Night at the Opera, A (1935)

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Released 16-Nov-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Leonard Maltin (Film Historian)
Featurette-Remarks On Marx
Featurette-1/1/1961 Broadcast The Hy Gardner Show
Short Film-Vintage Shorts: How To Sleep, Sunday Night At The Trocadero
Theatrical Trailer
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1935
Running Time 87:26
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Sam Wood
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Groucho Marx
Chico Marx
Harpo Marx
Kitty Carlisle
Allan Jones
Walter Woolf King
Sig Ruman
Margaret Dumont
Edward Keane
Robert Emmett O'Connor
Case ?
RPI Box Music Herbert Stothart


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (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
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Dutch
Bulgarian
Arabic
Croatian
Slovenian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian 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

    A Night at the Opera is a classic Marx Brothers movie. It includes a couple of the most famous Marx Brothers moments, including the contract scene ("The party of the first part...") and the too many people in the tiny cabin scene.

    This was the first of the two Thalberg-produced movies (the second is A Day at the Races), and the better of the two, because Thalberg was alive to finish it.

    The plot concerns the efforts of the Marx Brothers to help an opera singer, Ricardo (Allan Jones), become an opera star and win the hand of the lovely Rosa (Kitty Carlisle). Their opponents this time include Lassparri (Walter Woolf King, who also appears in Go West), and Gottlieb (Sigfried Rumann, also in A Day at the Races).

    The opening act of this movie includes Lassparri trying to beat his dresser, Tomasso (Harpo), which is obviously meant to turn our opinion against him, but seems seriously brutal by today's standards.

    Interestingly, this film begins in Milan (as they say in the US: Milan, Italy), even though they never say that. The reason is that this film was cut to remove all references to Italy (enemies of the US in the Second World War). The opening opera appears to be in La Scala (alright: Teatro alla Scala, to give it its real name), perhaps the most famous opera house after one somewhere in Australia...

    Lassparri is hired to sing in the New York Opera, and he wants Rosa (Kitty Carlisle) to sing with him. They, Gottlieb, and a number of others catch an ocean liner to New York. Gottlieb is funded to hire Lassparri by Mrs Claypool (Margaret Dumont). Mrs Claypool has hired Otis Driftwood (Groucho) to introduce her to society. Meanwhile, Fiorello (Chico) is arranging a job for himself as Ricardo's manager.

    Once they get to America, the plot becomes one of getting Ricardo to replace Lassparri in the opera. It takes quite a bit of doing, and some impressive stunts.

    You cannot call yourself a Marx Brothers fan if you haven't seen this one.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. The original was in the Academy ratio (1.37:1), so this is quite close.

    The image is rather soft, but acceptable. Shadow detail is rather limited. Film grain is present in every scene, and is particularly bad in darker scenes. Low-level noise does not appear to be a problem.

    Colour isn't. This is a black-and-white film. The blacks are truly black; whites are quite white; and there is a fair range of greys in between. There isn't anything in the way of false-colour artefacting.

    There are some small film artefacts, but it looks as though the film has been restored to remove some of them. The most obvious film artefacts are missing frames: at 10:40, 12:31, 14:43, 15:05, 50:39, 68:47, and 70:33. These missing frames are somewhat irritating; they look like sudden jumps in the picture.

    There is quite a bit of aliasing, but it doesn't look objectionable, because the quality of the video is affected more by grain. There's no significant moiré. There is frequently some shimmer, or is it mosquito noise?

    There are subtitles in eleven languages, including English, plus captions in English and Italian. I watched the English captions, and they are quite satisfactory: accurate enough, well-timed, and easy to read.

    The disc is single-sided, dual-layer, RSDL format. The layer change lies at 53:22, and it's essentially imperceptible, even on a slow player.

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

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English and Italian, in Dolby Digital 1.0 at 192kbps. There's no doubt about this one: it's pure mono, which matches the original soundtrack.

    The dialogue is clear enough, and easy enough to understand. Dialogue sync is not a problem.

    The score is credited to Herbert Stothart. There's not a huge amount of score, with most of the music coming in the form of opera and musical numbers.

    This soundtrack provides no signal for the surrounds and subwoofer. The only speaker it uses is the centre channel..

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

Extras

    There are plenty of extras on this disc — well over an hour of extra material.

Menu

    The menu is static, with music.

Audio Commentary: Leonard Maltin

    This commentary contains a wealth of material, both about the film and about the Marx Brothers in general. I'm not a huge fan of Mr Maltin's presentation style, but he does manage to keep the commentary interesting. Unfortunately he does, on occasion, tell us what is going on on the screen — he's far from being the only commentator to do that.

    There are plenty of gaps in the commentary, but they are generally at points where we welcome a chance to enjoy the regular soundtrack.

    He makes reference to the myth about the Marx Brothers' father appearing on the dock as the ship is sailing — he admits that he hasn't any documentation about it, but he seems to believe it. Perhaps he should check his documentation again: given that the film was shot in 1934 / 35, and the man in question died in 1933, it seems unlikely that he appeared.

Featurette: Remarks on Marx (34:00)

    This is a substantial documentary piece, similar to those on other movies in this collection. We get to hear from a variety of people, including a rather older Kitty Carlisle. She has a couple of interesting contributions, including an explanation of how hard she had to fight to get her own voice used for the singing she does (she was a trained operatic singer, so it's perfectly reasonable that she do her own singing). Perhaps the most surprising thing is that there is little overlap between this documentary and others; the biggest overlap is the discussion of Margaret Dumont.

Interview: The Hy Gardner Show segment — 1/1/1961 broadcast (5:23)

    This is an interview with Groucho on a TV chat show. In this interview, he gives the definitive version of the Thalberg story (we hear other versions in Remarks on Marx and in the commentary) — it's quite interesting.

Vintage Shorts

    Both these pieces are black-and-white. The second piece has a poor soundtrack: the dialogue is clipped, plenty of dropouts, and some distortion and hiss. The first piece has some hiss, but has a generally better soundtrack.

Theatrical Trailer (2:12)

    A typical trailer of the era.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of the collection of which this disc is a part was released a while back.

    The transfers look pretty much the same, including the same graininess and missing frames; for example, the missing frames at 14:43 in the R4 occur at 15:20 in the R1 — that's the same location after we take into account the 4% speed-up of PAL. I would not be surprised to hear that they both come from the one hi-def transfer.

    Both versions of the disc have the same extras and menus.

    There's one big difference (make that two) between the collections: the Region 1 version contains seven movies, the Region 4, only five (the missing movies are Room Service and A Night in Casablanca). That's a big omission.

    There's nothing to choose between these two discs, considered in isolation.

Summary

    A classic piece of Marx Brothers madness — this is arguably the best film in the Marx Brothers Collection boxset. Not a fabulous transfer to DVD, but probably the best we'll ever see.

    The video quality is adequate, but the missing frames are irritating.

    The audio quality is reasonable.

    The extras are extensive and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, December 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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