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.
Warner Archive aptly celebrates its 10th anniversary with the Perfect 10 June 11, 2019 DVD release of the 1937 Robert Young ("Father Knows Best") screwball romcom "Married Before Breakfast." This nicely remastered film goes beyond the typical Archive standard of showing that they ought still make 'em like that to being a movie that can be made word-for-word and shot-for-shot today and still provide roughly 90-minutes of quality escapist fun.
The following YouTube clip of this overlooked gem wonderfully highlights many of the copious Depression-era elements of the film.
Young plays inventive everyman Tom Wakefield, whom we meet on the brink of selling what he thinks is his perfected cream that removes facial hair without having to use a razor. As is the case in many of these films, his dreams are dashed just as he believes that he literally can make an honest buck and enjoy the lifestyle to which he would like to become accustomed while he is young (no pun intended) enough to enjoy it.
The rest of the beginning of the story is that Tom is engaged to practical June Baylin, who never has had to worry about from where her next gourmet meal was coming. She is standing by her man but strongly prompts an attitude adjustment.
The first of several nice twists comes when an outfield-adjacent angel tracks down Tom to offer him $250,000 in 1937 dollars for his invention. The faith of that investor in the ability of Tom to work out a figuratively fatal flaw is one of many feel-good aspects of "Marriage."
Our excitable boy then literally puts his fresh-off-the-presses nouveau riches to good use. He takes a large step toward making June an honest woman and bestows exceptional personalized largese on his landlady and his neighbors at his immaculate and well-run boarding house. He goes one step further in hiring Tweed the valet, whom Tom renames Senior for a reason that makes perfect sense in the context of the film.
The chance encounter that changes everything in every romcom occurs when Tom goes to a travel agency to book a honeymoon cruise. Agent Kitty (perhaps literally) going the extra mile to deliver the tickets leads to an overnight adventure that evokes thoughts of the 1985 Martin Scorsese dark-comedy "After Hours."
The genesis of this is Tom taking his he can't do a little because he can't do enough attitude to heart in trying to help Kitty overcome an obstacle that is delaying her marriage to insurance-agent Kenneth. The "sit" that drives much of the rest of the "com" in "Marriage" is that a promotion for Tom is conditioned on selling a policy to a very reluctant milkman named Mr. Baglipp.
Tom responds by pledging to get the milkman to deliver by getting him to buy a policy for which Tom will pay the premiums. The related promise is that Kitty will get the titular nuptials.
The adventure begins with a visit to Chez Baglipp; not sealing that deal despite a criminally diligent effort leads to an obsessed Tom dragging Kitty along on a crusade to convince Baglipp to purchase some "protection."
The too numerous to mention (and too amusing to spoil) misadventures begin with Tom renting a taxi for use in his plan. Before the sun comes up, Tom and Kitty will tangle with both cops and robbers as well as start a fire. This is not to mention taking a bus passenger for a ride.
Of course, Tom keeps putting off his increasingly angry fiancee throughout all this. As time goes by, it becomes clear that his odds for a June wedding are slim to none.
"Marriage" follows a wonderfully circuitous route to the courtroom scene that provides the setting for many a Golden Age comedy and drama. The icing on the wedding cake comes in the form of more action, adventure. and laughs that ensue after the judicial proceedings conclude.
All of these moving parts provide fun as to which boy (if any) will end up with which girl and if the good intentions of Tom will literally lead to his writing a check that he cannot cash.
It is equally valid to say that "Married" has a dull moment and will leave you wanting more,
The too-numerous-to-mention Warner Archive Blu-ray and DVD releases of classic Hanna-Barbera animated series has long made Archive the darling of literal and figurative children of the '60s through the '80s. Two relatively obscure examples that are especially close the heart of sugar-cereal loving sofa spuds are the 1972-73 Saturday-morning "Flintstones" clone "The Roman Holidays" and the ready-for-primetime "All in the Family" satire "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home" from the same era.
Archive particularly stepped up its animation domination game with several (and rapidly counting) 2019 releases. Standouts from earlier this year include the reviewed (1993-95) series "Two Stupid Dogs" V1 and the even more awesomely old-school (also reviewed) "Kwicky Koala" CS from the early '80s.
Archive is building on this by establishing a pattern of releasing several DVD or BD sets of HB series each month over the past few months. Standouts include a phenomenal reviewed BD set of "Jonny Quest" OS CS, and an (also reviewed) "Popeye: the 1940s" V2. Long-awaited upcoming releases include "Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har" CS AND the even more obscure "Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero" CS.
All of this is shared in the context of the Archive June 25, 2019 DVD release of "Wally Gator" CS. The broadest context of this 1962-64 series begins with these adventures of the anthropomorphic reptile being a prime example of the "talking animals" era of HB ahead of Spider-man and his amazing friends invading Saturday morning prompting HB to shift its focus to "Quest" and other scifi and/or adventures of humans. "Gator" also is similar in style and theme (down to the appearance and demeanor of the local beat cop) as the HB 1961-62 primetime series "Top Cat."
Each "Gator" episode centering around Wally either escaping from his Bronx Zoo habitat and experiencing comic trauma-and-drama that sends him scampering home or having events at the zoo cause him distress arguably helps inspire the HB 1971-72 series "Help, Its the Hair Bear Bunch." Other similarities include HB all-star Daws Butler (Wally) providing main characters in each series voices and Archive having a "Bunch" CS DVD. Further, a 1970s syndicated series teams up "Wally," "Lippy," and "Touche Turtle." Fairly safe money is on Archive pulling "Touche" from the vaults before the end of 2019.
"Wally" starts strong with "Droopy Dragon." This one pays homage to the 1932 classic film "The Most Dangerous Game" that involves hunting humans. Wally goes over the wall only to find himself being pursued by a senile nobleman who mistakes him for a dragon. "Dragon" also immediately establishes "Wally "as one that they won't make 'em like that anymore. Wally smokes cigars, is constantly shot at (as he is in several other outings), and is the victim of copious other cartoon violence that literally does not leave a scratch on him. Real-life buzzkills roughly a decade later ruin all this fun.
Another prime example of "Wally" not reflecting our modern times is an episode centered around a return to his native Everglades. Our star being a Florida native is not enough to avoid having a rough Confederate alligator (complete with a rebel cap) label him a Yankee and oust him from the swamp. This prompts several thwarted attempts by Wally to emulate General Sherman.
Other notable adventures include playing along to an extent with an Indian boy engaged in a rite of passage, being a key ingredient in a potion of a witch, and having a granted request for a wife lead to spousal abuse.
The appeal of this reflects the value of "Tom and Jerry" and many other classic animation series. The trick is finding fresh and entertaining variations on a tried-and-true theme.
The final thought regarding this lengthy discussion of Archive animation releases in the context of the "Wally" release is that NOBODY did Saturday morning cartoons better than HB in their golden era. These shows should be celebrated for their strong contributions to television history.
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 23-episode third and final season of the 1969 - 1972 sitcom "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" allows completing a collection of this sweet and gentle show. Prior reviews offer a recap of the first season and musings on the second season.
