After years out of print, the Marx Brothers’ first five films reappeared on DVD in 2004. They came out as part of a six-disc set called The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection. Though this article covers the boxed set as a whole - which is currently the only possible way to purchase any of the movies – here I want to concentrate mainly on the package’s sixth DVD. Called simply “Bonus Materials”, this set includes a few features.
With an entire DVD devoted to extras, you might expect a lot of goodies. Don’t. All we get are three Today Show Interviews. These present chats with Harpo Marx in 1961 (seven minutes, 15 seconds), Groucho Marx in 1963 (4:52), and Harpo’s son William Marx in 1985 (4:39).
It’s misleading to refer to Harpo’s segment as an interview. The mute Marx remains silent and just clowns around while the hosts laugh and try to talk about Harpo’s autobiography. It’s nice to see this for archival reasons, but it’s not very interesting otherwise.
No one will find anything scintillating in Groucho’s chat, but it’s an improvement. He demonstrates his famous walk and also talks about casting Marilyn Monroe for Love Happy. That story’s pretty interesting, but we don’t get much else here in this short piece.
Lastly, William appears to commemorate the reissue of Harpo’s autobiography. He discusses his dad’s speaking voice and his behavior around the house. We also see some home movies and hear about life as a Marx child. It’s too brief to offer much insight, but it’s the most illuminating of the bunch.
Why in the world does this set present these clips on a separate DVD? It includes less than 17 minutes of material! This footage easily would have fit onto the movie discs with tons of room to spare. The choice to isolate it is bizarre and pointless.
The set also includes a nice 38-page booklet. This piece presents brief notes about the brothers and the five films along with reproductions of the movie posters and other photos. It could use more detail in the text, but it offers a nice capper to the package.
Honestly, the lack of substantial supplements is the main drawback to The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection. As you can tell from my comments at the start, I think the movies themselves are erratic, but they’re usually good, and clearly fans will love them. Picture and sound also lack consistency but mostly work fine given the age of the flicks. The absence of substantial extras remains a disappointment that the package’s price mitigates. Since this release lists for about $60 – or $12 a flick – it’s easy to recommend it to Marx lovers.