Just Imagine is a delightful mess of a film.
It’s a little bit as though someone decided to produce Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as a Ziegfeld musical revue, with even more evil twins. Add in a few dollops of ethnic humor, gay jokes, martians, futuristic gadgets, and prohibition snark – and now we’ve got a MOVIE.
The plot centers on young lovers caught in a bureaucratic love triangle, set fifty years in the future. LN-18 (Maureen O’Sullivan) and J-21 (John Garrick) are in love, but J-21’s application to marry her has been blocked by another suitor. The marriage tribunal finds in favor of a distinguished fellow called MT-3, who is played by someone not very memorable. [I wish Edward Everett Horton had been cast in this role instead, but I feel that way about most movies.]
Our hero has filed an appeal, which means that he has four months make himself more impressive to the tribunal. I am also in favor of this, because the movie becomes fairly slow by the 40-minute mark, and could use some derring-do.
Instead there will be a sentimental musical number. Alas.
|"Please put down the guitar, J-21."|
The main comic relief, as far as the movie is concerned, is provided by a fish-out-of-water character called Single-0. He is played by El Brendel, professional Swedish oaf. [Elmer Brendel was actually born in the US, and started out as a professional German oaf, but the Great War made that schtick considerably less funny.]
I was not aware that Swedish jokes were a Thing, but apparently he popularized the “yumpin’ yiminy” school of vaudevillian humor.
|El Brendel is not ready for a future in which Vaudeville is passé.|
|I have no snark for this.|
Single-0 manages to disrupt a secret tryst between J-21 and LN-18, but not before J gets out another lackluster song.
|Get away from her eyeball, weirdo.|
|Sadly, this is not the pre-code part of the film.|
|A few years later, Flash Gordon will use this same prop spaceship to visit Mongo.|
|J-21 does not recognize the Martian sign for "evil twin."|
Loko flirts with Single-0, who quips, "She's not the queen -- he is!"
|Loko and Single-0 get acquainted.|
|Although initially hesitant, Single-0 is willing to be wooed by the right guy.|
The evil Martians kidnap the earthlings, with the specific intent of performing a large-scale dance number for them. An evil dance number.
|"Are they trembling yet?"|
But time is running out for J-21 to make it back to New York to make his appeal to the marriage tribunal! Their ship has entered Earth's atmostphere, and is speeding across town -- but they need more time.
Luckily, D-6 can whip up the necessary 3 minutes worth of diversion by claiming that MT-3 is the father of her babies. [Can I say again how much more Marjorie White I wanted in this movie? If she had played this scene against Edward Everett Horton, I would have nothing left to ask of this movie.]
|"He wasn't even that good in bed."|
|Single-0 may regret choosing the evil twin as his hostage.|
|"Yumpin' yiminy, Papa!"|
I'm exhausted just from recapping the plot, and I haven't even gotten to the nitty-gritty. Part II will look at some of the delightful details. The songs! The sets! The future! The gay jokes! The intertexuality!
You can watch the whole thing on Youtube, just like I did.