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on August 26, 2016

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on December 9, 2016
The Marx Brothers - Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo - are beyond a doubt one of the most iconic comedy teams in the history of entertainment. Their zany antics, sharp witticism and merciless assault on snobbery have endured for more than a century; from their Vaudeville roots and subsequent success on Broadway, to their rise to stardom in films and radio, then resurgence on television, and finally through mass marketing of their movies on home video.

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.
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on October 23, 2016
 I don't normally write reviews, but I felt compelled by an audio issue that was actually a step back in quality versus the DVD edition released some time ago.
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.
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on November 9, 2016
I needed a present for the oldies and saw they were releasing the first set of Marx Brothers on Blu-ray, so i preordered this set.

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.
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on October 29, 2016
This set ultimately disappoints as there simp!y hasn't been proper care taken with the 'restorations'. Indeed, I take a lot of convincing all five movies have infact been restored.

The set opens with a very clean looking and sounding copy of 'The Cocoanuts', no complaints, this has been well restored although some poor source sections are very obvious.

The second movie 'Animal Crackers' is complete! Sourced from an original (pre Hays Code) duplicate negative found in the British Film Institute's archives This movie has come from a good source and the print has been restored competently and is well presented, no complaints!

Unfortunately, 'Monkey Business' from the opening sequence shows scratches that could have been removed with a little care, worse they are pretty comparable with my UK DVD copy. What restoration?

It's a huge shame that a better source copy of 'Horse Feathers' wasn't found as the huge number of 'Hays Office' cuts ruin the potentially hilarious sequence in the 'college widows' apartment. Some basic scratch removal has been applied, but there's nothing here to make upgrading from DVD worthwhile.

Duck Soup is a mess, massively inferior to even my UK sourced DVD having very similar visual quality but massively distorted sound from the first song which isn't on the DVD!

This is a poor package. The copies of 'The Cocoanuts' and 'Animal Crackers' are well worth having. The rest are just a disappointment and little better than the 'unrestored' DVD. Duck Soup is worse.

I contacted Universal about the Duck Soup audio and was sent a replacement disc with the same fault. When I emailed them back to say the fault was still there their response was polite but clearly meant 'We don't care'!

Viewing and comparisons were made on a 104" screen in my full HD home theatre and also on a 50" Panasonic TV.

So two stars for The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers. The rest is a waste of time if you already own a copy of the movies and in the case of Duck Soup you're actually better off with the DVD!
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on December 4, 2016
People often ask "Why should I shell out extra cash to buy a Blu-ray set, when my dvds look fine?". We'll Cinema Marxian-Philes, this set is why!. These films are now a thing of nearly pristine quality. Far removed from it's Dvd precursors. Razor sharp images and much better sound. Or, to be fair, as good as the sound on these early films can ever hope to be. Ad to this, the fact that ANIMAL CRACKERS has returned to it's original pre-code version. Yes, extra footage that has not been seen since it's original release. Un-fortunately, we still have the same ol version of HORSE FEATHERS. But, hopefully, a complete version will eventually surface. That choppy scene in Thelma Todd's living room is only there because the source material is from a edited, later re-issue print that cut that pesky pre-code naughty language out. Naughty by 30s standards, not 2016 standards. My deepest respect to the restoration people at Universal, for making these films look so amazing. And further thanks for their work on the Classic Horror series as well. Bravo ladies and gentlemen!. Thank you for preserving your (And our) Film Heritage!. P.S. Can you believe that the masterpiece DUCK SOUP, did so poorly at the box office, that it caused the brothers Marx to lose their contracts with Paramount??!!. NO fan of the boys will argue, that these 5 films are the best the guys ever did. JUST BUY THIS ALREADY, and support restoration.
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on November 26, 2016
This is the ultimate collection of their first five films. All films have been totally restored, sound and vision (the sound has been equalised throughout the films so there is no increase/decrease in volume as the actors move closer or further away from the microphone), and "Animal Crackers" has been lovingly restored to its original pre 1936 version, fully restored as it was originally meant to be seen when it was released in 1930, before it was savagely cut to suit the production standard codes of 1936. There is commentary on each film by selected and noted film historians, including Harpo's son, Bill Marx, that are well worth listening to. Do Not Confuse this set with the standard DVD version under the same title. It has the same special features as the standard version, as well as new additional features that make this Blu-ray set a must. The Blu-ray set also includes a booklet titled "The Marx Brothers: From Vaudeville to Hollywood" featuring an all new essay on the comedians and many rare photos. I am not disappointed at all and neither will you be. Do yourself a favour and buy this Blu-ray set and see for yourself just how funny and clever the Marx Brothers were when they were at their prime. This is also a great time capsule to see what life was like in America between 1929 (when Prohibition was still in effect) and 1933.
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on December 9, 2017
Not really. Even Prof. Wagstaff would want this set. A couple extra minutes of Animal Crackers alone is worth the price.

