[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.]
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Warner Archive aptly team up to respectively release the first season of the Hulu 2019 "Veronica Mars" reboot of the 2004-07 CW series of the same name on DVD and Blu-ray. WBHE is the home of the latest and greatest Warner Bros programs, and the Archive catalog has the proverbial vast array of home-video releases of the best recent and not-so-recent series from the Warner studios.
The original concept of "Mars" is that the titular middle-class teen helps her private-investigator father with cases that frequently involve the one-percenter residents of their oceanfront resort community of Neptune, California. Much of the OS relates to a crime that transforms our live-action Daria/Buffy hybrid from a member of the in-crowd to an outcast.
The following trailer for the new "Mars" season highlights the wonderfully quirky tone and clever humor of this cult classic; it also reinforces that cast and crew have brought these characters back for enjoyment of the fans, rather than as a "willfully" ego project for the stars.
Our story begins with Veronica (Kristen Bell of "Frozen," "House of Lies," and "The Good Place") proving that you sort of can go home again. Veronica is working a typical case for a divorced real housewife of Neptune, who is being gaslighted by her ex-husband. The hilarious ways that our now 30-something Nancy Drew gets revenge on both her client and the man who dun her wrong reminds old-school fans of the justifiable general contempt that Veronica has for both men and for the rich and often famous.,
Meanwhile, not-so-gracefully aging Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni of "Just Shoot Me") is helping a struggling independent grocer foil a particularly insidious plot to drive away his customers.
The chemistry between Keith and Veronica and the still sharp writing of show creator/runner Rob Thomas alone make another trip to "Mars" well worthwhile.
One of the best scenes in any of the eight episodes establishes in the first offering that Veronica is shacking up with former classmate Logan Echolls, who is much more mature and even buffer than in his younger days. Logan is freshly back (and barely decent) from his latest stint playing Captain America at a global hot spot when Veronica "entices" him in front of drooling girls (and likely some boys) to help her more a large appliance.
The central event of a fatal bombing at a motel during Spring Break both drives most of the action and provides a context for numerous familiar faces to reappear. This group literally and figuratively runs the spectrum from the good, to the bad, to the ugly.
The nature of the crime creates almost endless possibilities regarding both whodunit and whydunit. Conclusions regarding which victim is the intended target, rather than collateral damage, change just as frequently as the certainty regarding the discovery of the smoking gun.
The central casting types include the beleagured motel owner and his daughter, the "hound" fratboy who is not above Cosbying the current object of his something that rhymes with affection, the genius nerd, the rich boy from the nationally prominent family and his "not our type" financee, and the nephew of a Mexican drug lord,
Subsequent attacks further complicate matters.
A strong "snobs v. slobs" element is pure "Mars." The small business owners and their employees heavily rely on Spring Break to pay their bills the rest of the years are actively fighting an organized group headed by one of he aforementioned "old friends" and his new "business acquaintance" that he met during an unfortunate incarceration. The "haves" are trying to rid the city of every undesirable element.
One spoiler is that good old-fashioned detective work drives the pursuit of justice; another spoiler is that great-great-grandfather of all consulting detectives Sherlock Holmes is vindicated in that the solution reflects the principle that once the impossible is fully eliminated the answer must be the (sometime improbable) remaining alternative. All of this ties to the broader reality that there is you story, my story, and the truth.
Investigative team Mystery, Inc. is represented in the form of one or more clues that seem insignificant ultimately lead to the culprit realizing that he would have gotten away with it but for one of our favorite meddling kids.
WBHE and Archive supplement this with a feature on the "Mars" 2019 Comic Con panel that is a sort of a homecoming. Seeing cast and crew express the mutual love that comes across is awesome; attempted humor by interrupting this presentation with reaction clips from the new season is less of a treat.
The pristinely remastered Warner Archive September 24, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1940 Bette Davis drama "The Letter" educates as well as entertains in that it provides a very basic primer on Criminal Law 101. This is in addition to a pedigree that extends beyond Davis to having this seven-Oscar nominated William Wyler joint being based on a W. Somerset Maugham play.
The peek inside a law school classroom begins within a few minutes of the opening scenes. The workers at the Chinese rubber plantation that Robert Crosbie (Herbert Marshall) operates are awakened by gun shots coming from the big house.
These men next witness visitor Geoffrey Hammond scurrying out the front door as Robert spouse Leslie (Davis) is emptying her revolver into him. This is quickly followed by the clouds clearing and Davis looking up at the moon with her signature crazed look that makes wonderful use of her fabled eyes that literally are the thing of song.
This is a prime example of an early lesson in the criminal law class that every new student must take. The professor tells the class that there is a dead body on the floor and asks the scholars what are the legal consequences. The correct answer, as is the case regarding every question about legal interpretation, is "it depends."
The plot thickens on Robert, attorney/close friend Howard Joyce, and the equally friendly local law-enforcement official gathering to hear the story.
Davis shows why she is an actress, rather than a movie star, in telling about how Geoffrey shows up unannounced and forces himself on her in a manner that requires fending him off with extreme prejudice,
Public and police sympathy being on the side of Leslie does not prevent her from being a guest of the state. The surprising thing is that she does not mind her temporary surroundings.
The titular correspondence comes to the attention of Howard before the aforementioned proceeding; this evidence that directly contradicts much of the story of Leslie in a manner that increases the chances of her taking a seat in Old Sparky.
The circumstances of the appearance of this "smoking gun" represents poetic justice in that scorned woman Leslie meets her match. Their showdown is a film highlight that perfectly portrays cultural conflicts that continue today.
Even including Geoffrey, Robert is whom comes out the worst for wear. He gets a rude awakening that also ruins his dreams. This is in the form of learning that the woman whom he thinks is his soulmate is a femme fatale,
This being a Golden Age film, no crime goes unpunished. However, full restitution is not made.
Archive further delivers by including an alternative ending to "Letter" as a Blu-ray bonus.
The recent Warner Archive DVD release of the 1960 light-hearted James Garner and Natalie Wood drama "Cash McCall" proves that Rock Hudson and Doris Day do not have a monopoly on films of that era that revolve around "it's complicated" romantic relationships. Speaking of monopolies, "Cash" centers on the titular mid-20th century swinging version of Mitt Romney who makes (and loses) fortunes flipping companies,
The "complication" stems from Cash being the Maine man that Lorey Austen (Wood) wants to do over her summer vacation. The audience (but not the parents of Lorey) knows what she does last summer. (What happens in Kennebunkport stays in Kennebunbkport).
Absence does make the heart grow fonder as to this master of the universe and the girl that he leaves behind. They mix business and pleasure when Cash unexpectedly shows up to buy the manufacturing business that Lorey 'rent Grant Austen (Dean Jagger) owns,
The primary disruptive force throughout is hard-nosed businessman General Andrew Danvers, who operates the company that provides Grant an almost super-majority of his business. Danvers is not asked but does repeatedly tell about a past deal in which Cash ethically and legally bests him. This adds a complication in the form of Cash learning that he can use his most recent acquisition as leverage (no pun intended) against Danvers.
All predictably hits the fan roughly halfway through "McCall" as Danvers and Cash go to war, and Avery obtains two pieces of insider information that provide good reason to believe that Cash dun him wrong despite giving Grant exactly what he requested for his company. Meanwhile, the romance with Lorey is on the right track until the arrival of a rival ironically with her flower intact.
Anyone familiar with the persona of Garner knows that he gives his best performance when he is being wrongfully accused and the odds are forever not in his favor. Being the maverick that he is, Garner exhibits a perfect degree of controlled outrages and determines the chance that he has to take.
In this case, the final climatic scene has Cash being a very unwelcome gentleman(?) caller. He tells all concerned like it is and reminds Grant that his hand are not spotless. Further, Lorey learns the truth of the saying as to assuming things.
This leads to an especially Hollywood fantasy in that resentment related to a sale of a business and as to a romance that concludes with an epic walk of shame is resolved in a manner that does not result in any tears or recriminations,
The rest of this story is that an exceptionally well-crafted film with a plethora of A-List stars makes "Cash" a very sound acquisition.
Archive supplements this with the 1960 Chuck Jones "High Note." This amusing and clever short that is equally musical and surreal tells the tale of a literal score to settle,
Warner Archive once more proves that B-movies can have "a"ppeal with the recent DVD release of the 1934 musical-comedy "Harold Teen," which is based on the comic strip of the same name. This delightful romp also illustrates the cross-pollination that is prevalent in the first half of the 20th century and is still alive today.
Early 20th-century comic strips, as is the case regarding "Harold," have a proud history of getting films. radio shows, (sometimes hit Broadway musicals), and television series. "Harold" does fairly well as to getting two of these. In addition to two film adaptations, "Harold" gets a radio show.
A VERY cool thing about the silver screen Harolds is that a 1928 silent version stars Arthur Lake of "Blondie" fame. That strip gets a a radio show, a one-season wonder television series in which Pamela Britten of "My Favorite Martian," plays the lady of the lake, AND a plethora of films. One can only hope that Archive releases the earlier "Harold" film someday.
The following Archive trailer, which the DVD includes, of "Harold" perfectly conveys the entertainingly wholesome (with a pinch of innuendo) all singing and all dancing fun of this nostalgic treat for all ages,
The general vibe of "Harold" aptly is like fellow comic strip "Archie," which still is going strong in comic and television form today. Our titular approaching post-adolescent is an Olsen twin in that, like Jimmy Olsen of "Superman" fame, he is a goofy and clumsy recent high school graduate working at a newspaper.
In this case, Harold primarily writes witty snippets for the local rag of his hometown of Covina.
Returning to the Archie parallels, Harold rides around in a jalopy and follows the pattern of guys who peak in high school by still spending much of his free time at the local teen hangout. In this case, it is the Sugar Bowl ice cream shop that, like "Archie," is owned and operated by a man known as "Pops."
The "Betty" of Harold "Teenzy" Teens is graduating senior Lillian "Lillums" Lovewell; his "Reggie" is romantic rival "Lilacs."
This clearly Depression-era tale has the father of Lillums being unable to afford to send his daughter to college; he also is very concerned about a mortgage foreclosure.
