DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Awards & Recommendations at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Sam Wood
Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx
Writing Credits:
George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind

A sly business manager and two wacky friends of two opera singers help them achieve success while humiliating their stuffy and snobbish enemies.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 9/28/2021

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Leonard Maltin
• ďRemarks on MarxĒ Documentary
• Groucho Marx on the Hy Gardner Show
• Three Vintage Shorts
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


A Night At The Opera [Blu-Ray] (1935)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 21, 2021)

While 1933ís Duck Soup landed the Marx Brothers on the original AFI 100 list, its follow-up achieved a different form of immortality. Along with 1937ís A Day at the Races, 1935ís A Night at the Opera inspired the titles of early albums from the band Queen. Maybe thatís not as good as the AFI, but it should count for something!

At the start of Opera, we meet grifter Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx). He tells wealthy widow and social climber Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) that heíll get her into high society, and he arranges for her to invest in the New York Opera. This leads to her involvement with its director, Herman Gottlieb (Siegfried Rumann), and provokes some comic moments among the trio.

In the meantime, we encounter star performer Rodolfo Lassparri (Walter King) and his idiotic dresser Tomasso (Harpo Marx). The former beats the latter, so fellow singer Rosa (Kitty Carlisle) comes to Tomassoís rescue. Lassparri longs to become Rosaís paramour, but she loathes the bully and adores Riccardo (Allan Jones), a bit singer in the opera.

Fiorello (Chico Marx) arrives on the scene. He studied music with Riccardo and decides to become his old palís manager to get him ahead in the opera. Lassparri and Rosa get hired by the New York Opera and sail from Europe to the US.

Rufus accompanies Mrs. Claypool, while Fiorello, Riccardo and Tomasso stow away so they can try to get their chance in New York. Rufus reluctantly agrees to help, and the rest of the flick follows their adventures.

One wonít find a great deal of variety from the various Marx Brothers movies, as they all employ fairly similar frameworks. This allows the Marx boys themselves to prosper but leads to more than a few dead spots.

In the case of Opera, this mainly comes from the love triangle between Rosa, Riccardo and Lassparri. I got the feeling the filmmakers included this kind of material because they felt they had to do so.

Just like Disney animated films seem to use comedic sidekicks as a crutch, it feels as though the filmmakers figured that audiences required romance and musical moments to make the experience complete.

Unfortunately, those elements prove to drag down Opera badly. Rosa and Riccardo couldnít possibly be duller, and their romantic and musical sequences seem eminently skippable.

The Marx Brothers remain the only memorable elements, and the movie collapses without them onscreen. It occasionally runs into some problems even with them, mainly due to poor direction and odd pacing. A few sequences go on too long, such as the one in which Groucho and Chico discuss a contract. This bit feels like it came straight from the vaudeville stage and plods along until it wears out its welcome.

It doesnít help that the boys occasionally pause and mug as though they wait for the audiences to cease their laughter. This looks odd on a movie screen, at least when viewed without a crowd.

Donít expect much of a story from Opera. Really, it comes across mainly as a collection of sketches connected by a loose plot. The different elements feel like excuses for the gags.

Nonetheless, Opera enjoys plenty of funny moments. As always, Groucho presents the most amusing bits.

He talks a mile a minute and remains the charming scoundrel with an everlasting pack of scams. I suppose someone doesnít think heís the best Marx Brother, but I canít imagine this. Heís usually very entertaining.

As for the others, I must admit I often donít like Harpo. He mugs relentlessly and usually comes across more as cute than funny. Still, he gets some good bits here, such as his introduction in which he wears a series of absurd outfits.

Chico becomes the weakest link. I never really understood the point of his stereotypical Italian and he only sporadically presents amusing moments. It doesnít help that he engages mainly in puns, which donít do a lot for me.

A Night at the Opera accentuates the best and worst elements of the Marx Brothersí movies. It doesnít give us much of a story and it suffers from plenty of dull moments.

However, the natural comedic skills of the Marx boys make it entertaining and amusing more often than not. I canít call it a great flick, but it presents a lot of funny bits.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

A Night at the Opera appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Although it came with a few anomalies, Opera mostly offered a nice picture.

