Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection

( 15 )

Overview

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection marks the first reappearance on DVD of the comedy quartet's original five movies for Paramount, released between 1929 and 1933, since the old Image Entertainment discs were discontinued in 2000. This is a handsome volume, not only in its packaging but its mastering and the overall treatment of the movies themselves. The original Image DVDs were straight conversions of the laserdisc versions of the five films, which varied greatly in quality. Of the five, The Cocoanuts, ...
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Overview

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection marks the first reappearance on DVD of the comedy quartet's original five movies for Paramount, released between 1929 and 1933, since the old Image Entertainment discs were discontinued in 2000. This is a handsome volume, not only in its packaging but its mastering and the overall treatment of the movies themselves. The original Image DVDs were straight conversions of the laserdisc versions of the five films, which varied greatly in quality. Of the five, The Cocoanuts, made in 1929, was the most improved on laserdisc, while Animal Crackers, made in 1930, which had been suppressed by legal complications for decades, was the poorest of the lot in condition -- none of those discs ever really challenged the limits of DVD resolution. That's all changed on this set. The Cocoanuts has been improved in this edition, so that it looks rather newer than it did on television in the1960s and early '70s, but there is one sequence -- starting at approximately 49 minutes in -- that looks scratched and grainy, like a badly preserved 1929 movie; luckily, the audio is consistent throughout, including the performance of "The Monkey Doodle-Do." The image improves dramatically at 61 minutes in and pretty much stays that way, with some beautiful clarity (within the context of this film) achieved in Basil Ruysdael's "Shirt Song" sequence at 80 minutes in, and Chico Marx's spot at the piano at just under 90 minutes in. The movie gets 18 chapters, which is reasonably generous, and is presented in full-screen apart from the window-boxed opening credits. Animal Crackers (1930) comes complete with an original trailer that runs about two and a half minutes and looks as dark and grainy as the movie used to. And then there's the actual movie, which now looks and sounds amazing -- purely, simply amazing. The opening credits are still letterboxed, but damn if you can't hear every instrument in the main title sequence's big band music and in the whole rest of the score as well, like it's coming off of an audiophile CD. As for the image, the art deco set design for Mrs. Rittenhouse's estate now glows, and George Folsey's photography has a luster that hasn't been seen in connection with this movie in at least 50 years. Most of the blemishes and flaws in the film elements that marred the laserdisc have been fixed, and as a result, this could easily be the first real chance that any of us have had to see Animal Crackers properly since the 1930s. The presentation isn't flawless -- there are some shifts in density and other minor defects, and some scratches in Chico Marx's piano segment, but this is still worlds beyond what MCA-Universal was able to offer us on this movie even as late as 1992. This title, like the others in the package, comes with English and Spanish audio tracks and English, Spanish, and French subtitles. Monkey Business (1931) always looked pretty good, and here it looks very good all the way through, and it sounds even better. There are no bonus materials -- evidently, the trailer hasn't survived -- and the movie gets the same 18-chapter breakdown as the earlier titles in the package. There is an optional Spanish-language track and optional selection of English, French, and Spanish subtitles. Horse Feathers (1932) actually doesn't look quite as good, with a certain amount of graininess in some of the shots. Tthe picture is extremely consistent throughout, however, and there is a decent-looking (if slightly strangely encoded) trailer. Finally, there is Duck Soup (1933), the crown jewel of the comedy team's Paramount library. It actually looks grainy in spots, especially early in the movie, and has moments with very slight framing problems, especially in the opening half-hour of the movie; the second half looks distinctly better, and the sound is consistently loud and sharp throughout. There is also a trailer that has been preserved off of an old VHS video master, to judge from the logo that pops up, that is dark and grainy enough to remind us of what the movie used to look and sound like on television. The sixth disc illustrates the distinctly different approach that Universal has taken to the Marx Brothers movies that it owns, as from Warner Bros.' approach to the Marx Brothers titles that it controls. Warner included bonus audio commentary tracks and documentary features, whereas Universal has piled its special features onto the last disc, in the form of three clips from The Today Show: Harpo Marx's very funny mimed appearance in 1961, Groucho Marx's appearance from 1963 (on which both of them just keep breaking up the coterie of hosts), and Harpo's son William Marx from 1985, discussing the family and showing their home movies, on the occasion of the reprint of the autobiography Harpo Speaks. The Duck Soup clip illustrates what passed for an adequate print in 1985, faded and grainy, and William Marx gives a delightful account of his father's private life (he was a huge fan of Time for Beany); his talk is worth the price of the extra disc, while Groucho, in the earlier clip, shows what a wonderfully spontaneous comedic personality he still was in 1963.
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Special Features

