Robert Florey, Joseph Santley
Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx
, Oscar Shaw, Mary Eaton, Cyril Ring, Kay Francis, Margaret Dumont, Basil Ruysdael
George S. Kaufman (play), Morrie Ryskind
Celebrate the 75th anniversary of the greatest comedy act in history with The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection. This essential DVD set features the legendary four Marx Brothers in five of their most acclaimed and best loved films Ė Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Monkey Business, Animal Crackers and The Cocoanuts Ė the only five movies ever made with all four brothers together: Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo!
Runtime: 93 min.
Release Date: 11/9/2004
Available Only as Part of The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection.
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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The Cocoanuts: The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (1929)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 17, 2004)
If nothing else, 1929ís The Cocoanuts deserves a place in history as the Marx Brothersí first feature-length film. Set at a seaside Florida resort called the Hotel de Cocoanut, we meet the establishmentís proprietor, Mr. Hammer (Groucho Marx). The hotelís not doing well, so he hopes to sell some lots and raise cash. Jamison (Zeppo Marx) works as his assistant.
We also meet Harvey Yates (Cyril Ring), another man in debt who may need to marry wealthy Polly (Mary Eaton) to raise money. In addition, Harvey goes into a scheme with Penelope (Kay Francis) to steal Mrs. Potterís (Margaret Dumont) diamond necklace. Polly wants to marry aspiring architect Bob Adams (Oscar Shaw), however, and he desires to build a development in the area. Now, however, heís just a hotel clerk, and her mother pressures her to marry the higher-class Yates.
Into this setting come Harpo (Harpo Marx) and Chico (Chico Marx). Hammer thinks theyíre investors, but theyíre just freeloaders looking for a good time. Penelope plans to use them as scapegoats to take the fall for the robbery. The movie follows these various plots.
When Cocoanuts is good, it can be quite entertaining. When it falters, however, it really flops. To some degree, it can be unfair to criticize the filmís dated elements. A lot of its pacing follows the conventions of the era, and the acting choices also fall in line with the periodís standards.
At least to a degree, that is. I donít expect performers in a movie from 1929 to demonstrate naturalistic tones, but that doesnít excuse the stiff acting and stilted line readings from so many of them. At times it felt like the participants acted in different movies. They didnít seem to pay attention to each other and they filled space with lines rather than interact.
As with most Marx movies, Cocoanuts prospers when it focuses on the brothers but it dies when we leave them. It starts slowly with a long musical piece at the beach, and it also bores when it heads to other production numbers. Unfortunately, we get the usual harp solo from Harpo as well as a long piano piece from Chico. All the musical parts integrate awkwardly and go nowhere.
Virtually everything connected to the plot fails. All of those elements involve the non-Marx participants, and I simply couldnít care less about them. Iíve yet to see a Marx movie that uses secondary characters well, at least beyond Margaret Dumont, Grouchoís favorite foil. That holds true here, as the other participants are duds.
In truth, the plot is little more than an excuse to toss out a variety of sketches. Itís a feeble story that slows things down, as it zigs in and out of the film with little purpose. Nonetheless, it doesnít keep the funny bits from succeeding. The brothers interact better than usual here. In subsequent Marx flicks, it often comes across like they all have their own set pieces and donít work as a team. That doesnít happen here, as they blend seamlessly and create a nice dynamic.
Even the usually cutesy Harpo presents a more intriguing personality. He brings out more insolence than usual and tones down the cheesy parts of his character. Chico also seems more aggressive, and he contributes to the filmís best sequence. The land auction brings out good interaction between Groucho and Chico.
I donít think the Marx Brothers ever made a movie without significant flaws, and The Cocoanuts suffers from a mix of them. However, its positives often outweigh the problems. Despite stiff acting and poor plotting, the film features enough laughs to make it enjoyable.
The DVD Grades: Picture D/ Audio C/ Bonus NA
The Cocoanuts appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture ranged from decent to poor.
Most of the major problems stemmed from a couple of specific segments. One weak reel starts at around the 27-minute mark, while another opens at about 49 minutes. Both last about 12 minutes, and they looked terrible. They were too bright and faded and also looked quite soft. A few other isolated shots demonstrated the same concerns, but those two reels came across the worst on a consistent basis.
All parts of the movie suffered from lots of source flaws. I saw specks, marks, streaks, tears, grit and blotches much of the time. The scratches were so prevalent at times that it looked like it was raining onscreen. A flickering effect popped up occasionally as well. Some scenes are uglier than others, but virtually no part of the movie escapes without defects.
Except for the problematic reels I mentioned, the movie generally demonstrated good sharpness. The image looked slightly soft at times, but I mostly found the film to exhibit good definition. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and only light edge enhancement occurred.
Again, outside of the badly flawed reels, blacks were nice. They showed good depth and definition, and low-light shots were acceptably distinctive. Contrast tended to seem a little too gray, but those elements remained pretty positive.
Really, the main issue with Cocoanuts stemmed from all the source flaws. The movie badly needs a clean up. While I expect thereís only so much that can be done for a 75-year-old flick, Iím sure it could look better than this messy transfer. Every once and a while the movie looked quite good, such as during Chicoís piano solo. Too bad more of the flick didnít present similarly strong visuals.
Since The Cocoanuts hit the screens only a year or so after the introductions of ďtalkiesĒ, I didnít expect much from its monaural soundtrack. Indeed, I didnít get much from it, as the audio seemed average for its era, which meant a number of flaws. Speech lacked edginess but could sound moderately muffled at times and never remotely appeared natural. Nonetheless, the lines remained intelligible and satisfactory for their vintage.
Music showed thin tones and lacked definition. Effects followed suit and were feeble and tinny. However, neither element suffered from notable distortion, so they were decent given their age. Some parts fared worse than others; ďI Want My ShirtĒ sounded like it was recorded in a tunnel. A moderate amount of noise presented throughout the movie. The levels never became high, but the distractions existed at all times. Ultimately, nothing about the audio of Cocoanuts overcame the limitations of its era, but the mix didnít suffer from any extreme problems.
No supplements show up on this disc. Because the movie can be purchased only as part of a six-DVD package with one disc devoted to bonus materials, I didnít give Cocoanuts or the other individual discs a grade for extras. Iíll rate the setís supplements as a whole when I look at that platter.
The Cocoanuts deserves attention due to its historical significance, and it also offers sporadic amusement. Iíve yet to find a truly consistent Marx Brothers comedy, and Cocoanuts suffers from some of the usual flaws. Nonetheless, it presents a fair number of funny bits and generally entertains. The DVD gives us problematic visuals with average audio. No supplements appear on this disc. I donít think this is a high-quality DVD, but Marx fans should still enjoy it.
Note that Universal currently offers The Cocoanuts only as part of The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection. This six-disc set also includes Duck Soup, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers and Animal Crackers. The package provides one disc devoted to supplements as well.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3333 Stars
| Number of Votes: 3