The Unknown Marx Brothers
What would it take to screw up a Marx Brothers CD-ROM? Even if you didn’t have a great take on the Brothers, you could string together some funny video and some insightful text, toss in a trivia game and a search function, find another wrinkle or two, and create something entertaining. This, evidently, was what Philips Media thought, and the resulting CD-ROM, The Unknown Marx Brothers, is a flaccid effort that doesn’t do justice to the hilarious and seminal comedy of Harpo, Groucho, Chico, and Zeppo. The movie that comprises almost the entire disc, also called The Unknown Marx Brothers, does have an interesting premise; it tries to present behind-the-scenes baubles that even die-hard Marxists wouldn’t already know. Scattered throughout, of course, are the requisite film clips and gags. The problem is that the CD-ROM doesn’t know what to do with this material. The creators have chopped it up into three sections, sequential chapters that (taken together) cover the entire Marx Brothers history, and then chopped the sections up into smaller excerpts. Wouldn’t you rather watch a full movie on a television or movie screen? There are also some pieces of radio shows, a trivia game, and a bit of text (very brief blurbs about all the Marx Brothers movies, for example). When a subject is as rife with potential as this one, there’s no excuse for spitting out a product as uninspired as The Unknown Marx Brothers CD-ROM. The only thing we did like about the disc(besides some of the film clips, which, as mentioned, we’d much rather watch elsewhere) was the cool, nostalgic look of the interface. The early half of the 20th century is well-evoked by these icons, although the one you’ll use most is Exit: a vaudeville-style hook off-stage.
– November 1996