Sharpness seemed quite good. Occasionally, I felt some shots felt a bit indistinct, but those instances failed to occur frequently.

In general, the movie looked well-defined and concise. I saw no concerns with jagged edges or moirť effects, and I also detected no signs of edge haloes.

Black levels appeared pretty firm and distinctive. The dark tones looked consistently deep, and contrast was nicely presented. A few low-light shots seemed slightly dense, but mostly the shadows came across as accurately depicted.

Grain felt natural, and the image lacked specks, marks or other overt flaws. Occasional frame jumps occurred, and a short segment that leads to the dining room scene early in the film got lost ages ago.

These issues have been with Opera for years and seem unavoidable. Despite these concerns, this becomes a largely satisfying presentation.

I also thought the movieís DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack held up well over the last 86 years. Dialogue occasionally felt edgy, but the lines were mostly concise, albeit not especially natural.

Music showed reasonable range, and effects offered appropriate clarity, without prominent distortion. Given the age of the mix, it sounded fine.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD version? Audio seemed clearer and more dynamic, though the limitations of the source remained, of course.

Visuals looked better defined, cleaner and more natural. Expect a major upgrade.

The Blu-ray replicates the DVDís extras, and we start with an audio commentary with film historian Leonard Maltin. He offers a running, screen-specific piece that starts out really well.

Maltin gets into topics connected to the development of the film, some material that was edited during World War II, the cast and participants, the historical context, comparisons to other Marx flicks, the style of director Sam Wood and problems there, and other issues.

For the first act or so, Maltin tosses out lots of great information that helps fill out our understanding of the flick. For example, we hear that although the movie didnít start as a stage production, the Marx Brothers took a live version on the road to polish the material.

Unfortunately, Maltin starts to peter out around a third of the way through the movie, and for the final hour, we get only sporadic bouts of decent notes. Maltin goes silent much of the time and also occasionally provides little more than a description of the film. Enough good material appears here to make the commentary worth a listen, but donít expect much after the initial half-hour.

Next we get a program called Remarks on Marx. In this 34-minute piece, we hear comments from actor Dom DeLuise, director Robert B. Weide, writer Irving Brecher, comedy writer Anne Beatts, writer/director/actor Carl Reiner, film historian Robert Osborne, writer Larry Gelbart and actor Kitty Carlisle Hart.

They discuss the origins of the Marx nicknames, their comedic characteristics, their early work and comedic style, their arrival at MGM and their development there, some specifics about Opera and its participants, and various anecdotes.

The program provides a fairly concise examination of the topics, but it does become somewhat redundant when combined with the commentary. Not a ton of new information appears here, which makes it less useful than Iíd like.

Nonetheless, it moves briskly and seems generally entertaining. Itís also cool to hear from Carlisle, as itís nice to get the perspective and stories of someone actually involved in the production.

After this we find Groucho Marx on the Hy Gardner Show. In this five-minute, 23-second snippet, Groucho tells of the pranks he and his brothers played on producer Irving Thalberg. We hear the same stories elsewhere, but itís fun to get them from the source.

In addition to the filmís trailer, we follow this with three vintage shorts. The gentle comedic How to Sleep features Robert Benchley and runs 10 minutes, 40 seconds, while Sunday Night at the Trocadero presents a little light comedy and some music during its 20 minutes, 18 seconds. Los Angeles: Wonder City of the West spans eight minutes, 32 seconds and presents a travelogue.

None of these seem terribly entertaining, though the Benchley piece is infinitely better than the lame Trocadero. City also gives us a passable look at an LA long gone. In any case, the shorts round out the disc in a nice way since they give us a look at material from the era we might have seen along with the main attraction.

A Night at the Opera seems too inconsistent and slow to turn into a true success. However, the movie enjoys more than a few moments of comic brilliance, and those help make the dull spots more palatable. The Blu-ray presents pretty good picture and audio and a fairly decent set of extras. Ultimately, Opera is an inconsistent movie but one with more charms than flaws.

To rate this film, visit the original review of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main