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Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life - The Lost Episodes [Import]
Groucho Marx is arguably the most famous, iconic comedian of all-time. It's funny to think that for all the great films and stage appearances he made throughout his career both in the Marx Brothers act and solo later in his life, Groucho Marx actually seemed to prefer this modestly-produced TV series above all others in which he was involved. Groucho Marx was the emcee and star of this filmed quiz show, which had begun on radio in 1947. Although it was ostensibly a game show, the series' most important asset was the humor injected by Groucho into the interviews he did with the contestants. Contestants were picked primarily based on the potential they had to be foils for Groucho's barbs, which they seemed to love. At the start of each show the audience was informed of the night's secret word. If any of the contestants happened to say it while they were on the air, they won an extra $100. When they said the word a dilapidated stuffed duck would drop from the ceiling with the $100 attached. YBYL became a huge television hit show, and as big a part of his legacy as the amazing movies he made with his brothers in the earlier part of his career.
You Bet Your Life ran on television from October 5, 1950 - June 29, 1961 (423 episodes), one of the longest running shows in the history of television. (There were also 105 episodes that aired exclusively on radio.)The program was renamed The Groucho Show during its last season and has been seen in syndication as The Best Of Groucho for the last 40 years.
With 18 shows that remained unseen since their original broadcasts in the 1950s, You Bet Your Life: The Lost Episodes offers another welcome example of the way DVDs are preserving our precious television heritage. Of course, this long-running game show (1950-61) was barely a game show at all. Instead, it was a perfect showcase for the wit and whimsy of Groucho Marx (1890-1977), who clearly relished the third major chapter (after stage and movies) of his illustrious career. With his mischievously elevated eyebrows and ever-present cigar, the great comedian was right at home with average and above-average civilians, recruited from the studio audience in offbeat pairs to answer quiz questions and win typically modest sums of cash. "Say the secret word and split a hundred dollars," said Groucho as each contest commenced, and a mangy stuffed duck named Julius (Groucho's real name) would drop from the rafters to reveal the secret word.
While there was a modicum of preparation before these shows were filmed, most of Groucho's one-liners and snappy comebacks are impressively off-the-cuff, hilariously demonstrating the mastery of humor that Groucho--still vital in his well-heeled sixties--had honed over decades of live performance. His frequently nervous contestants are equally amusing, sometimes giving as well as they got from their rapier-witted host. They are also occasionally exceptional: professional baseball umpires; super-athlete Bob Matthias; a decorated Korean War hero; a Mr. And Miss Universe; a celebrated mystery writer; TV comedian Ernie Kovacs; British "hipster" comic Lord Buckley; and even Gary Cooper's mother appear as contestants. With a revealing glimpse of '50s popular culture, these well-produced DVDs also include a wealth of You Bet Your Life artifacts: the "stag reels" showcase Groucho's deft handling of "mature humor" edited from the original broadcasts; a behind-the-scenes film reveals the show's inner workings and primary staff; and ads for Plymouth/DeSoto dealers (the show's sole sponsor) are quaintly charming by latter-day standards. Best of all, Groucho's original radio audition is included, along with a priceless 10-minute radio clip featuring Groucho and Bob Hope--a comedy gem that led to Groucho's long-term employment on television. For Marx Brothers and Groucho fans, this is a treasure trove of smile-inducing nostalgia. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
"You Bet Your Life" is first and foremost a vehicle for Groucho Marx, who tosses zingers at hapless contestants. The simple format and low-tech presentation are quite refreshing. If you grew up with the "Best of Groucho" reruns, you may recall that the picture was often re-cropped and enlarged to eliminate the sponsor's logo, resulting in off-center, grainy images. These DVDs boast the original camera compositions, which show the full set and background, with surprisingly sharp picture quality. (There is one episode shown in "Best of Groucho" format, which offers a comparison as well as nostalgia.) Radio-show collectors may be familiar with the Ernie Kovacs episode, which has been issued on disc, but the TV version has different editing and may be of special interest.
Probably the most famous episode of "You Bet Your Life" is included here: the guest is Ramiro G. Gonzales ("Pedro Gonzales Gonzales").Read more ›
I got into Groucho through the Marx Brothers, naturally, and was fortunate enough to grow up with this show in reruns on local television in the late 70s. I'm likely pretty young for an average Groucho fan (it always seems to impress older people when I mention that I'm a Grouchophile anyways).
I've only made it through one disk so far, but have not been disappointed. My only complaint is that you can't seem to watch the commercials with the episodes they aired, but it's nice to at least have them here to watch separately. These guys really did a bang up job with nice touches as this; really helps make the timewarp more complete. The outtakes & stag reels, while tame by today's standards, are a blast as well.
But one doesn't pick this set up hoping to find "today's standards" in yesteryear's game show. The datedness is exactly what lends to the quiant enjoyment of "You Bet Your Life." Compare this spare-of-sparest sets (Groucho sits on a stool at a draped desk and microphone with, yes, more drapes behind him). Contestants simply stand next to him at microphones. That kind of simplistic approach wouldn't cut high school variety show muster today. No "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" mood music or light show here folks. Nope. Instead, we're lucky if we see a wooden duck on a string. We beg for it, in fact. Just listen to the audience scream when it drops down after (wow!) the utterance of the secret word! After a few episodes, you'll shockingly find yourself doing the same!
The 18 episodes on these three discs have been remastered for DVD, and they look pretty good, although quite a bit of dirt and grain still remain on the prints. But, after all, these shows are 50 years old! I guess we shouldn't expect perfect video quality. The prints, although far from perfection, have indeed been cleaned-up considerably. For proof, just watch some of the outtakes included in this set. It's fairly obvious that the restoration team didn't touch any of these outtake clips, for they are far worse in quality than the full episodes themselves.
A variety of different seasons are represented among the shows in this package. Groucho's TV version of "You Bet Your Life" ran from 1950 to 1961. This DVD compilation includes episodes spanning the years 1950-1959, including the October 1950 debut program (with a "secret word" of "Wall").
Here's a breakdown of the years that are represented within this DVD package (indicating the year the programs initially aired):
1950 -- 2 episodes.
1951 -- 1 episode.
1952 -- 4 episodes.
1953 -- 3 episodes.
1954 -- 3 episodes.
1955 -- 1 episode.
1956 -- 2 episodes.
1957 -- No episodes.
1958 -- 1 episode.
1959 -- 1 episode.
Watching Groucho, with cigar ever-present, banter with his guests (some famous, but most just regular folk from the studio audience) is sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who purchases this deluxe DVD set.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This DVD set is even better than I expected, and I expected a lot of laughs. The production of the show itself is charming, Groucho is great, the guests are (usually... Read morePublished on March 15 2004 by toserveman
The absolute simplicity of concept, economy of verbiage and humanity of the subjects makes You Bet Your Life a TV landmark. Read morePublished on March 8 2004 by Joseph I
YOU BET YOUR LIFE IS THE GREATEST BECAUSE OF THE ONE THE ONLY GROUCHO!I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO NEVER STOP LAUGHING!!!!!!!Published on Nov. 28 2003 by Alphonse Dattolo
This is one dvd, worth it's cost. A trip back in time, (50 yrs. back) to see what people, (of all ages) were wearing, funny ocupations many chosen to be interviewed by Groucho... Read morePublished on Nov. 26 2003 by Alan Rossi
Great transfers, wonderful booklet and packaging, some surprising extras. This is a great set even though it is a bit pricey for some old tv shows. Read morePublished on Oct. 12 2003 by Ingles
Gripes about the packaging are ridiculous--the box is beautifyl. The discs do NOT fall out. There are plenty of CD boxed sets that use similar "book-style" packaging. Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2003 by David Mandau
Groucho gets the treatment he deserves from Sony/Shout. Three discs crammed with vintage episodes of You Bet Your Life, commercials, outtakes, etc. Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2003 by Shawn Wolfe
My big gripe with this release is that the disks come in a folding sleeve, but there's NO SLIP CASE for it. Read morePublished on Sept. 29 2003
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