One warning regarding this set is that regular references to "Mr. Eddie's Father" do not amuse casual fans nearly as much as it entertains true devotees.
This show about "nothing" predates "Seinfeld" by roughly 20 years and merely tells the tales of youngish widowed dad Tom Corbett, played by Bill Bixby, and his elementary-school aged son Eddie, played by Brandon Cruz. Although the first season places a great deal of emphasis on the titular courtship, the focus shifts almost entirely to the "father" aspect by the third season.
Another change is that the "musical interlude" gimmick of earlier seasons is abandoned. A hypothetical example of this is a scene in which Tom asks Eddie to take dirty dinner dishes into the kitchen might prompt audio of the singer of the memorable theme song singing "have to clear the table."
Much of the appeal of "Father" relates to the incredible chemistry between Bixby and Cruz; they truly seem like a loving father and son. Additionally, Eddie comes across as a typical kid, rather than a sickly sweet or overly sarcastic sitcom brat.
Further many of us whose parents consider their jobs done if they keep us fed, clothed, and educated enjoy seeing the extent to which Tom cares for Eddie.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of two Special K cereal commercials that Bixby and Cruz filmed in character provides an excellent sense of the above-described vibe of their show.
The opening and closing credits include new sincere heart-to-heart talks that also often occur during the episodes themselves; Tom strikes a good balance between spending time with Eddie without being a helicopter parent and gives Eddie's needs and feelings far more consideration when making major (and minor) life decisions than most parents.
The season premiere is a prime example of the tone and "nothingness" of "Father." It involves Tom's recent enrollment in an art class inspiring Eddie to take up that hobby.
The "com" related to that "sit" comes in the form of Tom explaining to Eddie about the propriety of drawing a naked model leading to Eddie innocently paying a female classmate a quarter to pose nude for him; the jokes regarding that level of compensation for that service are hilarious.
Another episode from early in the season is a real treat in that it provides a look at the "mod" apartment of Tom's best friend/co-worker "Uncle" Norman Tinker. A cool aspect of this character is that "Father" producer James Komack of "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Chico and the Man" plays Norman.
Tom and Eddie having an inexplicable sleepover at that abode has Tom and Norman discussing the sense of the laid-back and free-spirited Norman of a need to act more mature. The ultimate reason for these thoughts provides a nice ending for this tale.
This early '70s-era self-examination is also a theme in which Tom hires a long-time friend, played by Pat Harrington, Jr. of "One Day at a Time," to write an article for the Sunday newspaper magazine of which Tom is the managing editor. Said friend's tales of adventures traveling the world inspire Tom and Eddie to consider that life.
Another of many episodes with a special guest star has the uber-cool Sammy Davis, Jr. playing a most heinously uncool actuary who is a weekend guest at the Corbett home. Seeing one of that character's comically neurotic precautions contribute to a genuine peril is hilarious.
The series finale goes a step further by having the married-couple comedy team of Jerry Stiller of "Seinfeld" and Anne Meara respectively play an owner and employee of a full-service telephone answering machine service. It is not believed that this apparent pilot for a spin-off ever leads to anything.
A cute scene in that episode has Tom caution Eddie about approaching an unfamiliar dog; this evokes thoughts about regularly petting domesticated wolves whom people leave tied up outside Starbucks.
Another episode requires mention in that it is both surprisingly inconsistent with the typical tone of "Father" but is consistent with the current trend of parents acting assertively on behalf of their children regardless of the impact on others.
This "controversial" offering has Eddie's horribly off-key saxophone practices greatly annoying the Corbetts' admittedly pompous upstairs neighbor. Said fellow apartment-building dweller initially comes downstairs to complain during said practice and ultimately purposefully raises a ruckus at 2:00 a.m.
It is very surprising that the usually reasonable and congenial Tom continues to have Eddie practice in the evening, rather than merely finding him an alternative rehearsal space. The better news is that this sour note is the only one in the 73 episodes in this series.
The finale to this series of reviews on "Father" is that it is an amusing show that nicely portrays an ideal (but very achievable) father-son relationship. The conservative use of a laugh track is another nice touch.
'The Courtship of Eddie's Father:' 1963 Version of 'The Bachelor (Father)' Dynamite Dad's Day Donation DVD
Staying up past my bedtime to watch the DVD of the 1963 Vincent Minnelli, Liza "The Other Lucille" Minnelli's father, film "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" was consistent with this genuinely delightful film centered around eight-year old Ron "Opie" Howard.
With all due sympathy to his fans and family, giggling this morning on learning that there was a race car driver named Dick Trickle also was in the spirit of the wonderful humor in "Father."
The simple plot of "Father" was that Howard's titular character Eddie wanted his very recently widowed pop Tom Corbett, played by Glenn Ford, to remarry so that Tom would be happy. The Bobby Bradyesque problem was that Eddie did not want a step-mother.
Watching the interaction between Ford and Howard evoked thoughts of Howard's incredible talent for interacting with his screen sires. The relationship between Tom and Eddie was very similar to that of Opie and his widowed dad Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show." The "Father" relationship also had shades of the chats between Howard as Richie Cunningham and his father Howard on the early seasons of the '50s-based '70s sitcom "Happy Days."
This terrific element of Howard's character stole the show. I laughed out loud when he tentatively told his father his theory that a woman's bust size determined her character. Howard pointed out that the evil women in comic books always had large busts and slanty eyes. This became a hilarious recurring theme.
A similar conversation later in the film revolved around Howard wanting to use a tape measure to determine the dimensions of one of the bachelorettes.
This aspect of "Father" and the film's overall awesomeness prompted a rare direct endorsement of buying this film as a Father's Day gift for the special male parental figure in your life.
"Father" is noteworthy as well for being an early example of a critically and commercially successful film that spawned a successful sitcom of the same name. Other examples include "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "M*A*S*H."
Complete candor requires confessing limited knowledge of the "Father" sitcom. The only reason for this was that WLVI Channel 56 in Boston ran it against all-time favorites on WSBK Channel 38 in the dark ages before even VCRs. I loved the episodes that I watched and looked forward to the epilog "man-to-man" walk on the beach scenes between the beyond awesome Bill Bixby and his TV son Brandon Cruz when I flipped to Channel 56 to watch "Father" film co-star Shirley Jones in "The Partridge Family."
The large difference between the "sleep out" housekeeper character Mrs. Livingston in the film and the series was one distinction. Additionally, Tom went from being a program manager at a radio station to being a magazine executive. Seeing the genuinely good guy cub reporter Tim O'Hara from "My Favorite Martian" stay in journalism was nice.
Jones played the first bachelorette in the "bachelor" competition in "Father." She was a blonde grass widow who lived across the hall from fils' et pere's envy-worthy Manhattan apartment. Jones' character Elizabeth was a good friend of the deceased Mrs. Corbett and a second mother to Eddie. Seeing Shirley Partridge nurse and counsel Opie Taylor was a real treat.
