Saturday, April 14, 2018

'Thru Thicket and Thin' is a nutty send-up of jungle pictures

Thru Thin and Thicket, or Who's Zoo in the Jungle (1933)
Starring: Eddie Borden, Dorothy Granger, and James Finlayson
Director: Mark Sandrich
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

A booze-happy reporter (Borden) and an unscrupulous African explorer (Finlayson) compete for the attention of Tarkana, Queen of the Jungle (Granger).

"Thru Thin and Thicket, or Who's Zoo in the Jungle" is a fabulous send-up of the jungle explorer genre of adventure films. From the first mocking of the liberal use of stock nature footage in such pictures, through the final scene of "jungle domestic bliss", this film offers some 20 minutes of absurdist humor with barely a break between gags to let the viewers catch their breath from laughing.

Eddie Borden and James Finlayson (the latter of whom I recognized from his many parts as the frustrated man caught up in Laurel & Hardy antics) are great fun as the smarmy would-be beneficiaries of Tarkana's Innocent Affections... and Dorothy Granger is hilarious as the not-so-innocent wild woman. Everything you expect in a jungle picture is either turned on its head or savagely mocked (or both) in this brief film, including the portrayal of the natives. (And I can't even comment on one of the film's funniest and most startling gags, because even mentioning it will ruin its impact.)

"Thru Thin and Thicket" is one of 13 short films that were produced by members and starred members of the Masquers Club, a private social club for comedians as fund-raising vehicles for charity and to fund a new meeting place in the early 1930s. Several of them are available on DVD, or can be viewed for free online.

And while I'm at it, here are some publicity stills of Dorothy Granger as Tarkana. (The weird contraption she's sitting next to in one is a "radio" that is playing music in a scene.)

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