Merged Thread: Marx Brothers on DVD - 7 more films on May 4th

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jaime_Weinman, Jan 3, 2004.

  1. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    It's mentioned at thedigitalbits.com that WB (which owns the MGM films) has a "Marx Brothers Collection" planned for June. There was also a post on alt.comedy.marx-bros by Bob Weide, producer of the documentary "The Marx Brothers in a Nutshell" (this post is from Nov. 28, 2003):


    The big question is, will Night at the Opera be restored? Every print I've seen is a reissue print from 1942, when MGM chopped the early scenes up to remove any reference to the fact that the opening scenes take place in Italy (that's why the film begins so abruptly, and why there are some awkward jump cuts in the "Party of the First Part" scene). I have no idea if the original print still exists. It's one of several Marx Bros. movies that was either chopped up on reissue (Animal Crackers) or just exists in a plain old choppy print (Horse Feathers).

    There was also a recent NY Times article that mentioned that a Duck Soup SE is in the works at Universal.
     
  2. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

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    I've heard that only the re-issue print survives, but perhaps we'll be surprised when the DVD is released.
     
  3. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    I am fairly certain that all which survives on A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (at least in the MGM/Turner/Warner vaults) is the curious abrupt-cut opening to the film.

    This issue piqued my curiosity when I was a student at USC, where many MGM files are housed. According to the original release cutting continuity, the film was released in 1935 with that abrupt cut at the beginning.

    Also, according the MGM files I researched there, the first theatrical re-issue of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (at least in the U.S.) was in 1948, not 1942. This was corroborated by the FILM DAILY YEARBOOK of 1949 covering 1948's film release activity.

    Further clues lie in the running time in original reviews match the running time of current prints, and the screenplay of the film, published by Viking in the early 70's, contains the original full script, prior to editing, and then the final release version script. This also indicates that the current version with the abrupt beginning is indeed how the film was originally released, strange as that may seem.

    So from my vantage point, there was no fiddling with the film after release. If anyone has any factual evidence to the contrary, I'd be pleased to know about it since this issue has been a source of curiosity to me for years.

    Meanwhile, there has been no genuine announcement that WB is going to release this picture in June (I don't believe these "rumor mill"-types who are so often a font for errata). However, Robert Weide's comments are solid evidence enough for me that these are definitely in the works, and that is truly welcome news.

    I hope that Warner Bros. releases all 7 of the Marx pictures they control, and not just the first two. What a great boxed set that would make!
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    This is a dream come true. I spent my
    childhood years engrossed in The Marx Brothers.

    Trivia Question (I ask cause I don't know the answer)...

    Which film ends with (I think) Harpo jumping
    on the back of a guy and exiting, with another
    guy following up with, Hey, where's my ride?
     
  5. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the information. What puzzles me is not so much the abrupt opening as the awkward removal of several lines from the Groucho/Chico "Party of the first part" routine (cut parts are in bold):

    CHICO: I don't know, I'm a stranger here myself.
    GROUCHO: Stranger? Aren't you Italian?
    CHICO: No, I only look that way because my mother and father are Italian.


    and

    "What do you care? Some Italian name. I can't pronounce it."

    The lines are in the script, and they were definitely in the film as shot, because you can see jump cuts where the lines originally were. But if the film was reissued after WWII, I don't know why they would have bothered to remove references to Italy. A puzzlement.
     
  6. MarkBourne

    MarkBourne Stunt Coordinator

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    That article is here. Requires free registration, but well worth it.

    (And over the past year the NYT has made an assertive push to regularly cover DVDs and home theater in its Movies coverage. The "DVD & Video" page is here.)

    Re the Marx's movies, I have the OOP Image collection and regularly slip one into the player, especially after a crappy day at the office (now there's a title worthy of the Brothers). Naturally I'm very pleased to hear about the SE for Duck Soup, my fave of them all. I'm also crossing my fingers for a restoration of Animal Crackers that puts Groucho's "I think I'd like to make her" line back into "Hooray for Captain Spalding" (that cut is particularly ragged) and a new print of Horse Feathers that rebuilds the way choppy "ice man" scene from start to finish.

    Here's hoping.
     
  7. Geo Gabor

    Geo Gabor Stunt Coordinator

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    I've had a question about my Monkey Business DVD that I've posed on this forum before, but nobody has ever been able to answer it. When I play the DVD, the audio is coming out of the left front speaker channel. Not the center speaker, not stereo (right and left), but only the left speaker. Does anybody else get this weird occurrence with this disc?
     
  8. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    I can tell you, as someone who works in home video here in L.A., it ain't a rumor. I know for a fact that at least A Night at the Opera, The Big Store, Room Service, Go West, and At the Circus are all in the late stages of preparation by Warner's.
     
  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Brian,

    Great News, except ignoring Night At The Opera,
    all the Marx Brothers titles you listed suck!

    I hope the MAJOR titles, Duck Soup, Horse
    Feathers, Monkey Business, Animal Crackers, A
    Day At the Races
    and The Cocoanuts are
    scheduled for release.
     
  10. Derek U

    Derek U Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't know Ron...

    I rather like The Big Store and there are bits and pieces of At the Circus that I find amusing, but I agree with you in that I really have no use for the other late MGM films. Still, as a fellow Marx Brothers fanatic (they played a prominent role in my documentary on influential films I did for my last year of college), I'll buy whatever comes out! I certainly hope (and maybe someone can confirm or deny this) that the holdup on these films was due to a good restoration. The Marx Brothers films (particularly the early Paramount ones) are all crying for it!

    Derek
     
  11. Charles Ms

    Charles Ms Stunt Coordinator

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    What about "A Day at the Races" ?

    This is one of my favourites beside the movies released by Universal.
     
  12. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    Seems like I saw that one come through here a few months ago as well, but I can't swear it. But surely if they're releasing the others, they're releasing Day at the Races.
     
  13. StevenFC

    StevenFC Second Unit

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    Room Service sucks?? I have only one thing to say about that...

    Jumping butterballs!!
     
  14. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    Give me A DAY AT THE RACES, ROOM SERVICE, AT THE CIRCUS or even A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA any day before I have to sit through creaky bores like THE COCOANUTS or ANIMAL CRACKERS(The Marxes are terrific in them, but them films themselves are arduous to watch).

    The only Marx Paramount films that I adore are HORSE FEATHERS and DUCK SOUP. The rest of them are too uneven, IMHO. (Of course being a Marx fan, I still bought all the
    Paramounts Universal licensed to Image when they were first released).

    Lookiing forward to all the brand-new releases...!
     
  15. MarkBourne

    MarkBourne Stunt Coordinator

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    Granted, THE COCOANUTS and ANIMAL CRACKERS -- once you're past watching them for the first time -- seem to be made for the fast-forward button that gets you from one Marx scene to the next without having to endure the supporting actors and sappy songs.

    However, those films are derived from two of the Marx Bros.' earlier Broadway shows and are filmed just about as simply as setting up a camera on a stage and letting the cast do their stuff. So they are our best records of those stage productions, and give us a taste of what the Brothers were like when performing live in front of an audience. Thus they're special even among the Marx canon. ANIMAL CRACKERS ranks up there with DUCK SOUP among my fave Marx films largely for that reason (as well as for having some of the all-time best Grouch-Harpo-Chico-Zeppo bits).

    Hands down, for me the Paramount films are far and away the best Marx films, even including NIGHT AT THE OPERA, which is a slickly made and good-looking MGM production but has little of the old Marx anti-authoritarian zing. As Irving Thalberg told Groucho when he signed them up at MGM, he'd make them rich again by making Marx Brothers movies that were twice as good with half as many laughs. And he did it, mostly. Shame Thalberg died young and the Marxes were handed to a studio head who didn't like them, which is why the films after RACES were so poor. (I'm typing from memory here, so someone else may correct or augment me re details.)
     
