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It's Not Astaire and Rogers,
This review is from: Footlight Parade [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Not so much a musical as a mating call set to music. But then what else could be expected from three back-to-back production numbers from that carnally-obsessed choreographer Busby Berkeley. "Beside the Waterfall" alone has enough `flowering o's', half-dressed chorines, and suggestive camera angles to make Hugh Hefner blush and send Dr. Freud into terminal overload. Then too, who else but the mad Mr. Berkeley could convert the complicated matter of sex into a mere conjugation of overhead geometry. There's also "Honeymoon Hotel", a celebration of the no-tell motel, with marching phalanxes of hormonally driven couples all named Smith, and led by a demonic cupid looking like an early Billy Barty. The sight of his tiny legs chasing after a fleeing Amazon is enough to drive Harpo Marx to distraction and cause the audience to doubt the laws of physics. While bringing down the curtain is the marching madness of "Shanghai Lil", where Berkeley proves-- in case you ever doubted-- that race, creed, and bad make-up make no difference to a Chinese bordello. It's sort of an early gathering of the UN, where people from all over come together to discuss the world's number one topic. All in all, there's enough sheer pizzaz, flash, and animal energy in these numbers to light up a thousand dark movie houses.
Sure, Warner Bros. tries to cover the orgy with the fig leaf of two cheerful innocents played by a sappy Dick Powell and a virginal Ruby Keeler. But it doesn't work, because everyone else gets in on the fun, including that human buzz-saw Jimmy Cagney and everyone's favorite sassy dame Joan Blondell. Director Lloyd Bacon proves too he knows what to do, giving us an eyeful of Blondell endlessly rolling and unrolling her hosiery, while the writers pepper the conversation with suggestive one-liners. Yeah, it's a great movie-- good enough to help bring down the heavy hand of censorship the following year, and put an end to damp dreams like "Beside a Waterfall". But not even the Watchdogs of Public Morality could stop Berkeley's deliriously suggestive pagentry that would live on at even that most repressed of studios, MGM. Sure, Astaire-Rogers may have been more graceful and a whole lot more chaste, no doubt producing more sheer polish-- still and all, don't let this unabashedly pagan celebration pass you by. As they say around the owl cage, it's a real hoot.