Spectacular 40 Page Collector's booklet; Harpo Marx -- The Today Show interview; Groucho Marx -- The Today Show interview; The Today Show interview with William Marx -- this interview with Harpo's son features the Marxes' rarely-seen, personal home movies; theatrical trailers for Duck Soup, Animal Crackers, and Horse Feathers.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
The Marx Brothers Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo were already Broadway musical-comedy stars when Hollywood came calling at the dawn of the sound era, and their patented brand of anarchic comedy translated well to the “talkies.” This new box set collects all five feature films made by the madcap brothers for Paramount in the early Depression years. Unlike some comics, who required years to develop a distinctive screen presence, the quartet made the leap from stage to film with their personas fully formed: Groucho was already the wisecracking opportunist, Chico the always-scheming trickster, Harpo the eye-rolling skirt-chaser, and Zeppo the dull-witted straight man. Whatever their character names or the setting of the films, they always played the same lovable lunatics. The Cocoanuts 1929, a fairly literal translation of the brothers' mid-‘20s stage sensation, reflects its early-talkie origins: the film feels stage-bound, and its crudely interpolated production numbers are performed live, with on-the-set musical accompaniment as was the fashion in late-‘20s movie musicals. But the boys are more than equal to the challenge posed by this new medium, and Groucho and Chico perform their classic “why a duck” routine with brio. Animal Crackers 1930, another stage adaptation, introduces Groucho’s theme song, “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” and spotlights popular torch singer Lillian Roth. The brothers portray stowaways aboard an ocean liner Monkey Business 1931, a more cinematic film than its predecessors, thanks to rapid advances in sound technology. It gave Groucho a delightful comic foil in sexy Thelma Todd, who returned opposite the foursome in Horse Feathers 1932, a spoof of the then-popular college pictures. Like the others of its type, Horse Feathers climaxes with a big football game, which Harpo and Chico turn into a surrealistic free-for-all. This is a rapid-fire outing that gives the boys some of their best routines to date, and it’s surpassed only by Duck Soup 1933, the last and best of the Paramount quintet. Set in the mythical country of Freedonia, it’s a riotous political spoof starring Groucho as the world’s most inept chief executive, with Chico and Harpo playing knuckleheaded spies who double-cross their boss, would-be dictator Louis Calhern. The gags fly fast and furious, and the brothers’ trademark musical interludes are particularly good. Although the five Paramounts are loaded with topical references -- you really have to be familiar with Depression-era politics and pop culture to get them all -- they’re still delightful. More freewheeling than the Marxes’ later movies for MGM, which were saddled with more rigid plots and sappy romantic subplots, these films are bona-fide comedy classics that can be watched over and over again.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/9/2004
  • UPC: 025192125027
  • Source: Universal Studios
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Digi-Pak / Bonus DVD / Mixed Media Set / Pan & Scan
  • Language: English
  • Time: 6:43:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 6,311