Beyond that, this set is a marked improvement over the DVD release. Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers are both cleaned up nicely, with scratches and other damage to the film removed, and levels and contrast much improved. Also, floating of the image within the frame is eliminated. However, the worst damage in Cocoanuts – during parts of the auction and party scenes – are still markedly poorer in quality than the rest of the movie. The other notable change is the framing: The Blu-ray set is generally framed so that more of the image at the bottom of the frame is visible. In Animal Crackers, this allows the modern viewer to finally see silverware coming out of Harpo’s sleeve. Unfortunately, an exception occurs in Cocoanuts, again in the auction scene, where the framing is set higher and Harpo is partially cut off as he rows himself off screen. If you are not familiar with the action, you might have difficulty figuring out what’s happening.

As for the other three films, it’s sufficient to say about the video that it’s typically cleaner and sharper as per a digital remastering. The framing is somewhat different but not significantly. The lighting at the end of Monkey Business is much improved. The extent of the damage to the singing lesson scene of Horse Feathers unfortunately remains the same. Also, for the last 15 minutes or so much of the framing is quite a bit tighter; when the pig jumps out of Harpo’s bag, the viewer’s glimpse of it is fleeting. The audio in Duck Soup does have some distortion during Groucho’s opening song, as noted elsewhere, and Chico’s line “Believe me, he’s one smart dog” sounds less dubbed than on the DVD.

Overall, this set is a must-have for any devoted Marx fan.
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on July 26, 2014
I'm so glad I bought this set. Instead of the previously released Universal 6-Disc Collection (which costs more), this set is a 2-disc set with all five of the Marx Brothers' Paramount movies (The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup). This 2-disc set has everything that was included on the 6-disc set. Also, these transfers look a lot better than the Image Entertainment DVD's that were released of the individual movies in 1995 and 1996.

I was skeptical and confused about purchasing this set because of some of the reviews I read about this set online. I read that Groucho's scene "My father was a little headstrong, my mother was a little armstrong.." was edited out of "Duck Soup" and that some other edits were also made. I watched these DVD's and there definitely doesn't look like any edits were made. The running time for each movie matches the running time of the Image Entertainment DVD's as well.

This set (like the 6-disc set) also includes the three brief Today Show interviews with Harpo Marx, Groucho Marx, and William Marx (Harpo's son). There are some hilarious routines in these five movies, which include four of the Marx Brothers: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo.
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on July 29, 2017
I have bought these films in vhs, dvd and now blu ray formats. These films have been some of my favorite films since my childhood and are among the greatest comedies ever made. The new blu ray transfer greatly improves the picture and sound quality. The one thing I have to ask is why there is still missing frames/glitches in Horse Feathers during the couch scene with Groucho and the college widow. Is there only one surviving master reel of this film?

As to the content of the films in this collection, these films are the Marx Brothers at the height of their talents. The lightning fast dialogue must have really shaken up audiences of the time who were just adjusting to the introduction of sound in the movies after thirty years of silent movies. The anarchy the Marx Brothers unleash on the screen during the time period of these films is relentless and nothing is sacred, especially the wealthy dowager. The only thing that slows the pace down is the musical numbers. While Chicho Marx is one of my all time favorite piano players and his numbers are great fun, and you can forgive Harpo's harp pieces, even though they drag the pace down; it's the singing musical numbers that are painful pace-killers (except of course Groucho's ie: Hello I Must Be Going, Hooray For Captain Spaulding, Whatever It Is I'm Against It, etc.) and really date the films. I guess even in the 1930's, film studios were trying introduce songs in films to sell records in stores; maybe audiences were expecting musical numbers after the introduction of sound into movies. These musical numbers are probably carry-overs from the stage versions of the show, when the Brothers were off stage changing wardrobe or taking a break.
Animal Crackers is my favorite Marx Brothers film.
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