As mentioned in the trailer, A Night in Casablanca is the Marx Brothers’ spoof on Casablanca. It’s not like anyone plays “As Time Goes By” on the piano or an old flame from Paris shows up. At one point Groucho tells someone to “Just whistle,” but that’s To Have and Have Not, not Casablanca.
As far as spoofs go, then, A Night in Casablanca is only loosely tied to the source material. When the Hotel Casablanca needs a new manager (the last three managers were murdered), Ronald (Groucho) gets the job, but somewhere hidden in the hotel is a treasure the Nazis want, and Ronald wasn’t part of the plan. Will he be the next manager bumped off? Not if Rusty (Harpo) and Corbaccio (Chico) can help it.
Like most Marx Brothers movies, A Night in Casablanca throws in an obligatory romance. This time it’s between Annette (Lois Collier) and Lieutenant Pierre (Charles Drake), who’s responsible for keeping the treasure out of the Nazis’ hands in the first place. Other supporting roles are placed by Sig Ruman (as the main Nazi) and Lisette Verea, who provides the obligatory musical numbers, but is much more scrappy as a fighter later on in the movie.
Like most musical numbers in Marx Brothers films, A Night in Casablanca could’ve done without Verea’s but it’s always a treat when one of the Marx Brothers performs. In this one Chico plays the piano and Harpo has a harp solo to an empty room.
If A Night in Casablanca is missing one thing it’s that’s signature comedy act that tells you which Marx Brothers movie you’re watching, like Harpo with the mirror in Duck Soup (and later I Love Lucy) or the cramped cabin in A Night at the Opera. The best routine in A Night in Casablanca is when Rusty tries to communicate with Corbaccio and tell him that someone is trying to poison Ronald. Since Rusty (aka Harpo) can’t talk it becomes a game of charades, but the reason this scene is so special is Rusty’s clues should be impossible, yet Corbaccio always figures them out. Maybe he shouldn’t. The characters aren’t related, but it doesn’t get more beautiful than watching two people be on the same wavelength like that.
Arguably the biggest and most unusual scene in the movie has the Marx Brothers playing action heroes. Basically, they have to stop a plane from taking off while it’s already moving but instead of having Pierre do the heroics (like you’d expect), it’s the Marx Brothers who save the day. It never gets old watching three, Jewish comedians effortlessly thump Nazis all day and now you can watch them, thanks to Classicflix’s Blu-Ray and DVD release.
Classicflix’s release comes with a photo gallery, some radio promos, and an audio clip of the Marx Brothers testing out material for the film on stage.