Horse Feathers (1932)

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Released 20-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1932
Running Time 63:59
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Norman Z. McLeod

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Harpo Marx
Zeppo Marx
Thelma Todd
David Landau
Case ?
RPI Box Music Bert Kalmar
Harry Ruby

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
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

    Horse Feathers was the fourth film released that starred the Marx Brothers. This time the theme is the American college system and in particular the high jinx surrounding college football.

    Groucho plays Prof. Quincy Adams Wagstaff, who has been appointed president of Huxley College and knows exactly what makes a college successful. It is not the academic record that counts but their performance on the football field. Harpo plays Pinky, an employee of the local speakeasy. Chicko is Baravelli, a dog catcher who seems to sideline as Pinky's assistant. Zeppo is Frank Wagstaff, Prof. Wagstaff's son who appears to be making a career out of staying in college. The reason he appears to be failing all his exams is that he is involved with the College Widow. This is played in the film as someone who is present at every college.

    The college with which they are due to play the next big game has brought in a couple of ringers. Prof. Wagstaff heads to the local speakeasy to hire a couple of ringers for his college. He ends up hiring Pinky and Baravelli not only to play football but also to try and kidnap the ringers for the competing college and thus knobble them out of the game. It is a shame that neither knows how to play football nor how to kidnap two burley football players.

    Mixed in with this is the Prof's efforts to get his son to stop seeing the College Widow and pay attention to his studies. He also ends up involved with her as she tries to get hold of the secret calls used by the Wagstaff team. From my limited knowledge of American football, this list is the sequence of numbers that the guy calls out just before the other guy throws the ball back. It tells the team what 'play' they are making. Knowledge of this would give the opposing team a real advantage.

    The final section of the film is a whole series of jokes based on the game of football. This is probably funnier for those that know the game as opposed to the rest of the world. Having said that, there is still some very funny material in here, in particular the chariot ride.

    Key moments in this film include: The Song 'I am against it', The password for the speak-easy, The bottomless cup, The parking ticket, Prof. Wagstaff taking a class, The whole kidnap sequence, and of course the chariot scene.

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Transfer Quality


     Unfortunately, this film has the worst transfer of the set. The source material is is the worst condition and there is a shudder in the image that starts at about 19:41 and appears again and again. Another example is at 42:53. It is bad enough to make you feel seasick after a while. There are also a number of spots where there are a few frames missing and the image jumps.

    As with the other films, the aspect ratio of this transfer is 1.33:1.

    Sharpness is bad and made worse by the amount of grain and other film artefacts. Shadow detail is poor but there is no low level noise. Contrast is very low adding to the many problems. There is also some ringing of the whites that leaves a halo around some objects.

    Thankfully, colour does not come into the equation other than to say that there is no false colouration present.

    There are no MPEG artefacts. I can't tell if the judder that is present is source related or not but it is a real problem. Film artefacts are probably the worst of the three films with some very bad scratching, marks, dirt, grain and what appears to be a manually scratched-in reel change mark (32:29)!

    The subtitles are easy to read but could not be expected to keep up with some of the faster delivery of dialogue.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     To go with the worst transfer is the most distorted audio. The harp solo at 39:50 gives the worst example of the distortion.

    There are five Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks on this disc with English, French, German, Italian and Spanish being represented.

    Even with the distortion present, the dialogue is pretty clear and easy to understand.

    There are no transfer related problems with the audio sync.

    The music is in the same vein as the other Marx Brothers films; a combination of orchestral and musical pieces. The music suffers from the distortion more than the dialogue does.

    The mono soundtrack does not make use of the surrounds or the subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    With an identical menu to the other two movies in the boxed set we have the colorised shot from the film on the right and the menu on the left. It is presented at 1.33:1 and there is no audio.

Theatrical Trailer (1:15)

    Not as clever as the Duck Soup trailer, this one is simply a series of scenes from the film cut together. Presented at 1.33:1 and with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, the image quality is pretty good.

R4 vs R1

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

    Yet again it would appear that the R1 version of this disc is out of print. The equivalent box set is also out of print and appears to be selling for ridiculous amounts of money in America. This leaves us with an R4 winner by default.


    Not the strongest of their films in my opinion but that is in comparison with some of the best comedy material ever placed on celluloid. The chariot scene has already been mentioned as a highlight and there are many more laughs. Another quick but great laugh is where they fill the different types of drink bottles from the same hooch source.

    The video is disappointing.

    The audio is also a bit of a problem.

    The trailer makes up the extent of the extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Re: oh, but the price - TurkeyTom