Celebrate the 75th anniversary of the greatest comedy act in history with The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection. This essential DVD set features the legendary four Marx Brothers in five of their most acclaimed and bes... more »t loved films - Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Monkey Business, Animal Crackers and The Cocoanuts - the only five movies ever made with all four brothers together: Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo!« less
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 11/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Marx Brothers hit their peak with "Duck Soup". Sure, "A Night at the Opera" and "A Day at the Races" were both bigger box office hits and, while both those latter films have their moments they just can't quite compete with the inspired anarchy of "Duck Soup". Let's start with the positives first. It doesn't look like most of the films have any footage missing as near as I can tell. Sure, some of the editing still looks ragged but most of their early films (and films from that era for that matter) have that "look". The first three movies are a bit static looking (since the first two were based on their stage plays that's not a surprise--they look like photographed stage plays). With "Monkey Business" and "Horse Feathers" The Marx Brothers began to develop a style that was a bit more cinematic. All five films are essential for fans.
Now the bad news. Universal has been slapping together boxed sets lately of older films and TV series with little to no extras and without any effort at restoration. They're where Warner Brothers was about 6 years ago. The prints often don't look as sharp as they could and there's plenty of analog blemishes to muddy up the picture as well. Digitally many of these flaws could easily be corrected on these prints. Since the original negatives are long gone (they were shot on nitrate stock. Nitrate stock is quite unstable begins to disintegrate and shrink after a couple of decades). Unfortunately, we're left with prints that are several generations removed from the original negatives which means that these will probably never look perfect. Could they look better? Absolutely as there's been minimal effort to clean them up and none of them look as if there has been an effort to restore them. "Horse Feathers" still appears to be missing some material (unfortunately most of it is probably permanently lost)that probably could have been restored from foreign prints.
The extras are a bit skimpy at best. We get some older "The Today Show" interviews. There's no documentary on The Marx Brothers career, the challenges they faced in reaching an audience and why, ultimately, MGM put them under contract only to dilute their best qualities. I'm also disappointed that there's no audio commentary. Surely former UCLA Professor Howard Suber would have been available to do a commentary on these terrific films? What about vintage newsreels discussing the previews of their movies?
While I appreciate the book, the introductory essay is skimpy. The quotes of Groucho from various films and images from the films/posters was a bright idea it's just that Universal didn't go far enough. A nice short documentary incorporating the interviews included here would have been nice. I appreciate the idea of the book but I also wish that it could be removed from as it is a bit cumbersome in the middle of the accordian style set. Still, the design of the set is quite nice.
I give the films 5 stars for the quality of these classics but 2 stars for the inferior presentation from Universal. It's a pity as Warner has most of the lesser Marx movies but did a marvelous job of restoring them and adding extras including commentaries to them. Considering that Universal has a great restoration department and that they've done a marvelous job of restoring Hitchcock's classic films "Rear Window" and "Vertigo", I'm really disappointed that more effort wasn't made here. It's an example of Hollywood not valuing its past.
No Restoration, Weak Extras, but ***** Movies!
Paul J. Mular | San Carlos, CA USA | 11/11/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you already own the previous DVD or Laserdisc releases of these great classic movies, you may want to think twice about investing more money for only 15 minutes total of "Today Show" interviews with Harpo, Groucho, and Harpo's son promoting their books. There is some fun here, but you want to kick the Today Show Director when they interrupt Groucho's story, after only 5 minutes, because they have other things to get to. Groucho really looks stunned and put out that he was stopped.
There are also 3 trailers (Cocoanuts & Monkey Business have none) strangely tagged at the end to promote the MCA 1980's Home Video Tape release.
I guess Universal forgot that they own the rights to the Marx Brothers half-hour 1950's TV special "THE INCREDIBLE JEWEL ROBBERY". This would have been a great addition to the box set! I have never seen this except for the old Castle Films home movie clip.
Restoration? Well, Universal never used that word in their description, and they certainly didn't do it. The choppy splices are still there in several movies. The missing footage is still NOT there. Some reels are still out of focus. Some reels are still many generations away from the original negative and look very contrasty. Some reels still have a bouncy picture (warped negative). About 75% of the time the films do look good.
This really looks like a quick patch-together box set by Universal (Owned by NBC, that is why their Today Show clips are used) to keep up with the competition (WB's DVD Box Set).
BUT, if you never got the previously released DVDs or Laserdiscs, then this is a Must-Get box set!"
Stars are for the movies, with no help from Universal
J. Robelen | Scarsdale, NY USA | 11/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In summary, I will echo what's been said already about this collection. The films are worth having, because after 70+ years of existence, this is apparently the best Universal will do with the classic Marx Brothers performances of their day.
Now I will heap on some gripes of my own. First, there's just over six hours of material spread over six DVDs. You do the math--they're obviously NOT TRYING VERY HARD here. They could have easily fit this all on 3 discs, or fewer. It's not like there's a COMMENTARY TRACK or even a RESTORED PRINT that would make each film worthy of its own disc. Universal did the BARE MINIMUM knowing that real fans would buy these crappy prints anyway, and will pay again if they release restored and augmented versions later. (The Warner Collection beats this one hands down, but with different titles. Hell, even Universal's treatment of ABBOTT & COSTELLO was done better.)
