on December 8, 2013
My review is biased, obviously, because this is my favourite Marx Brothers movie. They are as good as always, and what's added to make it special for me are the musical pieces - especially "All God's Chillun", with the great Ellington singer Ivy Anderson. Heck, I even like Allan Jones' "Blue Venetian Waters"! I'm a born romantic - sue me!
On the technical side, the DVD is perfect, and when you've watched the movie once, see it again with the commentary!
on March 10, 2010
I received my order in the time frame stated and everything was A-OK. I wouldn't hesitate to order from these guys again.
on May 28, 2004
A DAY AT THE RACES is the second of the Marx/Wood/Thalberg collaborations (Marx Brothers, director Sam Wood and producer Irving Thalberg) movies made at MGM, the first the delightful A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Irving Thalberg (called "the boy genius" about a hundred times in the DVD extras) died partway through production, bringing this successful combination to an unhappy end. Critical opinion will have you believe that NIGHT is the stronger of the two, but I've always preferred DAY. I'm absolutely tickled to have it now on a fantastic DVD.
First, I think the jokes are just a little sharper and sillier here than in NIGHT (not that they were poor there by any means). Also, the romantic subplot was handled a little better here. It helps, I think, that Allan "Imitation Zeppo" Jones has better chemistry with Maureen O'Sullivan than he did with Kitty Carlisle. The stricter structure that Thalberg imposed on the films is improved. I have an entertaining time cheering on the Brothers' attempting to win a horserace to save a young heroine's sanitarium.
But, of course, the real fun from a Marx Brothers film comes from the one-liners and comedic set pieces that abound, and the gags here rival their best material. As you'll hear loads of times if you peruse the DVD extras, Irving Thalberg encouraged the Brothers to take their material on the road for testing in front of an audience before filming it. Hence, the timing, the punch lines and the individual words themselves are all finely honed. It's this attention to detail that makes them work. You could easily imagine the "Tootsie Frootsie" sequence dragging and dying if the lines hadn't been performed perfectly.
The bad guys in this one are a lot of fun too, and go a long way towards making this such a success. Sig Ruman is welcomed back after OPERA, and it's great to see him eye-popping in shock whenever insulted by Groucho. By the end of his segment, his voice has risen so high in outrage that he sounds like Dr. Strangelove. Similarly, the fake telephone call from Florida wouldn't be as funny as it is without Leonard Ceeley's wonderful over the top frustration.
As a modern movie viewer, I couldn't help but be amused by a scene, which, if DAY had come later, would have been seen as a parody of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. In one of that science fiction epic's more famous sequences, Johann Strauss' "Blue Danube" plays majestically in the background as a space station slowly spins in orbit, ready to engage in docking procedures. Here, the same piece of classical music plays while we see Groucho Marx in a dressing grown, slowly spinning and dancing in front of a mirror, as he eagerly awaits engaging in docking procedures with the beautiful Esther Muir. Well, I was amused anyway.
One more thing I should mention about the film: the song and dance sequence in the poor, black community. Now, compared to other films of that time, this is almost progressive in its attitude towards race (which, admittedly, isn't saying much). But there is one thing that makes me a little uncomfortable. In context, it almost appears to be saying that, yes, the blacks are poor, and yes, they're outcasts from white society, but, well, they've got their singing and dancing, and, gosh, aren't they happy, and doesn't that make it all okay? I can't help but think that's the subtle message, though perhaps it's just me. Still, I shouldn't complain too much, because it is by far the best singing and dancing in the entire film (though I'll grudgingly admit the ballerina was also quite skilled). Imagine, people actually having fun with song and dance! It's certainly a change from the stoic, restrained and boring performances elsewhere.
The DVD comes with several extras, so you really get your money's worth, even if you aren't quite thrilled with all of the offerings. The documentary is based upon the same structure as on the DVD of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, which means there's valuable trivia and knowledge from the lips of all manner of comedians, co-stars, and writers, and also Dom DeLuise talking about food. I'll bet I'm not the only one surprised and delighted that both the female romantic leads from NIGHT and DAY are still alive and sharp enough to recall details from almost seventy years ago.
The commentary track is relatively good when fan Glenn Mitchell is actually speaking, but there's an unfortunate amount of dead air. At least he's honest though; he recommends viewers take advantage of the chapter-forward button to skip through the interminable ballet sequence since he's decided it's not any good and he has nothing to say until the next scene. Some of the trivia he imparts is interesting, but he has an unfortunate habit of pointing out continuity errors and things that most the audience won't care about. Still, he said some stuff I didn't know (the song "A Message From The Man In The Moon" that Groucho sings a snatch of at the closing was intended to be the movie's big song, but was cut), which is always appreciated.
You can skip over the rest of the DVD extras. Robert Benchley had an Oscar winning short on the NIGHT release, but A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES is rather predictable and dull. Also included are three vintage cartoons, which are quite clearly from a different age. And they're welcome to them.
I'm not sure whether I'd place this film or DUCK SOUP as my all-time favorite Marx Brothers flick. But honestly, who cares which one is the best? This film is available separately or as part of the recent "Marx Brothers Collection" DVD box set. If you're going to buy only one of those films (and why not just buy the set?), then I'd recommend this one above all.
on May 23, 2004
The big all-black except Harpo production number included a song that I don't know the name of (All god chillun got swing?) which was recorded (either before or after the movie, I just recognized it) by a young Judy Garland. Did Gus Kahn write the words for that too? I thought the flick was watery and patchy (like all their movies after the big 4, I always exclude Duck Soup, bullheaded? because it was scripted by Kalmar and Ruby, 2 of their songwriters?), but it had some great lines and some reasonably though compared to their first 4 flicks only moderately funny routines in it. Harpo got knocked about once, but it was brief and early in the flick and he more than compensated by kicking the villain in the ass! There was chaos, there was pandemonioun and there was shtick, but (sigh) while funny it wasn't up (down, in golf a low score is better) to par. But. This was only in the first part of the movie. It got better. And really picked up when our hero made up with his girl, Harpo (later joined by Groucho and Chico) danced with the black people, followed by the plot complications and the funny horserace and ending in triumph. I thought it was a little plot-laden, but I also thought it was funny and liked it. Now I've got my 8 little Marx Bros flicks on the shelf waiting to amuse and delight my future grandkids of which I won't have any of because I'm gay. Margaret Dumont was great, the film was in excellent condition (why should this be such a surprise, it was made in 1937, about the time of The Wizard of Oz, and there's nothing wrong with that print), the cast members all did good jobs, and the villians were nasty and made me mad. I prefer the Marx Bros movies where there are no villains. A long review that mentions no rountine, I'll leave that to the devotees who revel and delight in the Marx Bros more than I do to point out and rhapsodize over. In short, though it's not as good as the first 4 of their films, it's right up there with Casablanca, and head and shoulders above their other 6 movies. I thought the Marx Bros (even liked Zeppo) were a riot 30 years ago. Sigh, now I don't think they're very funny. Maybe it's just these last 3 movies.
on May 13, 2004
Doctor Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx) is hired by Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan) to save her sanatorium as the greedy Morgan (Douglas Dumbrille) attempts take over the sanatorium and turn it into a casino. In addition, Judy has taken the word of a rich client that Hackenbush is a great doctor and she does not check out his credentials and he later turns out to be a veterinarian. If this knowledge leaked to the wrong people it could lead to Judy loosing her sanatorium, and people loosing their jobs. Day at the Races is a hilarious film that depicts the Marx brothers once again fighting social injustices with slap-stick and witty comedy, which in the end offers a good cinematic experience.
on May 8, 2004
Even if the only thing I bought this for was Chico's piano scene, it would still be worth it. That's the best piece I've ever seen him do. I've only seen three of their movies total, but hey, that's beside the point - that guy can PLAY!
I'm sure other people have noticed this, but I really think the film editing was MUCH improved on this film, in comparison to the earlier ones. The main things I didn't like were, as usual, the bad musical numbers. They were just out of place. I actually liked the whole 'water carnival dancing' part, even though it was out of place too, but that's just because I tend to like dances like that. I don't know how Vivien Fay twirled around so many times without getting dizzy and collapsing.
But back to the brothers. I wouldn't consider this to be the funniest of their movies (that I've seen, at least), but they were hilarious, as always. I loved the whole telephone scene, with Groucho doing all those different voices. And of course, the tootsie-frootsie ice cream part. I also thought it was great when Flo, the 'seductress', would say "Thank you", and Groucho would always repeat her, (although it sounded more like "thank yaw").
And the whole doctor examination is one of the funniest scenes that I've seen them do. There's just something about three crazy guys running over to the wash basins to 'sterilize' their hands, and then going around in a circle, drying their hands on the coat of the person in front of them...yeah, hard to describe.
So it's not the best I've seen them do, but it's great. I have an idea: I think MGM should release a dvd with all of their funny scenes on it. That way we could just watch it and laugh, without having to go through all the annoying romantic sub-plots and boring musical numbers. I'm sure it won't be happening, but I still think it'd be a cool idea.
on November 8, 2003
"A Day at the Races" is one of the top Marx Brothers movies. It's clever, humourous, full of memorable scenes and is great for entertainment value.
The humour is up to a very high standard and the musical scenes are full of energy. Parts of it, such as the Tootsie-Frootsie and the jitterbugging scenes, are so absorbing you almost forget about the rest of the film.
On a critical analysis though, the film falls short in a few areas. The acting and delivery of some of the lines in just a few places lacks conviction and seems a bit weak and some of the songs have to be heard quite a few times before you can really remember the tune of them.
But ultimately, "A Day at the Races" wins both on entertainment value and from a critical viewpoint.
on March 16, 2003
Before MGM made the Marx Brothers completely commercial, A Day at the Races was made. Although not there best, it is worth seeing. Although it's overlong, and dampened by superflous musical numbers with a Zeppo-look alike, it has great satrical moments, befor films like Go West, The Big Store, Room Service, and At The Circus. This is probably the lastfilm that they actually cared. I loved the "ice cream" vendor, and the vast majority of this film. A great film if you don't mind fast-forewarding-not to be missed. Thank you for taking the time to read my review and feel free to leave me a helpful/not helpful feedback. God Bless America!
on March 1, 2003
Better than A Night at the Opera, not as good as Duck Soup.
on February 16, 2003
When Tony (Chico), an employee at the financially troubled Standish sanitariam, discovers that Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan) is in danger of losing the institution to a banker named Morgan (Douglas Dumbrille), he decides to seek a large donation from wealthy patient Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont, natch). Fashions in Marxism change, but this top quality production, though lacking their zaniest inspirations, does contain several of their funniest routines and a spectacularly well integrated racehorse climax. The musical and romantic asides are a matter of taste but are delightfully typical of their time. Among the performers in this delightfully off-beat film is Duke Ellington's wonderful vocalist Ivie Anderson, famous for her rendition of I GOT IT BAD (AND THAT AIN'T GOOD), and a very young Dorothy Dandridge made her debut here. It has been noted that over 5,OOO black performers auditioned for parts in the black musical sequences. An amusing trivia note: the character Groucho plays, Dr. Hackenbush was to be originally named Quakenbush. Reason for the change? Thirty-seven REAL-life doctors with that very name threatened to sue the studio(!).