Scene Index

Side #1 -- Duck Soup
1. Main Titles [1:19]
2. Freedonia's New Leader [2:53]
3. When the Clock Strikes Ten [2:39]
4. Firefly's Introductions [3:08]
5. Laws of My Administration [3:04]
6. Sylvanian Spies [4:57]
7. Chamber of Deputies [1:43]
8. Peanuts [4:14]
9. Secretary of War [3:55]
10. Insulting Ambassador Trentino [5:54]
11. Plans of War [4:28]
12. Don't Make a Sound [4:40]
13. Impostors [6:28]
14. Charges With Treason [4:52]
15. We're Going to War [5:57]
16. Facing Defeat [4:00]
17. Victory Is Ours [3:47]
18. End Titles [:37]
Side #2 -- Horse Feathers
1. Main Titles [:53]
2. Huxley's New Professor [2:56]
3. I'm Against It [3:06]
4. This School Needs Players [2:17]
5. The Password Is "Swordfish" [7:09]
6. I Love You [1:48]
7. The Dog Catcher [2:01]
8. Signing New Recruits [4:10]
9. Let That Be a Lesson [5:17]
10. The College Widow [4:53]
11. Singing Lessons [3:47]
12. Tipped Off [2:54]
13. Harp Serenade [3:20]
14. Romanced for Information [4:14]
15. Attempted Kidnapping [5:57]
16. Time to Play [3:47]
17. Huxley's Heroes [7:04]
18. We Do (End Titles) [1:02]
Side #3 -- Monkey Business
1. Main Titles [1:31]
2. Stowaways [5:14]
3. Captain's Bridge [5:42]
4. Puppet Show [4:31]
5. A Little Snip [2:54]
6. Cooped Up [4:28]
7. Shorthanded [5:48]
8. Plenty Tough [5:02]
9. Bodyguards [5:21]
10. Landing Cards [4:15]
11. Back of the Line [6:07]
12. The Party [4:12]
13. Keep an Eye Out [4:54]
14. Piano Play [3:36]
15. O Sole Mio [5:58]
16. Picnic in the Barn [3:12]
17. Needle in a Haystack [4:17]
18. End Titles [:36]
Side #4 -- Animal Crackers
1. House Party (Main Titles) [6:03]
2. Hooray for Captain Spaulding [5:35]
3. Ravelli and the Professor [4:09]
4. Picture Perfect [3:49]
5. An Indecent Proposal [5:19]
6. The Fish Man [4:16]
7. I've Heard of You [5:36]
8. Card Sharks [7:18]
9. The Old Switch-A-Roo [5:06]
10. Tales of Africa [5:07]
11. Tickling the Ivories [4:43]
12. An Imitation [3:47]
13. Why Am I So Romantic? [7:03]
14. Take a Letter [6:25]
15. Rise and Shine [5:45]
16. On the Case [4:17]
17. The Sherlock Method [5:49]
18. I Confess [6:30]
Side #5 -- The Cocoanuts
1. Florida by the Sea (Main Titles) [3:29]
2. Hotel de Cocoanut [5:53]
3. When Dreams Come True [5:06]
4. Pitching Real Estate [5:00]
5. Don't Forget to Register [6:17]
6. Flirting With Tramps [5:27]
7. Courting the Wealthy Widow [4:18]
8. Harpo's Harp Solo [2:51]
9. Jewelry Heist [5:49]
10. Bidding Lessons [5:22]
11. Monkey Doodle-Doo [4:51]
12. The Auction [5:44]
13. Broken Engagement [6:21]
14. Jailbreak [5:59]
15. Dream Ballet [4:05]
16. I Want My Shirt! [4:40]
17. Master of Ceremony [8:21]
18. Dreams Do Come True [3:28]
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Menu