Further, the real villain of the piece is aptly named new banker in town H.H, Snatcher. His relatively benign evil is in the form of duping cub (in two senses of that term) reporter Harold., This older man first takes advantage of that rube by handing him a statement asserting the "good" intentions of this newcomer. This executive further pretends to befriend the lad to ensure that the local press is positive.
A very creepy "Child Bride" element enters the picture when H.H. starts courting Lillums to the extent of buying her a wedding dress. Meanwhile, his partner-in-cradle robbing comes to town and is charged with getting Harold out of the way.
An interesting casting note is that Eddie Tamblyn, father of "West Side Story" star Russ Tamblyn, plays aptly named four-years and counting high-school freshman Shadow, Russ stars in the excellent (reviewed) "Son of a Gunfighter," which is in the Archive catalog.
Also in true Depression-era style, all this leads to the nicest kids in town planning (and performing as a grand finale) an elaborate "collegiate" musical, An amusing aspect of this is that none of these teens are enrolled in college.
Of course, the boy gets the girl and everyone who deserves a happy ending gets one. This Hollywood ending is desperately needed in a period in which our chief executive likely will find himself ousted without a golden parachute and that those who bring about his demise likely will learn the wisdom of the Chinese proverb about being careful about for which you wish, These days, it is likely that the new boss will be same as the old boss. BILL GATES IN 2020!!!
Warner Archive once more shows awesome follow-through in releasing "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s V3' on September 17, 2019. These theatrical shorts from 1948-49 follow (reviewed) 1940s V1 and (reveiwed) 1940s V2 from earlier in the titular decade. All three (to the extent possible) pristinely remastered sets are among the 1,000s of examples of Archive showing classic films, cartoons, and television their due respect.
The many spectacular aspects of these cartoons as both separate units and as a whole includes seeing how new technology and styles guide the evolution of the literal and the figurative themes of these timeless treasures.
The back-cover notes remind us of the prime example of the technology. A paramount (pun) intended effort to make a three-strip technique (Beta) an alternative to Technicolor (VHS) is fully on display. Archive delves into this in a preface to "A Wolf in Sheik's Clothing." That one has Popeye come to the rescue when the titular predator makes Bedouin eyes at Olive.
This set of 17 cartoons from the adolescence of Popeye begins with the self-explanatory prophetic outing "Olive Oyl for President," This best gal of our squid taking offense at his scoffing at the idea of a female president sets the stage for the extended "If I Were President" musical number.
Sexist hilarity ensues as Olive describes a '40s women's Utopia. This includes the men staying home while female executives dictate correspondence to hunky male secretaries. Another aspect of this Great Society is a tax system that greatly favors getting married over being a bachelor.
The first historical adventure is "Wigwam Whoppee" in which Pilgrim Popeye woos Indian maiden Olive to the great distress of the chief who has both eyes on that squaw; a highlight is Popeye making his foe look like a real turkey.
Our soulmates also attend the first Olympics in a self-explanatory adventure titled "Popeye Meets Hercules." This one has the competitors vying for gold in the form of Olive.
The arguably most ambitious short also is the longest; much of the additional three minutes in the highly meta and surreal "Popeye's Premiere" is devoted to Popeye and Olive attending the titular first screening of the Popeye version of the story of "Aladdin." Popeye is an embarrassingly excitable boy throughout that evening that proves to be enchanted.
The handful of times that arch-nemesis Bluto shows up includes the (sadly) relevant "Snow Place Like Home." Popeye and Olive are enjoying the beach of the city that's got style Miami when a sudden freak storm whisks them (ala "The Wizard of Oz") to the Great White North, which they find is not a beauty way to go.
It is par for the course when mountain man Bluto, sans any siblings or spouses, tortures Popeye in ways that include giving him a fur coat that a bear still is using. Of course, the rest of this story is that our #metoo offender succeeds in wooing Olive until it no longer is fun. This requires that Popeye 'roid up on spinach and put right what once went wrong.
The rest of these animated adventures are equally true to form and entertaining. They literally can't make 'em like that any more in this era in which killjoys have sapped much of the fun out of cartoons by forcing the removal of most of the surreal (and ABSOLUTELY harmless) violence.
The Warner Archive September 24, 2019 DVD release of the 1939 B-movie "The Man Who Dared" is among the latest proof that many titles in the Archive catalog are both universal and timeless. This tale of a typical middle-class American family facing the choice of being witnesses for the prosecution or playing it safe by having selective amnesia is almost identical to the (reviewed) 1931 Walter Huston film "The Star Witness."
Our "Man" story begins with the standard Golden-Age exposition device of newspaper front-pages reporting wide-spread corruption in a typical mid-sized American city. The action soon shifts to the office of crusading DA Palmer, who is on the cusp of finally bringing down the crooked mayor.
Meanwhile, Hizzoner is meeting with his goon squad to discuss how to silence McCrary, an investigator who is a not-so-easily intimidated star witness.
These worlds collide when corrupt police official Nick Bartel and his man-in-blue group pay McCrary a home visit with extreme prejudice. This trio breaking into the garage of McCrary to "Pintoize" his ride interrupts the dinner of the three-generation Carters, who gather at the window to watch what is going on.
McCrary and his wife inadvertently escalating the timetable creates a desperate time for the malfeasors that leads to the desperate measure of again preventing the Carters from chowing down.
The ensuing dilemma relates to the Carters paying a heavy price for doing the right thing. The self-important middle-class middle-manager head-of-the-family is duped into going with the bad guys, who then use escalating means of persuasion to convince him to change his story. This failing leads to to kidnapping all-American boy Billy Carter as an effort to silence his family.
One fly in this ointment is a rebel without a cause who does not recognize the irony of strongly speaking out against capitalism while enjoying a good lifestyle courtesy of a father who is happy to play his role in that system.
This leads to building tension as the central trial commences while patriotic Spanish-American War veteran Ulysses "Grandpa" Potterfield demonstrates the wisdom of the old fool. The clear message on many levels is that the old ways are the best ways.
The larger messages that remain depressingly relevant today are that absolute power corrupts absolutely and that the one with the gold makes the rules. This is even more true today when "tyrants" on all levels have well-stocked propaganda arsenals and extreme defamation laws that silence many whistleblowers even more effectively than a physical beatdown.
An increased sense that speaking out will only end in devastating tears and recriminations is a further nail in the twin coffins of free speech and promoting what should be American values.
Warner Archive aptly co-ordinates the September 3, 2019 Blu-ray release of the "Big Bang Theory" prequel sitcom "Young Sheldon" with going back-to-school ahead of the Sep. 26, 2019 S3 season premiere. This tale of titular 10 year-old boy-genius Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) facing the daunting challenges of being the smallest (and smartest) member of his high-school sophomore class in his '80s era not-so-enlightened East Texas community is relatable to many of us who excel more at academics than other aspect of school life.
Archive earning its good name by releasing what broadly can be considered the prequels of corporate sibling Warner Bros. Home Entertainment makes Entertainment the apt one to release the epic "Theory" BD CS limited-edition collector's set on November 12, 2019 in time for the holidays.
The other historical note as to "Sheldon" is that it aptly is reminiscent of cult-classic '80scom "Sledge Hammer" about the titular cop who is a blend of Dirty Harry and Rambo.
Like the best brains behind "Sheldon," real-life boy genius Alan Spencer of "Hammer" does not include a laugh track. Spencer aptly concludes that viewers do not need to be told when something is funny. The comparison extends to Sheldon being justified if he ever adopts the "Hammer" catchphrase "trust me; I know what I'm doing."
The following CBS promo for "Sheldon" S2 features a few S2 highlights sans inarguably the funnest scene in the entire season; this has loving grandmother Connie "Meemaw" Tucker (Annie Potts) frantically waving the flag and otherwise enthusiastically showing her patriotism in her front yard in the wake of Sheldon innocently advocating communism in the heartland of the Bible Belt.
This follow up season to the (reviewed) S1 of "Sheldon" commences with a story line that is relatable to both the highly attuned and those who must endure a boy with something extra. Our lead is convinced that the refrigerator is broken because it sounds differently than usual. His family of "muggles" is equally certain that there is nothing wrong with that appliance.
Presumably equally motivated to fix the problem and to prove that he is right, Sheldon takes the refrigerator apart. A "sit" that adds to the "com" related to this is that Sheldon experiences the Humpty Dumpty Syndrome (which would have made an awesome "Theory" episode title). This requires his high-school football coach father George (Lance Barber) to "shell" (pun intended, i.e. Bazinga) $200 in 1988 dollars for someone who is smarter than all the king's horses and all the king's men to put "Humpty" back together again.
The aforementioned episode in which Meemaw "flags" down the neighbors revolves around a similar theme as the season premiere. Sheldon notices that the bread that mother Mary (Zoe Perry) uses to make his school lunch has a different taste than before. Of course, no one initially believes Sheldon. It is equally predictable that he is proven correct. It is not expected that this leads to a logical but naive comment by Sheldon getting his family branded Cold War era "reds" deep in the heart of Texas.
One of numerous personal we are "Sheldon" aspects of these episodes begins with a three-year battle with a particular Starbucks. The chain was responsive to consistent reports that the frappuccinos at that branch did not taste right; they also made repeated efforts to address the issue, including having regional managers taste the drinks, only to insist that there was nothing wrong. They further repeatedly stated that no one else was complaining about the drinks.
The store ultimately disassembled the pump used to make frappuccinos. They discovered a thin crack that reduced the amount of syrup that made it into the drink. It is recalled that someone fairly high up in the Starbucks food chain (pun intended) called to apologize.
A generally amusing element of S2 is Sheldon making a comment in class only to have a teen classmate named Derek tease him; this leads to Sheldon responding in a manner to make Derek look foolish,
The personal anecdote this time is getting up in a high-school US history class to make a peer-graded presentation. A friend called out that he was going to give me an F; I immediately responded "f you, Peter." The entire class laughed, and the teacher quickly made us move on.
