The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The good news

This is the first DVD release of the Paramount Marx Brothers collection now owned by Universal. That includes their first five films, which together constitute 100% of the films with all four Marxes. Zeppo quit the act after Duck Soup. He never really belonged there in the first place, and nobody really knew exactly what to do with him. The other three brothers had developed their classic characters, but Zeppo was always just a stiff young guy in a suit, usually cast as Groucho's secretary or son or something. The guy had a decent singing voice and a pleasant face, but he just wasn't funny.

The hierarchy of Marx humor goes like this (1) Groucho (2) Chico (3) Harpo (4) Karl (5) Gummo (6) Zeppo. The funniest moments usually occur when Chico and Groucho get together. To tell you the truth, I have never seen Gummo perform, and I don't know if there is anyone left alive who has, since his last performance occurred about 80 years ago. He quit when the brothers were still performing on stage, and at that time there were no talking films, so I don't think there is any filmed record of Gummo performing with the brothers. Despite this obvious limitation to my ranking's credibility, I still have to rank him above Zeppo simply by the laws of probability. It would be next to impossible to find someone who is not funnier than Zeppo. The prophet Jeremiah? Erasmus of Rotterdam? William Randolph Hearst? John Ashcroft? Rosie O'Donnell? All funnier than Zeppo. Therefore, I have to believe that Gummo was as well. It is also possible that Gummo was funnier than Karl, but I'm not sure. People in London reported that Karl Marx was a funny, funny guy when he had a couple of schnapps and started to impersonate Bakunin's walk.

The collection contains: (Film, (Year), IMDb score)

The Cocoanuts is simply too primitive to be really good.  It was basically just a filmed re-creation of a stage show, recorded entirely on a sound stage. Made in 1929, it was one of the first talkies. In fact, The Cocoanuts was made only a year after the first-ever all-sound picture, 1928's Lights of New York! Yup, that's right. Lights of New York was the first film ever made with sound from beginning to end, and nobody even remembers the sumbitch! The famous and universally acknowledged "first talkie", The Jazz Singer, was fundamentally a silent film which included a few recorded musical numbers. Most of the Jazz Singer dialogue is silent, although Jolson spoke a few lines of dialogue around and during the songs, as was his wont. At any rate, the sound in The Cocoanuts is both poorly recorded and badly timed. (The actors didn't seem to know how to play to the microphones.)

The first three on that list are comedy classics, but Duck Soup is greater than that - an undisputed masterpiece, considered one of the ten best comedies ever made. Amazingly, it was such a commercial flop that it caused Paramount to terminate its relationship with the Marxes, who went off to MGM and continued to amuse for many more years, albeit without Zeppo's contributions.

The bad news

I am thrilled to get these five rare films on DVD for less than ten bucks a throw, but Universal did absolutely nothing with them except to place them in some beautiful packaging. The films have not been cleaned up or re-mastered. There is a sixth disc of special features, but this entire discrete disc has less than twenty minutes worth of mediocre material, almost all of it consisting of slow-paced interviews from The Today Show.



  • The six discs include the five films, plus a very small collection of extras. The entire sixth disc contains only 20 minutes of interviews from NBC's Today Show in the 60s - featuring Groucho and Harpo's son Bill.
  • collectible book and packaging



Nobody gets naked. Even the Marxes do not get naked. Not even Zeppo.

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