Groucho Marx Collection: You Bet Your Life
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Groucho Marx's quick wit and rapid one-liners-- along with his distinctive moustache, eyebrows, and ever-present cigar--made him one of the most famous, iconic comedians of all time! Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo-- collectively known as the Marx Brothers-- made some of the most popular comedies in American cinema including The Coconuts, Duck Soup, and A Night at the Opera.
In 1947 Groucho began a radio show called You Bet Your Life, which spawned the TV series three years later. Groucho appeared, as himself, as emcee and star. The show's premise was simple: contestants sought to win up to $10,000 by correctly answering a sequence of four questions. If they unwittingly said a "secret word" they would win $100 bonus, delivered by a papier-mâché duck lowered from above. The best part of the show was the humor and banter Groucho ad-libbed with his contestants. You Bet Your Life ran for 11 years, making it one of the longest running shows in the history of television!
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The only fly in the ointment for me is that almost all of these episodes are from 1954. This series ran from 1950-61 and in the '70s, when I watched the reruns regularly, I noticed that the late fifties episodes were much more fun than the earlier, clunkier ones. You may notice the difference, too: Awful hairstyles on the guests, rather stiff and naive personalities (TV was new and I guess the contestants didn't know how to handle themselves). By 1957, everyone looked much better (including the set itself) and the guests tended to be much younger and more interesting.
This said, there is one 1957 episode here and one 1961 episode...and the DVD manufacturer spliced 1954 commercials into the 1961 episode! You will get to see ONE good DeSoto in all of this, though--the 1957 episode has correct '57 DeSoto commercials intact and the car really is gorgeous (unlike the pokey looking '54 model on display in all the other episodes).
There are some laugh-out-loud moments here, thanks to Groucho and his reparte with guests...most notably a highly eccentric old man from "Kaaansaaaaas" who actually creeps Groucho out with his weirdness, with hilarious results. Groucho's mimicry of this contestant at one point is priceless!
- Tony Curtis's Hungarian mother, who plays with international chess Grand Master Isaac Kashdan.
- An idiosyncratic character who sings a song he wrote in Sanskrit.
- An attractive girl from "Pakistan, India" (my how times change!) offering a nice 1950s inter-cultural perspective.
- A guy from Jet Propulsion Laboratory who works on classified projects talking about his experience "beating roulette wheels".
- A fella who blows up a car tire inner tube in his mouth till it explodes.
- A beautiful nurse named Ina Anders who later went on to become a B-movie actress.
- And to top it all off, a 22-year-old Don Drysdale -- ace pitcher with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, who would later be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Drysdale, together with Sandy Koufax, was part of one of the greatest starting pitching duos in baseball history -- and on this DVD, we see him win $1000 with his first wife. Unfortunately, Big D did not decide to go for the big question at the end of the show.
All in all, this DVD gives the best value I have found yet for your Groucho dollar. If they issue more of these, I will buy them.
However, menus and navigation are pretty basic; fifteen episodes on each of two discs are numbered links, but unlike other packages, there are no extras, out-takes, dates, or ability to isolate commercials. Don't look for printed booklets either; you might want to type your own list of episode descriptions. But for the price, this is a delightful set to own. Recommended.