Marx, Groucho-You Bet Your Life (1950)

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Released 9-Sep-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Featurette-"The Plot Thickens" -1963 Television Pilot
Outtakes-Stag Reel And More Outakes
TV Spots-Marx Brothers Commercial, Original Commercials
Featurette-"What Do You Want?" Pilot
Featurette-"Tell It To Groucho" Pilot
Audio Commentary-Phyllis Diller - Episode #57-19
Booklet
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 474:39 (Case: 570)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Robert Dwan
Bernie Smith
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Groucho Marx
George Fenneman
Marilyn Burtis
Case ?
RPI $49.95 Music Harry Ruby


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Groucho without his cigar? Never.
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Sponsorship was very obvious during this period
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In 1946 the last true Marx Bros film, A Night In Casablanca, was released and the brothers were an act no more. Each brother went on to pursue other career interests and Groucho's rapid-fire wit and retorts found their way to game shows where, having shed his grease-paint eyebrows and moustache, he could verbally assault the general public.

    You Bet Your Life started out as a radio show in 1948, and in 1950 it moved to TV. From 1950 - 1961 it was one of the highest rating shows on American TV. The premise was simple, take two contestants who have never met and have them team up to answer general knowledge questions. A correct answer would win them varying amounts of money. If they get over a certain value of prize money, they could try for a jackpot amount based on their answer to one question. As an extra interest, each show had a secret word that would give the contestants an extra $100 if they happened to say the word.

    Of course, the real reason for the show was as a vehicle for Groucho to have a little fun with the guests. Contestants were screened to be "interesting" and the  politest way to describe them is eccentric. Either their job, hobbies or life status (number of children and so on) was a little unusual, giving Groucho plenty of material to feed his acerbic wit. Sometimes celebrities were brought on as special guests - game shows really haven't come very far over the years - and they were equally targeted by the irreverent Groucho.

    If you have read my bio, aside from needing to get a life you may have gathered that I am a fan of the Marx Bros, particularly Groucho. His wry humour and manipulation of the language appeals to me, so I grabbed the chance to review this 3 disc set. A collection of episodes considered to be the best of You Bet Your Life - Groucho overdose - could I get a better reviewing gig? I must admit to not having seen much of You Bet Your Life prior to this; I'm not quite that old. I was aware of the concept and had seen brief snippets on various Marx Bros documentaries and so forth, but had never watched a full show. I was keen to sit back and really enjoy this show.

    Unfortunately, I found these discs difficult to get through. Despite Groucho's wit and rather dubious charm, this is a collection of 18 episodes of a game show and this does make for some tedious viewing. Yes, Groucho is often in fine form as he interviews the contestants, but a lot of time in a game show is taken with playing the game, and there is only so much question and answer format you can sit through. Don't get me wrong, there is much to enjoy in these discs, particularly if you are a Groucho Marx or Marx Bros fan, but there is a lot of the "business" side of the show to get through while looking for the comedic gems.

    Groucho Marx was a comedy genius. His humour was sharp and wicked, yet was never delivered in a spiteful or hurtful manner. He could reduce his audience to helpless laughter with merely a look, had a rapier like ability to cut down guests who thought they were funny and knew when to sit back and let the guests hold centre stage. Many modern so-called comedians would do well to study Groucho's interactions with his guests.

    Each of the three discs has six episodes taken from various years of production. As You Bet Your Life is a game show I won't give an episode by episode description as there really isn't a plot.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    As you would expect for 1950s television, You Bet Your Life is shown in 1.33:1 aspect and is Black and White.

    Thankfully no-one has colourised this piece of television history, but neither has a full restoration been done. Almost every artefact in the book can be found in these episodes. Scratches, spots and dust marks are in every episode, with some of the extras showing a lot of scratch damage. Solarisation is common, a result of the limitations of 1950s technology, along with a graininess, telecine wobble and occasional video tracking errors. There even appeared to be a little MPEG blocking in the background. One episode also had a reel change marking towards the end of the credits.

