The Fatal Glass of Beer (Clyde Bruckman / U.S., 1933):

W.C. Fields welcomes a Monty into The Gold Rush's cabin and plays a dulcimer with his mittens on, 20 minutes of the sweetest absurdism follow. The song soothes the freezing storm outside, it's about the wastrel son (George Chandler) who heads out to the big city ("No place for a woman, but pretty men go thar"), is pushed toward the titular brew by saloon dwellers and quelled by a Salvation Army gal "with a kick she learned before she had been saved." "It ain't a fit night out for man nor beast," Fields rides through it in a sled pulled by Great Danes; snow is frankly a stage prop, flung regularly into his mouth until he climactically declares it corn flakes. Dinner consists of baguettes dipped into bowls of soup, in walks the son for the maudlin reunion -- Fields weeping sounds like he's chortling with his mouth full, so he excuses himself to go "milk the elk" in front of vast rear-projection screens. Fields makes sure Clyde Bruckman directs all of this as badly as humanly possible, the wires show but "because he shows them, they're no longer wires. They're the pillars of a marvelous architectural design made to withstand our scrutiny" (Godard on Hitchcock). Truly something to stand shoulder to shoulder with Duck Soup, with stupefying stream-of-consciousness gags planted in order to flower decades later (Kerouac's Pull My Daisy and Pinter's The Homecoming, Naked Lunch and Monty Python, etc. etc. etc.). With Rosemary Theby, and Richard Cramer. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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