|It is a dangerous thing to rate any Marx Brothers picture as their 'best', yet even at the risk of having to eat my own words, I would say that none of their previous films is as consistently and exhaustingly funny or as rich in comic invention and satire as A Night at the Opera.|
In terms of rhyme, reason, good taste, and formal plot structure, A Night at the Opera is a sieve, a leaky ship, and caulked to the guards with hokum. It has three of the Marx Brothers and absolutely no pride. It seems thrown together, made up just as they went along out of everybody else's own head - it steals sequences from Rene Clair, it drives off with whole wagonloads of the Keystone lot without so much as putting the fence back up; it has more familiar faces in the way of gags and situations than a college reunion. In short, A Night at the Opera is a night with the Marx Brothers, who have a zest for clowning and a need to be cockeyed that are either genius or just about enough to fit them all out with numbers and a straitjacket, and who troop through this impossible hour and a half of picture with such speed and clatter as to pin up a record for one of the most hilarious collections of bad jokes I've laughed myself nearly sick over.
You realize even while wiping your eyes well into the second handkerchief that it is nothing so much as a hodge-podge of skylarking and soon over. Their picture is done the minute it fades on the screen. But the boys themselves are still with us, and I estimate an average period of ten days to three weeks, as the picture gets around, before the American public will be able to open its garbage can in the morning and not duck, involuntarily, anticipating that a Marx Brother will pop out and clout it over the head with a sackful of tomatoes.
They tear into it by guess and by god; their assurance, appetite, and vitality are supreme; they are both great and awful.
The Alex Film Society gives a thorough analysis of the film, pictures from the movie, and a perspective on the Marx Brothers co-star, Margaret Dumont.
Movie Magg blogger Mark Gabrash Conlan has written an excellent critique of the film while sprinkling in some interesting trivia, thus giving his readers a keener appreciation of the events that took place during the film's production, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
Josh Larsen gives his well-expressed take on the film at LarsenOnFilm.com.
A Night at the Opera is infamous, so it makes sense that it would be critiqued on the website, This Is Infamous.
Ian Anthony Brownell cites A Night at the Opera as one of his top 100 favourite movies at the Film 5000 Project - a site that dedicates itself to "seeking out the 5000 greatest films in a century of cinema". That shouldn't be too hard...
NPR has a thorough and informative review of the film, including an audio interview with Kitty Carlisle-Hart. Beautifully done!