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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Comedy > Inside The Marx Brothers

Inside The Marx Brothers


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Program: B



It is seven decades later and The Marx Brothers and their legacy are as strong as ever.  Where would The Beatles, Stanley Kubrick and Mel Brooks be without them?  Inside The Marx Brothers (2003) is another attempt to examine the history and work of maybe the most successful family act in history.  Even though their film careers did not get to go as far as it should have, many of their features are classics.  Their influence and success did not stop there.


Zeppo and Gummo formed the talent agency that eventually became the powerful MCA.  Music Corporation of America eventually bought out Decca Records, renamed it under its new name, bought Universal Pictures, and grew into one of the biggest and most influential companies ever.  After going from ownership in Japan (Matsushita in 1990), Canada (Seagrams), and France (Vivendi), General Electric bought the company now renamed NBC/Universal and the MCA name is history.


The act also became iconographic, especially in the cases of Grouch and Harpo, which is shown in some cartoon appearances.  Through clips, we see an early (ironically) silent 1925 Harpo feature film appearance, then trailers are used to chronicle their feature film rise and fall.  This is all over about half way though the program, which then focuses on the individual Marx’s work and their failed attempts to reunite in a project that worked.


Unlike the long-standing DVD The Unknown Marx Brothers (1998), the focus does become more Groucho in the second half, but both programs offer rare clips of their own.  This DVD has an early CBS-TV clip of a test run on You Bet Your Life before it went to NBC, something you will not find on the new “Lost Episodes” DVD boxed set (reviewed elsewhere on this site).  The box does have the Walgreen program referred to here with Bob Hope that helped inspire producers to create the show for Groucho in the first place.


The full screen image is mixed, with the old feature film clips looking muddier than expected in this day of film restoration, though they are from trailers.  Most of the footage and stills are monochrome, but there is some color footage here and there.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is passable, though nothing special.  Unlike The Unknown Marx Brothers, there are two extras here: a 1931 Paramount promo film with The Four Marx Brothers in The House That Shadows Built and Groucho being interviewed by Edward R. Murrow from his house from a 1954 installment of the Person to Person TV series.


In the case of both DVDs, no serious analysis of the Marx Brothers films or work is offered, but the overviews in both cases are entertaining and informative.  This all runs about 90 minutes in total.  Neither are substitutes for their films going in and out of print, either.  Hopefully, along with the You Bet Your Life boxed set also issued in 2003, a much-needed revival is on the way.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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