The "exclusive book" is fluff; it has credits and pictures but NOTHING you can't get elsewhere (like IMDB). And the "extras" disc is pitiful. The Today Show interviews of Harpo and Groucho are so brief, and in need of restoration themselves, they're actually cruel to watch. C'mon Universal, this is the BEST STUFF you could find? It's not like you were limited to supplemental material from the 1930s. These interviews are from the '60s and '70s!
The only thing that remotely redeems this collection is the price--the Amazon price, not the retail price. Buy this for the movies if you love them, but this is a collection that ONLY MINNIE (the Marx Brothers' mother) should love."
After All the Hoopla! Why ?
Erik Lauritzen | USA | 12/02/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I have been an ardant, if not fanatical fan, of the Marx Brothers. I have been a "fan" of so many pre-1950's films, when plot and character development, lighting, brilliant composition which were characters in and of themselves also made these films great when compared to the CGI glitz of plotless celluloid.
I have been very excited that so many of the "GREAT" films have been meticulously restored, not just "re-mastered" (a fancy name for a lot of glitzy box designs and extra pages of information about the actors/comedians, and their directors/producers, timelines in the evolution of great film making or whatever trivia they can fill in 2nd rate DVD releases of many films of this era which demand only the highest of restoration.
I would rather purchase beautiful visual and audio restorations of The Greatest of the Marx Brothers films in a brown box with simple Black Lettering than constantly be teased by yet another slightly better copy of such classics.
YES many films have been gloriously Restored by some reputable companies and Universities (UCLA just came out with the complete Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone of course) series full and meticulously restored to the look of an opening night presentation.
And there are many others as well: Universal has done Hitchcock films DAMN right. The beautiful Restoration of Vertigo and Birds and Rear Window gave me insights into the true use of color that was so vital to the mystery and tension of Hitchcock's concepts as one of the greatest film makers..
So why can't we finally get such TRUE RESTORATIONS worth our money from the Marx Brothers Classics and STOP having to keep trying to buy the next "effort" at producing the TRUE Restoration these films deserve for as long as the term Archival has come to mean in this rather interesting age of potential global catastrophe."
Matthew Comegys | Ueda, Nagano, Japan | 11/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"OK, so Universal seems to have dropped the ball on this set. The extras are sorely lacking. But the films look and sound pretty good for their age, and I doubt anything short of an expensive restoration would improve them. Unfortunately, some of the missing footage (like one of Groucho's lines in the opening song of "Animal Crackers" and a few Hays code edited hijinks from Harpo in "Horse Feathers") are considered lost forever. The films remain the Marx Brothers' best, however, so don't hesitate buying this set for the movies:
"The Coconuts"- This films suffers from extreme staginess and poor sound technology, which makes sense since it was one of the first sound films. The brothers when on screen are still hysterical, but they don't seem to have quite as much screen time as usual. Most consider the "viaduct" routine to be the classic bit from this one. (3 of 5)
"Animal Crackers"- While "Animal Crackers" still feels like a play (which it was), the technical side seems a lot smoother. The story involves a missing painting at a high society party, but it fortunately doesn't matter. Groucho is Captain Spaulding, the African explorer, and proceeds to insult his host repeatedly bith directly and in soliloquy. Harpo, while funny as always, is a little disturbing in this one as the theiving professor. The film is a little long, but contains great bits like Harpo and Chico's bridge game, and Groucho and Chico's insanity-inducing attempts to solve the mystery. (4 out of 5)
"Monkey Business"- This one finally gets out of stage mode as this was the Marxes' first Hollywood production. The brothers are stowaways on an ocean liner. During the course of the picture, the brothers provide interesting insights on the barber trade, hiding from the authorities, and doing a Maurice Chevelier (sp?) impersonation. (4 out 5)
"Horse Feathers"- The start of the Marx Brother's peak (along with "Duck Soup" and "A Night at the Opera"). Groucho is the dean of a small college who is soon to play a football game against their long term rival. But who cares about a plot when you've got songs like "I'm Against It" and the swordfish routine. Margaret Dumont, the quintessential Marxist foil, is unfortunately AWOL for this film (and Monkey Business), but Thelma Todd fills in quite well. And besides, she's more fun to look at. (5 out of 5)
"Duck Soup"- Very likely the funniest film of all time. Groucho is Rufus T. Firefly, the new ruler of Freedonia. After putting down his iron fist, he begins to pick a war with the neighboring country. Chico (as "Chicalini") and Harpo are extremely poor spies trying to keep track of Firefly. This film really does provide intelligent non-stop laughs. For better or for worse, it remains as timely as ever with its war setting. High points include "Hail, Hail Freedonia," and the mirror sequence. I've always had a strong affinity for Firefly's cabinet meeting too. (5 out of 5)"