  16. JustinCleveland

    JustinCleveland Cinematographer

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    I don't mean to speak for Ron, but COMPARATIVELY speaking, those titles are nowhere near the quality of the "greats." Personally, any Marx Bros. is good Marx Bros.
     
  17. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Brian, actually, Universal has the rights to
    the early Marx Brothers films right up through
    Monkey Business and Duck Soup (whichever came last).

    Sorry that I caused a disturbance pertaining to
    my nasty reference to the later Marx Brothers films,
    but that's my opinion and I expected it wasn't going
    to jive with everyone else's opinions.

    But let's face it....

    The cream of the crop of Marx Brothers films were
    HorseFeathers, Duck Soup, Monkey Business, A Night
    At The Opera
    and A Day At The Races.

    I personally felt that while The Cocoanuts
    and Animal Crackers were lame, they weren't as
    bad as the late Marx Brothers efforts.

    (DUCK!)
     
  18. Derek_McL

    Derek_McL Second Unit

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    Generally I agree Ron but I wouldn't discount half of the brothers' output in a sweeping fashion. Yes the titles you mention are the best though personally I would put Animal Crackers in there too. To say half of them "suck" or are "lame" I think is going too far but you're entitled to your opinion.

    To clarify matters the Brothers made only twelve starring feature films not including the dreadful Love Happy which went too far in the direction of making Harpo an object of sympathy and offered just phoned in cameos for Groucho and Chico.

    To summarise : the five Paramounts now owned by Universal were The Cocoanuts (1929), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933).

    The five for MGM now owned by Warner were A Night at the Opera (1935), A Day at the Races (1937), At the Circus (1939), Go West (1940) and The Big Store (1941).

    The other two now owned I believe by Warner were originally produced by RKO and United Artists respectively : Room Service (1938) and A Night in Casablanca (1946).

    Obviously some of these are better than others but I would say they all have their moments to delight Marx fans. Duck Soup and Opera are the best of their films.

    I rate Animal Crackers highly too its just packed with memorable routines. I would agree its not an example of stunning cinema but that misses the point as it gives us the brothers uninhibited. The musical numbers may be creaky but the quaintness adds to the appeal and timelessness while the musical numbers even in Opera (the best of the MGMs)tend to date that film more. Most importantly they don't intrude in the brothers' wacky world like they do in the polished glossy numbers of Races which fill up far too much time in that film. Ironically you could consider Races more cinematic but who would prefer the number All Gods Children Got Rhythm to Hooray for Captain Spaulding ? A critic at the time said he preferred the ramshackle Paramounts for that very reason.

    I would apply the same argument to The Cocoanuts which is more stagebound and survives sadly in poor quality. Its a while since I've seen it but its probably on a par with the last three MGMs ie. a few good routines particularly The "Why-a duck?" sequence. In At the Circus Groucho gives us Lydia the Tattoed Lady and there is a memorable sequence where Margaret Dumont is fired out a cannon ! In Go West the final chase is a tour-de-force and while The Big Store is probably the poorest of the lot it still has some good dialogue.

    The best of the post Races' films is A Night in Casablanca but as I say if you're a real fan you'll find something in all of them. There are only twelve so I think I'll find space in my collection for whatever DVDs come from whatever studio. I would love it if "The Marx Brothers in a Nutshell" documentary or similar was included too and some good audio commentaries wouldn't be unwelcome. Based on recent form Warner should do right by the Brothers. All fans whatever films are released should have a real treat in store.

    If you're desperate for the Paramounts there is a boxset available in the UK which I think is just a repackaging of the OOP transfers but I'm not completely sure. Universal really need to get these back out as a matter of urgency and while you're at it dust down some of your W.C. Fields titles at the same time.
     
  19. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Derek,

    Excellent post.

    It's all a matter of taste. Didn't mean to
    stir up negative controversy here.

    I thought that I had heard that Universal is
    also readying the Paramount titles for release.

    I hope I heard that information correctly.
     
  20. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Well, there's mention of Duck Soup being prepped for a new DVD release in this very thread, which means Universal is doing something.
     

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