It’s sad when comedians are forgotten. Fortunately the advent of video discs (Blu-Ray in particular) that can be taken home and watched has alleviated that concern and offered classic performances to a whole new generation. So without further ado — presenting the Marx Brothers in The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection – Restored Edition. For those who wonder, this group of comedians, fronted by the sarcastic brilliance of Groucho Marx, didn’t appear in movies as if from nowhere, but had a long career preceding this in many venues. One of these venues was being in stage plays and so that is why the first group of films in this collection (The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers and Monkey Business) have the appearance of a Broadway play where action is stilted and dialogue the king (for example, The Cocoanuts first appeared on stage in 1925). Fortunately with the Marx Brothers dialogue always plays an important part (although the physical slapstick of Harpo might seem to belie that). Then you get into the “movie” specific films (Horse Feathers and the highly enjoyable Duck Soup) where film making is evident, but the Marx Brothers don’t so much embrace being in a film as being freed from the constraints of it. You’ll enjoy this, you betcha.
The film’s themselves reveal their age, although effort was made to “clean them up” and obviously having them on Blu-Ray discs pushes the black and white resolution up to silver screen viewing quality. Or you could ask someone who saw Cocoanuts in 1929 to do a comparison…like that could happen. The point is that it’s about as good as you’re going to get technically for realistic home viewing. And seeing these films in HD on a 65″ screen (or using a home theater projector) will look just fine. It’ll be the audio that will have to be tweaked a bit (especially with the earlier films), as the monophonic sound is thin on bass.
The discs include extras such as home movies and appearances of Groucho on TV and a booklet and the like. But the real “extra” is the return of edited out scenes from Animal Crackers, courtesy at the time of the Hayes Code which “regulated” film content as to what was acceptable and what was not. Tame by today’s standards, maybe, but having the movie returned to its original state as intended to be seen is more than just something for the film historians to ponder, it’s a treat for fans. Well done!
The cost of the collection is an odd numbered $41.49, but since it’s the Marx Brothers, why should things be sensible? So start the discs spinning and prepare to laugh.