[Marxism] Groucho and Harpo are back

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Tue Nov 9 14:24:48 MST 2004

The home video divisions of Universal and Warner Brothers seem to be in a
tug of war over who can release the best-produced box sets of vintage
material. This week the advantage goes to Universal for its stunning,
indispensable collection of the first five Marx Brothers features, "The Marx
Brothers Silver Screen Collection."
As any Marxist will tell you, the five films the brothers made for Paramount
in the early 30's represent the funniest and purest expression of their art,
uncompromised by the sappy romantic subplots imposed upon them by MGM.

Though Universal (the studio that owns the pre-1948 Paramount titles) has
issued all five films before on DVD, this edition offers new transfers that
eliminate most of the dirt and scratches apparent on the first releases.
"The Cocoanuts," the first and most poorly preserved of the five, has been
given what seems to be a major upgrade (unless I missed an edition
somewhere), with de-hissed sound and a few eye-popping scenes from a
35-millimeter print (as opposed to the muddy 16-millimeter prints that have
been the film's only known source for years).

"Duck Soup," the brothers' greatest film (perhaps because it marked the only
time they worked with a great filmmaker, in this case Leo McCarey) looks
ever more relevant as time goes by. Filled with slashing political satire
and outrageous assaults on propriety (Harpo's washing his legs in Edgar
Kennedy's lemonade tank is a transgressive moment to rank with "Un Chien
Andalou"), it's a film that has spoken to generations of the young and
disaffected and will certainly continue to do so.


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