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The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection The Cocoanuts / Animal Crackers / Monkey Business / Horse Feathers / Duck Soup
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The Marx Brothers – Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo – are the reigning kings of comedy and remain one of the most iconic comic teams of all time. From their early days on Vaudeville and Broadway through their wildly popular motion pictures, the Marx Brothers kept audiences of all ages laughing out loud with some of the most hilarious routines ever imagined. The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection captures the very best of the comedy team and includes the only five movies to feature all four brothers. Filled with unforgettable comedy sketches, musical numbers, witty dialogue and plenty of gags, this must-own collection includes The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers and their most popular film, Duck Soup.
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AS OF NOW, THERE DOESN'T APPEAR TO BE ANY PLANS TO RELEASE THE RESTORED FILMS IN THE DVD FORMAT. SO IF YOU BUY THAT PACKAGE, YOU ARE GOING TO GET THE SAME OLD VERSION WHICH HAS BEEN AVAILABLE FOR YEARS.
The latest incarnation of Marx mayhem is Universal's Blu-ray set of their five Paramount releases: THE COCOANUTS (1929), ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930), MONKEY BUSINESS (1931), HORSE FEATHERS (1932) and DUCK SOUP (1933). Made during Hollywood's unbridled pre-Code era, this quintet of comedic masterworks is representative of the Marx Brothers at their most surreal and anarchistic. These essential ingredients made their brand of humor truly unique, and became 'properly' compromised under the stricter regulations of the Production Code in 1934. Even the Marx's first film for MGM, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935), which many consider to be their best, isn't nearly as free and insane as the Paramounts. A need was felt at the time for the comedy to be grounded by strong storylines, romantic subplots and glossy, musical production numbers. The void caused by the exit of Zeppo as straight man was filled by various capable leading men, but it just wasn't the same as it was when there were the four brothers running amok and wreaking hilarious havoc.
This collection was sourced from the best available 35mm elements and remastered in 4K HD resolution for the highest quality presentation. That said, there are still some age related issues one must allow for, such as light scratches and audio hiss, all of which is minimal for the most part. The title that contains the brunt of such anomalies is the Marx's cinematic debut, THE COCOANUTS, which suffers from the early sound recording technology as well as having footage replaced in spots from lower grade elements. HORSE FEATHERS also still has some missing frames in the scene where the boys are running in and out of Thelma Todd's apartment. On the plus side is the restoration of a minute and a half of previously censored footage to ANIMAL CRACKERS. This was made possible by Universal acquiring an uncut, duplicate negative of an original release British print. Audiences are now able to enjoy the film as it was first shown 86 years ago. Happily, any digital cleanup was kept at a minimum, thus giving off a pleasing grain configuration that preserves the organic image quality of the source. It can safely be said that these classics have never looked better, and die-hard fans would do well to upgrade.
Extras include a new documentary, "The Marx Brothers: Hollywood's Kings of Chaos", five new audio commentaries by Harpo's son Bill Marx, film historians Anthony Slide, Jeffrey Vance and Robert S. Bader, film critics F.X. Feeney and Leonard Maltin, the Today Show interviews with Groucho, Harpo and Bill Marx, and an exclusive illustrated booklet on their career.
Treat yourself to this wonderful collection of some of the flat-out funniest movies ever made. Marx madness is a guaranteed tonic for the humdrum 'normalcy' of everyday life.
My highest recommendation.
I was turned on to the Marx Brothers at a very young age...I've joked that Groucho was my speech therapist. Needless to say, I was extremely pleased to see a blu ray release of these movies (Warner Brothers...your turn). Animal Crackers stands as my favorite of the films and this new release restores censor cut material that had previously been missing. I cannot complain about the films themselves.
However, there is a nasty issue with the audio in Duck Soup. Starting with the song "Laws of my Administration" the audio becomes distorted. I thought perhaps it was my blu ray player, but I spoke to my father (who also purchased the set) and he noticed the same trouble. He called it Intermod Distortion. Popping in the older DVD release, the older audio was quite clear and free of distortion.
I do plan to contact Universal directly to inform them of the difficulty. I have uploaded a clip from my phone of the scene where the trouble begins.
I have dvd versions of almost all the movies across all the studios they worked with. The image quality is definitely better and clearer than the dvd when directly comparing both images. The blu rays have have no noticeable 'cigarette burns' or cue marks where in the dvd editions they appear constantly. Certain scenes are more in focus although you can notice some distance shots are still out of focus (still better than the dvd). Overall image quality is brighter, crisper, more in focus and sharper overall. The sound quality is also a great leap from any dvd version i compared it with.
The oldies said it was the clearest they have ever seen it, and it is the clearest version of the movies i have ever seen as well. Some say there are certain scenes missing, but as these are there earlier/first releases from the Marx Bros i am not completely familiar with them unlike the later releases like go west or day at the races.
Overall it’s an improvement in image and audio quality on films made from 1929 so while many expected a full 4k restoration, that was always going to be unlikely for such a small market.
The extras include a short booklet, documentary, some today show interviews and of course audio commentary for every movie (one of them being by Harpos son, Bill Marx). The case is quite detailed and interesting to see the brothers in colour.
It worked as a great present, maybe for film connoisseurs this isn't enough. But i'd say for us regular enthusiasts of the Marx Brothers, it is definitely worth a buy.