The wonderfully funny Stella Stevens played the sweet but dim redhead beauty contest loser Dollye Daly whom Howard maced on at an arcade. This country girl new to the big city was a genuine hoot.
Bachelorette number three was the frontrunner. Brunette sophsticate Dina Merrill played the Holly Golightly type character Rita Behrens. Behrens was a "chic designer" who enjoyed the glamour of New York nightlife with the elder Corbett and had a yappy poodle rather than a wonderfully wild orange tabby cat.
The feel of "Breakfast at Tiffanys," which was released two years before "Father," extended beyond the Golightly like character. Both films had the wonderful feel of live theater, revolved around the relatively glamorous life of New York City's upper-middle class in the early '60s, and had perfectly executed very revealing dramatic scenes at the end. (I still do not know if George Peppard or the cat prompted Golightly's transformation at the end of "Tiffanys.")
The cautionary note regarding "Tiffanys" is that, pop songs aside, recalling that you "kinda" liked any film does not provide a solid basis for a lasting relationship any more than a common fondness for pina coladas and getting caught in the rain but not being into yoga.
As promised in the review of the Warner Archive DVD release of the truly delightful 1963 feature film "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," I am sharing my thoughts on the 1969-70 first season of the television series of the same name.
A truly awesome part of "Father" S1 is that it meets the criteria that I established when beginning collecting DVDs of television shows in 2006. "Father" is a good but lightly syndicated show from my childhood, and the DVD set is fairly priced.
Watching the first six of the 26 episodes in the set made me wish that I had chosen reruns of that series on WLVI Channel 56 in Boston over competing fare on WSBK Channel 38 more frequently in the dark days before even VCRs.
The simple premise behind the film and television series is that widower Tom Corbett is doing an awesome job raising his young son Eddie, and the two are engaged in a ongoing search to find Tom a new wife.
The series pilot is a nice transition from the film in that both incarnations of the Corbetts' story have Eddie macing on an aspiring actress named Dollye Daly as a "wife" candidate. Eddie does so on a father-son outing to an arcade in the movie and on a father-son movie studio tour in the pilot.
It seems that series producer and co-star James Komack of "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Chico and the Man" fame chose that episode as the pilot to help attract fans of the movie. A later episode regarding Eddie's really rough first few days in the first grade seems to be a more natural pilot, especially considering that Tom dates Eddie's teacher in an early offering.
The conflict in the episodes regarding a search for the mother revolve around the effect of the romantic relationship on Eddie. For example, Tom dating the teacher gets Eddie branded "Teacher's pet."
The third episode is particularly memorable both for having Diana Muldaur play an absolutely fabulous model who is light years away from Muldaur's Dr. Pulaski character from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in terms of looks and personality. Seeing the childless "It Girl" try to care for a sick Eddie is hilarious.
"Father" is also a perfect show for its era in which networks were transitioning from supernatural, sci-fi, and rural shows to more realistic fare. There are undertones of understated sexual content, including Eddie not understanding why his father cannot pollinate childless housekeeper Mrs. Livingston in the same manner as bees pollinate flowers, and Bixby is a perfect mix of a Tim O'Haraesque of "My Favorite Marian" overwhelmed straight man and a father who truly knows best.
The show is further notable for having some of the more creative aspects of broadcast network sitcoms; the theme song's singer provides a one-man off-screen Greek chorus in terms of commenting on the action in the episode. Examples include the chanteur singing "bless you" one time that Tom sneezes and "remember your son is in the other room" when Tom begins to escort a woman into Tom's bedroom merely to have a private conversation.
Further, episodes begin and end with Tom and Eddie having heart-to-heart talks while having a great time doing things such as horsing around on the beach, enjoying fun-park rides, or pedaling a two-person bicycle. The sad part for many of us is that those conversations and activities are just as fantastical as harboring a martian who is stranded on earth.
Reviewing the second season of the early '70s sitcom, which is based on the film of the same name, "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" for a post on the opening day of "Man of Steel" and the Friday before Father's Day is a no-brainer that even Bizarro would think of.
The parenting skills of "Father's" Tom Corbett, played by the truly awesome Bill Bixby, both earn him the title of Television Father of the 20th Century and demonstrate that son Eddie considering him a superhero is justified.
I cannot imagine any son not wanting a dad who is so devoted to him that he gets restless on the rare Saturday that they are not together and so patient that he does not prod or get angry when he knows that his offspring is up to some form of mischief. The well-known dialogues in which Tom truly listens to Eddie and guides him with complete honesty and absolutely no condescension is amazing.
Those of us who had averaged-sized rooms and shared a bathroom down the hall with at least one sibling growing up also envy Eddie's huge bedroom with a terrace and a private ensuite bathroom.
In the interest of brevity and avoiding repetition, readers who are interested in learning more about the "Father" film and the first season of the "Father" sitcom are asked to please read this site's reviews of that early Ronnie Howard movie and those episodes. The spoiler alert is that both of those productions are just as good as the second season that is being reviewed here.
The first few episodes of the second season of this series about a widowed magazine executive raising his young son with the help of his full-time, but "sleep-out," housekeeper Mrs. Livingston and his wonderfully sweet but slightly ditzy secretary Tina indicate that the focus has shifted from the titular courtship to the antics of the titular Eddie. This reflects that Eddie portrayor Brandon Cruz is a little older and can assume a slightly larger role in the series.
The season premiere revolves around Eddie teaming up with "Uncle Norman," who is a quasi-parental figure but is essentially Roger Healey to "I Dream of Jeannie's" Tony Nelson, to make a home movie as an "unbirthday" present for Tom. Eddie's logic is that people expect presents on their birthday and that surprising them with a gift on a random date shows that you really love them.
The subdued hilarity that ensues involves the subterfuge related to Eddie and Norman shooting the film without Tom finding out; a scene in which Tina frantically looks to see where Norman and Eddie are hiding when Tom unexpectedly arrives on the scene is hilarious.
The second episode of the season is truer to the show's concept in that it involves Eddie's nemesis turned buddy Joey, played by series semi-regular Jodie Foster, preparing to run away because her widowed father is planning to remarry. Joey feels that that marriage would upset her deceased mother.
Bill Bixby does his usual outstanding job reacting to the indications that Eddie is up to something and in being a model dad in counseling Joey. This situation also requires that Tom and Eddie actively think about feelings associated with the possibility that Tom will remarry at some point. His "Super Dad" ethics will ensure that said second wife will be a good mother for Eddie.
Only one of the first eight episodes in "Father's" second season involve the titular courtship. Eddie's friendship with caring but self-absorbed socialite neighbor Valerie Bessinger, played by "The Bob Newhart Show's" Suzanne Pleshette, leads to Valerie and Tom seriously dating.
A surprising line in which Tom states in reference to Valerie's gardening that she is good at making certain things grow is out of character for Tom and is one of the series' rare double entendres. One theory regarding this is that it is designed to show that this romance is so serious that it prompts Tom to act like a true adult.