    This is not to say that the video is unwatchable. On the contrary, given the age of the film source used it is of a fairly good quality, just don't expect a sharp clean image. It would have been nice to see a restoration of the film, but the presence of the dust and scratches and the overall graininess, does give a somewhat nostalgic feel to the viewing. You are constantly reminded that this really is vintage television.

    As well as these issues common to all the episodes, there are a few missing frames at 25:33 in episode 4 on disc 2. Nothing  huge, but noticeable.

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

Audio

    Dolby Digital 2.0 is indicated, but this is strictly a mono soundtrack. What else would it be in the mid 1950s? Forget your surrounds, subs and even left and right front, all audio is firmly placed in the centre of the sound stage.

    The audio quality is surprisingly good for such an old show. Naturally, the bandwidth is limited by the recording equipment of the era and there is some hiss. There is an audio sync problem at the beginning of episode 5 on disc 3, but it only occurs for a few seconds over an introduction.

    In all, not a bad soundtrack for such an old TV show.

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

Extras

    Menu is static with audio after a short promotional for Umbrella Entertainment.

    The extras are scattered over all three discs and for some reason the timer doesn't run when playing them.

Stag Reel

    A collection of some comments that were cut from the original transmissions for being too racy. By today's standards they are pretty mild, but very funny. Some of the scenes in the stag reels are also seen in the individual episodes as the episodes are presented unedited. In some ways are better than the actual episodes as these cut straight to the funny stuff without the game show parts. Video quality is considerably worse than the episodes with some major scratches on most scenes. A Stag Reel is included on each disc.

Outtakes

    Also included on each disc is a collection of two or three outtakes from some of the episodes on that particular disc.

Marx Bros Commercial

    Included on Disc 1, this is an ad for, of all things, shampoo featuring Chico and Harpo Marx.

Original Commercials

    Included on Disc 2, this is a collection of ads that were shown when You Bet Your Life was on air. If you think ads have improved over the years, this will convince you otherwise. I was particularly keen to rush out and buy the "jet age" Plymouth with the push-button "powerglide" transmission, and I am concerned that I cannot buy Geritol to help me get over my "tired blood". It really was another era.

Audio Commentary - Phyllis Diller

    The immortal Phyllis Diller provides a commentary of her appearance on You Bet Your Life which was, it seems, her first national TV appearance. This is on Disc 3.

Disc 1 Featurette - The Plot Thickens - 1963 TV Pilot

    A pilot for a game show where celebrities are shown a short murder mystery and asked to solve it before a professional private investigator. Notable here as Groucho is one of the guest celebrities, and his interview technique with the suspects is unconventional to say the least.

Disc 2 Featurette - What Do You Want? - TV Pilot

    A pilot for a show hosted by Groucho where guests chat with Groucho about, well, what they want. Watch for the mother and daughter who want financially secure husbands that will endure not only them but their 13 cats. I don't think this show got past the pilot, and it's easy to see why.

Disc 3 Featurette - Tell It To Groucho - TV Pilot

    This looks to be a rework of What Do You Want? with a new set and a slightly broader scope as guests can tell Groucho whatever it is they have on their minds. The same mother and daughter team are back with their cats, still looking for their future husbands. Again, this show didn't get too far for obvious reasons.

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 and Region 4 releases seem to be the same, so it's a tie.

Summary

    You Bet Your Life is a product of 1950s middle America and as such can seem very dated by today's standards. Certainly some of the bits edited out for being too risqué would sail through the censors these days. It is a piece of television history and this is a good collection of some of the better episodes from its 12 year run.

    This is probably not Groucho's finest work, but if you are an avid fan of him, or the Marx Bros in general, you may want to have this in your collection.

    Video is reasonable for an unrestored film 50 years old.

    Audio is serviceable and again good for its age.

    Extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Glen Randall (If you're really bored, you can read my bio)
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-1200Y, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-42PV500A 42" HD Plasma. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596
SpeakersRichter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer

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