These films represent the Marx Brothers at their most anarchic and creative. Though theymade other very strong films, these are the comedians at their peak.
The Cocoanuts (1929) is the most dated of the bunch. The pacing is pretty sluggish,but we are also at the dawn of sound movie here. Groucho runs a Florida hotel here, and thisprovides a suitable setting for varied shenanigans as well as plenty of dancing girls. The film alsohas a certain charming rawness …o it, as when Groucho very clearly flubs a line in the earlygoings.
For their second film, 1930’s Animal Crackers, the target is once again the idle rich.The Brothers find their way into a society party, and art theft is the supposed storyline, but ofcourse this is just an excuse to set up the gags.
Monkey Business (1931), unlike its predecessors, is not a stage play transferred tofilm. This was the first film by the Brothers that was a screen original. Here, they’re stowawaysmaking life hilariously miserable for all around them.
Horse Feathers (1932) shifts to a local that is just as loaded with characters, and thuscomic potential. Now Groucho runs Huxley College, and academia is reduced to the expectedchaos. Does anything make sense? Doesn’t matter if it’s funny.
Duck Soup (1933) is the masterpiece. Here Groucho is the newly minted president ofFredonia, and war looms with neighbouring Sylvania. Chico and Harpo are spies that aresupposed to be working against Groucho, but wind up doing far more damage to their employer.The plot ceases even to be a convenience by the end, disappearing in a welter of surreal gags. Thebig “We’re Going to War” song is one of the all-time great lampoons.
All films are in the original mono (stereo remixes of such early sound movies would havebeen disastrous). The sound is surprisingly crisp, given the age of the flicks, and even TheCocoanuts is perfectly clear with very little static, all things considered.
The prints are in excellent shape, with virtually no damage. There is grain, of course, and Isuppose it would be possible to imagine an extensive restoration, but the image is sharp, and theoverall look of the transfers is handsome indeed.
This is where the collection is inferior to the Warner set. The only extras are three TodayShow segments (one with Groucho, one with Harpo, and one with Harpo’s son Bill). There’s apretty thick booklet that comes with the discs, but the text content is pretty slight. The menus arebasic.
These are the most important films the Marx Brothers made. The other collection was great.This one is essential.
Special Features List
- 3 Today Show Segments