Monkey Business (1931) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||1931|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Norman Z. McLeod|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.19:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Most Marx Brothers’ film have very little plot; Monkey Business, the third of five films the brothers made for Paramount and the first not based on one of their successful stage plays, has less than most. For the first three quarters of the film Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo (they have no names in the film) are stowaways on an ocean liner heading for America; the story is a succession of gags and comedy skits as the brothers try to avoid being caught by the crew. They also come into contact with gangster Alky Briggs (Harry Woods), Alky’s neglected wife Lucille (Thelma Todd), who Groucho does his best to romance, racketeer Joe Helton (Rockciffe Fellowes) and his beautiful daughter Mary (Ruth Hall), who takes a liking to Zeppo. Back in the US, the final section of the film is a party Helton throws for his daughter; Mary is kidnapped by Briggs and his men and our heroes set out to get her back.
For most of its 77 minute running time, Monkey Business is a quick-fire succession of puns, gags, chases and physical comedy. There is a beard that was coming by “hair mail” or was “hair to a fortune”, one of the usual twisted conversations between Groucho and Chico, this time about Christopher Columbus, risqué suggestions by Groucho to various women and a hilarious Punch and Judy show featuring Harpo. Some sequence are very funny, others less so, but if you wait a few seconds another gag will be coming! There are no musical numbers on board the ship except a comic dance number with Groucho and Thelma Todd, but of course at the party there has to be a scene where Chico plays the piano and one where Harpo plays the harp. However, for once in a Marx Brothers film, Zeppo is more than a straight man; he is the romantic lead, gets to romance the girl and at the end fights the villain to save her. Hurrah!
Monkey Business was directed by Norman McLeod, an experienced director of comedy who also directed the next Marx Brothers’ film Horse Feathers the following year. He does a good job of keeping the comedy routines tight and, freed from the constraints of filming adaptations of one of their stage plays, the brothers are in great form. The result is that, in Monkey Business, the brothers are hitting their stride in film delivering a potent mix of laughter and silliness that is infectious, and very entertaining.
Monkey Business is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the NTSC code. IMDb gives 1.20:1 as the original ratio. It is presented Full Frame on this DVD.
This print of a film that is almost 90 years old looks pretty good. The sharpness and detail cannot be compared to that of a modern film, of course, but detail is strong enough, blacks solid, greyscales good and shadow detail fine. Brightness and contrast are consistent, except for a couple of slight variations, and grain is nicely controlled. There was a noticeable vertical scratch around 25:31 and another at 37:03, but otherwise there are no obvious marks or macro blocking.
English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided in a large, light yellow, text. They do, perhaps understandably, miss out some words of the quick-fire dialogue.
Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.
This is a predictably tinny sounding audio, but dialogue is clean and the occasional effects, such as the cows and chickens in the barn at the climax, sharp enough. There is no credit for the music given, but the IMDb gives the credit to John Leipold and Ralph Rainger.
I noticed no lip synchronisation issues.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu only allows a selection of Monkey Business or Horse Feathers to play. There are no extras on this disc, the second disc of the three DVD The Marx Brothers Collection, but the third DVD of the set includes the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos running 79:53.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Monkey Business has been around a while and there have been a number of home entertainment releases during that time. Perhaps the closest equivalent to this The Marx Brothers Collection is a similar collection in the US of the brothers’ first five films which includes short archival interviews with Harpo, Groucho and Harpo’s son William but does not include the The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos documentary. To my mind this featurette gives our release the edge.
Monkey Business was The Marx Brothers’ third film and the first not based on one of the Broadway plays. It is an anarchic succession of puns, gags, chases and physical comedy that is very funny. The inclusion of Monkey Business in The Marx Brothers Collection from Umbrella, which has the first five feature films made by the brothers, is an opportunity to watch the flowering of their zany humour on film.
The Marx Brothers Collection includes The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930) on one DVD, Monkey Business and Horse Feathers (1932) on another and Duck Soup (1933) plus the featurette The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos on the third.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|