DVD Review: The Marx Brothers TV Collection



Groucho, Chico and Harpo made a Marxist out of many a warped soul. The DVD era has made it a joy to quote their mayhem. A true Marxist has already nabbed both boxsets of their movies and the solo disc of Love Happy. They’ve hunted down their available television work which previously consisted of various collections of Groucho’s You Bet Your Life and Harpo’s episode of I Love Lucy. They did so much more. The Marx Brothers popped up on primetime shows in the ’50s and ’60s to stay active instead of being reduced to the late late movie slot. Unearthing these obscure shows has been a treasure hunt for the elite fans with major resources and serious connections. Now the Marx family and other collectors have teamed to together to let casual Marxists enjoy what Groucho, Chico and Harpo did in the early days of television with The Marx Brothers TV Collection. This is a Marxist dream that should bring joy to the masses.

The biggest prize is The General Electric Theater: The Incredible Jewel Robbery which was the final time the brothers worked together. Mostly this is Harpo’s project with Chico tagging along. The non-speaking episode has Harpo and Chico putting together a mysterious project with their curious crime spree. Groucho shows up right at the end to put his stamp on the production. This aired in 1959 and Chico would pass away a few years later. College Bowl was Chico’s TV show from 1951. He runs a college hangout that has a bunch of singing kids including Andy Williams. The show wasn’t a hit and only the final episode exists. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is Harpo’s final TV appearance. The Jack Benny Program has Jack put on a disguise so he can win money on Groucho’s You Bet Your Life. Jack and Groucho do their best not to crack up. The Red Skelton Hour allows Harpo and Red to work off each other’s joy of silent performances. The General Electric Theater: The Hold Out is Groucho being serious. He doesn’t want his daughter marrying Dennis Hopper. It’s kind of hard to root for young love when it involves Dennis Hopper.

If you complain about lame reality TV and sports television, wait until you see the various celebrity sports shows that aired in the ’60s. Championship Bridge with Charles Goren has Chico playing it straight. He sits at the table without his wig and tones down his Italian accent. Why doesn’t ESPN revive this show? Celebrity Golf pits Harpo against pro golfer Sam Snead at the Desert Inn casino course. Harpo plays it all for laughs. Celebrity Billiards shoots Groucho against Minnesota Fats. He doesn’t have much of a chance against the pool sharp, but Groucho won’t lose his cool. He puts a little English on all his shots.

Groucho was when he flew his duck to England to revive You Bet Your Life in 1965. The guests have the swingin’ London cool. Who Said That? has Groucho and other stars guessing quotes from recent newsmakers. This is what they did before The Daily Show. The DuPont Show with June Allyson: A Silent Panic naturally guest stars Harpo. He’s a mechanical man that witnesses a murder during the holiday shopping season. Harpo hangs around Central Park with Carol Burnett on The DuPont Show of the Week: The Wonderful World of Toys. The Arthur Murray Party invites Groucho over to sweep up the dancefloor. Even without the greasepaint cigar, he’s Groucho when he moves.

The commercials are as bizarre as the brothers. Harpo’s ads for Evaporated Milk are chaos in action. They try to sell milk by having Harpo eyeballing women in shorts and setting the town on fire. This would have made an amazing episode of Mad Men. Groucho’s Right Guard ad has him goofing through the mirror with the legendary Chuck McCann (Girls Next Door).

There’s so much amazing material from the Marx Brothers’ final years. While the trio never properly reunited for a production, they were constantly in demand as performers. They brought energy to all the shows. Harpo amazingly was able to do so many shows without uttering a single word. He goes on I Got A Secret keeps his lips shut yet talks to the host and the panel of guessers that includes Johnny Carson. The Marx Brothers TV Collection is the ultimate bonus feature from the ultimate comedy act.

BOXSET CONTENTS

DISC 1
1. The General Electric Theater: The Incredible Jewel Robbery (March 8, 1959)
2. The Jack Benny Program (April 3, 1955)
3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (October 20, 1962)
4. The College Bowl (March 26, 1951)
Bonus TV Clips:
1. Labatt’s Beer commercial # 1 (1960)
2. I’ve Got a Secret (April 21, 1954)
3. All-Pure Evaporated Milk commercial # 1 (Fall, 1951)
4. The Colgate Comedy Hour (March 30, 1952)
5. All-Star Revue (October 4, 1952)
6. All-Pure Evaporated Milk commercial # 2 (Fall, 1951)
7. All Star Revue (October 4, 1952)
8. Showtime (October 4, 1959)
9. Foster’s Freeze commercial # 1 (Fall, 1951)
10. U.S. Royal Showcase (January 20, 1952)
11. The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (October 4, 1959)
12. Labatt’s Beer commercial # 2 (1960)
13. Kraft Music Hall with Milton Berle (January 14, 1959)
Bonus Short Films:
1. You Bet Your Life Stag Reel # 7 (1960 – 1961)
2. Showdown at Ulcer Gulch (1958)
3. The Marx Brothers Home Movie Collection, with music and narration by Harpo’s son Bill Marx

DISC 2
1. The Red Skelton Hour (September 25, 1962)
2. The General Electric Theater: The Hold Out (January 14, 1962)
3. Celebrity Golf (April 23, 1961)
4. Championship Bridge with Charles Goren (October 16, 1960)
5. Groucho (July 1, 1965)
Bonus TV Clips:
1. The Colgate Comedy Hour (March 30, 1952)
2. All-Pure Evaporated Milk commercial # 3 (Fall, 1951)
3. The RCA Victor Show (February 1, 1952)
4. The Swift Show Wagon (May 21, 1955)
5. All-Pure Evaporated Milk commercial # 4 (Fall, 1951)
6. U.S. Royal Showcase (January 20, 1952)
7. McCall’s Magazine commercial (May 1961)
8. The Colgate Comedy Hour (March 30, 1952)
9. Labatt’s Beer commercial # 3 (1960)
10. The Perry Como Show (December 15, 1956)
11. I’ve Got a Secret (May 3, 1961)
12. Pepsi Cola Refreshment Musicale (November 27, 1957)
13. The Sunday Spectacular: Inside Beverly Hills (January 29, 1956)

DISC 3
1. The DuPont Show with June Allyson: A Silent Panic (December 22, 1960)
2. The Arthur Murray Party (November 16, 1953)
3. The DuPont Show of the Week: The Wonderful World of Toys (November 12, 1961)
4. Who Said That? (May 10, 1955)
Bonus TV Clips:
1. Labatt’s Beer commercial # 4 (1960)
2. The Colgate Comedy Hour (March 30, 1952)
3. Foster’s Freeze commercial # 2 (Fall, 1951)
4. The Sunday Spectacular: Inside Beverly Hills (January 29, 1956)
5. I’ve Got a Secret (August 17, 1955)
6. All-Pure Evaporated Milk commercial # 5 (Fall, 1951)
7. The Jackie Gleason Show (October 14, 1967)
8. Celebrity Billiards (July 19, 1968)
9. Candid Camera (May 14, 1961)
10. The Martha Raye Show (April 17, 1956)
11. The Dick Cavett Show (March 20, 1970)
12. Right Guard Commercial (May 1972)
Bonus Short Films:
1. Skidoo trailer (1968)
2. Beds (1976)

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers vary in quality depending upon the source. Everything is satifactory. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll hear Groucho’s great moments and the silence of Harpo.

Booklet explains the various shows and commercials. There’s a photo of Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo and even Gummo together in their later years.

Shout! Factory presents The Marx Brothers TV Collection. Starring: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx and Chico Marx. Boxset Contents: 3 DVDs. Released: August 12, 2014.

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