The episode is special as well because the contrast between Tom's respectable and "old-fashioned" lifestyle and Valerie's more free-spirited and modern outlook call attention to Tom's commitment to "traditional family values" without the narrow-mindedness that often accompanies that way of living. Tom really does stand for "truth, justice, and the American way."
These early episodes further reinforce Tom's superhero qualities by having him face some tough foes. Any Superman fan knows that the tales of this Kryptonian would not be exciting if he could easily defeat every obstacle.
Early season two challenges include Tom having to decide whether to take an important business trip or see Eddie in his first ever school play, achieving the proper balance between firmness and leniency regarding Eddie shamelessly procrastinating on a school project, and making a foster son feel welcome without making Eddie jealous.
As trivial as these plots may seem, it is important to understand that making Eddie unhappy is almost as powerful as a chunk o' kryptonite to the heart for devoted dad Tom.
The bottom line is that "Father" shows what a father-son relationship can be if a former properly expresses the love that he feels toward the latter.
The Icarus Films June 4, 2019 DVD release of the 2018 musical dramedy "Guy" provides so much wonderful fodder for a post that it truly is difficult to know where to begin. One spoiler is that this film is just as good as the copious Gallic films in the Icarus catalog but strays from the pattern of revolving around the emotional fallout from a hit-and-run. However, the audience is treated to the disco scene that another reviewer states is ubiquitous in French movies.
The central theme of the film is the comeback tour on which the titular French idol who enjoyed commercial success from the '60s through the '80s is engaged to promote a new greatest hits album. The handful of videos and concert footage provide great nostalgia for folks who "were there" and give Millennials a music-history lesson. An '80s video that evokes strong feelings of the "Sandcastles in the Sand" video (complete with appearances by Alan Thicke and James Van Der Beek) by faux '80s pop princess Robin Sparkles of the 2000s sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" is true fun for all ages.
Writer/director/star Alex Lutz EARNS a well-deserved 2019 Cesar Award for his portrayal of Guy Jamet. He receives the same recognition at the 2019 Lumiere Awards. Watching this 40 year-old play Guy at various stages of his life is incredible
The rest of the story is that Guy knowingly allows young filmmaker Gauthier to document his tour and other aspects of his current life. The pop star does not know that his constant companion has reason to believe that his subject also is his biological father. This element adds an extra-credit aspect to this A+ film.
Lutz stays very true to the mockumentary style both by having follow the camera follow Guy everywhere. We see him interviewed at a cafe, performing for an audience of adoring aging fans, at home with actress Sophie Ravel (who is promoting her hilarious spot-on procedural), jamming with his band and back-up singers on the tour bus, and (of course) pulling the plug on the film project only to come around. This, also of course, is not to mention the incident that threatens to derail the tour.
All of this culminates in the mother-of-all film finales. Documentarian and subject are still feeling the effects of a night of hard drinking when they emulate Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Their conversation and a documentary-staple reveal a few minutes earlier indicate that Guy finally is starting to get the picture.
The best news is that "Guy" shows that they still can make 'em like that. The story stands on its own without either being an ego project for the star or relying on pyrotechnics. Further, the characters are among the most real and relatable reel-life folks to come along in quite awhile. Any resemblance to persons living or dead clearly is not coincidental.
The Warner Archive June 18, 2018 SPECTACULARLY restored Blu-ray release of "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s V2" is part of a trifecta of June 2019 Archive releases of classic animation that aptly show pride in that dead art in this era in which computers do all the drawing. The other two releases are the (soon-to-be-reviewed) equally bright-and-vibrant June 11, 2019 BD of "Jonny Quest" OS (including awesome special features and the (also-to-be-reviewed) June 25, 2019 DVD release of "Wally Gator."
The first part of the rest of the story is that Archive also has re-released the separate three DVD volumes of earlier "Popeye" cartoons from Warner Bros Home Entertainment. The rest of the rest of the story is that "Gator" brings Saturday morning (and after-school) cartoon fans one step closer to having all their favorites included in the already extensive "Hanna Barbera Classic Collection" DVD series.
The bigger picture regarding these releases (and SO many more) is that they reflect one of many ideals that Archive and this unintentionally non-profit site espouses. Online friend of Archive and your not-so-humble reviewer Lucas states this principle well by commenting that he is glad that he is not the only younger person working to keep classic animation alive.
A manifesto that led to a sacking that led to "Matt Nelson Reviews" criticized the sacker site for being so corporate that it banned reviews of DVD releases of "TV Land" shows because they did not generate large numbers of hits. The aforementioned response to that policy expressed concern that future generations would not know who Lucy Ricardo and Ralph Kramden are.
"V2" picks up where (the reviewed) BD "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s V1" leaves off. This latest batch of 15 7-minute shorts are from 1946 and 1947. The note at the beginning of the self-explanatory "Popeye and the Pirates" that a figurative search of the seven seas for a print of the cartoon that lacks an obvious edit does not bear fruit further shows that Archive is in it for the love of the game.
"V2" starts with "House Tricks," which has every classic Popeye element. Our story begins with the titular sailor and fellow squid/enemy Bluto once again surprisingly strolling along together despite despising each other. They also once again come across object of their mutual affection Olive Oyl being a woman trying to do the job of a man.
In this case, the seemingly financially stable spinster is single-handedly trying to build a two-story house, rather than hire a contractor. The boys quickly take over the project and engage in their standard one upmanship in their individual efforts to get the girl.
Also as is standard, Popeye and Bluto escalate the conflict by either trying to sabotage the other or to get him to do the work of his friend regarding whom he obtains absolutely no benefit, A wonderfully hilarious dick move by Bluto in "House" has his tricking an oblivious Popeye to cut the wood that Bluto needs.
"House" remains true to form by having Bluto deliver Popeye a seemingly game-ending beatdown only to have that victim gulp down a can of spinach, turn the tables on his rival, and complete the primary objective of the cartoon, In this case, the task is completing the construction of the abode. The twist at the end provides a wonderful surprise.
"The Island Fling" is reminiscent of a similar "V1" offering. The earlier cartoon has Popeye and Bluto happily being the only humans on an uncharted desert isle when Olive Oyl comes along. A pact among the men to not romantically pursue the new arrival predictably comically falls apart.
"Island" has Bluto playing Robinson Crusoe, whose life changes when a shipwrecked Popeye and Olive come ashore. The efforts of Crusoe to woo Olive include the wonderfully period apt move of pulling out a book of etchings. Anyone who has ever seen even a handful of Popeye cartoons can predict both the nature of the hilarity that ensues and the outcome.
A few "V2" cartoons require social commentary. The highly offensive racial stereotypes (regarding which Archive provides its standard "chill out, Dude" disclaimer) are taken in stride ala the regular empty threats of spousal abuse in "I Love Lucy" and "The Honeymooners." However, another element of some Popeye cartoons is worth mentioning but does NOT provide a basis for boycotting them.
