Sunday, September 07, 2014

Just Imagine (1930)

Sci-fi musical comedy set in New York City of 1980, where citizens are identified only by their serial number and marriages are arranged by the state. Trying to describe the plot of this zany film is a bit complicated: it involves a young man, J-21 (John Garrick), who volunteers for an experimental mission to Mars after the court rejects his application to marry his true love, LN-18 (Maureen O'Sullivan). But this set-up is just a pretense for a parade of bouncy Brown-DeSylva-Henderson tunes, neat retro special effects, pre-code sex jokes, and a chorus of scantily-clad Martian dancing girls.

There's also a visitor from the past (1930, that is) played by comedian El Brendel, who is brought back to life as part of a scientific experiment and then unceremoniously left to fend for himself as soon as the doctor is through with him, and one's enjoyment of the film may depend on one's tolerance for Brendel's vaudeville shtick delivered in his trademark "Swedish" accent, a little of which can go a long way. David Butler's direction keeps the show moving at a good pace, and the music numbers benefit from clever choreography by Seymour Felix. However, the main attraction here is the set design by Stephen Goosson and Ralph Hammeras, a delirious blend of Art Deco and Futurism that is among the very best of its kind and recalls Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS. Good, pre-code fun.

No comments: