Overall | The Cocoanuts (1929) | Animal Crackers (Umbrella) (1930) | Monkey Business (1931) | Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932) | Duck Soup (Umbrella) (1933)

The Marx Brothers Collection (Umbrella) (1929)

The Marx Brothers Collection (Umbrella) (1929) (NTSC)

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Released 7-Feb-2018

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Overall Package

     The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella has the five feature films the brothers made for Paramount between 1929 and 1933, in fact the only five films that featured all four of the brothers. This collection is a wonderful opportunity to watch the brothers develop from vaudeville and Broadway performers to genuine film stars from their earliest films The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), basically films of their Broadway plays by the same name, through Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) to Duck Soup (1933), for many people the best Marx Brothers film. In these films it is all there, the puns, quips, double meanings, non-sequiturs and slapstick with some classic routines that have become legend, allowing us to watch and appreciate their zany, anarchic humour on film.

     The videos of the five films in the collection are vast improvements on previous releases. The video is generally clean of artefacts with good clarity and blacks, the audio is the original mono, presented without distortion. The featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos adds value to the collection. Fans of the brothers should not hesitate.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | The Cocoanuts (1929) | Animal Crackers (Umbrella) (1930) | Monkey Business (1931) | Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932) | Duck Soup (Umbrella) (1933)

The Cocoanuts (1929)

The Cocoanuts (1929) (NTSC)

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Released 7-Feb-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1929
Running Time 93:21
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5 Directed By Robert Florey
Joseph Santley
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Groucho Marx
Chico Marx
Harpo Marx
Zeppo Marx
Margaret Dumont
Mary Eaton
Oscar Shaw
Cyril Ring
Kay Francis

Case ?
RPI ? Music Irving Berlin


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.19:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Hammer (Groucho Marx) owns and runs a financially challenged hotel in Florida, Jamison (Zeppo Marx) is one of his employees. Hammer is trying to revive his fortunes by wooing rich widow Mrs Potter (Margaret Dumont) and selling worthless swamp land to investors; Mrs Potter’s daughter Polly (Mary Eaton) is in love with penniless dreamer Bob (Oscar Shaw) while Yates (Cyril Ring), who has his own designs on Polly, and Penelope (Kay Francis) plan to steal Mrs Potter’s diamond necklace. When con-men and thieves Chico (Chico Marx) and Harpo (Harpo Marx) arrive at the hotel to try to make a quick buck or two, things rapidly get out of hand.

     The Cocoanuts is The Marx Brothers’ first film and was based on their Broadway hit show of the same name which started its run in December 1925 and ran for 276 performances. The Cocoanuts displays both its Broadway origins and early filmmaking techniques; the camerawork and staging of the sequences is relatively static, there are entrances and exits each side of the frame, musical numbers and songs punctuate the action which, with dance numbers by leggy chorus girls, bring the story to a stop. In fact, for a Marx Brothers film, there is not enough of the brothers and their routines, although the film does include some delicious, and rather risqué, dialogue from Groucho, some classic verbal gymnastics between Groucho and Chico including the famous “why a duck?” scene, a manic “split screen” sequence with adjoining rooms and rapidly opening and closing doors, physical comedy silliness involving Harpo and a farcical land auction.

     In The Cocoanuts The Marx Brothers were testing out a new medium; one must also remember that this is the early days of “talkie” films and The Cocoanuts was advertised as “the all talking-musical comedy hit”. At the time The Cocoanuts was made they were shooting the film in the morning while appearing on Broadway in Animal Crackers at night, a play that would be their next film. It was reported that the brothers were very unhappy with the film and tried to buy the prints from Paramount. Perhaps fortunately, they did not succeed.

     The Cocoanuts is manic and funny in places but is perhaps best treated as a trial run for their better films to come.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Cocoanuts is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the NTSC code; the IMDb gives the original ratio as 1.20:1. The opening credits have the black bars at either side, but the film is stretched to fill the screen.

     No original print of The Cocoanuts survives. All now existing prints were constructed from 3 prints in the 1950s which results in variations in sharpness, contrast and brightness. Some sequences are quite sharp, with good detail, other sequences can be softer; for example, during the dinner at the end of the film when there are cuts to different prints the variation in detail and contrast is quite obvious. There is also blurring with fast movement, such as Harpo’s hands when he plays the harp (for example at 38:22). Grain is evident, and also varies, but there are no obvious large marks or macro blocking. Blacks vary but are mostly acceptable and solid. For a film that is almost 90 years old, this is a decent print which is always watchable.

     English subtitles are provided in a large, light yellow, text. I sampled a small section which contained an error reading “Somebody pay theibill?” at 3:41.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.

     This is a predictably tinny sounding audio, especially during the songs sung by Mary Eaton, but except in a couple of places when the music of Irving Berlin seemed too loud in the mix, dialogue was clear. There are no effects to speak of. There was occasional slight hiss but nothing serious.

    I noticed no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The menu only allows a selection of The Cocoanuts or Animal Crackers to play. There are no extras on this disc, the first disc of the three DVD The Marx Brothers Collection, but the third DVD of the set includes the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos running 79:53.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Cocoanuts has been around for almost 90 years and there have been a number of home entertainment releases. Perhaps the closest equivalent to this The Marx Brothers Collection is a similar collection in the US of the brothers’ first five films which includes short archival interviews with Harpo, Groucho and Harpo’s son William but does not include the The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary. To my mind this featurette gives our release the edge.

Summary

     The Cocoanuts, released in 1929, was The Marx Brothers’ first film. It has its moments and is funny and manic when Groucho, Chico and Harpo are let loose, but there is not enough of them. Nevertheless, the inclusion of The Cocoanuts in The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella, which has the first five feature films made by the brothers, is an opportunity to watch the development on film of their zany humour.

     The Marx Brothers Collection includes The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers (1930) on one DVD, Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) on another and Duck Soup (1933) plus the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos on the third.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, April 04, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The Cocoanuts (1929) | Animal Crackers (Umbrella) (1930) | Monkey Business (1931) | Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932) | Duck Soup (Umbrella) (1933)

Animal Crackers (Umbrella) (1930)

Animal Crackers (Umbrella) (1930) (NTSC)

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Released 7-Feb-2018

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1930
Running Time 98:35
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Victor Heerman
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Groucho Marx
Chico Marx
Harpo Marx
Zeppo Marx
Margaret Dumont
Lillian Roth
Hal Thompson
Margaret Irving
Louis Sorin
Kathryn Reece
Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.19:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Captain Spaulding (Groucho Marx), an explorer recently returned from Africa, is guest of honour at a party in the house of rich widow Mrs Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) and arrives with his secretary Jamison (Zeppo Marx). Mr Chandler (Louis Sorin) is also at the party; he has just returned from Europe bringing with him an expensive work of art that will be revealed at the party. Mrs Rittenhouse’s daughter Arabella (Lillian Roth) is in love with penniless artist John Parker (Hal Thompson). John has painted a copy of Chandler’s painting and John and Arabella decide to substitute it for the genuine work and then reveal the switch to show just how good John is, thus gaining a commission from Chandler. Grace Carpenter (Kathryn Reece) has also painted a copy of Chandler’s purchase; with Mrs Whitehead (Margaret Irving), who is jealous of Mrs Rittenhouse and wants to embarrass her, they also plan to substitute Grace’s painting for the original. Musicians Signor Ravelli (Chico Marx) and The Professor (Harpo Marx) also arrive at the party. Paintings are switched, found and lost again amid chaos, gags and music.

     Animal Crackers was The Marx Brothers’ second film. Like their first film, The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers was based on one of their Broadway hit shows, Animal Crackers which started its run in October 1928 and ran for 191 performances. Director Victor Heerman for this film version cut several musical numbers and those remaining mostly feature the brothers and are more relevant to the story. There are also no chorus girls, but even so Animal Crackers at 98 minutes is more than 20 minutes (and in two cases 30 minutes) longer than the brothers’ subsequent films for Paramount. A result is that some routines and sequences, such as the card game, feel overlong and do drag. There is, however, lots of physical comedy from Harpo, gags and puns from Chico and Groucho and some delicious dialogue such as Groucho’s “one morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas I don’t know”, a quip that was voted at number 53 (out of 100) best movie quotes by the American film Institute. One also cannot help being amused by some of the more risqué comments such as “we took some pictures of the native girls; but they weren’t developed. But, we’re going back in a coupla weeks”.

     It should be noted that Animal Crackers was recut for theatrical re-release in 1936 when some of Groucho’s risqué lines were omitted to meet Hays Office Production Code requirements. This censored version of the film was the only one available for 80 years until an uncensored 35 mm negative was discovered at the BFI. The version of Animal Crackers on this DVD is the uncensored version of the film.

     Animal Crackers is too long and does drag, but the dialogue after almost 90 years is still very funny; Margaret Dumont for much of the film looks as if she can barely stop from breaking out laughing. In Animal Crackers the brothers were still honing their craft on film; subsequent films, released from the strait jacket of Broadway origins, are some of the funniest films of all time.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Animal Crackers is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the NTSC format. IMDb gives 1.20:1 as the original ratio. It is presented Full Frame on this DVD.

     I was very surprised at how good this print of a film that is almost 90 years old looks. Of course, the sharpness and detail cannot be compared to that of a modern film, but it looks fine. There are a couple of sequences set in a room during a blackout which show solid blacks and very good shadow detail, the brightness of the white lights nicely firm as well. Brightness and contrast are consistent, grain nicely controlled, and while there are a couple of frame jumps they are fleeting. There are no obvious marks or macro blocking.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided in a large, light yellow, text.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.

     This is a predictably tinny sounding audio but dialogue is clean and the occasional effects sharp enough. There is no credit for the music given, but the film is based on the musical play which is credited to George S Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.

    I noticed no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The menu only allows a selection of The Cocoanuts or Animal Crackers to play. There are no extras on this disc, the first disc of the three DVD The Marx Brothers Collection, but the third DVD of the set includes the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos running 79:53.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Animal Crackers has been around a while and there have been a number of home entertainment releases during that time, including the one in Region 4 mentioned below. Perhaps the closest equivalent to this The Marx Brothers Collection is a similar collection in the US of the brothers’ first five films which includes short archival interviews with Harpo, Groucho and Harpo’s son William but does not include the The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary. To my mind this featurette gives our release the edge.

Summary

     Animal Crackers was The Marx Brothers’ second film. It was, like their first The Cocoanuts, based on a play the brothers starred in on Broadway which does constrain the pacing of the film somewhat, but the film does include some very funny gags and dialogue that still holds up almost 90 years later. The inclusion of Animal Crackers in The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella, which has the first five feature films made by the brothers, is an opportunity to watch the development on film of their zany humour.

     A previous release of Animal Crackers was reviewed on this site here. The reviewer of that DVD noted marks, dirt, holes in the emulsion, tram lines, hairs and every other form of problem. This new release is a definite improvement.

     The Marx Brothers Collection includes The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers on one DVD, Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) on another and Duck Soup (1933) plus the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos on the third.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Colour - REPLY POSTED

Overall | The Cocoanuts (1929) | Animal Crackers (Umbrella) (1930) | Monkey Business (1931) | Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932) | Duck Soup (Umbrella) (1933)

Monkey Business (1931)

Monkey Business (1931) (NTSC)

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Released 7-Feb-2018

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1931
Running Time 77:48
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Norman Z. McLeod
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Groucho Marx
Chico Marx
Harpo Marx
Zeppo Marx
Rockcliffe Fellowes
Harry Woods
Thelma Todd
Ruth Hall

Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.19:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Most Marx Brothers’ film have very little plot; Monkey Business, the third of five films the brothers made for Paramount and the first not based on one of their successful stage plays, has less than most. For the first three quarters of the film Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo (they have no names in the film) are stowaways on an ocean liner heading for America; the story is a succession of gags and comedy skits as the brothers try to avoid being caught by the crew. They also come into contact with gangster Alky Briggs (Harry Woods), Alky’s neglected wife Lucille (Thelma Todd), who Groucho does his best to romance, racketeer Joe Helton (Rockciffe Fellowes) and his beautiful daughter Mary (Ruth Hall), who takes a liking to Zeppo. Back in the US, the final section of the film is a party Helton throws for his daughter; Mary is kidnapped by Briggs and his men and our heroes set out to get her back.

     For most of its 77 minute running time, Monkey Business is a quick-fire succession of puns, gags, chases and physical comedy. There is a beard that was coming by “hair mail” or was “hair to a fortune”, one of the usual twisted conversations between Groucho and Chico, this time about Christopher Columbus, risqué suggestions by Groucho to various women and a hilarious Punch and Judy show featuring Harpo. Some sequence are very funny, others less so, but if you wait a few seconds another gag will be coming! There are no musical numbers on board the ship except a comic dance number with Groucho and Thelma Todd, but of course at the party there has to be a scene where Chico plays the piano and one where Harpo plays the harp. However, for once in a Marx Brothers film, Zeppo is more than a straight man; he is the romantic lead, gets to romance the girl and at the end fights the villain to save her. Hurrah!

     Monkey Business was directed by Norman McLeod, an experienced director of comedy who also directed the next Marx Brothers’ film Horse Feathers the following year. He does a good job of keeping the comedy routines tight and, freed from the constraints of filming adaptations of one of their stage plays, the brothers are in great form. The result is that, in Monkey Business, the brothers are hitting their stride in film delivering a potent mix of laughter and silliness that is infectious, and very entertaining.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Monkey Business is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the NTSC code. IMDb gives 1.20:1 as the original ratio. It is presented Full Frame on this DVD.

     This print of a film that is almost 90 years old looks pretty good. The sharpness and detail cannot be compared to that of a modern film, of course, but detail is strong enough, blacks solid, greyscales good and shadow detail fine. Brightness and contrast are consistent, except for a couple of slight variations, and grain is nicely controlled. There was a noticeable vertical scratch around 25:31 and another at 37:03, but otherwise there are no obvious marks or macro blocking.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided in a large, light yellow, text. They do, perhaps understandably, miss out some words of the quick-fire dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.

     This is a predictably tinny sounding audio, but dialogue is clean and the occasional effects, such as the cows and chickens in the barn at the climax, sharp enough. There is no credit for the music given, but the IMDb gives the credit to John Leipold and Ralph Rainger.

    I noticed no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The menu only allows a selection of Monkey Business or Horse Feathers to play. There are no extras on this disc, the second disc of the three DVD The Marx Brothers Collection, but the third DVD of the set includes the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos running 79:53.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Monkey Business has been around a while and there have been a number of home entertainment releases during that time. Perhaps the closest equivalent to this The Marx Brothers Collection is a similar collection in the US of the brothers’ first five films which includes short archival interviews with Harpo, Groucho and Harpo’s son William but does not include the The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary. To my mind this featurette gives our release the edge.

Summary

     Monkey Business was The Marx Brothers’ third film and the first not based on one of the Broadway plays. It is an anarchic succession of puns, gags, chases and physical comedy that is very funny. The inclusion of Monkey Business in The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella, which has the first five feature films made by the brothers, is an opportunity to watch the flowering of their zany humour on film.

     The Marx Brothers Collection includes The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930) on one DVD, Monkey Business and Horse Feathers (1932) on another and Duck Soup (1933) plus the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos on the third.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The Cocoanuts (1929) | Animal Crackers (Umbrella) (1930) | Monkey Business (1931) | Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932) | Duck Soup (Umbrella) (1933)

Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932)

Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932) (NTSC)

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Released 7-Feb-2018

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1932
Running Time 67:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Norman Z. McLeod
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Harpo Marx
Zeppo Marx
Thelma Todd
David Landau
Case ?
RPI ? Music Bert Kalmar
Harry Ruby
John Leipold


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) becomes President of Huxley College where although his son Frank (Zeppo Marx) is a long term student, although Frank spends more time romancing “college widow” (a derogatory term for a woman of questionable virtue who hangs around colleges) Connie Bailey (Thelma Todd) than studying. There is a football game coming up between Huxley and Darwin College which Frank persuades his father is so important to the reputation of the college that they should hire a couple of ring-ins, two football players who hang out at a local speakeasy. Unfortunately, before Wagstaff can arrive at the speakeasy the two footballers are hired by gambler Jennings (David Landau) to play for Darwin. So, instead of footballers, Wagstaff by mistake hires Baravelli (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx), a dog catcher.

     Wagstaff also finds time to call on Connie to tell her to stop distracting Frank from his studies but he ends up romancing her himself; not that he is alone in that because for a while Connie’s room is busier than Pitt Street with Frank, Pinky and Baravelli, as well as Wagstaff, all hanging around Connie. But Connie’s real beau, it transpires, is Jennings who is using Connie to try to find out Huxley’s football team secret calls. Facing defeat in the football Wagstaff sends Pinky and Baravelli to kidnap Darwin’s two prize recruits, but sadly they are as inept as kidnappers as they are football players. As the big game commences Huxley are in trouble and only some unorthodox plays may save the day.

     Horse Feathers, released in 1932, is the fourth of five films The Marx Brothers made for Paramount and by now the boys are in full comic mode. The film is again directed by Norman McLeod, an experienced director of comedy who had directed Money Business the previous year and he keeps the comedy and gags flowing during the film’s 67 minute running time. The film is consistently very funny; there are some wonderful sight gags such as Harpo “cutting” the card deck, the normal puns, one of the usual twisted conversations between Groucho and Chico concerning the password to get into the speakeasy, risqué double meanings from Groucho, a farcical sequence in Connie’s rooms and a biology lecture from Groucho that descends into chaos (apparently this routine was reused from the brothers’ vaudeville show Fun in Hi Skule). There are fewer musical numbers and they are more integrated into the plot, such as Whatever It Is, I’m Against It and Everyone Says I Love You sung, in various guises and degrees of sincerity, by Zeppo, Chico and Groucho to Connie, and Harpo to his horse. Of course, as usual Chico plays the piano and Harpo the harp. Horse Feathers is also broader in its themes and staging, with its satire on colleges and education and some exterior sequences such as a “chariot” racing across the football field.

     By Horse Feathers the brothers have honed their routines on film. The result is a film that is a hoot from start to finish with many laugh out loud moments, delightful gags, puns, physical comedy and general silliness; a gem of a film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Monkey Business is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the NTSC code. The IMDb gives 1.37:1 as the original ratio. It is presented Full Frame on this DVD.

     This is a good print, by far an improvement over the previous release of the film that was reviewed on this site here where the reviewer noted, among other things, a frequent shudder in the image, lack of detail, poor shadow detail and contrast. Although the current print cannot be compared to that of a modern film, it has good detail, solid blacks and grayscale, pleasant grain and decent contrast except for the stock footage of a football game which is soft and grainy. I saw a few small marks but otherwise artefacts were absent.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided in a large, light yellow, text.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.

     This is a predictably tinny sounding audio, especially the football crowd, but dialogue is clean. There are a few jumps in the dialogue in the sequence in Connie’s apartment. The IMDb indicates that this is due to the film being re-edited in 1935 for the Production Code that had come into force. Apparently, all surviving material still lops off lines of dialogue.

     There is no credit for the music as such, but the IMDb gives the credit to John Leipold. The film does credit Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar with the lyrics and music.

    I noticed no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The menu only allows a selection of Monkey Business or Horse Feathers. There are no extras on this disc, the second disc of the three DVD The Marx Brothers Collection, but the third DVD of the set includes the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos running 79:53.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Monkey Business has been around a while and there have been a number of home entertainment releases during that time including the version mentioned above. Perhaps the closest equivalent to this The Marx Brothers Collection is a similar collection in the US of the brothers’ first five films which includes short archival interviews with Harpo, Groucho and Harpo’s son William but does not include the The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary. To my mind this featurette gives our release the edge as far as DVD is concerned.

    There is also a Region B UK Blu-ray box set from Arrow that includes the same 5 films, audio commentaries for each and extras including the Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary.

Summary

     Horse Feathers was The Marx Brothers’ fourth film. Horse Feathers is very funny, a quick fire combination of farce, satire, puns, gags, music, innuendo and physical comedy; a gem of a film that still stands up well after almost 90 years. Horse Feathers, included in The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella which has the first five films made by the brothers, is an opportunity to watch the flowering of their zany humour on film.

     The Marx Brothers Collection includes The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930) on one DVD, Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers on another and Duck Soup (1933) plus the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos on the third.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, April 16, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Regio B UK Blu Ray - REPLY POSTED

Overall | The Cocoanuts (1929) | Animal Crackers (Umbrella) (1930) | Monkey Business (1931) | Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932) | Duck Soup (Umbrella) (1933)

Duck Soup (Umbrella) (1933)

Duck Soup (Umbrella) (1933) (NTSC)

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Released 7-Feb-2018

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Featurette-The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos (79:53)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1933
Running Time 68:49
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Leo McCarey
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Harpo Marx
Zeppo Marx
Margaret Dumont
Louis Calhern
Raquel Torres
Case ?
RPI ? Music Bert Kalmar
John Leipold
Harry Ruby


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The small country of Freedonia is bankrupt but wealthy widow Mrs Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) will only lend them more money on the condition that Rufus T Firefly (Groucho Marx) is made leader. Firefly arrives at the welcoming function with his secretary Bob Roland (Zeppo Marx) and takes an instant dislike to Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) of the neighbouring state of Sylvania. It is not unfounded; Trentino plans to take over Freedonia and has planted dancer Vera Marcal (Raquel Torres) with Mrs Teasdale. Trentino has also hired Chicolini (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx) as spies to follow Firefly and gather any dirt they can find to discredit him. As the countries drift towards war, Trentino tasks Vera, Pinky and Chicolini with stealing Freedonia’s war plans from Mrs Teasdale, but with Rufus T Firefly in change of Freedonia’s army any plans may be superfluous!

     Duck Soup, released in 1933, is the last of five films The Marx Brothers made for Paramount and the last film in which Zeppo Marx appeared with his brothers. The film did okay at the box office, although not as well as their previous film Horse Feathers, and was not particularly welcomed by critics at the time. However, the reaction to Duck Soup has certainly blossomed since then and it is now considered by many to be the best Marx Brothers’ film and it features regularly on “100 best comedy” lists; currently on rottentomatos.com it has a 94% critics approval rating and 91% audience.

     Duck Soup is different to the Marx Brothers’ films which preceded it in a number of ways. The sets are huge and elaborate, there is no love interest, no piano solo by Chico or harp solo by Harpo while the songs all involve the brothers and are integrated into the plot. There is also a fair amount of stock footage of tanks and soldiers during the war sequences, not to mention footage of elephants, monkeys, runners, swimmers and fire engines coming to Freedonia’s aid near the end. War is no laughing matter, especially with memories of the Great War still fresh and the rise of Fascist governments in Italy and Germany fuelling isolationism in a US already in the midst of the Great Depression, so this may have accounted for the reception of Duck Soup at the time.

     But, given distance, Duck Soup is hilarious, packing more genuine laugh out loud moments into its 68 minute running time than almost any film I can think of. There are constant puns, quips, double meanings, mostly directed by Groucho at his favourite target Margaret Dumont, who makes a welcome return after two films away, non-sequiturs, physical slapstick involving answering a telephone or a changing hats routine and a wonderful sequence involving Harpo “reflecting” Groucho in a non-mirror. There is also some very funny dialogue between Chico and Ambassador Trentino as he tries to explain what they have been doing on the job.

     Duck Soup is a genuine gold star comedy classic, the brothers at their most maniacal, surreal and anarchic. 85 years after being made it effortlessly holds its own against pretty much all comers.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Duck Soup is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the NTSC code. The IMDb gives 1.37:1 as the original ratio. It is presented Full Frame on this DVD.

     With its huge sets and some stock footage, Duck Soup is not always as clear as other films in this set and in wideshots looks quite soft. However, it is a definite improvement over the previous release of the film that was reviewed on this site here where the reviewer noted, among other things, artefacts in great numbers with a full set of scratches, marks, dirt, tramlines, and in some places stains. In contrast, this print, although it cannot be compared to that of a modern film, has strong detail in close-ups, mostly solid blacks (although Groucho’s coat in part of the welcome sequence is grey), pleasant grain and decent contrast. I did not see any obvious marks or artefacts.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided in a large, light yellow, text.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.

     This is a predictably tinny sounding audio, especially during some of the songs, but dialogue is clean and effects such as gunfire and explosions reasonable.

     There is no credit for the music given, but the IMDb gives the credit to John Leipold. The film does however credit Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar with the lyrics and music.

    I noticed no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The silent menu allows for a selection of Duck Soup or the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos.

The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos (79:53)

     Made in 2016, this documentary consists of film clips, black and white photographs, posters and comments by a range of film historians, critics, authors, academics, screenwriters, Bill Marx (Harpo’s son), Andy Marx (Groucho’s grandson), talk show host Dick Cavett and film critic / historian Leonard Maltin. Items discussed include what made the brothers unique, their roots in vaudeville, the influence of their mother, the personality and character of each brother, their move into films and relocation to Hollywood, the Great Depression and the development of their act through the five films they made for Paramount. Zeppo leaving the act, their move to MGM and subsequent decline is only covered briefly before some discussion on the brothers’ rediscovery by another generation in the 1960s. Decent.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Duck Soup has been around a while and there have been a number of home entertainment releases during that time including the version mentioned above. Perhaps the closest equivalent to this The Marx Brothers Collection is a similar collection in the US of the brothers’ first five films which includes short archival interviews with Harpo, Groucho and Harpo’s son William but does not include the The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary. To my mind this featurette gives our release the edge as far as DVD is concerned.

    There is also a Region B UK Blu-ray box set from Arrow that includes the same 5 films, audio commentaries for each and extras including the Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary.

Summary

     Duck Soup is both The Marx Brothers’ last film for Paramount and the last all four brothers made together, as after Duck Soup Zeppo left to pursue other interests. Although the content is rather more serious than earlier films, it is a fitting finale for the four brothers as it is hilarious and full of puns, quips, double meanings, non-sequiturs and slapstick that still stands up very well today. Duck Soup is included in The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella, which has the first five feature films made by the brothers, allowing us to watch and appreciate their zany, anarchic humour on film.

     The Marx Brothers Collection includes The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930) on one DVD, Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) on another and Duck Soup plus the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos on the third.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE