Not rated, 84 minutes


Photo: Linda Morris

You think there's something new about breaking the fourth wall? Try telling that to Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, the stars of this eighty-minute burst of concentrated insanity, loosely adapted from their hit stage show under the supervision of director H.C. Potter.

Hard-boiled vaudevillians with the capacity to be surprised by nothing, the pair start off in a musical-comedy version of hell, where singing demons merrily roast victims on spits or pack them into cans. Wandering off set, they bump into the sled from Citizen Kane, ("I thought they burnt that!"), before getting roped into a meeting with their director (Richard Lane) who insists on saddling them with a plot – ("This is Hollywood, we change everything").

Subsequently the film settles down to some degree, as the lads find themselves playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the margins of a conventional drawing-room comedy about a playwright (Robert Paige) in love with an heiress (Jane Frazee)

But the disruptions continue, in the form of cartoonish sight gags, shout-outs to the easily distracted projectionist (Shemp Howard, later of the Three Stooges) and interventions from fellow comics including the ever-alarming Martha Raye​ as a good-time girl bent on wearing down the resistance of a craven gigolo (Mischa Auer).

Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis and the future writers and artists of MAD Magazine were surely taking notes.

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Jake Wilson

Jake Wilson was born in London and grew up in Melbourne. He got his start reviewing movies for various websites and has been writing for the Age since 2006.

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