The Cocoanuts (1929) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||1929|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5||Directed By||
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.19:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Hammer (Groucho Marx) owns and runs a financially challenged hotel in Florida, Jamison (Zeppo Marx) is one of his employees. Hammer is trying to revive his fortunes by wooing rich widow Mrs Potter (Margaret Dumont) and selling worthless swamp land to investors; Mrs Potter’s daughter Polly (Mary Eaton) is in love with penniless dreamer Bob (Oscar Shaw) while Yates (Cyril Ring), who has his own designs on Polly, and Penelope (Kay Francis) plan to steal Mrs Potter’s diamond necklace. When con-men and thieves Chico (Chico Marx) and Harpo (Harpo Marx) arrive at the hotel to try to make a quick buck or two, things rapidly get out of hand.
The Cocoanuts is The Marx Brothers’ first film and was based on their Broadway hit show of the same name which started its run in December 1925 and ran for 276 performances. The Cocoanuts displays both its Broadway origins and early filmmaking techniques; the camerawork and staging of the sequences is relatively static, there are entrances and exits each side of the frame, musical numbers and songs punctuate the action which, with dance numbers by leggy chorus girls, bring the story to a stop. In fact, for a Marx Brothers film, there is not enough of the brothers and their routines, although the film does include some delicious, and rather risqué, dialogue from Groucho, some classic verbal gymnastics between Groucho and Chico including the famous “why a duck?” scene, a manic “split screen” sequence with adjoining rooms and rapidly opening and closing doors, physical comedy silliness involving Harpo and a farcical land auction.
In The Cocoanuts The Marx Brothers were testing out a new medium; one must also remember that this is the early days of “talkie” films and The Cocoanuts was advertised as “the all talking-musical comedy hit”. At the time The Cocoanuts was made they were shooting the film in the morning while appearing on Broadway in Animal Crackers at night, a play that would be their next film. It was reported that the brothers were very unhappy with the film and tried to buy the prints from Paramount. Perhaps fortunately, they did not succeed.
The Cocoanuts is manic and funny in places but is perhaps best treated as a trial run for their better films to come.
The Cocoanuts is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the NTSC code; the IMDb gives the original ratio as 1.20:1. The opening credits have the black bars at either side, but the film is stretched to fill the screen.
No original print of The Cocoanuts survives. All now existing prints were constructed from 3 prints in the 1950s which results in variations in sharpness, contrast and brightness. Some sequences are quite sharp, with good detail, other sequences can be softer; for example, during the dinner at the end of the film when there are cuts to different prints the variation in detail and contrast is quite obvious. There is also blurring with fast movement, such as Harpo’s hands when he plays the harp (for example at 38:22). Grain is evident, and also varies, but there are no obvious large marks or macro blocking. Blacks vary but are mostly acceptable and solid. For a film that is almost 90 years old, this is a decent print which is always watchable.
English subtitles are provided in a large, light yellow, text. I sampled a small section which contained an error reading “Somebody pay theibill?” at 3:41.
Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.
This is a predictably tinny sounding audio, especially during the songs sung by Mary Eaton, but except in a couple of places when the music of Irving Berlin seemed too loud in the mix, dialogue was clear. There are no effects to speak of. There was occasional slight hiss but nothing serious.
I noticed no lip synchronisation issues.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu only allows a selection of The Cocoanuts or Animal Crackers to play. There are no extras on this disc, the first disc of the three DVD The Marx Brothers Collection, but the third DVD of the set includes the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos running 79:53.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Cocoanuts has been around for almost 90 years and there have been a number of home entertainment releases. Perhaps the closest equivalent to this The Marx Brothers Collection is a similar collection in the US of the brothers’ first five films which includes short archival interviews with Harpo, Groucho and Harpo’s son William but does not include the The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary. To my mind this featurette gives our release the edge.
The Cocoanuts, released in 1929, was The Marx Brothers’ first film. It has its moments and is funny and manic when Groucho, Chico and Harpo are let loose, but there is not enough of them. Nevertheless, the inclusion of The Cocoanuts in The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella, which has the first five feature films made by the brothers, is an opportunity to watch the development on film of their zany humour.
The Marx Brothers Collection includes The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers (1930) on one DVD, Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) on another and Duck Soup (1933) plus the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos on the third.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|