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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2000
The Marx brothers fourth film is an avalanche of comic invention. Groucho plays a proffessor brought in to save a struggling college. He enlists the aid of Harpo and Chico, a bootlegger and a dog-catcher, to win the college football game, under the impression that they are professional football players. The three of them then proceed to chase seals, fire pea-shooters at each other, flirt with the college widow and do impersonations of Ben Hur before the glorious finale. Groucho with his frenetic wisecracking, Harpo with his silent surrealism, and Chico with his skewed brilliance combine to make this one of the Marx brothers funniest films.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Another of the early comedies from the Marx Brothers, Vaudeville stars turned movie stars in the 1930's with their unique brand of comedy.

Moustachioed cigar smoking insult man Groucho.

Fast talking ladies man Chico.

Grinning silent crazy guy Harpo.

And straight man Zeppo.

Horse Feathers, their fourth movie, sees Groucho as the new president of a college. Which hasn't won a football game in a long time. With a big match coming up, his attempt to buy new players results in Baravellli [Chico] and his partner Pinky [Harpo] teaming up with the president to see if they can change the college's run of bad results.

Unknown to them, the college widow Connie Bailey [Thelma Todd, who also played opposite Groucho in their previous film, and who died not long after in somewhat suspicious circumstances] is part of a betting scam and desperate to get her hands on the team's football signals so...

Oh, who cares about the plot? Marx Brothers films always had rather loose ones they could use to string a series of set piece routines together. And the best of these routines are superb. From the speakeasy password to a schoolroom pea shooter shoot-out, to a very memorable football match, and some very good songs, this is classic chaotic Marx Brothers comedy.

Containing the usual harp and piano playing sequences, this is notable for being the only film in which Groucho played his instrument of choice. The guitar. And a wonderful moment of fourth wall breaking when he expresses his [actual] opinion on the musical moments.

This is a very old movie now, and some may find it dated. But others will find it timeless. The quality of the wordplay and the dialogue is second to none and comes from masters of the comedic craft. Classic and entertaining cinema comedy and still a great film.

The dvd does also contain the original cinema trailer for the film.

The language and subtitle options on it are as follows:

Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish.

Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Greek, Turkish, Portugese, Russian.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
When I was young, I really didn't understand the comedy of the Marx Brothers. Now that I'm grown, I still don't understand a lot of it. I love Groucho and his endless supply of witty one-liners, but some of his bits in this film still just go right by me. Chico and his richly comedic language are always good, and I've even grown to like most of Harpo's antics, but somehow, when you put everything together, I'm left shaking my head every so often. I think the main obstacle in my enjoyment of a movie like this is the lack of continuity in the story. Most of the time, the plot is no more than incidental to the comedy. They certainly don't make movies like this anymore, so I have a hard time getting into the proper Marx Brothers mindset.
In Horse Feathers, Groucho plays Professor Waxhaw, the new president of Huxley College; his son (played by Zeppo) is following in the family footsteps of concentrating on a college widow when he should be concentrating on more important things - such as football. Professor Waxhaw decides that the Huxley team simply must beat Darwin, its primary rival. He takes his son's advice and hires a couple of football players who hang out at the speakeasy - well, actually he really recruits Chico and Harpo. Waxhaw also takes an active approach to teaching, and his takeover of the anatomy class makes for the funniest scene in the film (it degenerates into a spitball fight). All the guys hit on the widow woman Waxhaw's son is stuck on, not knowing she (Thelma Todd) is in cahoots with the Darwin team and is trying to steal Huxley's football signals. After a most unsuccessful attempt by Chico and Harpo to kidnap Darwin's two best players, we get to the big game. Picture this: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo all out there on the field - you can imagine the high strangeness and hilarity to be found here.
It's hard for me to evaluate this film. On the one hand, I can see that it is classic Marx Brothers, with one-liners, jokes, gags, songs, dances, the works. On the other hand, I sit here and wonder why I didn't find this film funnier than I did. I almost feel like I'm doing something wrong by not enjoying Horse Feathers more than I do.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
When I was young, I really didn't understand the comedy of the Marx Brothers. Now that I'm grown, I still don't understand a lot of it. I love Groucho and his endless supply of witty one-liners, but some of his bits in this film still just go right by me. Chico and his richly comedic language are always good, and I've even grown to like most of Harpo's antics, but somehow, when you put everything together, I'm left shaking my head every so often. I think the main obstacle in my enjoyment of a movie like this is the lack of continuity in the story. Most of the time, the plot is no more than incidental to the comedy. They certainly don't make movies like this anymore, so I have a hard time getting into the proper Marx Brothers mindset.
In Horse Feathers, Groucho plays Professor Waxhaw, the new president of Huxley College; his son (played by Zeppo) is following in the family footsteps of concentrating on a college widow when he should be concentrating on more important things - such as football. Professor Waxhaw decides that the Huxley team simply must beat Darwin, its primary rival. He takes his son's advice and hires a couple of football players who hang out at the speakeasy - well, actually he really recruits Chico and Harpo. Waxhaw also takes an active approach to teaching, and his takeover of the anatomy class makes for the funniest scene in the film (it degenerates into a spitball fight). All the guys hit on the widow woman Waxhaw's son is stuck on, not knowing she (Thelma Todd) is in cahoots with the Darwin team and is trying to steal Huxley's football signals. After a most unsuccessful attempt by Chico and Harpo to kidnap Darwin's two best players, we get to the big game. Picture this: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo all out there on the field - you can imagine the high strangeness and hilarity to be found here.
It's hard for me to evaluate this film. On the one hand, I can see that it is classic Marx Brothers, with one-liners, jokes, gags, songs, dances, the works. On the other hand, I sit here and wonder why I didn't find this film funnier than I did. I almost feel like I'm doing something wrong by not enjoying Horse Feathers more than I do.
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on 7 December 2013
I choose this dvd because of the rating and reveiws, I bought it as a gift for my friend and he really enjoyed it.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1932 has come and still the same depression and still the lack of whisky or bourbon and still the methylated spirit of moonshine trafficking on the telephone. So just invest, or dump, the four Marx brothers in a good college that is lying flat on its back in spite of all the varnish and inflating they have been doing with hot air and filling beans and you can greet the great implosion of the intellectual effete hormones of the middle-aged menopausal college professors and college widows and the latter's mafia beaus and college gigolos. But the speakeasy methylated whisky deliverer and his good friend the dog-catcher are better footballers than they are football player kidnappers. Though as for escaping from their locked rooms by sawing the floor around themselves they do better than any carpenter would do. What is surprising is how the Marx brothers are trying to confuse us with their symbolic subliminal innuendo that everyone feels and no one understands. Who knows that 42 is Solomon's number multiplied by the holy week, six times seven? Who knows that Harpo's swordfish is the flaming sword of some archangel in Genesis, the flaming sword that is the verb of God in the Old Testament's prophets sheathed upside down, outside in into a good old fish probably caught by Peter-Simon the fisherman and multiplied by Jesus? And we could go on like that for pages. Every single detail is ambiguous, meaningful but everything is said so fast, too fast, so that we hardly can follow the meaning of all these expectorations. And you jump from the "falsetto", or is it "false set o' toes" to a "false set o' teeth", a toe for a tooth, let's toe the line, tiptoe the mark that leads to the famous lex talionis. But what brass neck this Chico has who is playing the piano all the time as if he were on a music hall stage! What contumelious behavior this Harpo has who is constantly playing the harp, but is he really or is he alone! What bumptious chutzpah this Groucho has who is for the first time ever playing the guitar and throws it away to the ducks in the lake! And that is no wise quack from him even if it is a not so wise quack from the duck. And animal are thus constantly sprouting up in the language, a hog hugs a pig that picks a fight at once. Or some police dog ends up for sale in the dog catcher's van, who wanted to give a ticket to Harpo for blocking the traffic when he was only feeding and resting his horse. And I will not comment upon the football match that is won by the losers because they get loose on the rules and cheat openly. And that will end with the lurid scene of the college widow shifting her loyalties from the local mafioso and the smooth looking Zeppo to the triad of Harpo, Chico and Groucho in a polygamous marriage. That's what I would call a deep dive they will take all together on top of the widow after a high soar to a winning score, and the sore is for all of them who will be sorry to have ever come to that Huxley College that has little to do with any Brave New World. But they might sorely consider they have had some fun.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
It is a mistake I think, admittedly easy to make, to consider the Marx Brothers to be postmodern comedians. Indeed, there is a moment in "Horse Feathers" (1932) where Chico has started to play the piano and Groucho turns to the camera and tells the audience that while he is stuck listening to this there is no reason they cannot go to the lobby until this whole thing blows over. Rather than explaining this as an example of self-reflexivity, characters in a movie aware they are in a movie being watched by an audience, I think the fact the Marx Brothers were raised and educated in vaudeville offers a simpler and more accurate explanation. Similarly, their insistence on destroying the existing order wherever they find it, whether it be a college classroom or a local speakeasy, is symptomatic of anarchy rather than an instantiation of Fukyuama's declaration of "the end of history."
Postmodernism is based on metonymic order, syntagmatic combinations involving a perception of contiguity which can generate metonym (naming an attribute or adjunct of the thing instead of the thing itself, e.g. "crown" for royalty) or synecdoche (naming the part for the whole, e.g., "keels" for ships). However, when it comes to tropes and other figures of speech, the Marx Brothers simply resort to puns, eschewing even the Modernist notion of metaphoric order. If Groucho, as President of Huxley College needs to stamp a document with a seal, Harpo brings him a real live seal that the boys can chase around the room. Still, the Marxes can be literal, but only when the situation does not demand it: Harpo cannot speak (itself a telling indictment of conventionality and propriety), but can still communicate the secret password "swordfish" to gain entrance to a speakeasy and can respond with to requests to cut the cards or to help someone get a cup of coffee with more speed than a Groucho zinger.
For the Marx Brothers the messenger is more important than the message. Note with care that the boys are at Huxley College, whose chief rival is Darwin. Clearly, while Darwin first articulated the theory of evolution and the idea of survival of the fittest, the Marxes side with Huxley, who popularized those theories and made them palatable to the masses. Of course, there is also an implicit tribute to Huxley, who got off one of the great academic one-liners of all time in his infamous debate with Bishop Wilberforce over evolution. Within this Darwinian context the film's climax, taking place in a football game between the two aforementioned schools, becomes a pointed refutation of the idea human beings have evolved too far beyond our brutish ancestors. Of course, this is open to debate since the negotiated meaning we can draw from the text does not necessarily subvert the dominant meaning; unfortunately, this opens up the possibility of the film's oppositional meaning and once we get into the notion of subverting the text in anything involving the Marx Brothers academic towers start developing foundational cracks. Nor do we want to consider the implications of Groucho's character being named Wagstaff from a Freudian let alone a Darwinian (or even Marxist) perspective.
This is not to say the Marx Brothers are not ahead of their time, ironically in their support of consumerism. We have one of the earliest examples of product placement when Connie Bailey (Thelma Todd), the college widow involved with Zeppo, falls into the lake while canoeing with Groucho and makes the mistake of asking him for a "life saver." Amazingingly prescient regarding the harms of tobacco smoking, they undercut the mentioning of a popular cigarette by turning its slogan into a pun: "I'd walk a mile for a caramel." Who knows how many young people have seen this film over the years and decided to consume mass quantities of chocolate instead of smoking harmful cigarettes? This is a number, I truly believe, that cannot be accurately calculated. Indeed, we should not even try.
"Horse Feathers" is a second tier Marx Brothers comedy, below the sacred trinity of "Animal Crackers," "Duck Soup" and "A Night at the Opera," which still makes it a great comedy. It marks the second time that a film script was written for the brothers from scratch, rather than being adapted from a successful Broadway stage show. "Horse Feathers" was written by S.J. Perelman, Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Will B. Johnstone, and Arthur Sheekman (uncredited) and directed by Norman McLeod, who had worked with the brothers the year before with "Monkey Business," and who managed to direct a football film "Touchdown" in the interim period. Although the film does have its mundane moments, mostly involving everyone's attempt to court the college widow, the speakeasy scene is an absolute gem and the football game makes for a grand finale.
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