A near riot on a ship, a New York scandal and an evening of insanity in a concert hall are just some of the fall out from Groucho's outrageous business schemes to bring Milan's finest opera stars to Manhattan. Year: 193... more »5 Director: Sam Wood Starring: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones« less
"The 1935 comedy A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is a grab bag of a movie that includes physical gags, verbal gags, a romantic subplot, backstage intrigue, an operatic aria, an elaborate dance number, stunts, absurdity, and sentimentality. The main attraction is, of course, the patented zaniness of The Marx Brothers -- the acerbic Groucho, the mute Harpo, and the dim-witted Chico -- whose unique brand of comedy is often edgy, subversive, and even surreal and other-worldly. Count me as one of those who thinks that such style of comedy loses some edge in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, where the comic trio seem out of place in a methodical plot, realistic settings, and among ordinary people. These mundane elements are also, surprisingly, engrossing enough to often upstage the comedians. Groucho's usual anti-establishment stance also seems softened in order to give way to crowd-pleasing sentimentality. The Marx Brothers, like Jacques Tati, are creators of their own comic universes, and that's where they need to inhabit, such as in the whimsical delight DUCK SOUP, the Brothers' previous film, where their presence is more dominant. With that said, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA does have some of most memorable gags in the Brothers' history. A verbal confusion with Santa Claus, a tiny room cramped with 15 people, mixing opera with baseball, and Harpo's stunts with the ropes are some of the highlights.The new Warner DVD of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is encoded for Region 1 and 4, and has a cleaner video transfer than I expected considering the age of the film. Obviously, a video restoration has been done, as were the cases for many of recent Warner DVDs of old movies. The original mono audio is fine, save for some age-related hisses in the background. There are some jarring momentary losses of frames in a few places, such as in the scene of Groucho riding a carriage early in the movie. However, I noticed these "jumps" in older video versions as well. Both English subtitles and closed captioning are present for the film's dialogs. The lyrics to the songs "Alone" and Cosi-Cosa" are also captioned, but not subtitled. During the Verdi opera sequence, the caption simply says "[Singing in Italian]." French and Spanish subtitles are also provided, but, of course, many of the wordplays are simply lost in translation ("C'est ce qu'on appelle une clause 'sanitaire'.") None of the supplements on the disc are subtitled or captioned, however. Leonard Maltin provides an engaging and informative audio commentary for the film. He points out that the film was cut for its 1948 re-release (the version used for this DVD) in order to remove all references to Italy, which fought against America in WWII. The original opening was supposed to be a musical number showing people in Milan singing, thereby establishing the setting of the film. Although wishing to avoid analyzing the film, Maltin does try to elucidate some of the ingenious touches in the comical gags. In the famous stateroom scene, he points out the way Groucho talks at just the right moments and all the people seem oblivious to the situation are what make the scene funny. He praises the great pantomimic skills of Harpo, and thoughtfully suggests that although he might have been a great silent film star, his talent really belongs in a sound world. He gives his thoughts on Chico's patently fake Italian accent. He also laments that in the age of political correctness, Marx Brothers' films may seem passé. He says although there seems to be improvisations, the dialogs are often so intricately constructed that improvisations are often not possible. He also recounts a few anecdotes, such as the Brothers' showing up naked in producer Irving Thalberg's office at one time.The disc includes a typical half-hour making-of featurette "Remarks on Marx, which is interesting, for me, mainly for the few minutes of appearance by Kitty Carlisle, who recalls how she was originally not allowed to sing with her voice. A 20-minute musical short from 1937, "Sunday Night at the Trocadero," is included, and it features performances by Connee Boswell, The Brian Sisters, George Hamilton and his "Music Box Music" Orchestra, and a cameo by Groucho. The audio quality is so poor on this piece that I can only hear every other word. An amusing ten-minute short "How to Sleep" from 1935, starring Robert Benchley, is also present, as well as the theatrical trailer for A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. There is also a 5-minute TV appearance by Groucho in which he also recalls the naked incident in Thalberg's office."
"No need of you reading that, because these are duplicates."
