Posted 02 February 2013 - 02:14 PM
*The Dick Van Dyke Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)*
There have been sitcoms from the very beginning of television, and the very best was one that debuted in 1961. The top comedy series contain not only physical comedy, but are superbly written, and they can probably be counted on the fingers of two hands. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, Cheers, and a few more. But the king of them all is The Dick Van Dyke Show. I don't think here was ever a funnier show on the air.
Everyone connected with the show, in front of and behind the cameras, was a terrific talent:
Carl Reiner created it, originally casting himself as a head writer of a TV variety show, but when the pilot failed, it was reworked to star Dick Van Dyke, who was at that moment enjoying great success on Broadway in "Bye Bye Birdie."
Van Dyke was an nimble actor who easily combined slapstick tumbles with a charm and abilty to play a situation straight, and still get laughs.
Others in the cast included Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie, both show biz veterans, as the other writers of The Alan Brady Show. Richard Deacon was the put-upon producer of the show within the show...and until this viewing of the entire series, I never realized how very much he added to the series as Mel Cooley.
Carl Reiner even got himself into the series...first as an occasional eccentric character, but then appearing in the last two seasons full onscreen as egotistical, tyrannical Alan Brady.
There were a few other regulars, but the most surprising find was a very young woman named Mary Tyler Moore. There is no need for me to go into a resume of her later work, but I feel it is important to emphasize that before this program she was a relative unknown. And what she brought to The Dick Van Dyke Show was the perfect wife for Rob Petrie and the perfect acting partner for Dick Van Dyke. She could dance, sing, and her comic timing was even greater than anyone expected. She was youthful, very pretty, and while we see that Rob and Laura loved each other enormously, you also felt there was a lot of hot foolin-around going on behind that bedroom door.
The Blu-ray set has all 158 half-hour episodes from the five seasons. And you will likely never laugh as much or as hard. Every episode had something, but in each season there were comic masterpieces that are still held in high esteem today: "Coast to Coast Big Mouth," "It May Look Like A Walnut!", "Where Did I Come From?", and "Oh, How We Met the Night We Danced" are just a few of them. And it comes to a nice conclusion with a tale that neatly wraps up the series, "The Last Chapter."
The picture quality is fabulous. I watch every episode of the five seasons and I am eager to tell you that NEVER have these shows looked this wonderful! (There are some early episodes in the first season that have Dick wearing jackets that cause some jagged moments, but that is very minor.)
The DTS-HD Master Audio is in the original mono but it is excellent.
The extras that were on DVD are carried over, and there are quite a few of them (mostly in the form of commentaries). There are also Blu exclusives on each of the 15 Blu-ray discs, but these are mostly clips from old TV programs or awards shows, and so they show varying quality, never anything like today's HD.
The Blu-ray set of The Dick Van Dyke Show contains over 60 hours of the best comedy you will ever see. It comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
Posted 28 June 2012 - 08:52 PM
*It's Only Money (Blu-ray)*
If you want to combine bits of film noir with Jerry Lewis buffoonery, you have It's Only Money. What elevates this from other Lewis films is the writing and directing by Frank Tashlin (who directed other Lewis features, including The Geisha Boy). True, Lewis is the complete idiot savant here as Lester March, a TV repairman who is very talented with electronic gadgets but, otherwise, always a clumsy one-man wrecking crew otherwise. It turns out that he is the long-lost son of a deceased millionaire, but doesn't know it. Unfortunately, bad guys who are trying to get the fortune for themselves try to kill Lewis. Silly stuff (subtle it is not), but it's strangely appealing.
Besides Lewis, the cast also includes 1940s bad guy Zachary Scott, and a darling Mae Quesdel, famous for being the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in 1930s cartoons.
The picture quality is excellent, with a fair amount amount of grain. There should not be any complaints about the video.
Audio is also excellent.
Extras...nada, zip, zilch.
I would recommend this as a perfect example of a 1960s Jerry Lewis but you might want to rent it first before purchase to see if it is something you like.
Posted 27 June 2012 - 10:03 PM
*The Artist (Blu-ray)*
I know this is a recent movie, but its subject matter makes it a perfect fit here.
"The Artist" is about as charming and innocent a movie as you will come across in these 2010s. It is effective yet simple in this story of a silent film star and the young newcomer he helps, and when his career is wiped off the face of the earth, her star is ascending. It's sort of a new/old version of A Star Is Born, but without the depressing drama of that 1937/1954/1976 story. The cast is wonderfully charming, and the quality with which they captured Hollywood of the silent/early sound era is astounding. (With one small problem, The Jazz Singer was 1927, not 1929. It seems obvious they said 1929 so they could combine it with the stock market crash that year.)
And for classic film fans, no, you are not imagining you are hearing Bernard Herrmann's Love Theme from Vertigo in a lengthy piece near the end of The Artist. That is it.
While I really enjoyed the film, I don't feel it was worthy of the Best Picture Oscar. I still think that should have gone to another film about the early days of cinema, Hugo.
