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A Night At The Opera (Blu-ray Review)

The Marx Bros are one of cinema’s greatest comedic groups of all time. In fact, their work comes so early in the history of the medium that they very much are pioneers of comedy. In an important way, they were sort of a bridge between silent films and talkies. Universal released a nice set years ago on Blu-ray, but that was only roughly have of the catalog. The other half remained in a set over at Warner Bros. With the September 28th release of A Night At The Opera, Warner Bros begins the march through that set. It includes all the bonus materials that were previously released on the DVD disc. One can hope this becomes an almost monthly endeavor like the Michael Curtiz films or at least at the pace of the Thin Man series. You can order yourself a copy of the hilarious A Night At The Opera on Blu-ray by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review.

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Film

The Marx Brothers run amuck in the world of opera when Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx) meets aspiring singer Ricardo (Allan Jones), who is determined to win the love of fellow performer Rosa (Kitty Carlisle). Aided by Fiorello (Chico Marx) and Tomasso (Harpo Marx), Otis attempts to unite the young couple, but faces opposition from the preening star Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), who also has his sights on Rosa. Traveling from Italy to New York, Otis and friends rally to try and win the day.

When it comes to the films of the Marx Bros, they have their own set formula into how they play on. There’s typically a pretty flimsy narrative for the supporting characters that plays as the base for the feature to run off of. These can be lighthearted, almost parody affair of other genres or they can actually be socially relevant and topical for their time (And honestly today in some cases). Then insert the Marx Bros and several sketches to play to each members’ strength individually and as a group to get from point to point until a rowdy finish occurs. The fact that it works every time and never gets old is a testament to their talent and greatness.

A Night At The Opera follows in the footsteps of all successful Marx outings in that it offers a sort of sneaky variety show spectacle hidden inside of a movie. You are treated to many song and dance numbers, be it of the comedic or more musical dramatic fashions. There are bits of slapstick, body comedy. Then you have lots of jokes and very much stand up routines worked into all the scenes. Its stunning how effortless, seamless and natural it can all fit into a feature film without ever feeling like a stage production. But again, that is part of the magic of the Marx Bros and their films.

Groucho and Harpo Marx are two of the funniest performers and actors ever to hit the screen. Both a pair of jackasses, its a joy to watch them annoy, piss people off and slip some humongous jokes in a passive fashion that you only realize exactly what was said a few minutes later. A Night At The Opera provides them at their best and adds regular foil Margaret Dumont in the fold, who is great at playing off of and encouraging Groucho in scenes. Here’s hoping we can get more of the films in their library that Warner Bros owns, as they are off to a fantastic start with this one.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Details are not provided from Warner Archive Collection about the transfer for A Night At The Opera, though it looks beautiful and I can’t imagine its anything less than a 2K transfer. Being familiar with the DVD edition of the film which has seen some regular play from this reviewer, this is quite a significant jump in quality as it has been really cleared up. The image has much more depth and details while appearing cleaner and sharper. Quite a little marvel to look at.

Depth:  Depth of field is solid with good separation from background and a rather admirable pushback. Movement in filmic and no issues occur with motion blur or jitter some of the more raucous scenes.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep, rich and almost very natural in their appearance. Plenty of details pop out in the darkest corners with textures seeping out from the shadows, fabrics or surfaces. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin tones have a consistent gray/white/black blend to them and are consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial textures and details are plenty decent, favoring more in close ups but having some impressive medium shots as well.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: A Night At The Opera features the original theatrical mono mix, complete with a very authentic and genuine sound. There’s a base of an analog hiss, but that’s to be expected. Everything works as you could expect for a film from the 1930s. Vocals, effects and music are done quite effectively given its age.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp and not too lost in the analog hiss.

Extras

Audio Commentary

  • By Leonard Maltin

Remarks On Marx (SD, 34:00)

Groucho Marx on The Hy Gardner Show (SD, 5:23)

Vintage Shorts

  • How To Sleep (SD, 10:40)
  • Sunday Night at the Trocadero (SD, 20:18)
  • Los Angeles: Wonder City of the West (SD, 8:32)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:18)

Summary

A Night At The Opera finds the Marx Bros at the top of their game, delivering more fun shenanigans and comedic sketch gold amidst a background narrative. Warner Archive Collection delivers one of their most complete packages here with this disc. The transfer is outstanding to go along with a rather nice set of extras, feeling like its a decent collector’s edition. If you enjoy laughing, you should pick it up.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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