Hellzapoppin’ (1941)

Article #712 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-25-2003
Posting Date: 7-25-2003
Directed by H. C. Potter
Featuring Ole Olson, Chick Johnson, Martha Raye

If you think a plot description will tell you anything about this movie, you’re on the wrong track.

Having already encountered Olsen and Johnson in GHOST CATCHERS, I was prepared enough not to be blindsided by this one. Any movie this wild is bound to slip over into fantastic cinema territory a few times before it’s all through, so here’s a few of the genre elements: the opening musical number takes place in hell, at one point both Olsen and Johnson become half invisible (one from the waist up, the other from the waist down), and the Frankenstein monster pops in for a cameo at one point. As for the rest, try to imagine Busby Berkeley, Spike Jones and Tex Avery all pooling their talents to put together a live-action movie, and you might have an idea of the mayhem in store. Once again, there are so many gags that the bad ones don’t count, though my favorite is a CITIZEN KANE reference. The actors talk directly to the audience (specifically to the projectionist played by Shemp Howard), run into trouble from the Hays office, encounter talking animals and the world’s fastest quick-change master of disguise, and interrupt a romantic musical number by requesting that Stinky Miller leave the theater and go home. Actually, the big finish where Olsen and Johnson try to wreck a musical revue to save their friend from marrying a (censored) is relatively sedate compared to the first half of the movie, but that’s only because the first half is nearly impossible to beat. Elisha Cook Jr. is on hand. He gets shot several times. I won’t tell you whether he dies or not. I suspect that both Mel Brooks and Zucker-Abraham-Zucker could have been inspired by these guys.


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