On the video front, I really want to applaud the producers/director for presenting it in the 4:3 format. It is perfect for the subject matter. The black and white video is superb, and I am also glad one of the behind-the-scenes shorts talked briefly about how odd choices of color for the clothes were important because they had to look right in black and white. So many people forget about that when they think colorizing an old blank and white movie is okay. The colors they add aren't likely what the true colors were used for black and white film. (Did you know that in the 1950s, George Reeves' Superman costume for the black and white TV episodes was actually gray and brown, not red and blue?)
Audio is superb. You might not think it important for a silent film, but, in actual fact, it takes on an extra importance.
The extras were all enjoyable, though some portions overlap into the others:
The Artist: The Making of An American Romance - excellent behind the scenes documentary
Q&A with the Filmmakers and Cast - this was 45 minutes at a special screening. Though it did drag a bit, Missi Pyle (Galaxy Quest) is a delight and I'd like there to have been more of her in the film.
Hollywood As A Character: The Locations of The Artist - this runs obly a few minutes and I would have loved for it to be longer. I find it fascinating looking at how they took L.A. landmarks and manipulated them into the film's silent era.
The Artisans Behind The Artist - Again, too brief a look at the crew who created the look of the film.
Bloopers - more, not less, should have been the word here.
The only downside I can see to the extras is the lack of a commentary, but considering the language problems the director and leading actor and actress (all being French) would have likely encountered was probably the decision for this.
This is a highly recommended purchase.
Posted 23 June 2012 - 09:08 PM
Normally, Jerry Lewis movies go for the slapstick whenever possible, and oftentimes the pratfalls and shenanigans are not really that funny now. However, The Geisha Boy is a movie with humor and heart, possibly more so than any other Lewis film. There is humanity provided in the first scene where we meet Gilbert Wooley (Lewis), aka The Great Wooley, a not-so-good stage magician. When he arrives in a taxi at the airport, the fare is 95 cents and he gives a dollar bill to the driver, telling him to keep the change. When the driver makes a crack, Wooley lets him know with sincerity that is his last dollar, and that he only agreed to entertain the USO on this trip in order to make a little money. With this one exchange, Lewis gets us on his side right away.
Through mishaps at the airport in Japan, Wooley accidentally makes a fool of an arrogant female movie star, which causes a little Japanse boy (played very touchingly by Robert Kazuyoshi Hirano) to laugh for the first time since his parents were killed in an accident. The boy's aunt (a radiant Nobu Atsumi McCarthy) brings the boy to Wooley's hotel room to thank him for making the boy smile again, and Wooley starts to lose his heart to both aunt and nephew.
Wooley's adventures in Japan are usually done with respect to Japanese culture, though I did feel a little embarassment when he imitates the language at a baseball game. Suzanne Pleshette makes her screen debut in this film. Also appearing are film veterans Barton MacLane and Sessue Hayakawa, the latter who gets to partake in a tribute from Bridge Over the River Kwai. (It should be noted that Lewis occasionally takes us out of the movie we are watching to give the audience a proverbial wink with some funny business.) And a star is born with Harry the Hare.
The Blu video is excellent. It is wonderfully clean and sharp.
Audio is 2.0 and very clear.
Like other Olive films, there are no extras.
I recommend this movie for its heart and humor.
Posted 21 June 2012 - 03:17 AM
The story of "Passport to Pimlico" is one of those inventive comedies of classic British cinema. Pimlico is a small area of central London, and in it is a leftover WWII German bomb that explodes, uncovering an underground cave containing treasures and a scroll from the Duke of Burgundy. The scroll is translated and it turns out that Pimlico is not part of England, but still a part of Burgundy, France. The first thing the citizens do is tear up their English ration books, and go hogwild buying as much food and clothes as they want. Londoners start flooding into this "foreign land" to buy some of these items, until the government of England sets up roadblocks going in and out. The hilarity continues as the new Burgandians fight for their rights.
Sporting an impressive British cast of Stanley Holloway, Margaret Rutherford, and Hermione Baddeley, laughs come often in this witty black-and-white film from 1948, one of the first of Ealing Studios classic comedies.
The film has been restored, and for the most part it is impressive. However, it does still have areas of streakiness.
Audio is restricted to a mono 2.0 soundtrack, but that is all you really need for this movie. It delivers every classic line clearly.
The extras are minimal. A three-minute interview with BFI curator shows he is extremely nervous, and delivers it quickly. There is also a featurette that compares modern locations with those in the film. A short photo gallery and a restoration comparison round out the extras.
Highly recommended for British comedy fans.
*THIS IS A REGION B LOCKED BLU-RAY, which will not play in the U.S. unless you have an all-region Blu-ray player.*
Posted 02 June 2012 - 11:19 PM
There is a poignancy between Calvero (Chaplin), the washed-up comic, and the young ballerina (Claire Bloom in a beautiful performance) he nurses back to health. A good supporting cast aids the story, including Buster Keaton in a small role (the only time both were in the same film). But, make no mistake, this is Chaplin's movie, and you can see him in a rich performance that encompasses both sorrow and dignity.