Another notable episode is similar to an S1 outing in which Sheldon tries living with the head of a school for gifted children. The S2 variation has recruiting by colleges prompting Sheldon trying the experiment of staying overnight with his absent-minded professor/mentor/friend/potential new grandfather Dr. John Sturgis (Wallace Shawn).
Hilarity fully ensues in the evening that young and elderly Sheldon spend together; the best line in the episode has John suggesting that girlfriend MeeMaw move into his apartment so that she can take care of both him and Sheldon.
The lesson here is that someone has to be an adult; although not totally relevant, this is the same observation that a friend makes after I match a seven year-old girl move-for-move when she starts sticking out her tongue at me during a Christmas concert.
An episode in watch Sheldon is hospitalized a few weeks after a real-life "incarceration" hit especially close to home. Concern about germs and HATING having a roommate were ripped from-the-headlines.
Wanting to go home to rest in my king-sized bed, be with my cat, and getting to watch some of 1,000s of DVD and Blu-rays was a variation of the whining of Sheldon. Ordering a few meal items in (failed) efforts to combine some of their elements into one edible entree outsheldoned Sheldon. The observation here was that my jeans somehow expanded at least two inches during this period.
The "Sheldon" season finale that airs on the same night as the "Theory" series finale nicely ties the two shows together and helps bridge the generation gap. The "Theory" two-parter revolves around adult Sheldon winning (and accepting) the Nobel Prize for physics; "Sheldon" has the younger version of that character planning a 5:00 a.m. party to listen to the Nobel winners 31 years earlier. A "Theory" babies bonus is a special treat for fans of both programs.
The big (no pun intended) picture relatability of this is several years during the early 2000s in which I would go to the home of friends virtually every Friday night to eat take-out and watch "Stagate" series and other shows in the Sci-Fi Channel line up. This was a nice era that ended when neither side arguably was an adult.
The first conclusion to draw from all this is that "Sheldon" is one of the most cute and amusing sitcoms that currently grace the airways until CBS All Access makes it a streaming exclusive. The second takeaway is to trust someone who is smarter than the average bear; the odds are forever in his favor that he knows what he is doing.
The Warner Archive August 20, 2019 DVD release of the 1965 Steve McQueen drama "The Cincinnati Kid" provides another chance to watch the PERFECT example of McQueen and his fellow young turks displacing Gold Age Hollywood royalty at various stages to becoming box-office poison. This largely is attributable to blond-hair piercing blue-eyed with bod from God McQueen oozing sexuality to which every man and woman all along the Kinsey Scale are vulnerable, NO ONE would choose the "kill" option in the game of three as to this macho man,
The back-cover liner notes for "Kid" include a review quote that aptly compares this film in which McQueen plays the titular card sharp with the 1961 Paul Newman film "The Hustler" in which that future real-life condiments king portrays pool shark Eddie Felson, who is out to dethrone Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Tom Cruise co-starring with Newman in the 1986 "Hustler" sequel "The Color of Money" continues this "video killed the radio star" pattern.
The following trailer for "Kid" showcases all off the above (and more) while demonstrating the gritty look of mid-60s drama that leads to even more urban elements of this genre in the '70s.
Director Norman Jewison of "The Heat of the Night" and "Moonstruck" maintains a good pace as we see The Kid clean up both at the poker table and in the bath tub; the latter centers around a notable scene in which McQueen and sex kitten extraordnaire Tuesday Weld (who plays good country girl blossoming into liberated womanhood Christian) surely makes some original audience members glad that they can smoke in movie theaters in 1965.
The third member of this triangle is sultry red-head Melba (Ann-Margaret); she clearly views The Kid as an upgrade from husband Shooter (Karl Malden), who is work friend of The Kid.
All this occurs in the background of The Kid being invited to join the big boys as to playing a game hosted by legendary (but aging) professional poker player Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson). The on- and off-screen symbolism of this could not be any more obvious.
Some of the rest of this story is that The Kid is facing a damned-if-he-does and damned-if he-doesn't dilemma. Losing to Howard blows a big chance; winning makes him a target for the next rising star looking to take down the king of the table, This is not to mention villain of the film Slade (Rip Torn) covertly having his own horse in this contest between thoroughbreds.
Joan Blondell deservedly wins a 1966 USA National Board of Review best-supporting actress award for her portrayal of tough old broad Lady Fingers, who has earned her place at the table,
All those in front of and behind the camera do award-worthy work as to the filming of the climatic final game. You will live the tension and smell the sweat. This is partially due to getting caught up in seeing the spectators become engrossed in the game.
The genius of "Kid" continues with the "win. lose, or draw" conclusions being equally plausible and satisfying. As mentioned above, The Kid cannot fully win regardless of whether he is instrument of Howard's end or proves that he currently lacks the right stuff of which true legends are made,
The bonus features include audio commentary throughout by Jewison and scene-specific commentary by "kid in the hall" Dave Foley and his "Celebrity Poker Showdown" co-host Phil Gordon.
We also get a highly entertaining behind-the-scenes extra that teaches cast members the art of the deal.
Warner Archive makes one giant leap forward for fanboykind in releasing the 1962-63 ready-for-primetime first season of "The Jetsons" on Blu-ray on Sept. 10, 2019. The futuristic aspects regarding this extend beyond this enhanced format that brings the animation of the series up a couple of notches; "Jetsons" is the first series that ABC broadcasts in color.
This release is part of an awesome (and seemingly endless) animation domination by Archive. One Summer of Love addition to this homage to classic cartoons includes a (reviewed) Blu-ray release of fellow primetime series "Jonny Quest,"
Other highlights include putting right what once went wrong as to undue delays in releases of Golden Age of Hanna-Barbera series that include (reviewed) "Wally Gator" and (reviewed) "Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har" DVD sets. Hope remains high as to a "Touche Turtle" release before Columbus Day,
As an aside, your not-so-humble reviewer is among the first to have pre-ordered the epic collectible 50th anniversary CS BD set of (thankfully Scrappy-free) "Scooby-Doo Where Are You" from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. That back-to-school treat comes out on September 10.
"Jetsons," which uses the formula of wholesome family sitcoms as the template for an animated sitcom set in 2062, is one of many examples of the brilliance of Hanna and Barbera. They build on a winning format to create new fare for our fun and their profit.
In this case, fellow primetime series "The Flintstones" begats our titular space-age family of the future. A lesser known example is the (reviewed) '70s Saturday morning series "The Roman Holidays," which is set in the days of chariot races.
Of course, HB takes this business model to an even greater extreme as to the numerous "Scooby" series and variations on that theme of four teens and lovable mascot solving mysteries. Mystery, Inc. teaming up with Josie and the Pussycats to solve the mystery of the haunted showboat in an episode of "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" that also is fairly new to DVD is even more of a dream come true than the (also on DVD) made-for-TV movie "The Jetsons Meet The Flinststones."
The "Jetsons" Blu-ray proves that that series remains timeless at roughly the half-way mark between the original broadcast run and the era in which the family of the future resides.
The regular theme of that family being unduly lazy is now funny because it is true. This is coming from a guy who avoids even the minimal effort of Googling the spelling of words by asking his Amazon Echo Dot for that information; this is not to mention the nightly routine of spending more time repeatedly shouting to the Google nest in the other room to turn a light on and off than it would to get up and walk across the room to flip the switch.
This aspect of "Jetsons" is apparent from the first episode. The burden of highly advanced technology that includes a food preparation system comparable to replicators in "Trek" lore and Roomba vacuums in our own lives is fully stressing out typical housewife Jane Jetson (Penny Singleton of "Blondie" fame). Jane continues following this classic sitcom model by calling her mother for advice.
Our stereotypical TV Land mother-in-law suggests that Jane get a robot maid. The rest ironically is history in that this how Rosie (a.k.a. Rosey) the robot (Jean "Wilma" Vander Pyl) becomes a member of the family. The fun of that character extends to HB basing Rosie on uber-popular live-action sitcom domestic servant Hazel; these similarities extend to Rosie calling head-of-household George Jetson (George O'Hanlon) Mr. J.
HB doubles down regarding sitcom staples in this one by having the arrival of Rosie coinciding with boss Mr. Spacely (Mel Blanc) coming over for dinner. ANYONE who has seen ANY sitcom knows both that that evening does not go smoothly and that all works out in the end,
Another still-relevant aspect of modern life that "Jetsons" introduces in the first episode and continues throughout the series is George feeling beleaguered as to having to do his job of pushing the same button over and over for the grueling schedule of three hours a day three days of week. Of course, this evokes memories of the scene in the pilot of "Downton Abbey" that mines humor from the then-new concept of a weekend.
Similarly, many current college students likely are unaware that Saturday classes were common up through the '60s. Your not-so-humble reviewer is dismayed that his alma mater now does not hold any Friday classes or even open the cafeteria on that day.
This TV Land fun continues right to the 24th and final episode until the series is revived in the '80s. Innocent six yer-old everykid Elroy (Daws "Yogi" Butler) hooks up with some bad influences after a domestic crisis. This follows episodes in which George and Mr. Spcacely make strong efforts to sneak off to a football game, Jane comically tries to learn how to drive, George thinks that he is about to die, etc.
The truly special Blu-ray bonus features begin with cartoon-voice legend Janet "Judy" Waldo providing audio commentary on two episodes. A related backstory is replacing Waldo with then teen superstar/mall singer Tiffany in "The Jetsons Movie" and no treating Waldo very well regarding that entire matter.
We also get the aptly animated short doumentaries "The Jetsons: The Family of the Future" and "Space Age Gadgets." The latter compares the 1962 vision of the future with the reality of the early 21st century.
Warner Archive has absolutely no 'splainin to do as to recently releasing the 1963 Bob Hope/Lucille Ball comedy "Critic's Choice" on DVD. This awesome follow-up to the (reviewed) Archive Blu-ray release of the 1974 Ball/Bea Arthur comedy "Mame" is highly evocative of '70s-era Sunday afternoon movie marathons on local independent stations.
This strong entry in the numerous film collaborations between real-life friends with comedic benefits Ball and Hope slightly falters only in showcasing the former in favor of the latter. This "fault" is not in the stars, but in the focus of this Ira Levin ("Deathtrap") screenplay based on his play of the same name.
