If you went to college in Paris in the ’80s, as I did, a rite of passage was to go see Hellzapoppin'. That nuttoid 1941 movie played constantly, usually at the Action Rive Gauche theater, and it was obligatory viewing for budding cinephiles. I haven't seen it in more than 20 years because the flick's fairly unknown in the U.S., a situation not helped by its unavailability on DVD (something to do with rights, I gather). Lucky for us New Yorkers, Anthology Film Archives has scheduled a rare screening of Hellzapoppin' for Saturday 7 at 7:3opm. I'd like to think the place will be packed with throngs of Hellzafans, but maybe I'm deluded.
Someone helpfully posted the film's first nine minutes on Youtube, which should give you an idea of the meta-mayhem that is Hellzapoppin'. Based on a Broadway revue, the movie recycles the show's stars and writers, Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, and basically consists of rapid-fire Borscht Belt chaos that makes the Marx Brothers look sedate. Add at least one totally fanfriggingtastic dance number by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers (aka the Harlem Congaroos), the vaudeville charms of Martha Raye, adored second banana Mischa Auer, and you have one of the most bizarre comedies ever to come out of America—even if purists gripe, of course, that the stage version was crazier, seeing as it did not even bother with a plot (that reactionary invention foisted on cinema by Hollywood hacks, as we all know).
14 hours ago