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1. A Night at the Opera
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2. Lady for a Day
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3. The Big House
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4. The Public Enemy
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5. Andy Hardy's Double Life
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6. Gabriel over the White House
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7. Blonde Venus
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8. Road to Singapore
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9. The Public Enemy
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10. The Singing Fool
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11. The Kid from Spain
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12. Star of Midnight
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13. Merton of the Movies
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14. Desire
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15. Blessed Event
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16. Whistling in Brooklyn
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17. A Night at the Opera
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18. Mysterious Mr. Wong
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19. Watch the Birdie
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20. Nothing But Trouble

1. A Night at the Opera
Director: Sam Wood, Edmund Goulding
list price: $19.98
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Asin: B00004WG1T
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 3645
Average Customer Review: 4.47 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (40)

5-0 out of 5 stars The 2nd Best Marx after Duck Soup
Night at the Opera is different from their first 5 - in a nutshell, as everyone else had commented, there's no Zeppo, more music, Margaret Dumont is back, bigger role for romantic leads, and the comedy is somewhat more disciplined, i.e., the antics are perhaps less spontaneous than earlier films.

I understand criticisms leveled by those who prefer to skip the plot, musical numbers, and romantic plot development, but I wholeheartedly disagree that the movie is somehow lesser because of it, particularly the music. The brothers were an extemely musically talented trio, and throughout their lives saw themselved less as a Comedy show and more a variety show. To disregard the musical numbers as "filler" is to show a lack of appreciation for a performing art they held in very high regard.

I have always felt The Marx Bros. were more "in Character" here than in most of their other films (Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Animal Crackers, are also good in this regard, as is Day at the races, to a lesser degree). Everything from the contract swindle ("the party of the first part...") to the organized fooling of sgt. Henderson ("now there are four beds - I know I'm crazy!") to the stateroom bit ("Is my Aunt Minnie in here?") to the methodically brilliant destruction of Il Trovatore in the finale are examples of great writing that suited the personalities of the brothers.

Duck Soup or Horse Feathers may be their funniest films, and Animal Crackers may be more memorable for it's classic scenes, but Night at the Opera in my opinion is the most well-balanced of all thier movies. I feel it's the best-written, best-produced, has the best plot, and contains BY FAR the best acting among suporting roles. If Duck Soup weren't so well-paced and funny, Night at the Opera would be my favorite.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Marx Brothers at their very, very, best. Classic Comedy
On the one hand I want to say that I think "A Night at the Opera" is the greatest Marx Brothers comedy because their peculiar brand of lunacy works better when given a real world target such as Opera than in the fantasy land of Freedonia in "Duck Soup." On the other hand I want to say that I think "A Night at the Opera" has more funny stuff in it than "Duck Soup." I do not even want to begin to get into any consideration of what difference the retirement of Zeppo meant in all this. I just want to laugh my head off.

Groucho is Otis P. Driftwood, too busy trying to fleece Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) to waste time running an Opera Company. Harpo is Tomasso, the much abused valet to the pompous tenor Rudolpho Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), while Chico is Fiorello, self-appointed agent for the unknown but talent young singer Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones), who is in love with Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle). When Groucho loses his job to stuffed shirt Herman Gottlieb (Sig Ruman), it is up to the Marx Brothers to restore order and sanity to the universe.

In terms of classic comic routines "A Night at the Opera" gives you (1) the Stateroom scene with all those people (and don't forget the hardboiled eggs); (2) Groucho and Chico discussing the clauses in a contract (including the Sanity Clause); (3) Chico and Harpo working "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" into the overture of the opera (get your peanuts); (4) a dinner date between Groucho and Margaret Dumont (looking at him is the price you have to pay); and (5) Chico the Russian aviator explaining how they flew across the Atlantic Ocean in a boat (always remember to take enough gas or else you will have to turn back). There are more-you now Chico plays the piano, Harpo plays the harp, and Groucho deflates a pompous windbag at some point--but I want to talk about other things now.

I think the person who really helps sell this film is Kitty Carlisle. In every Marx brother movie there are the boys, there is Margaret Dumont as the foil, and then there are the young boy and girl who sing their way into your hearts. Carlisle and Jones (the only boy singer to appear in more than one Marx Brothers movie) are clearly the best pair to ever take on these thankless roles. The boys clearly like her and take her seriously, which she does in return, giving "A Night at the Opera" a sense of heart. This does not happen in Marx Brothers movies (compare it to the campy efforts of the young lovers in "Animal Crackers"). On top of all this, Carlisle and Jones can sing and their duet from the end of Il Travatore is much better than all the sappy songs that the lovers usually sing in these films.

"A Night at the Opera" is directed by Sam Wood (who would later spend some time directing scenes on that "Gone With the Wind" film you hear so much about). James Kevin McGuineess receives story credit but the key thing is that George S. Kaufman had a major hand in the script (until it ended up in the hands of the actors of course).

Notes: Look for the father of the Marx brothers on the pier when the ship sets sail and please remember that it Leonard's stage name is pronounced "Chick-o" not "Chico." Put an end to this Marxist reinterpretation nonsense.

3-0 out of 5 stars The beginning of the decline
Many think this film the best or one of the best the Brothers Marx ever did. It's probably a matter of taste (well, it's certainly a matter of taste), but I think the first MGM comedy by the Marx Brothers is scattershot. Groucho, Chico and Harpo are in top form, and when they're on -- and allowed to dominate a scene -- the film is terrific. The stateroom scene is still funny after 70 years, and the finale at the opera is Marxist anarchy at its finest.

But when they're off screen (at least a third of the movie), you're left with an embarrassing melodrama I'm sure the movegoing audiences of 1935 found as sappy as I did. Bad enough the young Italian lovers sound like they're from New England section of Italy; worse are the musical interludes, which bring the film to a halt and destroy any comedic momentum the Marxes have created. A scene where Chico, Harpo and Jones show off their musical prowess goes on far too long and completely stops the film. Their earlier comedies had musical interludes, but they were woven into the films better. The opening number in Duck Soup, for example, is a lengthy set-up to the first joke; ditto the "We're Going to War" number. When the young lovers in A Night at the Opera sing "Alone," there's nothing but the youngsters staring moonily at each other. Their voices are fine, but the studios of the time were never short of movies with beautiful youngsters singing to each other. It's unnecessary here, and it reminds you the Marx Brothers aren't on screen.

"A Night at the Opera" was the Marxes' most successful comedy at the box office, and probably the most popular film they ever did. But time has been kinder to their earlier Paramount productions. Those films are stagebound, but they have a madcap energy the MGM films never recovered.

If you're a real fan of the Marx Brothers, you've probably already seen this; the rest of you should start with Duck Soup or Horse Feathers. A Night at the Opera was, unfortunately, the beginning of the end for this legendary team.

4-0 out of 5 stars "No need of you reading that, because these are duplicates."
Many have argued that A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is the Marx Brother's finest film, pointing out that it combined the best of the Brother's comedy with the biggest and boldest in MGM production values. Personally, while I really like the film, I wouldn't quite put it in the top slot. Any of the sequences containing the Marx Brothers themselves are gold, but I find that I'm not as enamored with the romantic subplot and singing as other reviewers have been (notably Leonard Maltin in this DVD's commentary). Still, arguing about which one of the fine films is actually the best is a little pointless. This is a great movie, regardless with how it compares to the others.

The biggest thing this film has going for it (outside of the wonderful Marx Brothers themselves, of course) is the big production values that MGM splashed out on. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's nice to have some great big sets for the Brothers to clown around in (Harpo's stunt double swinging through the rafters is great), but all things considered, I think I prefer the tongue-in-cheek send-up of the big dance numbers (as done in DUCK SOUP) to the production dances which are played straight here.

Margaret Dumont is underused, which is a shame since her dignified outrage usually accounted for big laughs. She gets a good scene at the beginning, and a handful of opportunities to look indignant later in the film, but she isn't the constant presence that she had been in other films.

Still, while I can pick out a few flaws here and there, this is overall a hilarious and fun movie. Much of what is considered classic Marx Brothers material is from this film: the too-many-people-in-the-stateroom scene, the Marxian deconstruction of a legal contract (if anyone thinks that "'The party of the first part' shall be known in this contract as 'the party of the first part'" isn't realistic, then I can show you fine print I've received from credit card companies that are even more tautological than that), and, of course, the grand finale wherein the three brothers completely destroy an opera-in-progress.

The DVD also contains an all-new documentary, which features (among other people) co-star Kitty Carlisle, who is amazingly sharp for being in her 90s, and Dom DeLuise, who talks a lot about food and appears to have been interviewed in the middle of making breakfast (no, I'm not sure why he's here). This is mostly a talking heads interview documentary and there's not a whole lot of brand new material or trivia, but it is nice to see some differing perspectives on things. The story of how Groucho got his name contradicts the anecdote given on the commentary track, and Carlisle refutes the conventional wisdom that states that Margaret Dumont didn't get any of the jokes Groucho was bouncing off her.

A short except from a 1961 broadcast of "The Hy Gardner Show" (who?) reveals Groucho recounting the story of he and his brothers stripping naked and roasting potatoes in the office of Irving Thalberg after the famed producer kept them waiting once too long. I trust you will enjoy the anecdote, because it's told a whopping three times during the course of these DVD extras. Shockingly, none of the tellings blatantly contradict each other.

Two shorts have been included as extras, though I'm not sure I understand their relevance. Robert Benchley's HOW TO SLEEP won the Academy Award in 1935 for Best Short Subject/Comedy, and it's certainly entertaining enough. As for the other short, SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE TROCADERO, well, I'm baffled. I can't make heads or tails of it. Set in a nightclub, a Hollywood talent scout is visiting this ritzy affair. Numerous song and dance people are attempting auditions, while the club's doorman is trying to impress by doing very bad celebrity impersonations (it didn't help that half the time I didn't recognize the name of the person he was impersonating or the name of the person people actually thought he was doing). Cameos by stars of the day abound by having the camera cut to different tables and a voice over shouting, "Hey, look! It's Bob Has-been!" (or whoever). It isn't helped by the fact that most of the careers of these minor celebrities ended soon after the shoot, so for me I was watching cattle call of anonymous hotshots. I couldn't figure out why these people were appearing as themselves. Was the audience supposed to believe that these people really hang out at this fictional locale? Groucho Marx (out of character and costume) has a three-second cameo where he looks as confused as I felt.

I'm wary of commentaries performed by people who weren't actually born when the film they're talking about was made, but Leonard Maltin does a fine job here. He relates a lot of anecdotes about the Marx Brothers, points out how the script is layering the subplots, and relates a lot of trivia that I had never heard before (for example, the only surviving print is actually an edited version made during WWII when all references to Italy have been removed, which explains why the film bizarrely never tells you were the first scenes are set). He even gets into the fun, shouting "What a twit!" when the evil opera singer refuses to sing on the cruise-liner for free.

Although the DVD of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is included in "The Marx Brothers Collection" box set, it is also available for individual sale. Although I slightly prefer A DAY AT THE RACES (also out on DVD now), I couldn't recommend anyone not pick up this film. For Marx novices, there's a great movie. For Marx aficionados, there's informational material that may be enjoyed. In any event, the powers that be have given a great film an excellent treatment on the DVD format.

2-0 out of 5 stars Tiresome
Almost everything I write about stuff for Amazon gets either ignored or negative responses. I hardly expect this to fare any better. My original intent was to buy the 7 disc set of the Marx Bros (also just released), I grew faint-hearted near the deadline and canceled it and ordered the only 3 I wanted: Opera, Races and Casablanca. I think the first 5 "lost" Marx Bros movies (I have them on DVD and treasure them, all but Duck Soup, with a screenplay by one of their song-writing teams) are (so far) their funniest. Chaos, pandemonium, idiosyncrasies, personality. Either I was despondent when I watched this flick or else the Marx Bros' antics had worn thin for me. (I remember loving all their movies 30 years ago.) I was bored, saw what was supposed to be funny and didn't think it was. There were a few witty remarks, but those came from either Kaufman or Ryskind, not the Marx Bros. And on that subject, I never (at least not before The Solid Gold Cadillac) thought I'd ever watch or read a Kaufman play and not think it was hilarious. I did not think this was hilarious. The opera they featured at the end was Verdi's Il Trovatore, I don't like that opera anyway, particularly the mezzo gypsy song, particularly all of it. I thought the whole movie was watery, thin, dull and not the best of the Marxes, and not particularly funny. I just opened Casablanca. Tomorrow morning I'll take a crack at it, though I remember much of it now. I remember (and make the connection between that movie and this) that Harpo had gone from being an innocent who chases girls to a character who gets knocked around a lot by the heavies. I don't like the change. The characters, the (well, I said it already) idiosyncrasies and personalities of the brothers just weren't there in this movie. Sigh. I have 2 more to go. ... Read more


2. Lady for a Day
Director: Frank Capra
list price: $9.94
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Asin: 0792842138
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 9173
Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars An Underappreciated Capra Classic
I love this movie. All of Frank Capra's films are great, but this is the one I like the most(this and YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU). It's a wonderful story of a "woman of the street" trying to put on a good show for her daughter when she comes to visit(and introduce her fiance). It's a touching and funny film and goes sadly unheralded(at least Criterion released in on laserdisc). I often think of it in the same class with the Barbara Stanwyck classic, STELLA DALLAS. A must for any classic film fan, an absolute must.

5-0 out of 5 stars The 1933 Columbia Pictures logo
LADY FOR A DAY is worth seeing if only to see that 1933 Columbia Pictures logo which introduces the film. This movie deserves a cluster of stars, the Frank Capra 50 star rendition of Damon Runyon's wonderfully Broadway story of Apple Annie. The characters are in the tradition of the Lemon Drop Kid--Moose Moran, and Oxford Charlie; in this movie it's Dave the Dude. Dude, played by Warren William, is portrayed as Runyon would have expected him to be portrayed. And what a supporting cast to "Apple Annie," May Robson; cast including Walter Connolly as the Spanish Count, and Ned Sparks, with his monotone delivery, is Dude's mobster sidekick. Of course the brassy, nightclub bombshell, moll-to-be Glenda Farrell rounded out the bunch of Broadway mugs. It just wouldn't have been a 1930s Manhattan movie without the New York celebrities including Irish cops, the Mayor and Governor. Their evening police escort with motorcycle sirens and headlamps blazing was in the Grand B movie tradition for a Grand A movie. It was a fairy tale as weren't all of Damon Runyon's tales? Well written, well cast, well done. Take it from Dude's muscle-man, Shakespeare, "Ee-say, is-thay, ovie-may-- Or else! Yer may find yerself takin' a ride up tah 42nd Street.

1-0 out of 5 stars The rating is for the DVD
I should have listened to the other person who mentioned scratches on the movie. However, while he found them only slightly distracting...I found them to be so disruptive that I lost track of the movie. This print was transferred from a copy that had severe sprocket tooth scratches. These scratches lasted for almost 20 minutes.

While my rating of the movie itself would be 3-4 stars, I cannot recommend...even to fans of the movie...to buy this copy. I wouldn't even be happy if I had bought it for under 10 bucks....but at this steep price, I advise against it.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Good Capra DVD
Lady for a Day is a fine Capra film. The story concerns a street vendor Apple Annie (May Robson) who has deceived her daughter that she is a High Society lady. The daughter, who has been living in Spain, decides to visit and what's more brings along her prospective fiancé plus his father, a Spanish count. So as not to scupper her daughter's marriage, Annie must enlist the help of her underworld friends to continue the deception. The film is at times very funny with a tone which looks ahead to the Screwball comedies of the later thirties. It is also often rather moving, with May Robson's terrific performance eliciting a great deal of sympathy. The rest of the cast is equally fine. Warren William as Dave the Dude is that most unusual of characters a gangster with a heart of gold. Guy Kibbee, familiar from so many thirties films, is always fun to watch. This time he plays a pool shark who agrees to pretend he is Apple Annie husband. Jean Parker, as Apple Annie's daughter Louise, will be familiar to anyone who has seen the 1933 version of Little Women in which she plays Beth. Her role in Lady for a Day could hardly match that role, but she still performs well with her memorably unusual voice. She also looks absolutely stunning. It's even possible to glimpse a young Ward Bond, as a policeman on a horse, obtaining an apple from Annie.

The print used for the Image DVD is not perfect. The main problem is that towards the end of the film, the right hand edge of the picture has been damaged so that white marks appear on the print. This only affects a small portion of the picture, but it is a little bit distracting. For the most part however, the print is clear and sharp. Even when there is some damage, the rest of the picture is fine. I have seen any number of thirties and forties films which have survived in worse condition than Lady for a Day. Moreover the sound quality on this DVD is above average for a film from this period. The wonderful dialogue is easily audible and the soundtrack has very little background noise. As an extra the DVD includes a commentary by Frank Capra Junior. This is a DVD which Capra fans should enjoy.

1-0 out of 5 stars stay away
This wonderful film is a total disaster in its DVD format. Frank Capra Junior calls it a restored print which is a joke. The film is often dark, details are hard to see and there are sprocket holes, white spots and all kinds of detractions in the film. How could Image and Capra release this mess on DVD! This outstanding film deserves much better than is offered. ... Read more


3. The Big House
Director: George W. Hill
list price: $14.95
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Asin: 6303092012
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 11992
Average Customer Review: 4.75 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Good
An unusual film from MGM, featuring a grim look to the harsh reality of prison conditions. Being an early talkie (1930), the first thing to surprise me favorably, was that the camera wasn't static at all, on the contrary there is as lot of camera movement indeed, showing lots of eye-catching angles of life in prison, especially of that big dining hall.

On the other hand, the pacing and the acting are both first rate, Chester Morris steals the film with his convincing performance of a forger finally finding the reason (love, what else?) for goin' straight; Wallace Beery gives another of those tough-guy performances (who after all, has a big heart hidden deep inside) he excelled at; and then newcomer, Robert Montgomery, is good as weak young lad, locked-in because of mansalughter.

A real discovery! Ought to look for more early talkies featuring this great tough-guy, forgotten actor, Chester Morris

Watch it!!!

5-0 out of 5 stars A BOX-OFFICE SMASH IN 193O.
I was very pleased to find this long-obscure film on video. Still on of the most successful prison films ever produced, THE BIG HOUSE follows three inmates: a forger, a murderer, and a rather innocuous youth convicted of manslaughter. Big, brawny and wholly believable is Beery as the top bull con who settles fights and runs the yard: he plans a big break to escape the sadistic guards and the endless stoolpigeons. Weak-willed Montgomery informs the warden (Lewis Stone) of the impending escape attempt and the consequences which follow are horrific. Grimly realistic and often brutal, this was the Granddaddy of all prison films, exposing mean conditions, the paranoia, the vicious system that deepened criminal resolves among inmates. George Hill's uncomprimising direction captures all the ugliness and futility of prison life and Beery is perfect as the goonish ringleader of the inmates: half clown, half menace, soft-hearted, soft-headed, but with a killer instinct that is iron-willed. As the intelligent member of the threesome, Chester Morris is excellent. Young Montgomery had an uncharacteristic role as a spineless, despicable cringer wholly without character. The film was inspired by a particularly bloody riot in Auburn Prison in New York the previous year. The role of Butch Schmidt was originally intended for the terminally ill Lon Chaney, Sr. who would die soon after making his only talkie, THE UNHOLY THREE.

5-0 out of 5 stars THE ONE AND ONLY PRISON FLICKER SHOW
DARK,GRITTY,TOUGH,DEPRESSING,NIGHTMARISH,BEERY,MORRIS,BUTCH cant be matched!

4-0 out of 5 stars BEERY BOOM BOOM
This is no "Scarface", but "The Big House" is one 1930s classic you want to own! Cons stage a massive prison break(where did they get all those cool Tommy sub-machine guns?), and choose for their leader none other than Academy Award winning Wallace Beery. In one big scene, you can't see the actors for all the gunfire and smoke. In 1934, Beery created the immortal Long John Silver in Treasure Island. "Big House" also stars one of my favorite actors, Chester (Boston Blackie) Morris. This is true Black-and-White heaven! ... Read more


4. The Public Enemy
Director: William A. Wellman
list price: $19.98
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Asin: 6301976975
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 19562
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com essential video

Director William Wellman (Wings), a World War I veteran who turned his experiences in battle into an insistence on unpretentious violence in his films, made Public Enemy a particularly brutal account of the rise and fall of a monstrous gangster (James Cagney). Cagney delivers one of the most famous performances in film history as the snarling crook who--in one of the film's most famous scenes--smashes a grapefruit into the face of Mae Clarke. The film's a bit dated, but its action scenes still pack an unusual wallop. --Tom Keogh ... Read more

Reviews (22)

5-0 out of 5 stars Influential and powerful, and still compelling.
The most powerful of all the Warners gangster films, 'Public Enemy' is still gripping viewing today. It may be an obvious point, but it can't be stated enough how so much of the film's force comes from being made in the actual era it depicts (NB Prohibition lasted until 1933) with all the conviction and urgency that brings. The film is an acknowledged influence on 'Goodfellas' in that the story is told 'straight' with no moral bromide being forced through the criminal charcters' mouths - they lead their lives without time or need for apology or introspection. What moral conclusion there is to be drawn is all too implicit in the resolution of their story. 'Goodfellas' though depicting historical events, drew on a uniquely candid first hand account, as well as the director's own experiences, which gives the film a similar 'truth' to 'Public Enemy'. Scorcese also picked up on William Wellman's use of source, rather than soundtrack music ('I'm For Ever Blowing Bubbles'), as seen to virtuoso effect in 'Raging Bull'. As for Cagney himself, well, let's just say it was the performance that made him a star. That's all that need be said. The famous ending is still one of the most shocking in all cinema.

5-0 out of 5 stars The greatest of the great
Paul Muni in Scarface; Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar - these are now interesting but dated performances in interesting but dated movies. Almost seventy years later, Cagney's performance is truly fresh, as is the movie. Public Enemy is the one unmissable gangster movie from the early thirties: its violence is always suggested rather than stated (always more effective); most of the acting seems strikingly contemporary (Sara Algood is of another age, but Jean Harlow could saunter onto a contemporary screen and not seem in any way anachronistic); and there is no mood music: what music there is on the soundtrack can be explained by way of live bands or the presence of a radio. This fact contributes to one of the most chilling endings of any American movie I've ever seen. Above all, there is Cagney! What a great actor! Today there is Russell Crowe: even in the old days, only Spencer Tracy came close to this kind of ease and naturalness. Enough! About James Cagney I have said - and can say - nothing. Rent it, and see for yourself!

5-0 out of 5 stars cagney unleashed on world
the most explosive debut in movie history was made by james cagney. little caesar was a better movie, but cagney epitomizes the depression era movie mobster in this movie. jean harlow gives the worst performance of her career in this movie, which is naturally something of a mystery. a year later she was great in red-headed woman, red dust and later bombshell. wellman was a great director but surely not with harlow. this is best known movie of mae clarke because if features the famed scene where cagney shoves a grapefruit in her kisser. this is totally unjust because clarke was a wonderful actress, especially in waterloo bridge. anyway, she is in only two brief scenes. the only good performance besides cageny is that of leslie fenton as nails nathan. despite public enemy's shortcomings it's one of the movies you have to see.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just one historical note...
James Cagney has always been my great favorite and this seminal performance is nonpareil. I did want to add one thing to the excellent reviews already here: Edward Woods had originally been cast in the role of Tom Powers (I believe he was engaged to a studio honcho), but Cagney was so overwhelming in the secondary role, he was recast after only a couple of days. It's interesting to note that the children who played the characters as youngsters were clearly cast with the roles reversed.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Unforgettable Final Scene
There is very little waste in PUBLIC ENEMY and it is easy to see why this film caused such a sensation in 1931. The movie is about the steady rise of a professional criminal (James Cagney) from before World War I through the early years of Prohibition. The acting by Cagney, Joan Blondell and Mae Clarke is excellent. The strong supporting cast includes Beryl Mercer, Edward Woods and Jean Harlow.

PUBLIC ENEMY received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Story (John Bright and Kubec Glasmon). The film has certainly stood the test of time and the final scene has remained unforgettable. William Wellman also directed BEAU GESTE, WINGS and THE STORY OF G.I. JOE. ... Read more


5. Andy Hardy's Double Life
Director: George B. Seitz
list price: $19.99
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Asin: 6301964101
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 4457
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Andy Hardy's Double Life
This is a really cute Andy Hardy movie. I like this one a lot! This is a really nice family movie. ... Read more


6. Gabriel over the White House
Director: Gregory La Cava
list price: $14.94
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Asin: 6302717337
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 20695
Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars An unusual politcal drama from the Great Depression
A somewhat bizarre Depression-era political drama, which transforms the Capra-style populist comedy into a grim, protofascist litany. And I don't use the term "fascist" lightly -- it's meant quite literally. Walter Huston stars as Judson Hammond, a newly elected Republican President, appropriately cynical and snugly placed in the pockets of big business, who faces the same challenges as Roosevelt did in '32, namely, the continuing misery of the Great Depression and the disaffection and anger of millions of working class poor. Hammond has no intention of meeting any of his lofty campaign promises, and sees the Presidency itself as a bit of a lark. An ardent isolationist, he even jeers at the congratulatory telegrams sent to him by other world leaders ("Siam? Where's that?" he asks, in an early scene, prompting an easy comparison to our own geographically-challenged G.W. Bush, back in the days of the 2000 campaign...)

Everything changes, however, when Hammond has an automobile-related brush with death, and comes back from the brink with a newfound commitment to saving his fellow man. Initially his impulses are markedly Rooseveltian -- he asks Congress to authorize a gigantic public works program to get the working poor back on their feet, and fires any of his old cronies who object. Faced with a backlash from his own party, and legislative opposition in Congress, he counters the accusation that he seeks to become a tyrant by embracing the idea, claiming that a benevolent dictatorship is more moral than neglecting the interests of "the People." Later, as he confronts an ongoing wave of gangster-related violence, Hammond takes a can-do attitude, and annihilates a Mob boss who won't buckle under... The scene in which the criminal kingpin is sentenced to die is spectacularly fascistic: Hammond's aide-de-camp (played by an under-used Franchot Tone), dressed in a gleaming military outfit, sits behind a huge Greco-Roman, art deco tribunal bench, and ardently praises Hammond's ability to "cut through the red tape of legal procedures and get back to the first principles -- an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life." Finally, Hammond uses a gigantic display of American military power to blackmail and intimidate the other nations into disarming, summoning an apocalyptic (and sadly, somewhat prophetic) vision of the horrors that await the world if the arms race should continue.

The film is quite remarkable in its outright emulation of fascistic, authoritarian politics, and is unlike practically any other American political film of the era (which were much more prone to upholding the nation's fundamental democratic ideals). Still, it does capture the zeitgeist of the times -- the anxiety and desperation, the urge to find stability and salvation, and the fear of a renewed global war -- it just comes down on a side which didn't get much credence on this side of the Atlantic. Admittedly, this film is a dramatic failure -- for one thing, Huston was a horrid actor; and secondly the script is a bit brusque, talky and shrill -- but historically speaking, it's a fascinating document and deserves consideration in that regard. Those who see it as a parable for the New Deal are sadly mistaken, however -- I think the film's creators may have been far more enamored of Mussolini than they were of good old FDR, who actually did pull us back from the brink.

4-0 out of 5 stars In the 1930's MGM was a movie assembly line, just
cranking out one movie after another. This one, at first, kind of flew under the radar. It was released at a sensitive time, that is, the start of FDR's administration & the "New Deal".
A dispicable man is elected president, a puppet to his powerfull rich friends & the politicians of his party thet helped him get elected(Republican?). How this happens isn't made clear. MGM hated wasting time on exposition in it's movies. This president is totally corrupt cares nothing for the people except to exploit their misery & enrich his cronies.
He suffers a life threatening injury & is visited by the arch-angel, Gabriel. This is a life changing experience & he becomes a changed man, taking on dictatorial powers. He feeds the starving masses, solves unemployment, wipes out organized crime & with the help of the military, forces peace on the rest of the world.
There is a scene on the waterfront. He has gangland criminals lined up to be shot, without due process. The Statue of Liberty is framed in the background. Quite effective.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Spirit that watches over the Republic
Based on the popular novel of the early Great Depression this is a rather unique tale of a cheap, corrupt political crook who becomes President of the United States- only to become possessed by the spirit of the archangel Gabriel. It is hinted at, that this is the same spirit that moved Abraham Lincoln.

The country in this tale is in deep crisis. Economic collapse has left millions unemployed- millions on the point of starvation. The political bosses cynically ignore the crisis. The military make plans to cut down the million unemployed men who start a great march on Washington. Crime bosses play on the corruption and misery to become still richer.

And then a spirit enters a President that has otherwise been the most inadequate of men, the most unworthy of stewards. In short order, the poor are fed, the unemployed are put back to work, the bosses are forced to resign, the military is forced to help, the crime bosses are lined up and shot, even the war-mongering nations of the world are forced into signing a Pax Americana at the threat of overwhelming American strength of arms.

Yes, this film does uncannily presage many actions of the Roosevelt administration from the Civilian Conservation Corps to the fireside chats. The death of the president at the moment of his greatest triumph over the Europeans is also here. Maybe, this was deliberate propaganda- or maybe not. In any case, I like it. May the spirit of Gabriel return to the White House soon....

4-0 out of 5 stars extraordinary fascist wish fulfillment
This is an amazing film, which should be viewed by every history student. Made shortly after the Crash, this film glorifies a despotic (and angel anointed) presidency that uses military might to further seemingly reasonable goals. And sure enough, the wish was granted in the election of an imperial president who ruled for 4 terms, tempered only by the checks and balances of the constitution. An remarkable example of the ability of cinema to tap into the dark dreams of a nation in crisis.

4-0 out of 5 stars PLEASINGLY DATED "NEW DEAL" FANTASY.
A crook becomes President and mysteriously reforms...Definitely a curiousity from the thirties: this is a bizarre but wholly fascinting film. Because of the honest performance of the great Walter Huston, this was a big springtime hit in 1933. Much of the story first indicts the Republican administrations which had occupied the White House, notably that of Warren G. Harding's. Later on, it takes on the newly appointed personality of the Roosevelt adiministration: this wasn't a fluke: William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper czar, urged producer Wanger to put this on film. When Wanger - worried about what his boss, M-G-M mogul Mayer would say - Production chief Irving Thalberg replied "Don't worry about him". At the time, Louis B. Mayer despised Roosevelt (although he later supported him) and wanted the film to be canned. But Mayer really didn't have the power to shelve the film. Almost eerily, Huston is seen addressing the US via radio broadcasts: a preview of FDR's famed Fireside Chats! Enjoy! ... Read more


7. Blonde Venus
Director: Josef von Sternberg
list price: $14.98
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Asin: 6300185702
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 21324
Average Customer Review: 4.88 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars "My conscience wants to take a vacation."
"Blonde Venus"--a Josef von Sternberg film stars the incredible Marlene Dietrich. When the film begins, it's Germany in the late 20s. American tourist and chemist Ned Faraday meets and woos German maiden Helen. After a brief courtship, they marry, settle in America and have a child. Years later, Faraday becomes ill and needs expensive medical treatment, but the Faradays are poor. Helen throws aside her apron and springs to action--seeking employment in a nightclub. Of course, she's an immediate sensation and catches the eye of wealthy playboy Nick Townsend (Cary Grant). Nick gladly coughs up the money to send Helen's hubbie off for the cure, and as soon as Ned takes a ship for Europe, Helen and her little boy move into Nick's swanky mansion...

This film is a must for Dietrich fans. Dietrich performs an incredible number "Hot Voodoo" and transforms from a gorilla costume to her slinky, naughty self. Dietrich seems to play those roles in which she creates her own moral code--always contrary to the moral code of those around her, and in "Blonde Venus" she certainly does what she considers the right thing. As Helen, she has three loves in her life--her husband (and he's a bit of a bore), dashing lover Nick (and he's got the money), but her true devotion is to her little boy. The ending is extremely corny, but after all, the film was made in the 1930s, so what can you expect? Josef von Sternberg made several films starring Dietrich, and fans of either the director or the star should seek out a copy of "Blonde Venus." It's well worth watching--displacedhuman

5-0 out of 5 stars Hot Voodoo!
This film really shouldn't work. The story line is too far-feched, the songs too silly, the star too goregeous when supposedly a vagabond. BUT, it Does work, astoundingly, and the reason is that star, Marlene Dietrich. No other could pull this role off. She's both smolderingly sexy and maternal. Vamp, and housewife. Devoted mother, and kept woman. Pleny of contradictions here, and yet she moves through the film as the glue that holds the whole mess together. Of course, the part that this film is famous for is the "Hot Voodoo" number, where Dietrich emerges out a gorilla costume with native girls swaying in time in the background. What nerve! Nobody today would dare anything like that. Herbert Martshall is cast as the husband, and Cary Grant, in am early role, is cast as the swank lover. All it takes is a bit of suspension of disbelief, for some parts, anyway, and this is a movie to enjoy.
Actually, having just watched the film again for the first time in a while, I was struck by Dietrich's presence in the film. I've always considered Dietrich one of the most under-rated actresses of Hollywoods golden era. She seemed very involved and into her role here. Her scenes with little Dicky Moore, her son in the movie, were very touching and sincere. I'm no acting expert by any stretch, but I feel she was wonderful in this role. Perhaps it was the going against type role of mother that turned off many critics of the day. She was, after all, one of the most glamorous and seductive creatures to ever hit Hollywood, so perhaps thinking of her as a loving mother and housewife could perhaps seem to be a stretch. However, Dietrich carried off the role, and carried the movie totally without effort. Watch the film yourself, and see how under-rated this fine actress really was.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Sumptuous and Charming Recipe for Magic!
It was very early one morning, the rising September sun just begining to brightly filter through the windows, when I, not ordinarily accustomed to early rising, wrapped myself in a blanket and sat down to watch "Blonde Venus" soon followed by "Suzy" with Jean Harlow - two films as silly as anything to come out of the Hollywood dream factory. But strangely, that sleepy morning was one of the most warm and pleasurable of my life. Don't ask me just why, but then and there all the ingredients for magic simply clicked.
"Blonde Venus," like so many of Sternberg's films, has been frequently called an excercise in style over substance. I would have to disagee, though the style is of course sumptuous, I would say rather it was a triumph in substance over story, if that can be. In spite of an undeniably soap opera style plot, it can also not be denied its empathy and emotion, generated in no small part by Marlene Dietrich. It is impossible to say just how, but Dietrich in this film has done something truly unique. She has managed to be at one time smolderingly sexy, and yet tender and warm, maternally comforting. These traits should be a natural contradiction, but somehow she subtly blends them, making one seem unthinkable without the other.
It is not a great film, yet it is wonderful. Coupled remarkably well with "Suzy," "Blond Venus" gave me a light and wonderful morning of escapist magic. If you give in at the right time, I should certainly think it would do the same for you.

5-0 out of 5 stars diva of the early films
I like to watch the early motion pictures of the 20th century. It's a new discovery for me. Actresses like Dietrich are talented in every respect of the word. The movie was very interesting with a moving plot. I liked the way the sequences of the movie unravelled, and most of all that very sweet and charming ending. Just the way, movies in those days probably ended. I'll write more about this movie from my journal later.

5-0 out of 5 stars SLIGHTLY DUSTY GOLDEN GIRL ...........
Odd story about our Marlena and shall we say an unnamed [notorious] Southern actress who had a clandestine lunch with her during this shoot - AFTERWARDS it took the costumer on set quite a few extra moments to remove the glitter from the unnamed "name" actresses gown [lap].

BUT that was Dietrich, never afraid, boldly inventing herself over and over again. This little saga is delightful, quite a soap opera in some ways - also quite an acting challenge along the lines of a Meryl Streep vehicle - a "Sophie's Choice" of sorts. Dietrich [gold dust in the hair, black and white film you know], shimmers alluringly and vamps shamelessly! Very trashy for that time, but she rises above all of it admirably.

There is the great "Gorilla Suit" act with her, not forgetting the extremely handsome Cary Grant - perfect pairing.

But watch out for the tell-tale gold dust!

[There's also that delicious story about the "lookalike" Marlene she ensconced with her husband, here in the valley....] ... Read more


8. Road to Singapore
Director: Victor Schertzinger
list price: $9.98
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Asin: 6302510058
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 5232
Average Customer Review: 3.44 out of 5 stars
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Here's the first trip in what would become one of Paramount Pictures' most profitable film series of the '40s. When this comedy was released in 1940, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope had separately achieved stardom, though Crosby was an established power and Hope still a hot comedian new to movies. In fact, Hope is billed third in Road to Singapore, below Der Bingle and Dorothy Lamour. The script establishes what would be a constant in the Road series: a ramshackle plot, a handful of songs, and plenty of irreverent banter between the two boys. Crosby plays Josh Mallon, scion of a wealthy family, who prefers the vagabond life to his stuffy family; his pal Ace Lannigan (Hope) is only too happy to escape. They end up sharing a waterfront shack in Singapore and vying for the affections of a sarong-clad local (Lamour), amidst stabs at conning the natives with a dubious elixir variously known as "Spot-O" (stain remover) and "Scram-O" (cockroach killer). Singapore isn't as loose as some of the wacky subsequent entries in the series, but it already shows Crosby and Hope grooving to each other's perfectly timed burlesque rhythms in scenes that clearly depart from the script. They specialized in muttered asides, show-biz in-jokes, and gratuitous insults--and this one's got a song and dance number with an ocarina. No wonder it became a franchise. --Robert Horton ... Read more

Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful start for the "Road" pictures.
"Road to Singapore" is the first of the "Road" pictures starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. They are all wonderful, crazy, silly and just plain fun films as Bing and Bob wreak havoc along everything they encounter. In this first film, plenty of that is done, probably more likely in any other 'Road" picture as they head for Singapore and rescue the fair Mima from a bullwhipper. Some of my favorite sequences are the "patty-cake, patty-cake" scenes in which it becomes a running gag in every "Road" film, especially this. Filled with crazy antics, hilarious crack-ups, exotic dance numbers and s omuch more to enjoy even though the film is quite underrated and a bit quirky.

4-0 out of 5 stars The first stop of many worthwhile destinations
I don't know why so many of the past reviewers put this film at the bottom of the list of "The Road to . . ." series. This is the film that started it all! It may lack some of the easy play and banter between Hope and Crosby as seen in the later films, but keep in mind this is the first time (1939-40) that Bing and Bob have been in a film together. As the years progressed, they were given more freedom to do what they liked given their bigger star status and the box-office successes of the earlier pictures. Despite what others may say, "Singapore" is an enjoyable film all the way through. It's embedded with gems like "Captain Custard" and "Sweet Potato Piper". The chemistry between Hope, Crosby, and Lamour is great -- you can tell they must have had a fun time making this movie :)I would definitely not leave this one out of my "Road" collection.

3-0 out of 5 stars The start of a great tradition
The first of the much-vaunted "Road To" series, and an inkling of things to come... Beset on all sides by would-be wives, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope skip town to form an Asian branch of the He-Man Woman-Haters Club, predictably getting sidetracked by drippy Dorothy Lamour (is it just me, or is her likeness to Katie Holmes... check her out in profile... a little eerie?) Anyway, the plot is paper thin, the pacing is sluggish and the gags are as flat as the tunes by songwriter Johnny Burke. It's kind of goofy seeing Hope in a supposedly manly-man role, but maybe that's just in hindsight. Most significantly, this marks the beginning of Crosby's descent into unmitigated pop culture corn... It's a so-so oldie; better that you should stick with Crosby's earlier "Waikiki Wedding," which at least has some cool music.

3-0 out of 5 stars TOO ROMANTIC
That's the title of the best-known tune which was introduced in this first entry in the immensely popular ROAD TO.... series. In this one, Josh Mallon, the scion of a straightlaced shipping magnate, and his free-spirited pal, Ace Lannigan, ridicule the institution of marriage. However, Josh's Dad is disgusted with his son's irresponsible antics & commits Josh to an office job and a marriage to socialite Gloria Wycott...The working title of this just-average first outing from the famed duo of Hope & Crosby was FOLLOW THE SUN. Other songs which are heard in the picture are: SWEET POTATO PIPER, KAIGOON, THE MOON AND THE WILLOW TREE & CAPTAIN CUSTARD (!). In 1940, the Ohio Censorship Board demanded that the studio (Paramount) make extensive cuts in the native dancing girl sequence.

4-0 out of 5 stars On The Road To Classic Comedy
While this first outing may not be the very best of the road pictures (I rate "Morocco" and "Utopia" as better), this is classic comedy, if not a classic film. Hope was new enough on the scene to get third billing (behind Crosby and Lamour), and it was amusing seeing an early Anthony Quinn and Jerry Colonna. The plot is better than some in the "Road" series (a bit of class warfare gets things started), and I always enjoy seeing Bing's "dad" in the film (Charles Coburn).

The rivalry between Hope and Crosby for Lamour's affection has an edge to it, but that makes it just about perfect.

In the extra features we learn that Hope and Lamour were not the first choices for the flick -- would you believe George Burns and Gracie Allen??? BTW, the extra features in all of the new Universal series of DVDs for the "Road" series are well done.

I hadn't seen this in years, and it is much better than my memory had it from years as cut up fodder on commercial television. This one is a keeper. ... Read more


9. The Public Enemy
Director: William A. Wellman
list price: $19.98
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Asin: 0790743353
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 3869
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (22)

5-0 out of 5 stars Influential and powerful, and still compelling.
The most powerful of all the Warners gangster films, 'Public Enemy' is still gripping viewing today. It may be an obvious point, but it can't be stated enough how so much of the film's force comes from being made in the actual era it depicts (NB Prohibition lasted until 1933) with all the conviction and urgency that brings. The film is an acknowledged influence on 'Goodfellas' in that the story is told 'straight' with no moral bromide being forced through the criminal charcters' mouths - they lead their lives without time or need for apology or introspection. What moral conclusion there is to be drawn is all too implicit in the resolution of their story. 'Goodfellas' though depicting historical events, drew on a uniquely candid first hand account, as well as the director's own experiences, which gives the film a similar 'truth' to 'Public Enemy'. Scorcese also picked up on William Wellman's use of source, rather than soundtrack music ('I'm For Ever Blowing Bubbles'), as seen to virtuoso effect in 'Raging Bull'. As for Cagney himself, well, let's just say it was the performance that made him a star. That's all that need be said. The famous ending is still one of the most shocking in all cinema.

5-0 out of 5 stars The greatest of the great
Paul Muni in Scarface; Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar - these are now interesting but dated performances in interesting but dated movies. Almost seventy years later, Cagney's performance is truly fresh, as is the movie. Public Enemy is the one unmissable gangster movie from the early thirties: its violence is always suggested rather than stated (always more effective); most of the acting seems strikingly contemporary (Sara Algood is of another age, but Jean Harlow could saunter onto a contemporary screen and not seem in any way anachronistic); and there is no mood music: what music there is on the soundtrack can be explained by way of live bands or the presence of a radio. This fact contributes to one of the most chilling endings of any American movie I've ever seen. Above all, there is Cagney! What a great actor! Today there is Russell Crowe: even in the old days, only Spencer Tracy came close to this kind of ease and naturalness. Enough! About James Cagney I have said - and can say - nothing. Rent it, and see for yourself!

5-0 out of 5 stars cagney unleashed on world
the most explosive debut in movie history was made by james cagney. little caesar was a better movie, but cagney epitomizes the depression era movie mobster in this movie. jean harlow gives the worst performance of her career in this movie, which is naturally something of a mystery. a year later she was great in red-headed woman, red dust and later bombshell. wellman was a great director but surely not with harlow. this is best known movie of mae clarke because if features the famed scene where cagney shoves a grapefruit in her kisser. this is totally unjust because clarke was a wonderful actress, especially in waterloo bridge. anyway, she is in only two brief scenes. the only good performance besides cageny is that of leslie fenton as nails nathan. despite public enemy's shortcomings it's one of the movies you have to see.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just one historical note...
James Cagney has always been my great favorite and this seminal performance is nonpareil. I did want to add one thing to the excellent reviews already here: Edward Woods had originally been cast in the role of Tom Powers (I believe he was engaged to a studio honcho), but Cagney was so overwhelming in the secondary role, he was recast after only a couple of days. It's interesting to note that the children who played the characters as youngsters were clearly cast with the roles reversed.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Unforgettable Final Scene
There is very little waste in PUBLIC ENEMY and it is easy to see why this film caused such a sensation in 1931. The movie is about the steady rise of a professional criminal (James Cagney) from before World War I through the early years of Prohibition. The acting by Cagney, Joan Blondell and Mae Clarke is excellent. The strong supporting cast includes Beryl Mercer, Edward Woods and Jean Harlow.

PUBLIC ENEMY received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Story (John Bright and Kubec Glasmon). The film has certainly stood the test of time and the final scene has remained unforgettable. William Wellman also directed BEAU GESTE, WINGS and THE STORY OF G.I. JOE. ... Read more


10. The Singing Fool
Director: Lloyd Bacon
list price: $19.99
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Asin: 6304466161
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 35591
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars May get hooked on Jolson
I bought The Singing Fool because one video catalog said that it is a sequel to The Jazz Singer. That was not true, since the main character is different. But I enjoyed it anyway.

Some of the emotions looked real and convincing, even though it contrasts with cinematographic techniques over 70 years later. It's been about three years since I saw it, and some of the scenes remain vivid in my memory. On the other hand, it was a little hard to take the singing styles seriously, to get into the mindframe that people of that era had.

If this ever comes out on DVD, I might purchase it then. And I might explore Jolson films further. Not sure yet if I would want to actually own the others, but we'll see.

4-0 out of 5 stars A CURIO FROM 1928.
While working as a singing waiter at Blackie Joe's Cafe, Jolson writes a best-selling song for a club performer (Josephine Dunn) whom he loves unrequitedly..........This may seem hard for modern-day viewers to conceive, but this film grossed an incredible (for its day) $ 5 1/2 MILLION at the box-office, a feat unequaled until a little flick entitled GONE WITH THE WIND outdid its receipts 11 years later! THE SINGING FOOL, just like Jolie's 1927 landmark talkie THE JAZZ SINGER, had a corny plot even for 1928. Al hopelessly overacted to milk every drop of sentiment for the naive tale. While saccharine is the best adjective to describe this primitive talkie, the film DOES come alive when Jolson sings. Hits included I'M SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD, THE SPANIARD THAT BLIGHTED MY LIFE & KEEP SMILING AT TROUBLE. But, incredibly, the film's greatest hit was the almost unbearably maudlin SONNY BOY, a contrived tear-jerker which was originally written as a joke. When Jolson recorded it for BRUNSWICK, it sold a whopping 3 MILLION copies. Tastes DO change after nearly 75 years!

4-0 out of 5 stars Classic Jolson
The movie is clearly designed as a Jolson vehicle. It is obvious that the star came first, and everything else followed.

Although made in 1928, the film holds up remarkably well today, the humour being one aspect that hasn't dated. Jolson sings Sonny Boy to great effect three times, although he puts so much emotion into it that I was left wanting him to sing is straight just once. The film may seem over-sentimental but if you engage with this and look at it from the point of view of a contemporary audience you will enjoy it more, and the film's shock ending is, in my opinion one of the bravest I have seen Hollywood do. In fact the only shock endings which I think compare with this are Terry Gilliam's Brazil or Doctor Who: Earthshock.

The supporting performances are competent, but there's no other actor who has the charisma of Jolson. It's apparent to me that nowadays, the film's leading lady, Josephine Dunn, playing a singer, would have been given one or two songs to sing, but the producers rightly realised that the audience was there to see Jolson and Jolson alone.

The film is also of historical interest, being one of the first films to use synchronised sound. This is used sparingly, howver, and much of the soundtrack is mere accompaniment. Like The Jazz Singer (made the previous year), the opening parts use caption slides in place of speech.

Enjoy it for its Jazz age settings, the grand costumes (Miss Dunn's gowns are particularly exquisite) and of course for Jolson's singing.

Dave ... Read more


11. The Kid from Spain
Director: Leo McCarey
list price: $14.95
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Asin: 0783111118
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 30696
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars A GOLDWYN EXTRAVAGANZA.
Eddie Cantor and Robert Young play college roommates who are kicked out of school after being caught in the girl's dorm. Mix-ups include Cantor fleeing from crooks and ending up in Mexico where Eddie hilariously impersonates a bullfighter... The picture (a pre-code film) is chock full of laughs, includes some good songs and contains an excellent performance by the Polish actress Lyda Roberti who would die of a fatal heart attack at the age of 32 (while bending over to tie her shoelace, Hollywood legend says). The 1932 Goldwyn Girls include Jane Wyman, a ridiculously platinum blonde Paulette Goddard, the beautiful Toby Wing and a sixteen year-old named Betty Grable. In retrospect, it seems that Goldwyn wanted to be known as the Ziegfeld of the movies by producing opulent, entertaining musicals that he could charge a fortune for. In 1932, admission for THE KID FROM SPAIN cost moviegoers an astonishing $2 when the highest rate for a first-run picture was only 75c.

4-0 out of 5 stars Lively Busby Berkeley musical is pre-code delight
Did I say pre-code. You bet. How else would you describe the opening musical number set in a girls' dormitory with the chorus line in various stages of dress! This film delivers. It's funny, tuneful, sexy and fast paced. Our hero, Eddie Cantor, is thrown out of school for hiding in the girls dorm. He gets taken for a ride by bank robbers to Mexico where his old pal, played by Robert Young, passes him off as a famous bull figher. The fun begins with Eddie dodging detectives, girls' fathers and an expectant crowd of bull fight fans. Berkeley works his magic with the musical numbers which makes this film a visual and audio delight. Plenty of pretty girls and good songs. Highly recommended for Berkeley fans, pre-code fans, and anybody looking for some light-hearted fun. ... Read more


12. Star of Midnight
Director: Stephen Roberts
list price: $19.98
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Asin: 6301328442
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 57874
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13. Merton of the Movies
Director: Robert Alton
list price: $19.99
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Asin: 6302946603
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Sales Rank: 27835
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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4-0 out of 5 stars 2 Words- Virginia O'Brien
This movie is great. I gave it a 4 because it was so good, they should of added 20 mins more to the movie. I know MGM was good for making people stars and spotting talent, but they sure overlooked Virginia O'Brien, she was a talent, and a very funny woman, had wit and a great sense of humor, most of her movies she didn't talk, she just sung with no expressions, her nickname back in Hollywood was "Miss Red Hot Frozen Face", or the "Girl Who Never Smiles. But the films she did get to talk in she always gave it her all and left you wanting more, but for some reasons MGM didn't want more. I don't know why they didn't make her a star, she was very pretty, attractive, tall, she did fit the beauty standards that MGM had. This movie is worth watching on a Rainy Day with some popcorn. Red Skelton is funny as always, but with Virginia its even funnier, MGM should of put them both into some more leading comedy roles, this could of led to what Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz did, or what George Burns and Gracie Allen were doing. Because Red and Virginia worked magic together, they could of did a series of movies together, but MGM didn't really care much for comedy. It most be good because they found it in a vault and made it commercially available, there's a lot of other good movies not made into video, but they picked this one because they knew people would enjoy it. Watch this, and I bet you, you'll become a Virginia O'Brien fan, and you'll wonder why MGM didn't make her into a big star. Another great movie she was in, was with Judy Garland in The Harvey Girls, she singing It's A Great Big World with Judy, let me tell she gave Judy a run for her money, Virginia had a strong voice, like Judy, she almost was louder then Judy was. Ms. Virginia O'Brien died last year January 23, 2001, may she rest in peace, we still remember you. Hopefully this post will make people watch her movies and make the film people make more of her movies commercially, or maybe someone will write a book on her.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Very Sweet Movie
This is a very sweet and nostalgic movie with alot of the Red Skelton charm. It is funny at times and touching at others. Virginia O'Brien is excellent. Her character is alot more serious and sober than most of the roles she played. She proves she can hold your attention with out singing a note. The interaction between Red and Virginia is very sincere & poignant. It is a nice movie if you are a sentementalist like me.

4-0 out of 5 stars More Skelton Fun
This movie is quite typical of Red's work. It has all the ingredients: mix-ups, love interests, and the loveable, apparent failure who ultimately makes good. Put this all in a blender and add some sight gags and solid Red Skelton humor. Watch for just over an hour, and out comes great family fun. ... Read more


14. Desire
Director: Frank Borzage
list price: $14.98
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Asin: 6303231810
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 29697
Average Customer Review: 4.29 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars WHAT SOPHISTICATION LOOKS, SMELLS AND SOUNDS LIKE
Now that movies have degenerated into (male) car crashes, or (female) dike-rap, one returns to films like this one to try to imagine what all of Cole Porter, Cary Grant, Edward and Wallis, Duke Ellington and Fred Astaire were all about. It isn't enough to say, merely "Style;" Camp has pretty much sullied that word for two generations, now. But style -- or that combination of concept and high finish that a furniture manufacture calls The Bogart Look -- exists, or existed, once, and one can see it here, live and bubbling like a genie of mirth climbing out of a champagne bottle.

The plot is simple enough: a beautiful European jewel thief on the run accidentally meets and falls in love with a naif but excruciatingly handsome American guy in a very good suit. They go through the choreography of flirtation in back-lot Southrn Spain, surrounded by a stellar crew of supporting players with wonderful accents.

Dietrich, again in her version of the Dolores Del Rio look, wearing a dress nobody else in the world could wear, sits at the piano and accompanies herself in the song, "You've Got That Look." It is too insane! It is wonderful. It's a performance you'd have paid a hundred bucks (in 1940's money) for in a good New York hotel boite, but Lena Horne or Eartha Kitt or even Hildegarde would have given it to you.

This is all about the Romantic Feature Film as comic art. It ought to be required reading for all the film wanabees who hope to direct, and somehow get the chance, but turn out low-brow drivel like When Harry Met Sally. You can (and maybe you should) watch this movie over and over, the way you enjoy anything rare and precious. Like the Marx Brothers comedies, it has healing power, and pre-war value.

Every element in it is expertly integrated. It's a short movie, really, but so perfectly realized you have the impression of having had either a convincing halucination, or a true life experience.

Champagne for the eyes.

3-0 out of 5 stars "She can start a revolution with me anytime."
In "Desire" jewel thief Countess Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich) pulls off the ingenious theft of an extremely valuable pearl necklace. Then she's off to meet her fellow thieves in Madrid when she bumps into hardworking American engineer Tom Bradley (Gary Cooper). He's on holiday for the first time in years, and he's determined to really enjoy himself.

The film is interesting to begin with, and although Cooper plays the engineer with a great deal of charm, and Dietrich--as always--is fun to watch--the romance between these two characters lacked any sparks. It's obvious that the film is trying to capitalize on the contrast between Dietrich's exotic European presence and Cooper's good-old-fashioned lack of sophistication. While this works, it works almost too well, and I couldn't help wincing at the idea that the naive Bradley intends to unleash the sultry countess on the streets of his unsuspecting native city, Detroit. The prospect of such likelihood becomes a little absurd. Consequently, the film, while containing some marvelous dialogue, requires a whopping dollop of suspension of disbelief. The dynamic between the couple was at its best when Cooper spars with Dietrich's fellow thieves and the conversation is laced with innuendo. Dietrich and Cooper fans will want to see the film--but it lacks the greatness of Dietrich's Josef von Sternberg films--displacedhuman

4-0 out of 5 stars THE PEARL NECKLACE...
Madeleine du Beaupre steals a pearl necklace from a Paris jewelry firm and rushes by car for the Spanish border. On the road, she zooms past Tom Bradley, a young American engineer on vacation, who is also heading for Spain. At the border, going through customs, Madeleine drops the pearls into Tom's coat pocket; he gets safely through....Cooper stated back in 1930, after making MOROCCO with Dietrich, that he wouldn't make another picture with her. It was found out later that what he meant specifically, was that it was their director - Josef Von Sternberg - that he didn't care to work with again. Paramount had wanted to team Cooper with Dietrich immediately after their successful stint in MOROCCO but Cooper balked at the idea for some time. In 1935, Coop was asked if he'd be willing to co-star with Dietrich in THE PEARL NECKLACE - this film's working title - and he readily agreed. Gary and Marlene make a good pair; his quiet, well-mannered countenance complimented her sophisticated style perfectly. Cooper brings a freshness and humour to his role; he's charming as the the naive lad from Detroit - the idyllic typical American male of the 1930's - and he seems to be having a great time to himself. DESIRE'S story really isn't much, but the production has panache, and the way the two stars handled their roles make this a film to view more than once. Look for a 49 year-old Bill (Fred Mertz) Frawley in his role as Mr. Gibson.

5-0 out of 5 stars desire for Marlene
This was Marelene Dietrich's last money-making film for Paramount Studios during her original time as a contract player. She had just left Josef Von Sternberg, her mentor,(or he had left her) and the public was beginning to tire of her. In this film she seemed more relaxed, more at ease, and seemed to be having a lot of fun during this film, not to mention looking absolutely gorgeous in each costume. Gary Cooper, with whom Dietrich had made her American film debut in 'Morocco', was again her co-star, and again the chemistry worked. This had to be one of the most beautiful couples ever rendered in black-and-white film.
The story and plot centers around a stolen and then lost strand of pearls, and Dietrich's(the thief) efforts to get them back from an innocent man(Cooper), on whose person she hid them in order to escape. All works well in her plan until she finds herself falling in love with him, and he with her. There's always
something to mess up every well-laid plan, eh?

Anyway, this film greatly benefits from the producer, Ernst Lubitsh, and his famed "Touch". there is a lot of real, adult humour in this film without going ribald. Lots of excellant photography and gorgeous costume work, and Dietrich and Cooper being themselves. What more could you want?

5-0 out of 5 stars A love story with all the twists and turns--a delight!
This is the second teaming of Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper. This one works even better than "Morocco"! -- Dietrich is a jewel thief with a problem: She hid the goods with unsuspecting Cooper to get past customs officials. Now she must chase him through the Spanish country-side, determined to get back "her" pearl necklace. Of course, they fall in love. The ending, like the pearls, is priceless! Treat yourselves to this gem of a film! ... Read more


15. Blessed Event
Director: Roy Del Ruth
list price: $19.99
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Asin: 6302682509
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 28666
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars SNAPPY ENTERTAINMENT.
In this newspaper comedy-satire, based on the rise of the fast-talking gossip columnist Walter Winchell, Tracy shows his peerless style: probably nobody in Hollywood history was better at the art of timing and placing a wisecrack than Lee Tracy (he also gesticulated, using his hands as much as his voice, to great advantage). Tracy could get a sob in his voice for the benefit of his radio listeners - while grinning at his intimates! The columnist has a pet peeve: a bright-eyed young crooner with a moronic smile, played by Dick Powell. With Mary Brian (once dubbed "the sweetest girl in pictures"), Ruth Donnelly and cartoon character-like Ned Sparks. It's a quick, breezy and very likeable little diversion from 1932.

4-0 out of 5 stars Tabloid Journalism
Lee Tracy stars as a newspaper writer who makes a name for himself by writing a gossip column often dominated by news of "blessed events", which end up being stories about expected babies that are full of innuendo and scandal. He feeds off of workers all over town for his stories, and daily libel suits only intensify his search for a great story or rumour. Needless to say, people and their lives get ruined when he's on a roll. Tracy is amazing in the lead, firing of dialogue like a champion. He really has star presence, although his career in films never went anywhere. He's supported by a good cast of familiar Warner Brothers faces like Ruth Donnelly and Ned Sparks. A particular standout is Allen Jenkins as a henchman of a mobster. Watch his face as Tracy describes in detail what it's like to be in the electric chair. I was surprised by how open the film was about tabloid journalism, carrying a message that is still fresh today. It is also a lot more adult than you would expect of a 1930's film, but it was made before the Production Code would have disallowed such things. Like many of director Roy Del Ruth's film, it's filled with energy, fun performances, and some good camera work. This is one to watch.

5-0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Star, Forgotten Director Deserve Your Attention
Roy del Ruth was one of a number of directors who really thrived at the Warners/First National studios in the years before the Production Code (there were others, among them Mervyn LeRoy & Lloyd Bacon). The fast-n-furious, low-budget topicality of the WB 'house style' pushed these men into doing breathless, lightning-paced work. When they moved on to greener pastures (Del Ruth & LeRoy both spent many years at high-toned Metro), the zip and zing of their Warners work was long gone. Lee Tracy (who came West to Hollywood after originating the Hildy Johnson role in THE FRONT PAGE on Broadway) was an ideal Warners leading man during this period, the wisecrack-slinger all others are measured against. Here he's so good, so inspired at mixing verbal pyrotechnics and comic physicality, you'll be wondering how it's possible his career didn't soar for another 25 years. (Besides his heavy drinking, which couldn't have helped him, he earned the wrath of Louis B Mayer during the shooting of VIVA VILLA by urinating on the Mexican army from his hotel balcony, causing enough diplomatic hubbub to effectively end his career as a lead in A-pictures.) This is probably his best film, playing a Walter Winchell-like columnist named Alvin Roberts, and Tracy plays him with such cheerful unscrupulousness you might almost forget what a rat the real Winchell was. But, again, this ain't the real world, exactly - this is pre-Code Warner Brothers, where even an unprincipled cur could be a hero so long as he scraped the bottom with pluck and moxie. Don't be surprised at the many one-liners and situations in BLESSED EVENT that would become taboo in two short years: abortions, adultery, homosexuality and ethnicity are all fair game for Tracy and Del Ruth's satirical arrows, and only an insufferable prude would stifle his laughter. Not until Preston Sturges played chicken with the Hays Office in the early 40s would such darkly funny farce be allowed on the screen again. Keep an eye out for this one and prepare to become a Lee Tracy fan for life. You may also find yourself making a mental note to seek out a few more Roy Del Ruth pictures. Use 1935 as a cutoff date and I think you'll be amply rewarded. ... Read more


16. Whistling in Brooklyn
Director: S. Sylvan Simon
list price: $19.99
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Asin: 6302717698
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 16113
Average Customer Review: 4.75 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars SKELTON AND RUTHERFORD FOREVER!!!
this is one of my favorite Red Skelton movies. I've always thought that he and Ann Rutherford were such a great couple! For a while now, I've thought that "Whistling in Brooklyn" is one of their best movies together!

Rags Ragland and Jean Rogers are also hilarious. At times, I even find Ragland funnier than Skelton. But my favorite is still Ann Rutherford--I've never seen her in such a role!

This movie is funny, cute, and you're sure to have a good time!

5-0 out of 5 stars great comedy
Can't wait for the DVD version..This is a very funny movie by a comedian that perfected comedy on the screen...If you Love "RED" or if you've never seen one of his movie you will laugh out loud while watching.....Get the whole series...BARB

5-0 out of 5 stars This paper never had a constant reader.
Whistling In Brooklyn (1943) is Red's third outing as radio detective the Fox. This time he's mixed up with a villian named Constant Reader but still finds time to clown around with the Brooklyn Dodgers. You'll want to pay close attention to the umpire's calls when Red is at bat, especially ball 3.
Also involved is a lady reporter whose editor orders her to tag along on the honeymoon - the third attempt of Wally (Red) and Carol (Ann Rutherford) to marry in this series.
Another outstanding cast and good pacing. While the films in this series may not become some of your favorites as they have for me, I think you'll find them very entertaining. This movie shows that even hanging around an elevator shaft can be fun.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Fun Little Movie
I caught this on the late show when I was 13 and, while not the greatest movie in the world, it has always stayed with me. The comedy works, it has a few humorous Hitchcockian moments (particulary the scene with four characters hanging over an elevator shaft), and the climax is very reminescent of "The Naked Gun" (with Leslie Neilson). In fact, it could best be described as a poor man's "North by Northwest"...and I mean that as a compliment. And I'll dig any movie that has a villain calling himself "Constant Reader". ... Read more


17. A Night at the Opera
Director: Sam Wood, Edmund Goulding
list price: $19.98
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Asin: B0000040EK
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 21600
Average Customer Review: 4.47 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com essential video

Absolutely one of the most hilarious movies ever made, this classic farce featuring the outrageous genius of the Marx Brothers is a chance to see some of their best bits woven together seamlessly in a story of high society, matchmaking, and chaos. In order to bring two young lovers together, brothers Groucho, Chico, and Harpo must sabotage an opera performance even as they try to pass themselves off as stuffed shirts. Featuring the classic sequence where Groucho piles as many people as possible into a ship's stateroom, A Night at the Opera is a deliciously zany romp worth watching again and again. --Robert Lane ... Read more

Reviews (40)

5-0 out of 5 stars The 2nd Best Marx after Duck Soup
Night at the Opera is different from their first 5 - in a nutshell, as everyone else had commented, there's no Zeppo, more music, Margaret Dumont is back, bigger role for romantic leads, and the comedy is somewhat more disciplined, i.e., the antics are perhaps less spontaneous than earlier films.

I understand criticisms leveled by those who prefer to skip the plot, musical numbers, and romantic plot development, but I wholeheartedly disagree that the movie is somehow lesser because of it, particularly the music. The brothers were an extemely musically talented trio, and throughout their lives saw themselved less as a Comedy show and more a variety show. To disregard the musical numbers as "filler" is to show a lack of appreciation for a performing art they held in very high regard.

I have always felt The Marx Bros. were more "in Character" here than in most of their other films (Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Animal Crackers, are also good in this regard, as is Day at the races, to a lesser degree). Everything from the contract swindle ("the party of the first part...") to the organized fooling of sgt. Henderson ("now there are four beds - I know I'm crazy!") to the stateroom bit ("Is my Aunt Minnie in here?") to the methodically brilliant destruction of Il Trovatore in the finale are examples of great writing that suited the personalities of the brothers.

Duck Soup or Horse Feathers may be their funniest films, and Animal Crackers may be more memorable for it's classic scenes, but Night at the Opera in my opinion is the most well-balanced of all thier movies. I feel it's the best-written, best-produced, has the best plot, and contains BY FAR the best acting among suporting roles. If Duck Soup weren't so well-paced and funny, Night at the Opera would be my favorite.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Marx Brothers at their very, very, best. Classic Comedy
On the one hand I want to say that I think "A Night at the Opera" is the greatest Marx Brothers comedy because their peculiar brand of lunacy works better when given a real world target such as Opera than in the fantasy land of Freedonia in "Duck Soup." On the other hand I want to say that I think "A Night at the Opera" has more funny stuff in it than "Duck Soup." I do not even want to begin to get into any consideration of what difference the retirement of Zeppo meant in all this. I just want to laugh my head off.

Groucho is Otis P. Driftwood, too busy trying to fleece Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) to waste time running an Opera Company. Harpo is Tomasso, the much abused valet to the pompous tenor Rudolpho Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), while Chico is Fiorello, self-appointed agent for the unknown but talent young singer Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones), who is in love with Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle). When Groucho loses his job to stuffed shirt Herman Gottlieb (Sig Ruman), it is up to the Marx Brothers to restore order and sanity to the universe.

In terms of classic comic routines "A Night at the Opera" gives you (1) the Stateroom scene with all those people (and don't forget the hardboiled eggs); (2) Groucho and Chico discussing the clauses in a contract (including the Sanity Clause); (3) Chico and Harpo working "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" into the overture of the opera (get your peanuts); (4) a dinner date between Groucho and Margaret Dumont (looking at him is the price you have to pay); and (5) Chico the Russian aviator explaining how they flew across the Atlantic Ocean in a boat (always remember to take enough gas or else you will have to turn back). There are more-you now Chico plays the piano, Harpo plays the harp, and Groucho deflates a pompous windbag at some point--but I want to talk about other things now.

I think the person who really helps sell this film is Kitty Carlisle. In every Marx brother movie there are the boys, there is Margaret Dumont as the foil, and then there are the young boy and girl who sing their way into your hearts. Carlisle and Jones (the only boy singer to appear in more than one Marx Brothers movie) are clearly the best pair to ever take on these thankless roles. The boys clearly like her and take her seriously, which she does in return, giving "A Night at the Opera" a sense of heart. This does not happen in Marx Brothers movies (compare it to the campy efforts of the young lovers in "Animal Crackers"). On top of all this, Carlisle and Jones can sing and their duet from the end of Il Travatore is much better than all the sappy songs that the lovers usually sing in these films.

"A Night at the Opera" is directed by Sam Wood (who would later spend some time directing scenes on that "Gone With the Wind" film you hear so much about). James Kevin McGuineess receives story credit but the key thing is that George S. Kaufman had a major hand in the script (until it ended up in the hands of the actors of course).

Notes: Look for the father of the Marx brothers on the pier when the ship sets sail and please remember that it Leonard's stage name is pronounced "Chick-o" not "Chico." Put an end to this Marxist reinterpretation nonsense.

3-0 out of 5 stars The beginning of the decline
Many think this film the best or one of the best the Brothers Marx ever did. It's probably a matter of taste (well, it's certainly a matter of taste), but I think the first MGM comedy by the Marx Brothers is scattershot. Groucho, Chico and Harpo are in top form, and when they're on -- and allowed to dominate a scene -- the film is terrific. The stateroom scene is still funny after 70 years, and the finale at the opera is Marxist anarchy at its finest.

But when they're off screen (at least a third of the movie), you're left with an embarrassing melodrama I'm sure the movegoing audiences of 1935 found as sappy as I did. Bad enough the young Italian lovers sound like they're from New England section of Italy; worse are the musical interludes, which bring the film to a halt and destroy any comedic momentum the Marxes have created. A scene where Chico, Harpo and Jones show off their musical prowess goes on far too long and completely stops the film. Their earlier comedies had musical interludes, but they were woven into the films better. The opening number in Duck Soup, for example, is a lengthy set-up to the first joke; ditto the "We're Going to War" number. When the young lovers in A Night at the Opera sing "Alone," there's nothing but the youngsters staring moonily at each other. Their voices are fine, but the studios of the time were never short of movies with beautiful youngsters singing to each other. It's unnecessary here, and it reminds you the Marx Brothers aren't on screen.

"A Night at the Opera" was the Marxes' most successful comedy at the box office, and probably the most popular film they ever did. But time has been kinder to their earlier Paramount productions. Those films are stagebound, but they have a madcap energy the MGM films never recovered.

If you're a real fan of the Marx Brothers, you've probably already seen this; the rest of you should start with Duck Soup or Horse Feathers. A Night at the Opera was, unfortunately, the beginning of the end for this legendary team.

4-0 out of 5 stars "No need of you reading that, because these are duplicates."
Many have argued that A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is the Marx Brother's finest film, pointing out that it combined the best of the Brother's comedy with the biggest and boldest in MGM production values. Personally, while I really like the film, I wouldn't quite put it in the top slot. Any of the sequences containing the Marx Brothers themselves are gold, but I find that I'm not as enamored with the romantic subplot and singing as other reviewers have been (notably Leonard Maltin in this DVD's commentary). Still, arguing about which one of the fine films is actually the best is a little pointless. This is a great movie, regardless with how it compares to the others.

The biggest thing this film has going for it (outside of the wonderful Marx Brothers themselves, of course) is the big production values that MGM splashed out on. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's nice to have some great big sets for the Brothers to clown around in (Harpo's stunt double swinging through the rafters is great), but all things considered, I think I prefer the tongue-in-cheek send-up of the big dance numbers (as done in DUCK SOUP) to the production dances which are played straight here.

Margaret Dumont is underused, which is a shame since her dignified outrage usually accounted for big laughs. She gets a good scene at the beginning, and a handful of opportunities to look indignant later in the film, but she isn't the constant presence that she had been in other films.

Still, while I can pick out a few flaws here and there, this is overall a hilarious and fun movie. Much of what is considered classic Marx Brothers material is from this film: the too-many-people-in-the-stateroom scene, the Marxian deconstruction of a legal contract (if anyone thinks that "'The party of the first part' shall be known in this contract as 'the party of the first part'" isn't realistic, then I can show you fine print I've received from credit card companies that are even more tautological than that), and, of course, the grand finale wherein the three brothers completely destroy an opera-in-progress.

The DVD also contains an all-new documentary, which features (among other people) co-star Kitty Carlisle, who is amazingly sharp for being in her 90s, and Dom DeLuise, who talks a lot about food and appears to have been interviewed in the middle of making breakfast (no, I'm not sure why he's here). This is mostly a talking heads interview documentary and there's not a whole lot of brand new material or trivia, but it is nice to see some differing perspectives on things. The story of how Groucho got his name contradicts the anecdote given on the commentary track, and Carlisle refutes the conventional wisdom that states that Margaret Dumont didn't get any of the jokes Groucho was bouncing off her.

A short except from a 1961 broadcast of "The Hy Gardner Show" (who?) reveals Groucho recounting the story of he and his brothers stripping naked and roasting potatoes in the office of Irving Thalberg after the famed producer kept them waiting once too long. I trust you will enjoy the anecdote, because it's told a whopping three times during the course of these DVD extras. Shockingly, none of the tellings blatantly contradict each other.

Two shorts have been included as extras, though I'm not sure I understand their relevance. Robert Benchley's HOW TO SLEEP won the Academy Award in 1935 for Best Short Subject/Comedy, and it's certainly entertaining enough. As for the other short, SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE TROCADERO, well, I'm baffled. I can't make heads or tails of it. Set in a nightclub, a Hollywood talent scout is visiting this ritzy affair. Numerous song and dance people are attempting auditions, while the club's doorman is trying to impress by doing very bad celebrity impersonations (it didn't help that half the time I didn't recognize the name of the person he was impersonating or the name of the person people actually thought he was doing). Cameos by stars of the day abound by having the camera cut to different tables and a voice over shouting, "Hey, look! It's Bob Has-been!" (or whoever). It isn't helped by the fact that most of the careers of these minor celebrities ended soon after the shoot, so for me I was watching cattle call of anonymous hotshots. I couldn't figure out why these people were appearing as themselves. Was the audience supposed to believe that these people really hang out at this fictional locale? Groucho Marx (out of character and costume) has a three-second cameo where he looks as confused as I felt.

I'm wary of commentaries performed by people who weren't actually born when the film they're talking about was made, but Leonard Maltin does a fine job here. He relates a lot of anecdotes about the Marx Brothers, points out how the script is layering the subplots, and relates a lot of trivia that I had never heard before (for example, the only surviving print is actually an edited version made during WWII when all references to Italy have been removed, which explains why the film bizarrely never tells you were the first scenes are set). He even gets into the fun, shouting "What a twit!" when the evil opera singer refuses to sing on the cruise-liner for free.

Although the DVD of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is included in "The Marx Brothers Collection" box set, it is also available for individual sale. Although I slightly prefer A DAY AT THE RACES (also out on DVD now), I couldn't recommend anyone not pick up this film. For Marx novices, there's a great movie. For Marx aficionados, there's informational material that may be enjoyed. In any event, the powers that be have given a great film an excellent treatment on the DVD format.

2-0 out of 5 stars Tiresome
Almost everything I write about stuff for Amazon gets either ignored or negative responses. I hardly expect this to fare any better. My original intent was to buy the 7 disc set of the Marx Bros (also just released), I grew faint-hearted near the deadline and canceled it and ordered the only 3 I wanted: Opera, Races and Casablanca. I think the first 5 "lost" Marx Bros movies (I have them on DVD and treasure them, all but Duck Soup, with a screenplay by one of their song-writing teams) are (so far) their funniest. Chaos, pandemonium, idiosyncrasies, personality. Either I was despondent when I watched this flick or else the Marx Bros' antics had worn thin for me. (I remember loving all their movies 30 years ago.) I was bored, saw what was supposed to be funny and didn't think it was. There were a few witty remarks, but those came from either Kaufman or Ryskind, not the Marx Bros. And on that subject, I never (at least not before The Solid Gold Cadillac) thought I'd ever watch or read a Kaufman play and not think it was hilarious. I did not think this was hilarious. The opera they featured at the end was Verdi's Il Trovatore, I don't like that opera anyway, particularly the mezzo gypsy song, particularly all of it. I thought the whole movie was watery, thin, dull and not the best of the Marxes, and not particularly funny. I just opened Casablanca. Tomorrow morning I'll take a crack at it, though I remember much of it now. I remember (and make the connection between that movie and this) that Harpo had gone from being an innocent who chases girls to a character who gets knocked around a lot by the heavies. I don't like the change. The characters, the (well, I said it already) idiosyncrasies and personalities of the brothers just weren't there in this movie. Sigh. I have 2 more to go. ... Read more


18. Mysterious Mr. Wong
Director: William Nigh
list price: $12.99
our price: $12.99
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Asin: 6303308236
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 80897
Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Bela's Best!
We are told in the prologue that Confucius, on his death-bed, handed out 12 coins to twelve friends. Apparently, if any one man gets a hold of all of these coins together, he will be the supreme ruler of the Chinese province of Keelat. Bela Lugosi plays plays Fu Wong, a sinister Chinaman with a heavy Hungarian accent, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the coins. Wallace Ford is a wise-cracking reporter on his trail of murder and torture. It all boils down to a crock of creaky,B-grade nonsense. Really! If you like this sort of thing, the cheap Alpha DVD has a reasonable VHS quality picture on it but the sound is a bit woolly and gets worse towards the end. I lost interest about half-way through but if it's your bag.... Go for it!

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the Best of the "Bad" films.
This is one of the best of the cheap "Chinatown" mysteries. A real classic. The more you watch it, the more it grows on you.
DVD picture quality is pretty good, the sound is OK, but what can your expect from Monogram pictures. Buy it!

3-0 out of 5 stars Bela Lugosi is the wrong Mr. Wong
I halfway enjoyed the series of Mr. Wong Chinese detective films made starring Boris Karloff, so when I stumbled on this film, boy, was I surprised. Especially since this 1935 film, which is only an hour-long, is directed by William Nigh, the same director as Karloff's Mr. Wong films. Go figure. Anyhow, the story is certainly interesting as the title character is a mysterious figure who stops at nothing to obtain the twelve coins of Confucius, which have all managed to end up in New York City's Chinatown. But I just cannot get past the idea of Bela Lugosi playing a Chinese villain replete with Hungarian accent. Still, the man does know what to do with instruments of torture. Certainly worth a look and if it inspires you to check out the "other" Mr. Wong, so much the better.

3-0 out of 5 stars The OTHER Mr. Wong
The last film I ever expected to be re-released on DVD, yet it's enjoyable. For those of us who have seen Bela Lugosi as a bad guy (in most of his films) and a good guy (in a few others) here's your chance to see him in a dual role. One, an obsessed mandarin trying to acquire coins which will give him power. The other, a knowledgable collector who hopes for his (the bad guy's downfall). Not a 5 star film but good. I also recommend the Boris Karloff Mr. Wong set.

3-0 out of 5 stars Classic Lugosi
"Mysterious Mr. Wong" (1935) is great fun for Bela Lugosi fans. It's a low-budget melodrama with Bela making the most of his footage in the title role. He is properly sinister throughout. Unlike other public-domain Lugosi titles, the video's print quality is quite good. ... Read more


19. Watch the Birdie
Director: Jack Donohue
list price: $19.99
our price: $19.99
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Asin: 6302241235
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 27996
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20. Nothing But Trouble
Director: Sam Taylor
list price: $19.99
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Asin: 6302641764
Catlog: Video
Sales Rank: 13360
Average Customer Review: 2.22 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (9)

3-0 out of 5 stars Nothing that bad
You read the reviews about this movie and you think it's just plain awful. In actuality the movie isn't terribly funny but aside from that it's not that bad a film. A decent plot and a decent script...just not the kind of a script that Laurel and Hardy should've gotten. There are brief funny moments in the film but not enough. Again, the film isn't terrible but it's just not something I'm used to seeing from this legendary comedy team. Overall not a bad flick to watch with the family.

2-0 out of 5 stars Sad to see Laurel & Hardy in decline
In this 1944 MGM comedy directed by Sam Taylor, Laurel & Hardy are the chef and butler who foil a plot by enemy agents to poison the young exiled King Christopher (David Leland). On the one hand "Nothing But Trouble" spends time developing the boy-king's growing love for the joys of common democracy, such as playing football. Then we have the comic sequences in which Laurel & Hardy wreck a dinner party, try to take a steak away from a hungry lion, and end up on the ledge of a skyscraper. Clearly the boys are getting too old for this kind of stuff. Not as bad as "The Big Noise," but too close for comfort. Watching this one will only make you feel sad and not in a good way.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Sheer Disapointment
I'm sitting here, trying to think of something good to say about this film, and I just can't do it.

Laurel and Hardy simply don't fit into this movie at all. The scenes that they do have aren't the least bit funny, and the movie actually makes you kinda sad when you wonder how bad Stan must've felt about doing it.

It isn't the worst Laurel and Hardy movie, I reserve that spot for Utopia......but it's pretty darn close.

3-0 out of 5 stars Hard to say
This is a difficult movie to judge.There are some very boring scenes with the prince alone.There are also very funny scenes with L&H.These include the football scene, the steak scene and the dinner table scene.This is not top notch but still good.

2-0 out of 5 stars Not the Real Laurel & Hardy But Passable '40s Comedy
Near the end of their very disappointing sojourn with the big studios, the team survived another marginal film offering a distorted view of the original characters. However, this time around, Stan and Babe fight the crooks on behalf of a child King, well played by David Leland. It's probably their most sentimental movie but it is not cloying - the good scenes involving a sleight of hand removal of meat from a lion's cage and serving a meal to Mary Boland & company elevate this effort to above average for their later work. ... Read more


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