Behind-the-scenes irony as to the uneven spotlight relates to real-life Ball spouse Desi Arnaz helping make "I Love Lucy" a beloved classic by allowing his better half to universally upstage him in that series. Irony as to "Choice" itself is addressed below.
The following HILARIOUS MUST-SEE theatrical trailer of "Choice" has Hope and Ball stepping out of their roles to ham it up equally for the enjoyment of the audience and themselves. One spoiler is that Ball never looked so glamorous as she does in this promo.
The simple but brilliant premise of "Choice" is that highly esteemed New York theater critic Parker Ballantine (Hope) proves that he is his own worst enemy when his arguably unduly harsh criticism of Broadway fare strongly contributes to second wife Angela Ballantine (Ball) trying her hand at writing a play. The rest of this story is that Parker and his audience delights in his witty negative take on virtually everything that he watches.
The aforementioned on-screen irony commences very early in "Choice." The opening scenes are of a play starring Parker ex-wife Ivy London (former sex kitten Mailyn Maxwell) that Parker and Angela are watching. Stating that he has seen and heard it many times before, Parker soon accurately predicts dialogue from the production.
Irony enters the picture (pun intended) as to "Choice" being environmentally conscious by regularly recycling Hope jokes. The most obvious example is Parker encountering an annoying small boy wearing a space helmet and asking which planet he is from. Not that there is anything wrong with that. (That irony is fully intentional.)
The tried-and-sometimes-true concept of the prose of Angela is a comedic take on "Mildred Pierce" as to Angela growing up with her interior-designer single mother of Angela and the equally off-beat sisters of Angela. An aside regarding this is that Ball and guest-star Joan Crawford fully extend their claws while filming a "Lucy Show" episode in which Crawford guest stars.
Angela is pure Lucy as she literally and figuratively looks over the shoulder of Parker while he reads her finished product. This comfort-food feast continues with Parker following up his cynical prediction that Angela cannot finish the play with the assessment that the end result is lousy.
Karma further catches up Parker as to Broadway producer/friend S.P. Champlain (John Dehner of "The Doris Day Show") agreeing to bring the play to the stage. The obvious intent here is to make Parker face raking his future ex-wife over the coals.
Champlain amps up this red-hot revenge by hiring playboy director Dion Kapakos (Rip Torn of "Men in Black" and "The Larry Sanders Show") to collaborate with Angela.
All of this triggers an existential crisis that involves Parker becoming an awesome hybrid between a Hope and a Jack Lemmon character. Fortunately for Parker, the doctor is in the house in the form of highly respected psychiatrist Dr. William Von Hagedorn (Jim Backus) being his downstairs neighbor. It is less fortunate that Von Hagedorn is an aspiring playwright with a finished product.
Things predictably heat up when Parker follows the pattern in films of this nature by surprising Angela during an out-of-town preview of her play. He catches her involved in what may be behavior that is banned in Boston. Ivy, who is in a league of her own, does not help matters by giving Parker possibly fake news that is part of her Lover come back strategy.
"Choice" continues staying true to form by centering the climax around the night of the Broadway premiere of "Sisters Three." The Parker/Angela relationship is a marriage on the rocks, Parker is a heartbeat away from ending up back in the bed of Ivy, and Angela seems ready to fully go Greek.
Continuing the true-to-life elements as to our real housewife of Park Avenue, the numerous moving parts of "Choice" come down to Angela deciding if she is happier with Parker than she would be without him. A nice aspect of this is that all our star players are assured at least a temporary happy ending regardless of the outcome.
Archive continues the focus on Hope by including one of his shorts, but no Ball fare, in the DVD extras. The Popeyeesque "Calling All Tars" (1936) has Hope playing small-town man Bobby on the town in New York on vacation with his buddy.
These aspiring wild-and-crazy guys having absolutely no game with the dames prompts renting sailor uniforms in an effort to get some play. This leads to being Shanghaied under the command of a CPO with whom they have a brief but negative history. Suffice it to say that "McHale's Navy" style hilarity ensues,
Archive supplements this with the highly stylized 1962 Looney Tunes cartoon "Now Hear This, which most likely is the theatrical opening act for "Choices." This very early '60s avant-garde short is a surreal adventure full of surreal images and accompanying sounds.
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 1972-73 Saturday morning cartoon series "The Roman Holidays" should remove any doubt regarding Hanna-Barbera (H-B) earning the title of "All-time King of Saturday Mornings." Like the similar recently released DVD set of "Help!...It's The Hair Bear Bunch," "Holidays" is even better than remembered.
Greater "Holiday" cheer is likely attributed to its primary target audience of Gen Xers having a much better understanding of the humor of this "Flintstonesesque" series set in 63 A.D. Rome than they did 40 years ago.
Many of these children of the '70s did not understand the joke "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" back in the day. The same is true as to the humor regarding a Centurion traffic cop asking "Where's the fire, Nero" when pulling over a speeder.
The great humor and lack of a laugh track in "Holidays" evokes memories of Alan Spencer of the hilarious '80s cop show spoof sitcom "Sledge Hammer!," successfully lobbying for removing the laugh track from the episodes in the DVD release of "Sledge." Spencer plainly stated that the audience did not need to be told when something was funny. Trust him; he knows what he's doing.
"Holidays" followed the highly successful "historical context" formula that H-B utilizes in "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons."
In the case of "Holidays," the middle-class nuclear Holiday family live an early '70s American style life in ancient Rome. Dad Gus mows the lawn and watches football, mom Laurie keeps house and guides Gus and the couples' two children through life. Teen son Happius (a.k.a. Happy) plays in a band and has a steady girl; tween daughter Precocia is the golden child who begs Laurie to allow her to wear a mini-toga.
Rather than a lovable dinosaur ala "The Flintsones" or a wonderfully dopey dog ala "The Jetsons," the Holiday family pet is a tame accident-prone lion named Brutus who loves Gus as much as Dino and Astro adore their "daddies."
"Holidays" also supports the theory that Hanna and/or Barbera have a thing for Gingers that may rival Alfred Hitchcock's preference for blondes. Laurie Holiday, Wilma Flintstone, Jane Jetson, Josie of "Josie and the Pussycats," Tina of "Goober and the Ghost Chasers," and Daphne of "Scooby-Doo" are all red-heads. This percentage of women in the H-B universe with that hair color far exceeds the norm in the general real-world population.
Just as the Flintsone family put a stone age spin on their vernacular and household possessions and the Jetson clan transforms everything into a space motif, the Holidays gear everything to the society of their days. This often takes the form of adding "ius" to celebrity names. Stefano McQueenius is a popular star, and Naderius is a consumer advocate.
Examples of tricking out everyday items Roman style include sundial and hour-glass watches, televisions that display numbers in Roman numerals, and newspapers coming in scroll form.
Similar to Fred Flintsone and George Jetson, construction worker Gus Holiday toils for a hot-tempered boss who regularly threatens to fire him and withdraws awarded raises and promotions. Gus has the additional woe of appropriately named Mr. Evictus, who is as tempermental as Gus' boss and often threatens the family with eviction from their home in the amusingly named Venus De Milo Arms apartment building.
Evictus' threats prompt one of the series' most amusing moments. Precocia asks during a ride in the family's chariot if they can take a detour through the park so that she can see where they will be living.
Like "Bear," "Holidays" also benefits from an awesome group voice cast.
Stanley Livingston, who provides the voice of Happy right after finishing a phenomenonal 12-year run as middle-son Chip Douglas on the sitcom "My Three Sons," is tied with veteran comedian Dom DeLuise for most recognizable name to Gen Xers. DeLuise does the same awesome job portraying Mr. Evictus as he does with his better-known roles.
H-B voice god Daws Butler, who brings Brutus to life, is almost as well known as Livingston and DeLuise. Butler makes this scene-stealing character a cross between "The Wizard of Oz's" cowardly lion and Butler's portrayal of classic H-B character pink mountain lion Snagglepuss.
Character actor Dave Willock provides Gus' voice; his other high-profile H-B gig is as the narrator of the hilarious late-60s series "Wacky Races." "Races" is notably for leading to the equally good spinoffs "Dastardley and Muttley in their Flying Machines" , which has the very catchy theme song with the lyrics "Stop that pigeon; stop that pigeon; stop that pigeon now, and "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop."
The Warner Archive August 27, 2019 DVD release of the 1981 Michael Caine thriller "The Hand" is the latest in a string of neo-noir thrillers in the Archive catalog. The 1981 Rachel Ward slasher flick "Night School" is a prime example of this.
The cred. of this one includes a screenplay by Oliver Stone, who provides an audio commentary,
The general concept of these lurid psychological dramas is that the monster is the beast within; they also typically have moderate production values that contribute to the guilty fun of the viewers. The 1980 Michael Caine film "Dressed to Kill" epitomizes this.
Caine plays successful cartoonist Jonathan Lansdale, who is living the fairly good life in Vermont with moderately loving wife Anne Lansdale (Andrea Marcovicci) and slightly more adoring (aptly named) young daughter Lizzie.
The game-changer occurs when Anne breaks the rule against driving while angry; her act of road rage while arguing with Jonathan makes his titular appendage collateral damage in the ensuing accident.
A half-hearted effort by Anne to recover the severed projectile fails, leaving Jonathan with a stump a the end of his wrist and early retirement from drawing his strip. The rest of this portion of the story is that the zombie-like hand minimally has an imagined afterlife of its own comparable to Thing from "The Addams Family," which amusingly begins life as a comic.
Our action shifts to New York, where a highly reluctant Jonathan moves to facilitate Anne in her quest for what he hopes only is psychological fulfillment. Artistic differences with extreme prejudice regarding the young Turk brought in to take over drawing the strip further fuel the fire.
The body count mounts as the emotional stability of Jonathan lessens, The question is whether the hand has surprising mobility or Jonathan is raising Cain while in a trance-like state.
All of this leads to Jonathan being just as unlucky at extra-marital love as he is regarding his wife. Of course, this causes an even further breakdown and more innocents feeling his direct or indirect wrath.
The beginning of the climax is predictable in that Jonathan gets to the root of the problem; things take an unexpected (and even more psychological) turn. Of course, the truth ultimately comes out and justice arguably is served.
The fun of all this includes the twist on the horror staple of a cursed body part that gets attached to someone who is a victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The hand coming from Jonathan is as symbolic as his extreme midlife crisis is to folks who reach their limits as they enter the second half of their lives; these two events coinciding is a perfect storm.
The Warner Archive August 27, 2019 rerelrease of its January 2015 Blu-ray of the 1981 Albert Finney horror film "Wolfen" provides another bite of the apple (no pun intended) as to this urban neo-horror film.
A highlight of this release is Blu-ray greatly enhancing the innovative cinematography of a surprisingly bright and sunny New York. Archive builds on this in a back-cover liner note that discusses what primarily distinguishes this movie from similar fare of the same era. "Using a steadicam camera and Louma crane to simulate the predators' perspectives, director Michael Wadleigh ("Woodstock") achieves a remarkable blend of New York City mystery and menace not captured on film before."
The following standard-def theatrical trailer for "Wolfen" includes a look at the aforementioned artistic POV while highlighting the early '80s horror-film vibe of the movie.
The concept of a man in wolf's clothing ripping apart an over-privileged and over-coked '80s Manhattan stereotype appeals to the primal aspect of each of us.
We also understand the psyche of alcoholic disgraced police detective Dewey Wilson (Finney) being called in because he has the right stuff to crack this high-profile tough case. We further are not surprised when he is teamed up with brilliant and emotionally stable police psychologist Rebecca Neff (Diane Venora) and ends up in her bed.
Ironically, the still enjoyable and creative "Wolfen" stumbles in its execution, There are too many (and too long) scenes of the titular creature stalking his prey. On top of that, this one is a bit too talky and stoic for this genre, No one seems to be especially emotionally involved in figuring out whatdunit,
Much of this likely is due to "Wolfen" literally playing to an audience raised on "wolfing out" involving more frantic pursuits and general mayhem. The typically lower production values of those films also contribute to that fun.
Having said that, Finney and a cast that includes Gregory Hines as a dedicated coroner all play their roles well. They never go to the other extreme in terms of over-emoting.
Related depth and commentary nicely provide relevant framework for all this. The yuppie scum (who pays the ultimate price for not having a chance to see the original "Poltergeist" movie) with roots that seem to date back to New Amsterdam days is most likely targeted due to a planned development on land of importance to the descendants of the folks who sold the island for $24 and a handful of beads.
We also are reminded that Native American culture has a long history that emphasizes the close relationship between man and beast. This is especially so in arguably the best scene of "Wolfen." One spoiler is that Wilson likely regrets not having a rolled-up newspaper and or a snausage with him.
The well-executed (and believable in context) climax is another highlight. Wilson and Neff have returned to the real scene of the crime and are about to become Alpo. Quick thinking in the form of a symbolic act provides a possible out; the lack of a sequel makes it possible that that gesture is too little too late.
As the above musings indicate, the tricky balancing act that "Wolfen" attempts is a modern werewolf tale in the context of a more traditional '80s murder thriller. The result is the film reflecting the principle of compromise in that everyone gets enough to be happy but not enough to be ecstatic.
Warner Archive gives kids of all ages a special back-to-school treat regarding the August 20, 2019 blu-ray release of the 1990 Jim Henson adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's story "The Witches." The fun begins with casting future silver-screen Morticia Addams Anjelica Huston as Eva Ernst/Grand High Witch.
The typical bright and bold remastering by Archive is another bewitching element of this one.
The accolades for this BAFTA-nominated film include well-deserved Best Actress wins for Huston at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, and the National Society of Film Critics Awards.
It is a travesty that the incredible Henson Company effects are snubbed awardwise.
The following SPOILER-DRIPPING trailer for "Witches" will make you believe that a boy can squeal. This embracing of the story by all involved is the icing on the cake as to this tale by the author of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach."
The proper mix of exposition and starting the action uses the same method as fellow literary classic turned awesome flick "The Princess Bride." Nine year-old Luke is in Norway, where his paternal grandmother Helga (Mai Zetterling) is telling him about her childhood experience with witches snatching her friend and imprisoning her inside a painting until this captive grows old and fades away.
Helga also provides good foreshadowing in the form of telling Luke how to see through disguises that witches don to blend in with us muggles. The additional lore regarding the dislike with extreme prejudice that characterizes the attitude of witches toward children provides Luke a hilarious excuse to not regularly bathe. Parents and significant others of adolescent and post-adolescent males are advise to try this technique as to using Axe body spray,
Subsequent events lead to Helga and Luke moving to England, where the training that the latter has received allows him to avoid extreme stranger danger,. He figuratively goes from the frying pan into the fire when a seaside holiday with Gram coincides with a surprisingly successfully covert witch convention at the same hotel owned and operated by Mr. Stringer (Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson).
While at the hotel, Luke befriends a Dahl stereotype in the form of pudgy gluttonous Bruno Jenkins. That problem child is staying there with his wealthy and demanding father (Bill Paterson) and mother (Bremda Blethyn).
The rest of this "Harry Potter" caliber British cast includes Jane Horrocks of "Absolutely Fabulous" playing to type in her role as the quirky assistant of Eva.
Luke is in the right place at the right time in that playing with his pet rodents in a meeting room allows him to listen in on the plan of the not-so-beloved sorceresses to transform all of this children of the world into mice. He is in the wrong place at the wrong time in that the attendees find their eavesdropper and use him as a guinea pig.
Our hero must now determine if he is a man or a mouse in that he either will beat tremendous odds in stopping the fagless hags from tuning his peers into rodents or will lean to accept his new normal.
Hilarity and chaos ensue in equal measure as to the climax regarding which (no pun intended) the objective is to give the villainesses a taste of their own medicine,
Henson and Dahl save some of their best for last as to the epilogue. We learn that staying calm and carrying on is not always required,
The larger truth is that the genius of the aforementioned collaborators is their skill in creating children's fare that appeals to everyone; "Witches" has plenty for anyone who qualifies as friend or family to love.
Warner Archive goes old summer school regarding the July 16, 2019 DVD release of the 1976-77 Danny Thomas NBC sitcom "The Practice." This textbook '70scom, complete with an urban setting, largely divides its focus between cantankerous older Dr. Jules Bedford (Thomas) of the West Side struggling to help patients and battling with 30-something son Dr. David Bedford (David Spielberg) of Park Avenue over their different approaches to life and to providing medical care. It is unknown if any glass tables are harmed in the filming of "Practice,"
The legacy of "Practice" arguably includes the Henry "Fonzie" Winkler 2005-06 sitcom "Out of Practice." Winkler plays the head of a family of doctors who live in the same building. Further, Thomas plays a very similar role to that of Jules in a 1984 episode of the ABC sitcom "Benson." The "Benson" connection continues with Didi Conn playing a ditzy naive assistant in both series. Further, Danny son Tony Thomas works on both series.
The "dram" and the "edy" start out strong in the pilot. Arthur Jarvis (J. Pat O'Malley of "Maude") is the first in a continuum of long-time patients/close friends of Jules experiencing serious medical problems. In this case, both Arthur and David are much more accepting the seemingly imminent death of the former than Jules.
Next up is Barbara Simms (Marge Redmond of "The Flying Nun"), who is equally distressed about her goiter and her husband recently leaving her for a younger woman. "Daddy" saying no regarding an operation prompts Barbara to ask "Son," who arranges for the procedure. We first see that Father knows best and that Barbara makes room for Daddy in the actual sense of that phrase.
Much of the "com" relates to Jules having to let Barbara down easily after purposefully giving her the wrong impression to ensure her recovery from her operation.
Things get a little edgy when a terminally ill local drug lord (Vic Tayback of "Alice") demanbds treatment. The solution regarding whether letting this guy who does not know the meaning of "do no harm" die or honoring the Hippocratic Oath is creative and believable; one can argue that Jules should have taken things even further.
One of the more amusing S1 episodes has David force Jules to go on a vacation only to have that dedicated physician treat hotel workers and guests in his room. Meanwhile, David gets comically overwhelmed as to taking over the practice of his father.
Although a time constraint is behind not watching many more episodes for this review, the back-cover liner notes remind us of the star power during the rest of the "Practice" run. This begins with Mike Evans of "The Jeffersons" becoming a regular in the role of "Lenny ... a young, wisecracking medical intern."
"Special" guest stars that surely contribute a great deal to their episodes include Lucille Ball and Edie Adams; Thomas daughter Marlo returns the favor as to her father appearing on an episode of "That Girl."
All of the above illustrates the appeal of "Practice;" it is a relatable amusing mostly edge-free traditional sitcom that is akin to the scores of its peers that keep basic-cable networks, such as LAFF and Antenna TV in business.
The plethora of special features in the Warner Archive July 16, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1933 James Cagney musical-comedy "Footlight Parade" is the most obvious bonus regarding this highly enhanced film. This movie-industry history lesson in this film ala the theme in "Singin' in the Rain" of the transition from silents to talkies is the icing on the cake as to "Footlight."
The overall quality of the all-star "Footlight" earns it inclusion in the National Film Registry in 1992.
The following clip of a "Footlight" trailer does the film justice. This begins with including a cat fight that unarguably is the best moment in the whole movie. We further get a sense of the grand-scale of this let's put on three shows extravaganza courtesy of Busby Berkeley complete with an Esther Williamsesque water ballet number years before she begins her career.
One relevant context for "Footlight" is that the central story reflects the increasingly popular film industry being the video that kills the "radio star" in the form of live-stage productions that cost Depression-era audiences much more to attend. Another driving force is making and setting "Footlight" in the period in which the 1930 Hays Code is beginning to be enforced.
We meet musical-comedy producer Chester Kent (Cagney) as he is beginning to realize that he is facing obsolescence. His first saving grace is forming a partnership with a couple of shrewd businessmen. The brilliant idea behind making these men unlikely bedfellows is making live-stage prologues a lagniappe to help fill movie theaters.
