DVD Verdict
Home About Deals Gift Guide Blu-ray DVD Reviews Upcoming DVD Releases Contest Podcasts Judges Jury Room Contact  

Case Number 18234

Buy TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Marx Brothers at Amazon

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Marx Brothers

A Day At The Races
1937 // 109 Minutes // Not Rated
Room Service
1938 // 78 Minutes // Not Rated
At The Circus
1939 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
A Night In Casablanca
1946 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // February 2nd, 2010

• View Judge Rubino's Dossier
• E-mail Judge Rubino
• Printer Friendly Review


Every purchase you make through these Amazon links supports DVD Verdict's reviewing efforts. Thank you!




 

All Rise...

Judge Mike Rubino demands his three-minute egg in two minutes!

Editor's Note

Our reviews of A Day At The Races (published June 7th, 2004) and A Night In Casablanca (published May 25th, 2004) are also available.

The Charge

"It's the old, old story. Boy meets girl—Romeo and Juliet—Minneapolis and St. Paul!"
Dr. Hackenbush

Opening Statement

The Marx Brothers have been icons of American comedy since Horse Feathers and Duck Soup. As they got their footing in Hollywood, producers sought to make the Marx films more mainstream, with bigger musical numbers, romantic subplots, and elaborate set pieces.

Turner Classic Movies has repackaged four of these films, from the middle of the brothers' film career, together in a new two-disc set.

Facts of the Case

A Day at the Races (1937): Following the huge success of A Night at the Opera, the Marx Brothers release this companion film featuring plenty of racetrack high-jinx. Groucho Marx plays Dr. Hackenbush, a horse doctor posing as the new medical director of a failing sanitarium; Chico plays a con artist trying to make a quick buck at the horse track, and Harpo plays a jockey hoping to break in a new horse.

Room Service (1938): This RKO-produced film follows the Marx Brothers as they try to put on a play. They've run out of money, however, and the fate of their production, and their lavish hotel room, rests on the success of landing a big-time backer. Complications arise as the hotel manager, the owner, and the playwright all show up for their share of the money.

At the Circus (1939): The brothers are trying to save a traveling circus from bankruptcy. The circus owner's money gets stolen by the villainous John Carter (James Burke, The Maltese Falcon), who's trying to take over the operation; it's up to attorney J. Cheever Loophole (Groucho), Punchy (Harpo), and Tony (Chico) to recover the cash and save the day.

A Night in Casablanca (1946): Groucho is Ronald Kornblow, the new manager at the Hotel Casablanca—after the previous two managers were murdered. He finds himself in the middle of a power struggle as a former-Nazi (played by Sig Ruman, who's also in A Day at the Races) tries to take over the hotel in order to recover stolen German treasures. Of course, Kornblow will need the help of his old friends Rusty (Harpo) and Corbaccio (Chico) if he's to stop the Nazi menace.

The Evidence

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Marx Brothers features four films from the latter half of the trio's career. While Groucho, Chico, and Harpo remain as funny as ever, their films tend to drop off in quality as studios became more involved in the creative process. The stories, music, and characters in these films may be rote, but the Marx Brothers' energy and wit keep things lively.

A Day at the Races remains, to this day, one of their strongest films (AFI has it ranked 59th on their 100 funniest movies list), and it's certainly the best in the set. Directed by Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera), the film features Groucho as the iconic Dr. Hackenbush, as well as the lengthy vaudeville sketch "Tutsi Fruitsy Ice Cream." The film is packed with memorable one-liners, sketches, and dance numbers. Even the supporting characters, like Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont, Duck Soup) and Leopold Steinberg (Sig Ruman, A Night at the Opera), are excellent, keeping the plot interesting even when the brothers aren't on screen.

The same can't be said for some of the other films in the set. While Room Service is a short, and entertaining chamber play, At the Circus and A Night in Casablanca drag when Groucho and the gang are off screen. The problem with Circus and Casablanca is that the standard "bad guy trying to take over something" storyline coupled with a "young couple in love" subplot feels like filler, carting the audience along until the Marx Brothers can come back with another killer sketch. At the Circus feels especially padded due to the absurd amount of musical numbers tossed into the mix.

It's hard, however, to really hate on any of these movies, regardless of how lame the subplots may be. No one watches a Marx Brothers movie to see if the romantic leads get together at the end. You watch At the Circus to laugh—and you will, especially when Groucho and Chico interrogate Little Prof. Atom (Jerry Marenghi, Wizard of Oz) in his miniature dressing room. A Day at the Races may be a perfect unity of a traditional Hollywood story and the Marx Brothers' vaudeville act, but the rest of the movies in the set are undeniably funny.

The four films collected in this set remain relevant and watchable. They peddle a form of anarchy that's hard to measure in this day and age, but their brand remains inoffensive (well, until that blackface scene in A Day at the Races) and indefatigable. According to an interviewee in the supplement On Your Marx, Get Set, Go!, A Day at the Races is considered the Marx Brothers' last great film. As far as this collection is concerned, that statement stands true.

It should be noted that these four films are the same releases that came out in 2004. The various bonus features, scratchy video transfers, and mono sound are all the same. The only thing new here is that these four films have been dumped on to two, double-sided DVDs. If you didn't pick up the larger box set these were first released in, or the individual discs, then at least you're in for a good set of supplements for a decent price. Each disc comes with a vintage short film and some old school cartoons. A Day at the Races also comes with a short featurette on the trio along with a commentary track by author Glenn Mitchell. The vintage cartoons and shorts may be of interest to some, but it would have been nicer to have film-specific featurettes instead.

Closing Statement

Essentially, TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Marx Brothers is a double dip of four previously released DVDs. So if you don't already have these discs as part of some larger collection, then they're certainly worth checking out. The Marx Brothers are as hilarious as ever, it's wading through the cheesy subplots and musical numbers that feels a little out of date.

The Verdict

Not Guilty! Guilty! Not Guilty! Guilty!

Give us your feedback!

Did we give TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Marx Brothers a fair trial? yes / no

Share This Review


Follow DVD Verdict


DVD Reviews Quick Index

• DVD Releases
• Recent DVD Reviews
• Search for a DVD review...

Genres

• Classic
• Comedy

Scales of Justice, A Day At The Races

Video: 75
Audio: 80
Extras: 75
Acting: 88
Story: 87
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, A Day At The Races

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1937
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, A Day At The Races

• Commentary
• Featurette
• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoons
• Bonus Audio
• Radio Promo
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Room Service

Video: 73
Audio: 80
Extras: 70
Acting: 89
Story: 86
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Room Service

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 1938
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Room Service

• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, At The Circus

Video: 78
Audio: 83
Extras: 68
Acting: 84
Story: 80
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, At The Circus

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1939
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, At The Circus

• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, A Night In Casablanca

Video: 75
Audio: 80
Extras: 70
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, A Night In Casablanca

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1946
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, A Night In Casablanca

• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon








DVD | Blu-ray | Upcoming DVD Releases | About | Staff | Jobs | Contact | Subscribe | Find us on Google+ | Privacy Policy

Review content copyright © 2010 Michael Rubino; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.