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Silliness that may well PLAY well to moderns - and a great music hall score
As many modern "cineasts" turn up their noses at the supposed "silliness" of the great old Jack Hulbert/Cicely Courtneidge screen comedies and musicals, this snowy screwball chase comedy may well be the silliest of the lot, and yet perversely, the one which may play the best to audiences weaned on Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau and the mad oeuvre of Jim Carrey.
Hulbert and Courtneidge don't speak or even meet for the first five minutes or so as directors Hulbert (the star doing double duty - triple when you factor in his usual writing credit) and Robert Stevenson put them through their paces in sight gags surrounding winter sports from skiing to luge to ice skating (the bit about Hulbert having a young jinx in whose presence he can barely stand up gets old, but his fine satire of an ice skating Pavlova is a nice surprise - Clouseau never had to go this far in A SHOT IN THE DARK) and even if Courtneidge's entrance to the lodge restaurant for their first contentious meeting (they are rival reporters) is a very old sight gag, she makes the most of it.
Physical comedy dominates the evening as the two reporters vie for access to a runaway fiancé of an Archduke who Hulbert has fallen in love with at virtual first sight. We've been down this hill before, but the physical comedy is generally well done and the cherry on top is the sprinkling of some of the best musical numbers Courtneidge and, a defter hand with a tap shoe than a ski pole, Hulbert, have been handed on screen. The songs themselves often don't make a lot of lyric sense - the very best asks the musical question "Why Does The Cow Have Four Legs?" - but as it riotously sets up the party under which our heroes escape a dicey situation, you completely understand why this kind of material kept British Music Halls alive and hopping for two centuries.
Yes, it's silly. If silly doesn't work for you, this can be a long 88 minutes (83 in the British TV print I saw - I gave it only 6 stars because I prefer the Marx Brothers to the Stooges - verbal comedy, over the physical); but think Clouseau and wait for the musical numbers - give yourself over to the fun of THEM and you'll be in something close to heaven.
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