Monday, October 02, 2006

Movies: The Devil With Hitler (1942)/Nazty Nuisance (1943)

Sometimes, the cable gods are very, very good to me. This afternoon, they allowed me to stumble onto Turner Classic Movies’ double bill of Hal Roach oddities, in which Hitler, Mussolini and “Suki Yaki” (apparently, Japan’s WWII leadership had better representation) make like the Three Stooges. It’s the Axis of Hilarity! Think of Adolf as Moe, only more genocidal. But about as funny.

In the first film, Hell’s board of directors is so impressed with the Fuhrer’s moxie that they want him to take over their operation. The Devil Himself is forced to head topside and trick Hitler into committing a good deed. Number of laughs: one, when an American spy puts Adolf in his place by calling him “a cheap non-union house painter.”

The New York Times called Devil “as malodorous a film as has been placed on a Broadway screen in many a month.” Yet it proved popular enough to warrant a sequel. In Nazty, the fascist hijinkery moves to a tropic isle. At one point steam shoots out of Hitler’s ears, and later he and Mussolini have a pillow fight with a monkey. I am not making this up. Number of laughs: zero, but in a larger sense I was in hysterics the entire time.

Bobby Watson plays Hitler. In fact, he made a career of the role, donning the little mustache at least ten times. Mostly in comedies. What an odd career that must have been. “Get me that Hitler. No, the funny Hitler.”

The movies are fascinating, both tasteless and toothless; Saddam suffers far worse. I couldn’t begin to guess when they last aired on television. TCM is in the midst of a push to lure younger viewers with new programs like Underground, hosted by Rob Zombie. I just hope they continue to blow the dust off relics like these.