Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo. These were the Marx Brothers when their fame exploded as movie stars at Paramount. Though the Marxes had hit middle age by the time Hollywood christened them movie stars, they were still in the right place at the right time to parlay their stage successes into screen stardom, as Hollywood had only recently coverted to sound production and was hungry for vocally skilled performers and musical entertainment. With nearly three decades of performing experience and comic raw material at their disposal, the Brothers were ready.
Paramount enlisted the Brothers to recreate their Broadway hits The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers before moving on to mostly original material with Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup. The boys ended up making another run of pictures at MGM, but despite a couple of big winners there under Irving Thalberg (A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races), the Paramount years found them at their purest and their funniest.
Universal's new three-disc The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Restored Blu-ray Edition offers the best chance yet on home video to appreciate the Brothers and their brand of anarchic, sometimes surreal comedy: cigar-chomping, wisecracking shyster Groucho; dullwitted con-man Chico, clowning idiot savant Harpo; and straight man Zeppo, sometimes employed as a romantic lead. Below find each of the Paramount films reviewed, with details on the Blu-ray discs:
Universal has gifted fans with The Marx Brothers' Blu-ray debut in the three-disc The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Restored Blu-ray Edition. The above linked reviews detail each specific film's A/V presentation and film-specific bonuses (including each film's feature commentary track).
Disc One in the set holds The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers. Disc Two has Monkey Business and Horse Feathers. Disc Three holds Duck Soup and bonus features.
These include the brand-new feature-length documentary "The Marx Brothers: Hollywood's Kings of Chaos" (1:19:57, HD), which focuses on the Brothers' move to screen from stage, their career at Paramount (and personal challenges of that time), and Groucho's experience of the Marx Brothers revival in the late '60s/early '70s. The doc comes illustrated with film clips, vintage photographs and advertising art, and new interviews with film critic F.X. Feeney, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, Veep and Curb Your Enthusiasm executive producer David Mandel, Bill Marx (son of Harpo), film historian Jeffrey Vance, Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage author Robert S. Bader, talk show host/friend of Groucho Dick Cavett, Ed Wood & Man on the Moon screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, Andy Marx (grandson of Groucho), film scholar Anthony Slide, USC American Film professor Dr. Drew Casper, and Groucho's secretary/Raised Eyebrows author Steve Stoliar.
Rounding out the disc is "Inside the NBC Vault - The Today Show Interviews" (16:45 with "Play All" option, SD). These clips, made available in the previous DVD release, include "Harpo Marx (1961)" (7:15, SD), "Groucho Marx (1963)" (4:51, SD), and "Bill Marx (1985)" (4:38, SD). Harpo performs for Bill Galloway and promotes his memoir Harpo Speaks!, Groucho promotes his book Memoir of a Mangy Lover (and chats about Marilyn Monroe), and Bill Marx shares home movies with Gene Shalit while promoting a reissue of Harpo Speaks! The set also includes a twelve-page booklet with illustrated liner notes, called "The Marx Brothers: From Vaudeville to Hollywood." Robert S. Bader adapted these notes, which summarize the Paramount years, from his book Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage.
Any self-respecting lover of classic Hollywood and film comedy needs to have this set on hand, holding as it does some of the best comedies Hollywood ever produced.
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer