It's that time of the year once again, videophiles. And with all of the crazy mixed-up offerings 2016 has been pulling on us from the very beginning, there is some considerable comfort to be found in what Universal Studios Home Entertainment has put together for the holiday season.
First and foremost is the prospect of you and yours spending a very Marxist Christmas (or perhaps Hanukkah would be more appropriate) with one of the most eagerly awaited Blu-ray box sets for classic comedy lovers everywhere. I speak, of course, of The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection: a three-disc High-Def item featuring cinema's original incarnation of The Marx Brothers ‒ Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and poor Zeppo ‒ in their first five motion picture projects, all of which were made by Paramount. The set begins with one of the earliest talkies, 1929's The Cocoanuts, which finds the famous comedians struggling to find their schtick amid an otherwise forgettable musical/comedy. (But that's just the way it was then, boys and girls.) Our own Mat Brewster's review for this must-have set can be read here.
Fortunately, the delivery and devotion to the Marx Brothers' madcap humor and their incorporation into routine film formulas improves drastically in the next feature alone, Animal Crackers (1930), which has been fully restored for this release courtesy an uncut print from the British Film Institute (meaning: yes, you'll finally hear Groucho's saucy follow-up lyrics to Margaret Dumont's line in "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" ‒ amongst several other bits which were excised after the Hays Office began censoring Hollywood, including more screen time for poor Zeppo!). Monkey Business (1931), Horse Features (1932), and Duck Soup (1933) ‒ hailed by many as their crowning achievement (even if it did bomb when first released!) ‒ also get beautiful new HD transfers, and is supplemented with audio commentaries for each film, an 80-minute documentary about the boys, and several archival interviews.
Switching to a far more serious tone, Universal's final seasonal set brings us two classics from one of cinema's finest performers. Strangely enough, both movies in the Gregory Peck Centennial Collection hail not only from the same year (1962), but also find our leading man with the distinguished voice cast as an attorney in each one. The first film, Cape Fear, pits Peck against the great Robert Mitchum, who chews more than just cigars as a recently paroled rapist who ‒ using the law to his advantage ‒ seeks out to get revenge on Peck via the family man's beautiful wife and daughter. Also included in this set is one of the most famous titles in both film and literature history, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, which finds Peck ‒ as the immortal Atticus Finch ‒ appointed to defend a poor black man in an alleged rape case. Digital Copies are included in this set, which repackages the two previously released titles.
Yes, from tear-jerkers to knee-slappers, these two goodies from Universal Studios Home Entertainment are sure to warm the heart (or at least tickle the funnybone) of any and all special classic movie buffs in your life, and are available for purchase now.