The source of criticism is the unduly rapey element of some "V2" cartoons; these involve outings in which Bluto drags off a literally kicking and screaming Olive while a pummeled Popeye minimally is dazed and confused until getting his hands on spinach. Seeing Olive just rescue herself just once by brutally kicking Bluto in his most vulnerable area would be epic.
"Amusement Park" starts out with Bluto using games to show his manliness only to have Popeye outdo him regarding every contest. This leads to our villain dragging our damsel in distress on a harrowing roller coaster ride until her hero in shining cotton saves her,
The even more bothersome "Klondike Casanova" involves a twist on "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." Olive is a dance-hall girl at an Alaska saloon where Popeye wears many hats. Mountain man Bluto strides in and drags Olive off to his secluded mountain cabin. One spoiler is that efforts of Bluto to prevent Popeye from spoiling his fun does not include triggering an avalanche. Once more, the outcome is predictable.
As these musings illustrate (pun intended) the incredible appeal of Popeye and other classic cartoons is that they WON'T make 'em like that anymore. The violence against women and the racial caricatures are not good, but the comic violence is entertaining. Even a young child who does not realize that literally getting hit with a ton of bricks or that getting wrapped in chains and being dumped in the ocean is not ultimately harmless in the real world frankly is too stupid to be allowed to be unsupervised even in his or her home.
'The Prisoner of Second Avenue' Blu-ray: Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft Awesomely Play Neil Simon Says
The wonderfully restored Warner Archive May 14, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1975 Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft urban comedy "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" is the epitome of something that is tragic to the person experiencing it being hilarious to the rest of us. The very strong live-stage vibe of "Prisoner" relates both to master playwright Neil Simon (also of the reviewed similar Archive BD release of "The Goodbye Girl") being the writer and the film being based on a 1971 hit Broadway play. The BD enhancements make both films look MUCH better than their '70slicious theatrical releases.
Stating that Lemmon is the perfect choice for beleaguered middle-aged middle-management New Yorker Mel Edison illustrates that cliches are cliches because they are true. One only need watch Lemmon in the 1973 film "Save the Tiger" to see that no one plays a white-collar dude experiencing the mother-of-all-mid-life crises better. A memorable scene in that one has the character of Lemmon lamenting his financial obligations.
The MUST-SEE 1962 film "The Apartment" and the equally good 1992 "Glengarry Glen Ross" illustrate the skill of Lemmon at playing a stereotypical lovable loser who finally snaps after years of abuse by masters of the universe.
One further only look at "The Odd Couple" to see that Lemmon also a master at roles that require equal parts drama and comedy. No one does it better. Baby, he's the best.
Mrs. Robinson (Mrs. Brooks in real life) herself Anne Bancroft does equally well as long-suffering loving and supportive spouse Edna Bancroft. An awesome part of her role is proving the cliche that at least one person in a committed relationship must be the stable one.
A notable cameo has Sylvester Stallone bumping into Mel after the latter has snapped; a less recognizable F. Murray Abraham of "Amadeus" plays an awesome stereotypical NY cabbie in an early scene. His appearance, performance, and role make one think that Judd Hirsch is playing the part.
Simon does his usual expert job sadistically heaping increasingly horrific insult on injury that New Yorkers endure everyday until the damn dam inevitably bursts. This starts with Mel trotting to get to his bus stop just ahead of that vehicle only to have the modern-day Ralph Kramden driving it literally pass him by. This is the beginning of the end in the form of Mel and Edna is a dystopian version of the "American Gothic" painting.
One of the biggest blows comes when 48 year-old Mel loses his job; the modern relatability of this is the 1,000,000s of middle-aged professionals jobs who found themselves unemployed around 2008 and know that they will never get comparable employment.
The bigger picture is that the '70s is the beginning of the end of the era in which the man gets "the job" on graduating high school or college and receives fair rewards for doing his job properly until he retires 40 years later with a pension that allows him and his wife of the same period to continue enjoying the life style to which they have become accustomed. Any sane person know that that social contract between employee and employer (and husband and wife) is more obsolete than disco and polyester leisure suits.
A desire to keep spoilers to the minimum is behind merely stating that the next few months find Mel and Edna suffering through a sweltering New York summer as they experience virtually every evil that can plague Manhattanites and out-of-towners alike. The aforementioned talent of Simon for depicting this makes one seriously wonder why anyone would choose to live in that city.
Additional fun comes in the form of clever bumpers; director Melvin Frank contributes to the live-stage vibe by separating scenes with shots of Manhattan accompanied by parody radio news broadcasts read by Dan Rather and other real reporters.
The aforementioned unhappy ending is equally awesome because it reflects the gritty realism that makes many '70s New York films so special. Mel and Edna do live to fight the rest of their days, but he does not get an 11th-hour offer of the job of his dreams, and they do not get to have the witty and privileged one-percenter lifestyle of Nick and Nora Charles. The moral is that reality bites even for folks who have been out of college for 20 or more years.
Archive awesomely supplements this classic film with truly special bonus features. These begin with Bancroft appearing on the "Dinah" talk show that her friend Dinah Shore hosts. Much of fun of this relates to these women discussing a recent doubles tennis game with their fellas Mel Brooks and Burt Reynolds.. The obligatory film clip includes entertaining outtakes.
We also get a five-minute making-of feature that also includes much of the aforementioned footage that ends up on the editing-room floor.
Getting over disappointment regarding the sadistically misleading title of the 1943 WWII propaganda film "The Gorilla Man" allows thoroughly enjoying the recent Warner Archive DVD release of this B movie. The titular primate is wounded warrior Capt. Craig Killian, who earns that nickname for climbing skills that he demonstrates in our story.
The textbook fun begins with Nazi agent Dr. Dorn, who uses his private sanitarium on the English coast as a cover, learning through his literal spy network that the ship carrying Killian's Heroes back to Mother England from a commando raid was sunk. The rest of the story is that that band of brothers is expected to come ashore near the aforementioned medical facility.
A series of seemingly fortunate events leads to an oblivious Killian becoming a guest of Dorn and the even madder Dr. Ferris. A subsequent reveal that Dorn has a stranglehold on his associate turns out to be very apt. The coercion of Nurse Kruger is more despicable.
The plot thickens on Dorn learning that Killian is desperate to give British General Devon important information about a Nazi incursion. This leads to a collateral damage scheme to discredit Killian so that his superiors literally will not take him at his word.
The insidious Nazi manipulation leads to Killian having his credibility increasingly impaired, trying to stay one step ahead of the London police, and racing to try to keep the body count low. His inadvertently repeatedly acting as his puppetmaster desires does not help things.
Director of 101 projects D. Ross Lederman and writer of 154 scripts Anthony Coldeway earn their filler feature an A with a perfect climax. The usual suspects all convene at the scene of the crime where Ferris does his thing for his fun and for the profit of Dorn. Meanwhile, Killian is on site thanks to his aforementioned talent. The general and his senior staff meeting to discuss the now-imminent threat from the Jerrys provide the final piece of the puzzle.
The real fun come when Dorn overplays his hand and the general's daughter shows that she is capable of far more than lying back and thinking of England; the final shot does strongly indicates that she will be doing that later that evening.; one can only hope that she gets a chocolate bar and a pair of stockings for her trouble.,
The joint first and lasting impressions while watching Warner Archive's Blu-ray release of the 1962 Doris Day musical "Billy Rose's Jumbo" are that they do not make 'em like that anymore and that it is amazing that Blu-ray can make a metrocolor film from an era in which that technology was cutting edge look so sharp. The second first impression is that including the auteur's name in the title does not follow the same tendency of those films being not-so-good ala "Stephen King's ..." or "Tyler Perry's ..."
The all-star leading cast of "Jumbo" consists of multi-talented Day as Kitty Wonder, the multi-talented daughter of circus owner Anthony "Pop" Wonder. The true show business legend Jimmy Durante plays Pop, and the back cover art on the Blu-ray set reports that he is in the cast of the 1935 original Broadway production of "Jumbo." Pop is one of the then-69 year-old Durante's final film roles.
Well-known funny lady Martha "The Big Mouth" Raye, who is best known to gen Xers as Benita Bizarre on "The Bugaloos" and Mel's mother on the sitcom "Alice," plays Durante's most loyal performer/fiancee of 14 years Lulu. She is also known for suing David Letterman over an off-color joke at her expense.
Pop's gambling addiction and an ongoing campaign by rival circus owner John Noble to either acquire the film's titular character, who is a widely talented performing elephant, or drive the roughly turn-of-the-century Wonder Circus out of business keep Kitty very busy regarding ensuring that the three-ring show goes on. Textbook definition character actor Dean Jagger, whose credits include the awesome storyteller in the very special "The Partridge Family" Christmas episode, plays the not-so-noble Noble.
The fact that true jack-of-all-trades and master-of-several Sam Rawlins, played by Stephen Boyd, arrives at a particularly tough time for the Wonder Circus seems to be too good to be true turns out to be the case. The audience learns half-way through the film that Sam has the daddy of all ulterior motives for helping the Wonders.
The award for most fun cameo goes to a pre "The Addams Family" John Astin as an eccentric bi-plane pilot.
Day et al do a great job with the Rodgers and Hart score; our Archive friends have located and restored the original Overture, and the toe-tapping starts with "The Circus on Parade." A traditional circus parade aptly accompanies this one.
It is also fun to discover that the classic "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," which is reprised several times, is from this show. The even-more catchy, and equally reprised, tune "Sawdust, Spangles, and Dreams" is equally memorable.
As Archive shares, beyond legendary showman Busby Berkeley stages the dazzling circus performances. These feature genuine circus performers. Of course, Jumbo steals the show.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of "Jumbo's" trailer (which the Blu-ray set includes) provides a good sense of the film's fun with only minor spoilers. It also demonstrates the sharp contrast between the standard definition version of the film and the spectacular Blu-ray enhancement.
The award for best special feature goes to an incredibly adorable Tom and Jerry cartoon "Jerry and Jumbo" in which the titular mouse teams up with a very cute baby elephant to give the titular cat a well-deserved difficult time. A 1933 Vitaphone musical short "Yours Sincerely" is also fun.
On a more general note regarding this release, "Jumbo" evokes strong memories of the circus museum in Sarasota, Florida and prompts a strong desire to return.
The grande finale of this review is that it is fun for kids of all ages, with the exception of surly adolescents who dislike everything, and is guaranteed to evoke at least a few smiles.The award for best special feature goes to an incredibly adorable Tom and Jerry cartoon "Jerry and Jumbo" in which the titular mouse teams up with a very cute baby elephant to give the titular cat a well-deserved difficult time. A 1933 Vitaphone musical short "Yours Sincerely" is also fun.
On a more general note regarding this release, "Jumbo" evokes strong memories of the circus museum in Sarasota, Florida and prompts a strong desire to return.
The grande finale of this review is that it is fun for kids of all ages, with the exception of surly adolescents who dislike everything, and is guaranteed to evoke at least a few smiles.The award for best special feature goes to an incredibly adorable Tom and Jerry cartoon "Jerry and Jumbo" in which the titular mouse teams up with a very cute baby elephant to give the titular cat a well-deserved difficult time. A 1933 Vitaphone musical short "Yours Sincerely" is also fun.
On a more general note regarding this release, "Jumbo" evokes strong memories of the circus museum in Sarasota, Florida and prompts a strong desire to return.
The grande finale of this review is that it is fun for kids of all ages, with the exception of surly adolescents who dislike everything, and is guaranteed to evoke at least a few smiles.
The Warner Archive March 26, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1966 Doris Day romcom "The Glass Bottom Boat" offers a threefer in terms of combining a typical Doris Day comedy, a beach movie of the era, and an equally era-apt Cold War comedy.
The following YouTube clip of Day and co-star Arthur Godfrey singing the catchy theme from "Boat" provides a good sense of the fun of the film.
Day plays premature widow Jennifer Nelson, who is an entry-level public-relations worker at an aerospace research lab that roguish Elon Musk of the '60s Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) owns and operates. The film title refers to the tourist vessel that the father (Godfrey) of Nelson owns and operates on Catalina Island. An element of "com" enters in the form of Nelson supporting the family business by swimming below the boat while dressed as a mermaid.
Nelson and Templeton meeting under embarrassing circumstances while engaged in their typical weekend activities introduces the "rom" element. Later meeting at their day jobs enhances this element. More '60slicious fun come in the form of Dick Martin of "Laugh-In" fame portraying the playboy business partner of Templeton.
The Cold War aspect relates to the degree to which Nelson and Templeton develop their "rom" coinciding with the increased espionage activity related to a government contract. This provides the context for Paul Lynde to play a comically overzealous security officer who ultimately finds his job to be a drag.
The real fun begins when Nelson gets wind of Mr. Right and his colleagues suspecting her of treason. This girl subsequently seeking to turn the tables on her bosses finds her embroiled in genuine life-threatening intrigue.
The beach movie vibe relates to the catchy theme that Day sings, Templeton almost literally learning about the quantity of fish in the sea, and a couple of scenes in which a boat runs amok in a busy harbor.
All of this makes "Boat" a perfect example of an escapist '60s comedy. Day sticks to the independent woman whom Mother would love for you to bring home if being scorned is not causing her to "Hulk" out. There also is ample good clean slapstick and holding up the military-industrial complex to gentle but well-deserved ridicule.
Archive does equally well regarding the DVD extras; we get three entertaining featurettes related to the film, the highly stylized Chuck Jones Oscar-winning cartoon "The Dot and the Line," and the theatrical trailer for "Boat."
The Warner Archive April 9, 2019 pristine Blu-ray release of the black-and-white 1958 CinemaScope cult classic "Frankenstein 1970" evokes strong thoughts of the similarly off-beat 1994 film "Ed Wood." This quirky tale also will bring the 1974 Mel Brooks film "Young Frankenstein" to mind.
This meta film opens with the titular monster pursuing the lady in the lake; we soon learn that this merely is a scene in a Golden Age of Television production of the classic tale. This commentary on the small-screen taking over the silver screen is contrary to "1970" using the relatively new CinemaScope film format for the production.
The Scooby gang that is making the movie-of-the-week consists of all the stock characters. Brave and bold director "Fred" is doing his best to maintain order; young blonde starlet "Daphne" is dreaming of stardom; more down-to-earth and brainier secretary "Velma" is trying to do her job while fighting off not entirely unwelcome advances. Goofy cameraman "Shaggy" rounds out the group. The overlapping personal and professional histories of the group members add a particularly Hollywood touch to the story.
The original "Frankenstein" story more fully enters the picture regarding the same-old story of house-rich and cash-poor Baron Victor von Frankenstein (Karloff) temporarily sharing the infamous castle where it all went down with "those meddling kids." An awesome 50s B-movie element enters in the form of Frankenstein using his Air B-n-B money to buy a nuclear reactor for use in his quest to restart the family business. The rest of this aspect of the story is that forced research for the Nazis has negatively impacted the mind of our mad scientist.
Another amusing aspect of this is that the baron has aspirations of obtaining a trophy bride of Frankenstein. This tie-in with "Dracula" extends to the baron being a skilled hypnotist whose lack of an uncle may be why he has never learned that with great power comes great responsibility.
A combination of classic farce and traditional horror film combine to amp up the body count as the Baron seeks to put his new chums to use. A scene in which an oblivious "Daphne" repeatedly narrowly avoids being grabbed by the major-domo turned robotic stooge. This fully bandaged shuffling creature still managing to capture prey evokes good thoughts of "The Mummy."
Of course, the law eventually begins closing in on the baron. This equally predictably leads to a grand confrontation that shows both that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and that every family business suffers from each generation lacking the same level of mad skills as the one that precedes it.
Archive keeps the fun going with a DVD extra in the form of a '50s-era TV spot.
The Warner Archive April 16, 2019 DVD release of the well-remastered 1936 screwball comedy "Three Men on a Horse" is a good reminder that funny never stops being funny and that comedy does not require shock value.
The cred. of "Horse" begins with drector Mevyn LeRoy, whose other credits include "The Wizard of Oz" and "Mister Roberts." In front of the camera, Oscar nominated wise-cracking vaudeville veteran Joan Blondell plays stock floozy with a heart-of-gold Mabel. Fellow vaudeville vet Frank McHugh plays henpecked greeting-card writer Erwin Trowbridge.
The following YouTube clip of the fun-filled "Horse" trailer shows that they don't make those promos like they used to.
Our story begins with a wonderful look at 30s-era suburbia. Erwin and his wife Audrey live in a poorly constructed tract house in the development of her brother Clarence. Erwin is getting ready for his job, and Audrey is yelling for him to throw down his suit so that she can send it to the cleaner.
The Lucy and Ricky vibe continues with Audrey finding a little black book in a suit pocket. Being convinced that the entries are names and telephone numbers of loose women prompts Audrey to call Clarence to come over. The stereotypes continue with Clarence quickly going into a tirade about Erwin being a louse and Clarence having warned Audrey not to marry him.
The plot initially thickens on Audrey and Clarence learning that the notes are horse-race winners that Clarence successfully picks on his daily commute. The suspicious minds are additionally schooled regarding Erwin not actually placing any bets.
The added insult to the injury additionally is the straw that breaks the back of the camel. A COD package containing $48 worth of dresses requires that Erwin defend his male pride in front of Clarence by using money saved for other small luxuries to pay for the couture.
This bad morning drives normally sober Erwin to drink; his bar crawl brings him to the watering hole from which professional gambler Patsy (Sam Levene of "The Thin Man" series) and his two stooges operate. Mabel is the wannabe starlet who is the dame of Patsy and helps keep the boys in gambling money.
Learning that easily duped Erwin is the boy with something extra prompts Patsy and the boys essentially to kidnap their new acquaintance. Much of the ensuing comedy relates to providing a conducive setting for picking the ponies.
For her part, Mabel finds both a kindred spirit and a receptive audience in Erwin. This start of a beautiful friendship does not sit well with Patsy.
Meanwhile a distraught Audrey is lamenting over the disappearance of her husband, and his stereotypical fuming boss is irate over the absence of his employee. An oblivious Erwin merely is trying to please everyone.
Of course, all worlds ultimately hilariously collide. The happy endings this time show that justice prevails in Golden Age comedies.
The Warner Archive April 23, 2019 DVD release of the 1936 drama "Jailbreak" reminds us of the good old days when men talked tough and dolls stood by their guys. This is not to mention a smart mouth likely earning you a sock on the jaw or a kick in the pants.
The plot thickens from the opening scenes in which made man Ed Slayden bursts his way into the successful night club of former associate/current truly legitimate businessman Mike Eagen. Slayden is on the lam from a heist gone bad and demands help from a sheepish Eagen. Although he is no longer a baad man, Eagen slugs a copper with the idea that that the anticipated resulting 30 days in stir will keep him out of circulation long enough protect him from Slayden until the heat dies down.
The rub comes in the form of the adage related to the best-laid plans of mice and mobsters. Eagen runs afoul of a two-strikes mandatory-minimum law that results in a two-year sentence, On top of that, prison guard Dan Stone has it out for the new fish based on their prior dealings.
Things go from bad to worse when Slayden and his gang get collared, resulting in becoming fellow guests of the state with Eagen.
The better news is that loyal Girl Friday Jane Rogers and crusading reporter Ken Williams are on Team Eagen. Rogers is diligently keeping the club doors open and doing everything else that she can to help her boss; Williams is using the power-of-the-press to sway public opinion.
A combination of a prison killing and a treasure hunt further rock the institution and transform "Break" into a traditional whodunit. The latter includes adding to the body count and assaulting Williams in the course of his investigation.. This is not to mention Williams proving during a close approximation of a drawing room confrontation that he is much more than a pretty face.
The titular event barely even is a "B" story as a group of cons decide that they want a variation of an early release. They soon learn that successfully going over the wall is not always a good thing.
"Break" being a Hollywood movie from the era in which the Hays Code is enforced ensures that crime does not pay and that at least some good guys get a happy ending. Everyone else simply gets another day older and deeper in debt.
The Warner Archive complete-series DVD release of the 1962-63 NBC legal drama "Sam Benedict" shows the value of good source material. Although the cases are fictional, the titular celebrity San Francisco attorney is based on real-life legal eagle/series consultant Jacob W. Ehrlich. The recommended companion release this time is the (reviewed) Archive complete-series DVD set of the 1963-65 drama "Mr. Novak." That fellow quasi-anthology series revolves around the titular rookie teacher typically trying to have a positive impact on a different student in each episode.
A particularly special aspect of this series is an early episode being in color. The best speculation is that this is part of an NBC promotion to encourage viewers to purchase color sets.
