Horse Feathers (Umbrella) (1932) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||1932|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Norman Z. McLeod|
|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||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) becomes President of Huxley College where although his son Frank (Zeppo Marx) is a long term student, although Frank spends more time romancing “college widow” (a derogatory term for a woman of questionable virtue who hangs around colleges) Connie Bailey (Thelma Todd) than studying. There is a football game coming up between Huxley and Darwin College which Frank persuades his father is so important to the reputation of the college that they should hire a couple of ring-ins, two football players who hang out at a local speakeasy. Unfortunately, before Wagstaff can arrive at the speakeasy the two footballers are hired by gambler Jennings (David Landau) to play for Darwin. So, instead of footballers, Wagstaff by mistake hires Baravelli (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx), a dog catcher.
Wagstaff also finds time to call on Connie to tell her to stop distracting Frank from his studies but he ends up romancing her himself; not that he is alone in that because for a while Connie’s room is busier than Pitt Street with Frank, Pinky and Baravelli, as well as Wagstaff, all hanging around Connie. But Connie’s real beau, it transpires, is Jennings who is using Connie to try to find out Huxley’s football team secret calls. Facing defeat in the football Wagstaff sends Pinky and Baravelli to kidnap Darwin’s two prize recruits, but sadly they are as inept as kidnappers as they are football players. As the big game commences Huxley are in trouble and only some unorthodox plays may save the day.
Horse Feathers, released in 1932, is the fourth of five films The Marx Brothers made for Paramount and by now the boys are in full comic mode. The film is again directed by Norman McLeod, an experienced director of comedy who had directed Money Business the previous year and he keeps the comedy and gags flowing during the film’s 67 minute running time. The film is consistently very funny; there are some wonderful sight gags such as Harpo “cutting” the card deck, the normal puns, one of the usual twisted conversations between Groucho and Chico concerning the password to get into the speakeasy, risqué double meanings from Groucho, a farcical sequence in Connie’s rooms and a biology lecture from Groucho that descends into chaos (apparently this routine was reused from the brothers’ vaudeville show Fun in Hi Skule). There are fewer musical numbers and they are more integrated into the plot, such as Whatever It Is, I’m Against It and Everyone Says I Love You sung, in various guises and degrees of sincerity, by Zeppo, Chico and Groucho to Connie, and Harpo to his horse. Of course, as usual Chico plays the piano and Harpo the harp. Horse Feathers is also broader in its themes and staging, with its satire on colleges and education and some exterior sequences such as a “chariot” racing across the football field.
By Horse Feathers the brothers have honed their routines on film. The result is a film that is a hoot from start to finish with many laugh out loud moments, delightful gags, puns, physical comedy and general silliness; a gem of a film.
Monkey Business is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the NTSC code. The IMDb gives 1.37:1 as the original ratio. It is presented Full Frame on this DVD.
This is a good print, by far an improvement over the previous release of the film that was reviewed on this site here where the reviewer noted, among other things, a frequent shudder in the image, lack of detail, poor shadow detail and contrast. Although the current print cannot be compared to that of a modern film, it has good detail, solid blacks and grayscale, pleasant grain and decent contrast except for the stock footage of a football game which is soft and grainy. I saw a few small marks but otherwise artefacts were absent.
English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided in a large, light yellow, text.
Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.
This is a predictably tinny sounding audio, especially the football crowd, but dialogue is clean. There are a few jumps in the dialogue in the sequence in Connie’s apartment. The IMDb indicates that this is due to the film being re-edited in 1935 for the Production Code that had come into force. Apparently, all surviving material still lops off lines of dialogue.
There is no credit for the music as such, but the IMDb gives the credit to John Leipold. The film does credit Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar with the lyrics and music.
I noticed no lip synchronisation issues.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu only allows a selection of Monkey Business or Horse Feathers. There are no extras on this disc, the second 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.
Monkey Business has been around a while and there have been a number of home entertainment releases during that time including the version mentioned above. 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 as far as DVD is concerned.
There is also a Region B UK Blu-ray box set from Arrow that includes the same 5 films, audio commentaries for each and extras including the Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary.
Horse Feathers was The Marx Brothers’ fourth film. Horse Feathers is very funny, a quick fire combination of farce, satire, puns, gags, music, innuendo and physical comedy; a gem of a film that still stands up well after almost 90 years. Horse Feathers, included in The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella which has the first five films made by the brothers, is an opportunity to watch the flowering of their zany humour on film.
The Marx Brothers Collection includes The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930) on one DVD, Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers 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|