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 05/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many have argued that A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is the Marx Brother's finest film, pointing out that it combined the best of the Brother's comedy with the biggest and boldest in MGM production values. Personally, while I really like the film, I wouldn't quite put it in the top slot. Any of the sequences containing the Marx Brothers themselves are gold, but I find that I'm not as enamored with the romantic subplot and singing as other reviewers have been (notably Leonard Maltin in this DVD's commentary). Still, arguing about which one of the fine films is actually the best is a little pointless. This is a great movie, regardless with how it compares to the others.The biggest thing this film has going for it (outside of the wonderful Marx Brothers themselves, of course) is the big production values that MGM splashed out on. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's nice to have some great big sets for the Brothers to clown around in (Harpo's stunt double swinging through the rafters is great), but all things considered, I think I prefer the tongue-in-cheek send-up of the big dance numbers (as done in DUCK SOUP) to the production dances which are played straight here.Margaret Dumont is underused, which is a shame since her dignified outrage usually accounted for big laughs. She gets a good scene at the beginning, and a handful of opportunities to look indignant later in the film, but she isn't the constant presence that she had been in other films.Still, while I can pick out a few flaws here and there, this is overall a hilarious and fun movie. Much of what is considered classic Marx Brothers material is from this film: the too-many-people-in-the-stateroom scene, the Marxian deconstruction of a legal contract (if anyone thinks that "'The party of the first part' shall be known in this contract as 'the party of the first part'" isn't realistic, then I can show you fine print I've received from credit card companies that are even more tautological than that), and, of course, the grand finale wherein the three brothers completely destroy an opera-in-progress.The DVD also contains an all-new documentary, which features (among other people) co-star Kitty Carlisle, who is amazingly sharp for being in her 90s, and Dom DeLuise, who talks a lot about food and appears to have been interviewed in the middle of making breakfast (no, I'm not sure why he's here). This is mostly a talking heads interview documentary and there's not a whole lot of brand new material or trivia, but it is nice to see some differing perspectives on things. The story of how Groucho got his name contradicts the anecdote given on the commentary track, and Carlisle refutes the conventional wisdom that states that Margaret Dumont didn't get any of the jokes Groucho was bouncing off her. A short except from a 1961 broadcast of "The Hy Gardner Show" (who?) reveals Groucho recounting the story of he and his brothers stripping naked and roasting potatoes in the office of Irving Thalberg after the famed producer kept them waiting once too long. I trust you will enjoy the anecdote, because it's told a whopping three times during the course of these DVD extras. Shockingly, none of the tellings blatantly contradict each other.Two shorts have been included as extras, though I'm not sure I understand their relevance. Robert Benchley's HOW TO SLEEP won the Academy Award in 1935 for Best Short Subject/Comedy, and it's certainly entertaining enough. As for the other short, SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE TROCADERO, well, I'm baffled. I can't make heads or tails of it. Set in a nightclub, a Hollywood talent scout is visiting this ritzy affair. Numerous song and dance people are attempting auditions, while the club's doorman is trying to impress by doing very bad celebrity impersonations (it didn't help that half the time I didn't recognize the name of the person he was impersonating or the name of the person people actually thought he was doing). Cameos by stars of the day abound by having the camera cut to different tables and a voice over shouting, "Hey, look! It's Bob Has-been!" (or whoever). It isn't helped by the fact that most of the careers of these minor celebrities ended soon after the shoot, so for me I was watching cattle call of anonymous hotshots. I couldn't figure out why these people were appearing as themselves. Was the audience supposed to believe that these people really hang out at this fictional locale? Groucho Marx (out of character and costume) has a three-second cameo where he looks as confused as I felt.I'm wary of commentaries performed by people who weren't actually born when the film they're talking about was made, but Leonard Maltin does a fine job here. He relates a lot of anecdotes about the Marx Brothers, points out how the script is layering the subplots, and relates a lot of trivia that I had never heard before (for example, the only surviving print is actually an edited version made during WWII when all references to Italy have been removed, which explains why the film bizarrely never tells you were the first scenes are set). He even gets into the fun, shouting "What a twit!" when the evil opera singer refuses to sing on the cruise-liner for free.Although the DVD of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is included in "The Marx Brothers Collection" box set, it is also available for individual sale. Although I slightly prefer A DAY AT THE RACES (also out on DVD now), I couldn't recommend anyone not pick up this film. For Marx novices, there's a great movie. For Marx aficionados, there's informational material that may be enjoyed. In any event, the powers that be have given a great film an excellent treatment on the DVD format."
Magic is still there
R.D. Monsoon | 02/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you can ignore some of the unmemorable songs and scenes between the two romantic leads in this movie then you are in for a great movie. The brothers are still in top form in this movie even without Zeppo. It would have been nice to have him in here instead of his replacement as the straight man. But this is still top of the line Marx Brothers. You get them on land and sea and land again. There is more of a plot to constrain them than in their earlier movies, but when they take over the scene you're once again in their zany universe of humor for the sake of humor. There are so many great scenes in here that you'll forget about the few ones without the brothers that slow down the movie. I guess the studio people forced them to throw in those scenes that moved the superfluous romantic subplot along. Just sit back and enjoy them all crowded into that stateroom or the radio interview or wreaking havoc at the opera at the end. The magic is still there."
At long last, the return of the Marx Brothers to DVD.
R.D. Monsoon | 02/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""A Night at the Opera" was released on DVD back in the late 90s by Image. Image had licensed the film from WB, and once that licence expired the disc was pulled. Since then that OOP DVD has fetched in the hundreds on Ebay. Finally WB has released it as a special edition.Extra features are as follows:
Commentary by Leonard Maltin
All-New Documentary "Remarks On Marx"
The Hy Gardner Show (1/1/61) excerpt featuring Groucho Marx
Three Vintage MGM Shorts: Fitzpatrick Traveltalk's Los Angeles: Wonder City Of The World
Sunday Night At The Trocadero
Robert Benchley's Academy Award -Winning How To SleepWB is releasing 6 other Marx Brother's films all at the same time. Universal also is preparing to release their Marx Brothers films this year, including "Duck Soup.""
R.D. Monsoon | 09/07/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"According to film lore, Louis B. Mayer (head of M.G.M. film studios) loathed the Marx Brothers and particularly disliked this film, which takes aim at the high-class world of opera-- a world Mayer believed should be sancrosact.Although the film lacks the hard-edged hysteria of earlier Marx Brothers films made a Paramount, it does benefit from a solid dose of M.G.M. gloss: never had a Marx Brothers film LOOKED so good in a purely cinematic sense. Unfortunately, this gloss included a heaping helping of romantic subplot which has the effect of undercutting the brothers' screen time, as well as several insignificant musical scenes; this, however, is merely a fly in an otherwise balmy ointment.Whether you prefer the Marx Brothers work at Paramount to their work at M.G.M. is largely a matter of individual taste. Both styles have much to offer."