“It’s a picture about a picture about Hellzapoppin.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Unfortunately, the narrative itself — a silly musical about a love triangle, with a subplot involving man-crazy Martha Raye chasing Mischa Auer’s penniless baron — is tiresome at best, as is the final extended “sabotaged ballet” sequence. However, it’s what Olsen and Johnson do around their narrative that really entertains, as they construct an ongoing meta-commentary about the making of their own film, and break the “fourth wall” of cinema again and again — these moments are consistently inspired (see stills below for just a few examples). In addition, film fanatics are sure to be delighted by numerous cinematic in-jokes, including a nod to Citizen Kane, a brief Busby Berkeley homage, and a priceless “cameo” by Elisha Cook, Jr. These moments alone make Hellzapoppin’ must-see viewing at least once.
Note: Watch for a hint of MST3K inspiration (was it?) as Olsen and Johnson sit with their backs to the camera, commenting as they watch themselves on-screen.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: