02 April 2006

Marx (1929)

1929 - The Cocoanuts - The only Marx Bros. film I'd seen before this was, I think, Duck Soup. That was over a decade ago but the memories of the heavy guffaws it caused lead me to this particular chronocinethon. Going into this film, I was curious to see if I could still laugh at the Bros. Was their humor, at 76-years-old, too dated to understand? Already films like Austin Powers, at the ripe age of 7, are losing their comedic kick. No worries. Once past the obligatory love song, the scene between Groucho and Mrs. Potter had tears rolling out of my eyes. You need to be nearly as quick-witted as Groucho just to keep up with the jokes in this scene. It's easy to see why Margaret Dumont is the "fifth Marx Brother," as her utterly lost straight man is perfect for Groucho's rapid-fire wisecracks. The rest of the film never quite reaches such a comedic peak, though the scene in which Harpo begins randomly tearing people's mail in half had me laughing nearly as hard.

The songs are pretty bland -- with the exception of the bizarrely titled "Monkey Doodle Doo" -- but I found them watchable just to study 1929’s approach to sexuality. On the other hand, the Bros.'s songs were excellent. In particular, Harpo's harp composition was incredible. Chico's piano tune wasn't bad, either. Both play their instruments with a breezy flair that's fun to watch. Zeppo, however, was entirely useless in the film. It's easy to see why he takes off for behind-the-scenes later on.

A special raspberry to Universal, the worst major studio out there when it comes to DVDs. Their box set of the Paramount Marx Bros. films lacks special features and, judging from the shoddy image quality, appears to be complete unrestored. Universal: send an intern over to WB and have him takes some notes, for Pete's sake. (8/10)

d. Robert Florey & Joseph Santley