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CD-ROM Review: 'The Unknown Marx Brothers'

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To quote the introduction: ”Even the most fanatic fans of Chico, Harpo, and Groucho are in for some big surprises.” Yes, and they’ll have to click through hell and high water to find them on The Unknown Marx Brothers. Using David Leaf and John Scheinfeld’s 1993 documentary of the same title as its primary source, this two-disc set lets you watch the film (uninterrupted or chopped up into ”chapters”) and examine the goods via an index or divvied up into their respective media — movies, TV, and radio. Since the film itself is unavailable for rent, this is the only way to access some awfully funny material.

Too bad it’s not the best way. Many of the links are felicitous: An index entry titled ”Dinner check, how not to pay” yields a great gag from A Night at the Opera. But while hilarious finds can be unearthed through such shortcuts — Groucho’s ribald outtakes from You Bet Your Life, a sidesplitting Jack Benny parody of that game show, Harpo going bonkers on a Spike Jones special — you’ll find more and longer clips by sitting through the documentary. And while the film itself deserves an A, after watching it in a small, low-resolution video window on my computer, you’ll pardon me if I’m feeling a little C sick.