Things first get amped up when an Eureka moment causes Kent to realize the benefits of economy-of-scale. A series of unfortunate circumstances related to corporate espionage leads to a do-or-die effort to produce three lavish numbers in as many days and to prevent "Gimbel's" from discovering what "Macys" is up to. The tactic of Kent includes a literal lock-down to prevent any loose lips from sinking his ship.
Other backstage drama includes the same form of creative accounting that has made headlines in the modern era, Ruby Keeler playing stenographer turned star/love interest Bea Thorm to crooner with his own backstory Scotty Blair whom Dick Powell portrays, Joan Blondell as Gal Friday/potential love interest to Kent, and Claire Dodd as tough broad/gold-digger Vivian Rich.
It is equally amusing that Code commentary includes objection to a wholesome (but thoroughly silly) alley-cat number of Keeler and Powell but not a peep as to a bit involving Powell and comic-relief Francis (Frank McHugh) demonstrating a number intended for Thorn and Blair.
All of this culminates in the aforementioned lavish number. "Honeymoon Hotel" is the most entertaining in that it is the most racy and perverse. The overall theme is that the titular lodging establishment facilitates extra-marital activity. The fun includes a troupe of "brides," and much of the perversion comes ala Krofft lttle person Billy Barty playing an odd child whose frantic antics include scurrying away after accidentally ending up in bed with Thorn,
"By a Waterfall" is an elaborate water ballet that provides the aforementioned Williams vibe; this easily has the most precise and impressive choreography of the three.
The grande finale "Shanghai Lil" plays very true to the "show must go on" spirit of both "Footlight" and the era. This one has the leading man singing and dancing his way through a dive bar in search of the titular soulmate. It is highly suggested that the other women in the joint have plenty of two bits for their brews. This leads to a "Coyote Ugly" style dance number on top of the bar.
Considering many of the themes of "Footlight," it is highly apt that the audience is exhausted and satisfied at the end of this never-a-dull-moment film.
The Blu-ray extras start out strong with a 15-minute documentary titled "Footlight Parade: Music for the Decades." Gleeful King of Raunch John Waters and others share their perspectives, which largely mirror those in this post. We also get several highly relevant interesting factoids.
A quartet of vintage Warner cartoons ties into the documentary by illustrating the comment that that studio gets good use from songs created for musicals by also centering animated shorts around them. Archive providing the standard disclaimer regarding the racist nature of older cartoons does not prepare the audience for the scene in the highly offensive "One Step Ahead of My Shadow" in which two of the Orientals (my people call them Asians) that populate most of this one double down by doing an Amos and Andy impression; they do stop short of using blackface.
"Vaudeville Reel #1" includes the standard acrobats, child star, etc of this form of entertainment. The absence of the act titled "The Aristocrats" is an obvious omission.
An amusing aspect of all this is that Archive honors a major theme of "Footlight" by making this masterfully restored release a bargain for movie lovers or simply anyone who is seeking roughly 2.5 hours of escapist fun that includes an epilogue.
Fans of '80s teencoms have reason to rejoice regarding the Warner Archive DVD release of the 1987 cult-classic "My Demon Lover." This "Mannequin" like tale of the titular "monster" is a prime example of '80s films that are vehicles for the top-billed popular TV stars. "Demon" features the offbeat comedy of Scott Valentine, whose breakout role is lovable figurative space-cadet Nick Moore on the '80scom "Family Ties," which features "Back to the Future" star Michael J. Fox. The lasting legacy of Nick is using two syllables to pronounce the name "Alex."
The following original trailer for "Demon" provides a good sense of this film that can be considered a PG-13 version of the Robin Williams sitcom "Mork and Mindy."
The fantasy begins with setting "Demon" in New York, which represents Utopia for many Gen Xers. Many of these children of the '70s and '80s are drawn there with dreams of a combination of fame or fortune. Other simply want the freedom to love a counter-culture lifestyle that reflects their inner spoiled child. Films, such as "Demon," that idealize life in The Big Apple to various degrees sadistically fuel that fire.
Valentine plays street saxophonist Kaz, who is in remarkably good shape for someone who lives well below the poverty level, Character actress Michelle Little plays wholesome girl Deny, whose trusting nature consistently gets her in trouble. This includes her most recent boyfriend stealing most of her meager worldly goods right in front of her at the beginning of the film.
The rest of the story is that a supernatural beast dubbed "The Mangler" is preying on the babes of New York. It is equally obvious that the audience is supposed to believe that Kaz is that malfeasor and that he is proven innocent in the final reel.
All of these elements converge when Kaz, who already made a hilariously bad first impression on Denny, comes to her rescue when The Mangler attacks her. This leads to Kaz couch surfing at the apartment of sweet and naive Denny.
Another obvious element is this review referring to Kaz as a horny devil regarding his transforming to his horrific primal state whenever he gets aroused. The flashback that serves as the origin story of Kaz is a "Demon" highlight that will help protect the "virtue" of teen girls.
Additional predictable fun comes courtesy of the obligatory montage of Kaz and Denny frolicking around New York to the accompaniment of an '80s rock ballad. This one strongly suggests that the good folks at Warner Prime had a "My Demon Lover" sitcom in mind when making the film.
This honeymoon period is interrupted wihen The Mangler takes another bite at The Big Apple as to having Denny for dinner. This abduction with shades of "King Kong" leads to requiring Kaz to "wolf out" in order to save his girl. Getting that savior to that state requires that the best friend of Denny take one for the team.
The inevitable good vs. evil showdown mines humor from The Mangler and Kaz being more alike than they could have guessed. Of course, the boy gets the girl in the end.
The delight this time involves watching Valentine take his impish charm to a slightly more adult level; we also have the fun in the form of this reminder about how they made 'em 30 years ago.
The Warner Archive July 30, 2019 DVD release of the noir romcom "Double Danger" (1938) makes it great fun to figuratively go back to the movies. This glee begins with true-crime novelist/perpetrator Bob Crane sharing the name of the actor who plays titular undercover POW Robert Hogan in the '60scom "Hogan's Heroes." The "Hogan" analogy continues with the reel Crane reveling in an ongoing cat-and-mouse game with friend/police Inspector David Theron.
The doll who provides the "rom" is jewel-thief Caroline Martin; she is another mouse with whom Crane can play.
Our story begins with a cocky Theron telling angsty jeweler Gordon Ainsley "trust me; I know what I'm doing" as to especially precious diamonds. Thus begins our tale in which this ice is a hot potato throughout the film.
Martin begins the game via a successful ruse that gets her custody of the loot until Crane pulls a trick that results in his adding a new link to the chain of custody. One lesson here is that there is no honor among thieves.
The plot thickens on Martin and Crane unexpectedly reuniting at a weekend house party at the stately home of Theron. The ruse here is that Theron strongly suspects that one of his guests is the jewel thief known as "The Gentleman" but must obtain direct evidence before bestowing a pair of bracelets on that malfeasor.
Comic relief is provided in the form of flighty teen daughter "Babs" Thornton and her would-be suitor Roy West (Arthur Lake of the "Blondie" film and television series). The complication there is that Babs only has eyes for sophisticated older man Bob.
The final piece of the puzzle this time is that Theron has Ainsley essentially literally crash the party with a duplicate set of the diamonds that provide one meaning to the title of "Danger."
The bedroom farce in this Code-era film comes in the form of Crane and Martin rotating the two sets of diamonds between themselves in an effort to implicate the other. This leads to a classic drawing-room confrontation that does not go as Theron plans. The lesson here is the one that every thief knows; part of a plan is the plan going awry.
More hilarity ensues until everyone gets what amounts to a happy ending in this film that expertly keeps several plates spinning in a tale that expertly blends comedy and pulp fiction.
Warner Archive digs particularly deep into its figurative Vault of the Obscure to release the July 30, 2019 four-disc CS DVD set of ""Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero." (1967). It seems that many of us who grow up on the '60s and '70s Hanna-Barbera fare that is fueling the current Archive Animation Domination first learn of this "Speed Racer" caliber Nipponese anime cousin of fellow '60s action-adventure cartoon "Space Ghost" through this release.
This release roughly coincides with its unwarranted inclusion in a 2019 Comic-Con panel in which animation historian Jerry Beck labels "Cypher" as one of the worst cartoons of all time. The highly catchy theme song and the expression "evil dwarf scientist" in the opening narration of the pilot (no pun intended) alone earn this entertaining space camp more respect than that.
A major problem with "Cypher" relates to the lesson of the cult-classic scifi series "Firefly" a few decades later; that MUST-SEE show suffers from a CONSCIOUS decision to get right down to business without providing any exposition. That is a remedied misdemeanor in the case of "Firely" and a felony as to "Cypher."
The following description of "Cypher" is "borrowed" from the DVD back cover. This review is based on watching roughly 20 of the shorts in the set, and roughly 1/4 of the lore that the liner notes discuss is not covered in any of those episodes.
Archive shares "Johnny Cypher, brilliant scientist of the future, becomes humanity's greatest hope for survival when he discovers the incalciulable power of Dimension Zero, an indestructible force which enables him to travel through time and space in superhuman form. Hovering above Earth in his space satellite, Johnny maintains his space vigil with the aid of his beautiful assistant, Zena, and a friendly Martian named Rhom."
The liner notes do not mention that the hyperactive annoyingly voiced Rhom surpasses Scrappy-Doo in the Hall of Fame for Toxic Cartoon Characters, A little bit of Rhom goes a painfully long way.
The fun begins in "The Vulatarian" with the aforementioned evil little green man essentially using a dirty bomb containing a powerful sleeping gas that knocks out the population of the "Jetsons" like urban center "Sky City." He Cosbys these folks to facilitate his minions stealing all of the community wealth.
Our titular hero uses his titular power to travel a great distance to bring truth, justice, and the American way.
The aside this time is that the Archive August 2019 Blu-ray release of "The Jetsons" OS already has the aforementioned men (and women) children drooling in anticipation.
"The Doll Invaders" is an early "Cypher" highlight. Johnny investigating weird goings-on at a stately home that already attracts attention by virtue of being in a wasteland leads to the best-ever plot involving modern Trojan Horses. Ala many series (including "The Simpsons") in which an infectiously endearing doll is brought into every home for an evil purpose, Johnny discovers that the cargo that is being beamed into the house is far from what it seems.