Side #1 -- Duck Soup
   Scenes
   Trailer
   Languages
      Spoken Language: English
      Spoken Language: Español
      Captioned for the Hearing Impaired: English
      Subtitles: Español
      Subtitles: Français
      Captions & Subtitles: None
   Play
Side #2 -- Horse Feathers
   Scenes
   Trailer
   Languages
      Spoken Language: English
      Spoken Language: Español
      Captioned for the Hearing Impaired: English
      Subtitles: Español
      Subtitles: Français
      Captions & Subtitles: None
   Play
Side #3 -- Monkey Business
   Scenes
   Languages
      Spoken Language: English
      Spoken Language: Español
      Captioned for the Hearing Impaired: English
      Subtitles: Español
      Subtitles: Français
      Captions & Subtitles: None
   Play
Side #4 -- Animal Crackers
   Scenes
   Trailer
   Languages
      Spoken Language: English
      Spoken Language: Español
      Captioned for the Hearing Impaired: English
      Subtitles: Español
      Subtitles: Français
      Captions & Subtitles: None
   Play
Side #5 -- The Cocoanuts
   Scenes
   Languages
      Captioned for the Hearing Impaired: English
      Subtitles: Español
      Subtitles: Français
      Captions & Subtitles: None
   Play
Side #6 -- Bonus Materials
   Today Show Interviews With: Harpo Marx - 1961
   Today Show Interviews With: Groucho Marx - 1963
   Today Show Interviews With: William Marx - 1985
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

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(13)

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    FUNNIEST PEOPLE TO LIVE!!!

    The Marx Brothers film career together lasted from 1929 (The Cocoanuts) to 1946 (A Night In Casablanca) with laughter in between! These five movies all have Zeppo in it, but after Duck Soup (1933) he retired. Whether you are a Marx Brother fan or you're just looking for laughter, this is the set for you. This comedy team will have you laughing practically all the time. The jokes keep coming and coming they never slow down. So if you want classic comedy, this set is for you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Classic Insanity

    The Marx Brothers says it all. Classic performances, very good transfers from film, very good sound. Watch Margaret Dumont (as Groucho's foil) force herself not to burst out laughing as Groucho delivers some of his classic lines.

    Just ponder this little classic between Groucho and Chico:

    Hammer: "Now here is a little peninsula and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland."
    Chico: "Why a duck?"

    It goes on like that for several minutes.

    You will laugh and remember when the cinema was a source of entertainment.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Marx Brothers at their best

    The headline pretty much says it all. I don't think you need some long-winded review from a wanna be reviewer. Quite simply you either like them or you don't. If you do then this is a great collection to have, if you don't, then why you even looking at it? If you want some good clean classic comedy done the way it should be done then this is it. If you want what passes for comedy now, sex, cursing, nudity, then take a pass on this. You want to see how comedy should be done, and if people were smart, could still be done, then this is it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    America's Greatest Comedians

    Assuming the reader of this review is familiar with the Marx Brothers, these transfers are good. HORSEFEATHERS still has a lot of frames missing from the ice-block scene, but that's been the case for as long as I can remember, and I first saw it on TV in 1973. Those frames are probably lost forever. These are hilarious movies, but you know that, and, if you're like me, you find these funnier than the M-G-M ones. If you have never seen a Marx Brothers movie, imagine Jon Stewart and his gang, but it's nineteen-thirty or so, and the politics is somewhat disguised. I will say this: As free-wheeling and, let's face it, violent, as Marx Brothers humor is, it is not anarchic. It's hilarious, sharp and knowing. But the Marx Brothers weren't looking to overthrow society. In fact, one reason they were so great is they APPEALED to pillars of the community. The Algonquin Round Table welcomed the Marx Brothers with open arms.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    marx bros fan

    these are five great movies that you can't get anywhere else. there is an extra disc of special features. these movies are really good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Must Have

    I am 22 and have grown up with the Marx Brothers. Anyone who has not gotten a chance to see these movies needs to see them as soon as possible. They are the best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Say the secret word ...

    Well, ladies and gentlemen, wait no longer as this is the quintesential, must have collection of our favorite brother's films. The five films included here are the brothers marx at the top of their game. The verbal exchanges between them are hilarious. You'll have to see them again and again to catch all of Groucho's quick quips. Look no further - buy it and start laughing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Witty, Witty Humor!

    The Marx Brothers never cease to entertain with their intellectual humor, slapstick antics and real tricks. No special effects here, just extra-special comedic scenes. The Marx Brothers are the perfect antecdote for anyone who needs a diversion, cheering up, and a laugh out loud. Add Gummo and you have the original Fab Five!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2008

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews