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A Night at the Opera
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Commentaries on this disc:
Film critic Leonard Maltin
Rating:7.9/10 (9 votes) [
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Reviewed by The Cubist on August 1st, 2005
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Maltin lays it down right from the start that his track will not be a dry, academic analysis of the Marx Brothers’ comedy. He delivers an enthusiastic commentary that is also informative. He mentions that three minutes of footage that referenced Italy was cut from the film because of bad relations between them and the United States. Maltin provides plenty of history on the film and his track is well worth a listen.
Reviewed by Glenn Hopp on May 17th, 2006
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Yes, I agree this commentary is extremely good. It sounds at times as if Leonard Maltin is reading from a script he has written, but his comments are always attentive to the smallest detail. He points out character actors (Billy Gilbert, Jonathan Hale, and others) who turn up for just a few seconds. He singles out a brief shot of extras during a musical number: "Look at the photography of that shot" (careful high-contrast lighting throwing a man's face in shadows, an example of MGM attention to detail). The thing I like best, I guess, is that Maltin loves the film without being blind to its schmaltzy, fake moments. He points them all out--the implausibilities of the subplot, etc.--and uses them to illustrate Irving Thalberg and MGM's approach of putting the Marxes in a context of greater plotting and structure than Paramount had previously done. His comments on the big finale are also strong: he mentions the wide shots of the big opera house set adding grandeur and the accelerated editing pace of the cross-cutting toward the end. He also singles out one scene that seems to be shot in natural sunlight, which seems visually out of place in a film otherwise photographed on sound stages.
Reviewed by badge on August 23rd, 2012
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I haven't heard the long out-of-circulation laserdisc commentary by Maltin, but given that he is using extensive notes for the DVD commentary I'd assume it's practically identical. I've always liked Maltin - one of the least pretentious critics imaginable - and he does a great job on this track. He begins by saying that he's often knocked for preferring older films but says that he in fact enjoys contemporary films just as much but doesn't feel the same sense of affection for them. He provides a wealth of background information on the film and the Marx Brothers working methodology. I was struck by how much I didn't know about the history and circumstances of NIGHT AT THE OPERA and how it fit into the rest of their oeuvre. And Maltin has all kinds of interesting personal insights, for example the reasons why Harpo, a silent character, wouldn't have translated as effectively into films of the silent era. An excellent track.
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