Customer Review

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars you can learn a lot from Lydia, 27 Dec 2013
This review is from: Marx Brothers Box Set [DVD] (DVD)
In a lot of ways the cleverness, cynicism and strangeness of the Marx Brothers suit modern tastes. Many people say they're their favourite pre-war film comedians - but I always suspect they are isolating individual moments and not watching the films in their entirety. Because as films, they are rubbish. They really fall between two stools - feeling obliged to provide some kind of tedious romantic plot, but not even attempting to integrate it with the comic routines. As a result these are as random and pointless as the slapstick skits in a pantomime. Groucho's wordplay, Chico's organ-grinder schtick, Harpo's general weirdness and Zeppo's...whatever he does*: they enter, they exit, on to the next unconnected bit of business. Then an arbour scene between the romantic leads, followed by some second rate cast 'number' and a dance routine.

Now, don't get me wrong: some of the Brothers' bits are very good, but it's not enough. The best films, like Duck Soup and Horse Feathers, do have a degree of coherence; but great comedy also needs meaning - not a message, but to have truth behind it - and it needs a heart. The Marxes, as characters, have no heart; they're like demons. Madness in their eyes, they prey mercilessly on everyone around them - until the denouement requires a bout of schmaltzy sentimentality to make sure the audience don't go off and have nightmares.

I don't know why this set doesn't include Day at the Races (my favourite) or Night at the Opera - but obviously without them it can't be seen as remotely definitive.

*To be fair, Zeppo was a pretty good singer; but that's not exactly what the act was most in need of.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Jan 2014 02:58:56 GMT
David Fuller says:
Good, Helpful, Considered, Funny Review.

You've reminded me how difficult the Marx Brothers films can be to watch.

Maybe I'll upgrade my Keaton videos instead.

Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jan 2014 20:40:38 GMT
gille liath says:
And thankyou for being open minded - a lot of people are offended if you criticise something they like.

I'm more a Laurel & Hardy man myself - I find BK a bit frenetic.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jan 2014 21:30:13 GMT
David Fuller says:
I ended up buying the 4-disc 'Animal/Monkey/Horse/Duck' Marx Bros set which I found elsewhere for 4.49 all in. That seemed like better odds to me.

I recommend the Keaton features if you don't know them - they're not half as frenetic as his shorts, which I also love. I know what you mean though. I think Keaton is often as much a choreographer of incredible 'dance routines' as he is a director/comedian.
I think he almost has more in common with Gene Kelly than with Chaplin.

As far as Laurel and Hardy goes, I've always found them puerile verging on the irritating, though I haven't really watched them since I was young. I was thinking of buying the 15 L&H feature box set but then sampled A Chump At Oxford on Utube and got irritated within the first five minutes.

I may be missing the subtleties of their work - I'd be grateful if you could persuade me otherwise.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jan 2014 22:07:12 GMT
gille liath says:
Puerile! It certainly doesn't look as though we have much common ground. :) I don't know if I can hope to persuade you if watching them doesn't. All I would say is, there's a childlike quality to their work yes; but I don't see it as a weakness. I suppose their characters are like the traditional folktale Fool: their innocence sees them through in spite of everything.

Admittedly towards the end of their careers they did veer towards being merely idiots (a bit like the 3 Stooges). Chump At Oxford is maybe at the beginning of that tendency; it's certainly not one of their best, especially the first half. The last ten minutes is good fun.

Anyway, if you were inclined to give them another try this set gives you a fair sample of their better work at a good price:

Laurel & Hardy Family Feuds 4 Disc Box Set DVD Hollywood Classics Comedy NEW

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jan 2014 02:12:31 GMT
David Fuller says:
Thanks for the recommendation.

There seems to be an awful lot of early comedy on Utube which, with a series of wires, I can watch on my TV...
So I watched a couple of L&H 1930s shorts. Their friendship does have a real charm, they do have great timing and some of the dialogue is funny, but when they're causing each other endless slapstick grief I just think of circus clowns - maybe that's just their earlier films.

Not that you asked, but if you have access to Utube you should try watching the 3-part 1970s documentary 'Buster Keaton: A Hard Act To Follow' (available on DVD too). It's rather good.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jan 2014 20:36:03 GMT
gille liath says:
I doubt it would look much on my little laptop screen. I've seen a fair amount of BK; I agree, it's maybe more acrobatics than comedy.

L&H - I suppose some folk are just slapstick-phobes. Personally I think there's nothing better when it's done well. The predictability - inevitability in fact - is exactly the point. Again, though, I agree it's pretty lame when done badly.

Posted on 4 May 2014 09:41:26 BDT
I can,t help but wonder if gille liath is looking into these films a bit too much, what this reviewer fails to mention is the absolute musical talent that these artists possess, it is without doubt talent beyond belief and don,t forgot how long ago these films were made. I doubt too if the audience would go off and have " Nightmares", Its not like the marx bros are horror actors,just good old fashoned zany comical fun ,this is how they will be best remembered regardless of any romantic plot or anything else for that matter. i enjoy watching the brothers over and over again, they were classic and tireless entertainers, so if you want romance in a film, you won,t get it here because they were classic comedians and sheer entertainers.
In all fairness to zeppo he was the least zany of them all but whatever the storyline he fitted in perfectly with it , a fine actor by any means.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 May 2014 11:29:21 BDT
gille liath says:
Tireless, and tiring!

I don't (of course) deny their talent as performers, but the fact they insisted on levering instrumental routines into the films to show off their ability is just another example of the lack of coherence.

I love Stan Laurel's take-off of that in Flying Deuces, where having demolished his bed he (in true Harpo fashion) starts playing the bedstead as a harp...

Posted on 9 Jul 2014 10:36:00 BDT
""I don't know why this set doesn't include Day at the Races (my favourite) or Night at the Opera - but obviously without them it can't be seen as remotely definitive".

Probably because they were MGM films and this collection is mainly of their earlier Paramount days

The MGM films can be found in a separate boxed set
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