The quality of the video in Blu-ray is excellent, and since there is a DVD in this two-disc release, you can see the immediate improvement in quality on the Blu-ray. And if you compare it to the horrendous DVD release from Warner Bros. several years ago, you will see the Blu is a miracle.
Audio is also excellent.
One other important thing to note about the difference between the U.S. DVD release and the UK Blu release is the running time. It's the same film but the UK runs about 8 minutes longer due to the U.S. WB DVD release being speeded up because they used a PAL version.
However, the WB release from several years ago does have a distinct advantage over thus release, and that is in the Extras section. There are none on the Blu-ray disc itself, and what extras there are are relegated to the DVD in this Blu/DVD combo:
"Chaplin Today - Limelight" (20 min.)
Introduction by David Robinson (6 min.)
Deleted scene (4 min.)
Footlights (two readings running a total of 3 min.).
BADLY MISSING from the Warner Bros. release from several years ago:
Home movies (16 min.)
Photo gallery of about 200 pictures
Two theaterical trailers
The Professor (7 min. of an uncompleted 1919 short featuring a character like in the flea circus sketch in Limelight)
Original isolated film score
23 min. of scenes from films in the Chaplin collection
Also missing in this Blu/DVD combo release is the French audio that was on the WB DVD.
The Blu video is the way to go...and if you can pick up the WB DVD release cheap, do so for the extras disc.
*This is a Region B locked release for both discs. It will not play here in the U.S. unless you have a region free Blu-ray player.*
Posted 26 November 2010 - 03:54 PM
Keeping within a theme thread makes the Classic Film DVD Reviews Forum a much neater place and better organzized.. Thanks.
Posted 08 July 2009 - 05:58 PM
I?d like to start by saying that the picture quality is sometimes sharp but other times soft (likely the original movie) and the audio benefits from a nice 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.
The bewildering thing while the Blu disc is in the machine is seeing there are no extras with it. None of the featurettes or commentaries from the previous DVD releases. Considering this is the 40th anniversary, this seemed odd. The only extra was including a DVD version of the film in the same Blu package. Even the back of the Blu package doesn?t list a single extra. I wasn?t even going to play the DVD because I wanted to see the movie in high def. The DVD almost became something one could toss away. Luckily I didn?t do that?because the DVD is where they have placed the featurettes and commentaries. That truly makes no sense because like I said, you want to access things like the commentaries while watching the hi-def presentation, not having to switch to an entirely different disc. That being said, the features are enjoyable but it?s lazy to just slip in the DVD version, rather than adding them to the Blu disc.
Posted 08 July 2009 - 02:45 PM
OK, I watched this, finally, and had a great time. It had been years, perhaps decades, since I'd seen the whole movie from beginning to end. It looks really great here, better in fact than any previous home video incarnation. Some have already pointed out that the film grain here is pretty heavy, and that's certainly true. I'm not complaining about it, because it's much better than a disc with a lot of DNR.
Some effects look slightly clumsy by today's standards, but that's almost beside the point with a film that's 25 years old.
The sound is also quite good, maybe not spectacular in the way we've come to expect from movies with a lot of special effects, but quite adequate for what is after all primarily a comedy.
I've not seen the extras yet, but I've read that there's quite a few that are new and filmed in HD, in addition to the old extras from previous editions, which are SD.
If there is one quibble, and it is a very very small one, is that it doesn't include the original Ray Parker music video. But that's a small detail, really.
Posted 20 June 2009 - 04:33 PM
Got this in the mail a few days ago and I must say I am very pleased with it. Excellent picture, with just enough grain (you can't help it with a picture like this), two English audio options (the originial mono or TrueHD 5.1)(plus a TrueHD 5.1 French track, too) .
And plenty of featurettes about the film to make any Dr. Strangelove fan happy, with guests such as Richard Lester, James Earl Jones, Robert McNamara, Muchael Pain, Shirley MacLaine,Spike Lee, and Roger Ebert:
"No Fighting in the War Room or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat" 30 min.
"Inside: Dr. Strangelove Or: How I l Learned...etc." 46 min.
"Best Sellers Or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove" 18 min.
"The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove" 14 min.
"An Interview with Robert McNamara" 20 min.
Split screen faux interviews with Sellers and George C. Scott - 7 min.
And while the film really needs a running commentary, one isn't there. However, there is a Blu exclusive picture-in-picture and trivia track.
The Blu-ray disc is housed inside a very nice digi-book, one of the best I have seen. The 36-page hardcover book (40 pgs. if you count the covers) has lots of photos, bios of the main stars, and an essay about the cut pie-fight sequence (I'm not making this up) with script excerpts.
Another winner to pick up.
Posted 23 December 2008 - 01:46 AM
Having said that, I think maybe WHV, which owns the rights to both versions, might have missed a golden opportunity to make the original George Cukor version available on blu-ray at the same time as the remake, and maybe even offer a double-feature with both versions. Granted, they can still do that at some point down the road.
Posted 18 December 2008 - 07:20 AM
Posted 23 February 2008 - 09:46 AM
Posted 16 November 2006 - 09:38 AM
Posted 27 September 2006 - 09:13 AM
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