he needed to take seriously.
Unfaithfully Yours is a comedic film noir that centers around Rex Harrison’s character becoming convinced that his much younger wife, played by Linda Darnell, is being unfaithful to him. He imagines three different scenarios of how he will get revenge on her for this and, being Sturges, it all goes wrong in the funniest possible way, and even manages a heartfelt happy ending. You’ll be a little shocked at just how dark it gets, but that only makes the subsequent pratfalls funnier.
To Be Or Not To Be (1942)
Another film that was so good that they decided to make a crappy remake in the 1980s, though at least Mel Brooks’ attempt included a scene where he and Anne Bancroft sing “Sweet Georgia Brown” in Polish.
If you’ve never seen an Ernst Lubitsch film, you’ll see why his name is still an adjective to this day, usually to explain why someone’s effort fell short of being quite as good as the man who had “the Lubitsch touch.” He manages to make the Nazi invasion of Poland into a classic comedy that also has almost unbearable moments of tension, as when Carole Lombard realizes that she’s trapped in Gestapo headquarters with no way to escape. You won’t think that you’ll find “So they call me ‘Concentration Camp Ehrhardt’?” to be funnier every time it’s repeated, but you will.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
By request! At first, it may look like this doesn’t fit with the other two since it’s an original film, but it’s really a loving parody of the first three Frankenstein films made by Universal Pictures in the 1930s: Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Even the trailer is done in the period style (though you may recognize the voice of the narrator). It’s funny in and of itself, but it’s even funnier if you’ve seen the three Universal films, because you can see how Gene Wilder brings bits of Basil Rathbone and Colin Clive into his performance as Dr. Frederick Fronkensteen … er, Frankenstein.
The original trailer for each film is linked in the title, so feel free to watch before deciding. Vote early, vote often!