"Gravity Belt Mystery" is particularly fun and includes a strong "Superman" vibe. (The Archive catalog includes A DVD set of the vintage "Superman serials.) Zena is a passenger on a skyjacked routine run of the Mars and Earth shuttle. As the title suggests, the plot revolves around why the skyjackers only take the titular "Jetsons" esque devices.
Ala Superman, Johnny initially flies in to rescue his best girl. His then tracking down the crooks reveals the real gravity of the situation that does not make any sense, This episode also is notable for Johnny using a clever means to access the dial on his belt that allows him to access the titular dimension, It is predicted that one of the unwatched episodes is the one in which the mad scientist du jour adequately subdues Johnny to remove his belt and store it beyond his reach.
As mentioned above "Cypher" is great nostalgic fun for veterans of classic after-school and Saturday morning cartoons. They also are short enough and filled with enough action to appeal to Millennials and Gen Zers who have been glued to their screens their entire lives. You "kids" are invited to say that you like "Cypher" ironically.
The Warner Archive July 9, 2019 2-disc DVD release of the complete series "Lippy the Lion and "Hardy Har Har" (1962) awesomely contributes to the ecstasy that is the Archive continuous and seemingly endless revival of its classic Animation Domination. This Renaissance arguably begins with the MUST-OWN (reviewed) June 2019 Blu-ray release of "Jonny Quest" OS and continues at least through an August 2019 BD release of "The Jetsons" OS.
The temporary agony as to this domination relates to "Lippy," along with the recent (reviewed) Archive release of "Wally Gator" only bringing literal and figurative children of the '60s and '70s 2/3 of the way toward owning all three series that make up the syndicated "The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series."
Pure instinct and youthful exuberance indicate that Archive will release "Touche Turtle and Dum Dum" before the end of September 2019. Buying "Lippy" and "Gator" will help make that a reality sooner rather than later. The bigger picture regarding this is that two out of three ain't bad, but a trifecta is much better.
The release of "Touche" also would allow Saturday-morning sofa spuds with three DVD players to recreate each episode of "Series."
Folks who are interested in learning more about the era of "talking animal" shows in this Golden Age of Hanna-Barbera are asked to please read the "Gator" review. That post provides some insight into the productions that begat the action-adventure fare that begat "Scooby" and his clones, and it all was good.
"Lippy" is notable for having two HB all-stars voice the titular king of the jungle and his ironically named hyena sidekick, Daws Butler voices Lippy, and Mel Blanc voices Hardy. The rest of the story is that Butler uses the same voice for Lippy as he does for time-travelling Peter Potamus, whose '60s series also is in the Archive DVD catalog.
Lippy is an always annoyingly gleeful optimist who almost certainly wears rose-colored contacts. His primary challenge is to get his equally always incredibly glum chum, who literally thinks that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train and often is correct, to be positive and to laugh. A semi-spoiler is that an episode in which Hardy laughs is the best moment in the series,
The concept of "Lippy" is a little broader than most HB shows from any era and arguably is one that is closest to the spirit of "Looney Toons." Rather than rely on a single concept, such as the Scooby gang stumbling on an X-File or Gator escaping from the zoo only to find that there is no place like home, "Lippy" shows a bit more variety and is even more rife with vaudeville-style slapstick.
Each "Lippy" starts the same with our animated George and Lennie travelling the globe. The variety comes in the form of the reason for their wandering and the catalyst for their action. It often is survival, but may be part of get-rich scheme that Lippy is just as confident will succeed as Hardy is that it will fail. The latter always is expressed by the catchphrase "oh dear, oh my." There also are times that the pair simply find adventure while on the road Kerouac style.
The "Lippy" pilot "See Saw" sticks to the basics. Our pair is stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Hardy is lamenting their imminent demise when Lipppy uses spotting an island as a reason for Hardy to be optimistic. The combined bad news is that this arrival coincides with a pirate burying his booty and leads to Lippy and Hardy being Shanghaied.
An especially notable cluster of episode air early in the "Lippy" run. "Smile the Wild" finds the desperate time in the form of extreme hunger lead to the desperate measure of Lippy passing off Hardy as an escaped wildman from a circus in order to claim a reward. Of course, the real McCoy shows up and imperils the jungle boys.
"Film Flam" finds Lippy and Hardy vacationing in Hollywood. A cartoon-staple form of misunderstanding finds a film director mistaking Lippy for an actor in a lion suit. Hilarity truly ensues this time.
"Gunflighter," which directly follows "Film," has Lippy passing Hardy off as the titular quick draw. The figuratively real McGraw showing up leads to an exceptional conclusion that highlights what Hardy brings to the table.
The "Hick Hikers," which is especially is especially looney toons in tone, finds Lippy climbing a previously unconquered mountain merely to accomplish that feat; Hardy is dead weight in tow and characteristically constantly bitching.
Our mountain-climbing lion achieves his objective only to find that a welcoming committee in the form of a ram is not at all sheepish about protecting his turf from interlopers. This leads to a hilarious game of king of the hill.
As virtually every post on animated and live-action Archive releases state, the fact that they do not (and will not) make 'em like that anymore provides reason enough to add "Lippy" to your DVD collection. This wonderful reminder of the era before killjoys take the highly entertaining violence out of cartoons is sorely needed in this era in which watching almost constant consequence-free knocks on the noggin is just what Dr. Patch Adams ordered.
Warner Archive continues making the best movies of which you never heard available by releasing the 1932 thriller with social commentary "Roadhouse Murder" on DVD on June 11, 2019. Archive using the term "the deadly Dykes" in the back-cover synopsis enhances this joy.
The following YouTube clip of an Archive promo., for "Roadhouse" is of a pivotal sequence that wonderfully illustrates the vintage early talkie feel of this highly theatrical film. The flawed picture quality of this clip also highlights the much better images and sounds of the Archive DVD.
Like a full gamut of '30s films, our story begins in the bullpen of a newspaper; in this case, a disgruntled veteran reporter is expressing his job dissatisfaction in strong language for films of that era, We soon see the basis for those sentiments.
The toxic editor who inspires the ill will subsequently turns his wrath on cub reporter Charles "Chick" Brian. Chick does good by catching a loose woman red-handed with hot ice and by getting a photo of her in literal hot water. This dame having a friend in a high place kills both the story and the immediate potential for Chick to advance his career.
This blow prompts Chick to take secret girlfriend Mary Agnew, who is the daughter of homicide Inspector William Agnew, for a ride in the country, Things take a combined "It Happened One Night" and "Scooby-Doo" turn when a sudden deluge requires that this unmarried couple without any physical baggage take shelter at The Lame Dog Inn. The manner in which the innkeeper takes advantage of the assumed vulnerability of these guests is a "Roadhouse" highlight.
Things going bump in the night lead to our nice young people discovering the titular crime and knowing whodunit.
Rather than immediately finger the perps, Chick decides to frame himself with the idea that his story literally will be front-page news. The rest of this career-advancement plan involves entrusting Mary, whose name literally is kept out of the papers, with a figurative smoking gun. The rest of her job is to produce this compelling evidence before Chick becomes a permanent guest of the state.
"Roadhouse" then uses a technically advanced method for the era in a variation of using shots of newspaper headlines as an exposition device. This clearly shows Chick is both the story and the author of his tale.
The honeymoon ends on Chick being caught in the worst place at the worst time. This leads to the climatic courtroom scene that seems mandatory for most Golden Age films of every genre. A nice twist ensues courtesy of a chain-of-custody issue requiring that Mary (with help from Dad) does more than just stand by her man.
More fun comes via the cynicism that pervades "Roadhouse" creating the possibility that truth, justice, and the American way will not prevail.
The scoop regarding all this is that "Roadhouse" reminds us of the era in which even B-movies have strong merits.
Warner Archive once again shows its perfect instincts by releasing the crystal-clear (bordering on 4K quality) Blu-ray of the 1980 Clint Eastwood comedy "Bronco Billy" on July 9, 2019. Summertime is the season of tacky lowest-common-denominator attractions such as the failing Wild West Show that the titular urban cowboy (Eastwood) is hoping to keep afloat.
The bigger picture this time is that "Billy" perfectly reflects the films of Eastwood before he turns auteur by directing films such as "Bird" and "The Bridges of Madison County." "Billy" comes in the era in which Eastwood moves from the spaghetti westerns that solidify him as a household name to the time in which he makes the Dirty Harry films and the lowest of the low-brow comedies "Every Which Way You Can" franchise. All this is decades before he talks to the invisible man at the Republican Convention.
The final piece of this puzzle is that reel- and real-life Eastwood leading lady Sondra Locke plays "Billy" love interest heiress experiencing a reversal-of-fortune Antoinette Lily (a.k.a. Miss Ida Ho).
The following standard-def. '70slicious trailer of "Billy" highlights the almost literal night-and-day difference between the theatrical presentation of the film and the Blu-ray. The contrast between the washed-up red of the convertible of Billy and the bright and shiny showroom red of the one in the Archive version is incredible. This is not to mention the numerous era-specific elements that include this promo. featuring Scatman Crothers ("Chico and the Man" and "Hong Kong Phooey") as sidekick/sage Doc Lynch.
The melange of westerns and "Loose" relates to Billy struggling to keep his oh-so-cheesy wild west show going. The early scenes of acts such as Chief Big Eagle (Dan Vadis) doing a rattle-snake dance and a seemingly all-American boy doing rope trips while dressed as an insurance salesman on vacation at a dude ranch provide the picture.
The rest of this part of the story is that we see Billy showing off his riding, shooting, and knife-throwing skills. He does this with the help of the latest in a long string of lovely assistants/bimbos.
Meanwhile off the reservation, Antoinette crosses paths with Billy at an Idaho city hall. He is buying a permit so the show can go, and she is about to marry wimpy John Arlington (Geoffrey Lewis) so that she can inherit a fortune and he can be a kept (but sexually frustrated) man. John indisputable gets the best line in the film as to his being denied any semblance of marital bliss.
A very light "Harry" element enters the picture when Antoinette discovers on awakening the morning after her nuptials that the honeymoon is over. John and all of her money are gone. This ultimately leads to the evil stepmother and the family attorney conspiring to convince John to confess to murdering Antoinette. The compensation for this unfortunate incarceration is $500,000.
Worlds collide when the desperate but not serious status of Antoinette leads to this New York socialite joining the motley crew of Billy. Her rude awakening this time involves quickly learning the variation of the ass, gas, or grass principle that Billy enforces as to the caravan that brings his group from town to town. It does take awhile for the kisses of Billy to drive Antoinette delirious.
"Harry" also enters the picture when a night out at a redneck bar goes Big Dan's with respect to Antoinette and leads to Billy also having to rescue the aforementioned boy-next-door on learning that he is on the run from the law. This leads s to a "Smokey and the Bandit" style showdown that it is a "Billy" highlight.
A subsequent surprise family reunion leads to more trauma and drama; this leads to a celebration of truth, justice, and the American way.
The strong appeal of all this begins with Eastwood obviously fully embracing this role that perfectly reflects his career. We also see how this spirit (and the associated '70s "free to be you and me" philosophy) permeates the film that we badly need in our hostile dystopian present.
The devotion of Warner Archive to the full gamut of films and television from the sublime to the ridiculous (and the ridiculously sublime) makes its June 25, 2019 DVD release of the 2015 documentary "The Madness of Max" a perfect addition to the Archive catalog. This epic 157-minute film is a raucous detailed homage to the 1979 cult-classic "Mad Max." As "Madness" states a few times, several have tried to emulated that post-apocalyptic action-adventure film but have not matched it.
Much of the fun of "Madness" includes filmmakers Gary McFeat and Tim Ridge bringing "Max" star Mel Gibson and the rest of the band back together. This includes the "roadies" including writer/director George Miller. Writer/producer Byron Kennedy died in an accident on July 17, 1983 but is represented in archival interviews and by his parents.
A related note is that McFeat effectively takes an almost pure cinema-verite approach to his subject. He lets his "cast of thousands" directly tell their stories, interspersed with film clips and behind-the-scenes footage. The overall effective is of an exceptionally detailed audio-commentary of "Max."
The bigger picture this time is that "Madness" chronicles the making of a film from concept, to revised concept, to production, to release, to the response of critics and the general public, to the legacy of the movie.
Both of our stories begin with Miller and Kenendy telling how personal experience inspires the original concept of a film about things getting personal for a present-day cop; this leads to the idea of enhancing the story and setting in an not-too-distant post-apocalyptic future. Ironically, the rest is history.
Although Gibson offers a significant amount of insight. "Madness" shares the wealth regarding the focus on the cast. One of the more interesting stories is the strong cred. of Hugh Kaays-Byrne (who appears in "Madness"), who plays crazed nemesis Toecutter.
Much of "Madness" focuses on the Dartmouth fratboy attitude that permeates the actual making of the film; we see how Byrne and the actors who play his biker gang fully go method to a scary extent. Highlight (no pun intended) include pinning real human hair to threatening notes and using blood as an ink to express their feelings about "The Bronze," aka the pigs.
One of the most insightful comments refers to the tremendous fun of watching the cast and the crew create exhilarating special effects on a high-school musical budget. The relevant remark is that most movies get to do 32 takes when filming a scene, and that "Max" gets one bite at the apple. This relates to the memory of the 32 takes coming while writing the script, which includes every camera angle.
One of the best stories in "Madness" ties together every great element of both that documentary and its subject. We hear the full story of the filming of a scene involving a rocket car. This includes both the lesson that it never hurts to ask and insight regarding the fallout from a stunt gone wrong.
We subsequently hear about how an angel at Warner International helps "Max" reach a wide audience; this leads to an awesome reminder that spreading the word about the latest cool thing does not require social media. A related note is the amusing reminder that a restrictive film rating can be interpreted as a guarantee of the true gen.
The fun wraps up with the supporting cast telling of fans still approaching them about "Max." Their embracing such contacts reinforces that they had the time of their lives making the film.
The fun for fans of "Max" and even folks who have never seen it extends beyond sharing in the glee of the product of guys gone wild; we get a great reminder of what can happen when actors fully check their egos at the door and will VOLUNTEER to do everything necessary to make the movie. This is not to mention that producing good effects requires more brains than bucks and is possible without the benefit of CGI. Old-school folks know that live always is better than Memorex.
Warner Archive awesomely illustrates the positive evolution of Hollywood films regarding gay-themed stories with the November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 1997 dramedy "Love! Valour! Compassion!"
As the text on the DVD back cover notes, the secret to Terrence McNally bringing his Tony-winning play to the rainbow screen is reuniting the band back and having Jason Alexander join the group as stereotypical middle-aged queen Buzz, whose quirks include believing that virtually every celebrity is gay.
The warranted comparisons to "Golden Pond" and "The Big Chill" prove a primary point of "Love!" and other modern films centered around homosexual characters; boys who like other boys (and girls who like other girls) have the same highs and lows as everyone else. The biggest difference (especially until the recent past) is that estrangement from relatives, the AIDS crisis, and remnants of discrimination that include marriage inequality contributed to gay men like those in the play bonding in groups such as the one around which the film centers.
Gregory is the center of the group in that he is their common thread and owns the country house in New York state where they gather over Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day one summer. Gregory is a successful middle-aged choreographer and is the partner of younger and cuter blind legal assistant Bobby.
The standout in the cast is John Glover ("Smallville"), who plays aptly surnamed twins John and James Jeckyll. Accompanist pianist John is the unlikable pity friend of the group. He primarily is invited along out of sympathy for not having any place else to go for Memorial Day weekend. His bringing along hunky 20-something Latino dancer boyfriend Roman, who is not shy about stripping down to skinny dip and sunbathe, likely plays a role in this pair returning for the other two weekends.
Kind and gentle AIDS patient James Jeckyll comes on the scene on the Fourth of July; his sweet nature and strong contrasts with his brother quickly earns him the hearts of the gang; this leads to an unlikely (but tender) relationship with incestuous elements.
The remaining boys in the band are long-term couple/business consultants Arthur and Perry.
The Memorial Day weekend sets the stage (no pun intended) for much of the drama to come. The largest theme is the AIDS crisis, which divides the gay community as much as it does this group. Some members feel that it is important to discuss this, and others want to pretend that this horrible disease does not exist. The positive members of the group fear what is to come, and those who are negative still dread the worst.
Everyone in the group regularly thinks of people whom they have lost. An powerful aspect of all these elements is a character expressing resentment toward monogamous couple Arthur and Perry being spared the disease and these men responding in kind.
This weekend also involves an illicit tryst with a highly symbolic act related to the practicality of crying.
The second act over July 4th lets the audience and the characters catch up on the developments (including fall-out from Memorial Day) of the roughly six months since their last gathering. This also involves Bobby experiencing trauma to which most people can relate.
The end-of-summer third act includes much more symbolism as we learn a great deal about the fates of the men and they essentially cleanse their sins.
The accolades for the remastering of the Warner Archive June 25, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1944 Oscar-winning Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer classic "Gaslight" is that it goes beyond looking and sounding pristine to having visual depth that rivals that of 4K. Praise for this masterful production of a live-stage hit is that even cinephiles/veteran Blu-ray reviewers can mistakenly recall this George Cukor as being a Hitchcock film.
Hitchcock blonde Ingrid Bergman EARNS her first of three Oscars for her spot-on portrayal of naive and vulnerable newlywed Paula, who falls victim to the long-game plan of scoundrel Gregory (Charles Boyer) if that is his real name.
Other notable casting includes a 17 going on 18 Angela Lansbury playing cheeky maid Nancy, the thoroughly delightful Dame May Whitty playing daffy elderly neighbor Miss Thwaites, and Orson Welles entourage member Joseph Cotten playing Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron with at least one form of personal interest in the perils of Paula.
The following YouTube clip of a "Gaslight" trailer PERFECTLY captures the 1895 goth vibe of the film,. This promo. strongly suggests that the film could be titled "The Bride of Jack the Ripper,"
As real-life (and equally attractive) Ingrid Bergman daughter Pia Lindstrom reminds us in a MUST-SEE modern behind-the-scenes BD onus feature, the legacy of "Gaslight" includes that term still being used to refer to someone trying to make us think that we are crazy. Minimally, all of us have had someone insist that they repaid an unsatisfied debt or that the now-gone last can of a highly desired beverage in the refrigerator was never there,
The bigger picture is that studies and anecdotes prove that we and the highly significant others in our lives do not fully show our crazy until a ring has been put on it.
A shamelessly shilled 1946 radio broadcast in which Bergman and Boyer reprise their roles provides yet another compelling reason to add this release to your home-video library.
Our prologue consists of the sensationalism in the immediate wake of the brutal murder of the opera-star aunt/guardian of Paula in her London home. The conclusion is that this killing is collateral damage in a failed burglary to purloin exceptionally valuable jewels.
The rocks remain unaccounted for when we catch up with our Victorian-era Patrick Dennis a decade later. Paula is in Italy studying with a maestro, but her new romance with Gregory is creating a sour note.
The audience is much more woke than Paula regarding her new husband soon manipulating her into moving into the long-shuttered scene of the crime that she fled 10 years earlier. An early bit of gaslighting involves a smoking gun that is very obvious even by "Scooby-Doo" standards.
The gaslighting and associated emotional abuse quickly escalate to the point that Paula is convinced that the gaslight in the fixtures lowering and raising and the things going bump in the night are all in her head. Lindstrom shares the lengths to which Mom goes to make that aspect of the performance convincing.
EVERY cat who has fallen on the floor while rolling over during a nap and every human who has had his or her stupidity thrown in his or her face can relate to the feelings of Paula when Gregory viciously berates her for the mishaps that befall her.
Meanwhile, Brian is monitoring developments and protecting Paula to the legally allowed limit. Nancy is becoming increasingly brazen in a manner that suggests that she soon will be the harlot of the house.
All of this climaxes in true Hitchcock fashion as every loose end is expertly wrapped up. However, this being a British film creates the possibility that there will not be a Hollywood ending.