That guy who was in that thing Edmond O'Brien stars as essentially sole practitioner Benedict. Secretary extraordinaire Trudy Wagner is his Della Street. Rookie attorney Hank Tambor is more of a tenant than an associate.
The "Benedict" pilot perfectly reflects the spirit of the series. The first challenge facing Benedict is defending a client in a murder trial in which 12 angry men are a hung jury. This provides context for the presiding judge to lecture the "peers" and the audience about the nature of jury deliberations.
On a personal note, the sudden death of a friend presents our hero with a moral predicament. The spendthrift brother of the deceased wants his payoff before the dearly departed is put to rest. On top of that, this sibling is fighting the legal right of the adopted daughter of the dead man to get a piece of the estate. The well-know lesson regarding this is that death brings out the worst in people; the rest of the story is that procrastinating about keeping a will up-to-date can haunt your heirs.
Another early episode is especially Hitchcockian. Benedict is defending the daughter of a long-time family friend in a trial for the murder of her husband. The debate between client and attorney regarding whether to present an insanity defense provides context for discussing when a mental incapacity is a mitigating factor in a legal proceeding. The dramatic climax shows the consequences of repression.
Mental capacity also is an issue when a young widowed Japanese immigrant battles the parents of her late husband for custody of her unborn child. A primary issue here is the extent to which an apparent mental incapacity is attributable to limited English skills. Getting to the root of the problem is one of many instances of social commentary in this cerebral series that equally entertains and provokes thought.
We additionally get a case of a cop killing the college-age son of a one-percenter. The issue extends beyond the validity of lethal force to a more basic dilemma. This career cop must decide whether invoking his Fifth Amendment right to keep his doughnut hole shut is worth the price of definitely losing his job. We also get a taste of the perfect storm that can result when a hair-trigger cop on the verge of burnout conflicts with an arrogant young punk.
This opening statement on the merits of "Benedict" shows that the presented issues remain just as relevant and compelling more than 55 years later. The bigger lesson is that morons who do not learn from history are doomed to shell out big bucks to relive it in court.
The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1977 neo-noir with comic touches film "The Late Show" provides another chance to see that Art Carney of "The Honeymooners" is more than just another pretty face. This movie makes a great companion to the (reviewed) Archive DVD release of the 1979 Carney comedy with serious overtones "Going in Style" and his Oscar-winning performance in the 1974 film "Harry and Tonto."
The behind-the-camera cred. of "Show" includes the work of Oscar winner writer/director Robert Benton. His better known films include "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Places in the Heart."
This change of pace for Carney and co-star Lily Tomlin gets off on the right note with the perfect balance between exposition and starting the action. Elderly private eye Ira Wells (Carney) is enjoying a quiet evening in his small shabby bachelor pad when an old friend stops by and drops dead within a minute of arriving,
The noirness of this film that showcases the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles continues with Wells reuniting with another old friend at the funeral for the dearly departed. Charlie Hatter (Bill Macy of "Maude") is an increasingly failing talent agent who introduces Wells to former client Margo Sterling (Tomlin).
The deceptively simple case this time is that Sterling wants Wells to rescue her cat Winston, whom a catnapper is holding for ransom in the amount of a debt that Sterling owes that scoundrel.
The plot thickens on Sterling literally bringing her troubles to the front door of Chez Wells by arranging a meeting with the not-so-smooth criminal; this results in gun play that fully sets the game afoot for Wells.
Discovering postage stamps on the body of the recently deceased leads to Wells investigating the theft of that loot in a robbery in which the lady of the house is killed. This investigation brings Wells to the home of fence Ron Birdwell (Eugene Roche). The "muscle" of Ron not hesitating to rough up Wells within a minute of his arrival can be considered nice commentary on a lack of age discrimination.
Wells brings Sterling along on a visit to a usual suspect with hopes of that discussion having the least possible trauma and drama. This pair discovering that someone literally and figuratively beat them to the punch draws our low-rent Remington Steele and Laura Holt deeper into the case.
More fun relates to discovering that Laura Birdwell (Joanna Cassidy) is involved in all the action to an even larger degree then her husband is pure Chandler or Spade.
Wells ultimately shows that snow on the roof does not freeze the brain when he connects the pieces in classic noir fashion. It seems that only pulp fiction can tie together a dead gumshoe, a ditzy damsel in distress, a murder-robbery that involves much more than meets the eye. an extra-marital affair, and a friend who dupes a good buddy into having to figure out all of it.
Benton shows genius in remaining true to gritty noir drama decades after the golden era of that genre, successfully showing new sides of Tomlin and Carney and getting that May-December team to click, and crafting a plot that keeps the twists coming until the end, It is hard to imagine that they can make 'em like that anymore.
Archive keeps the fun coming with a special feature that shows Tomlin bringing Ernestine the telephone operator to the party when she discusses "Show" on "Dinah" with Dinah Shore.
Warner Archive provides animation god Tex Avery an apt homage in releasing the complete series of "The Kwicky Koala Show" on DVD. Avery passed away while working on this swan song, which aired in the 1981-82 CBS Saturday morning lineup. The artistic success of this show relates both to it reflecting an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude and by showing that the best of this genre is much more than anthropomorphic animated animal antics for cheap laughs.
The continuation of a proud heritage begins with the titular Australia native having the wimpy old-man voice that belies the beast within ala Avery creation Droopy Dog. The bigger picture is "Kwicky" following a variation of the format of the early '60s "talking animals" series of "Kwicky" producers Hanna-Barbera.
Our star is featured in the first cartoon of his show. We get additional shorts that include quasi-"Yogi Bear" homage/quasi-educational cartoon "Crazy Claws" and the "Top Cat" homage "Dirty Dawg." Fillers that consist of the Of Mice and Men style "two stupid dogs" duo George and Joey. Bungle. Their concept is constantly trying failed circus and vaudeville acts. (This site has a review of the Archive CS DVD set of "Dogs.")
"Scooby-Doo" legend Frank Welker brings the strongest VO star power to "Kwicky." Welker plays Dirty Dawg, whose partner-in-crime on the mean streets of their city being actual rodent Ratso adds a "Midnight Cowboy" aspect to this "Top Cat" style series about a couple of low-level hustlers constantly scheming while trying to evade hard-ass beat-cop Officer Bullhorn. All this arguably warrants a comparison to "Les Miserable."
The first outing for Dirty and Ratso essentially is a drag plot. Dirty convinces Ratso to masquerade as a small canine to compete in dog show that has a large cash prize. A "sit" that provides some of the "com" revolves around Dirty using classic cartoon tactics to eliminate the competition. Suffice it to say that that the other contenders for "Best in Show" do not react kindly to that sabotage.
We similarly see a scheme backfire on our pair when they succeed in obtaining entry into what seems to be a posh country club for dogs; they discover that karma can be the mother of all bitches. The same is true regarding a plot to chow down on hospital food.
The next best well-known name in the animation world is better known for his role on the classic sitcom "The Brady Bunch." Allan Melvin (a.k.a. Sam the Butcher) plays dim-witted Joey Bungle. His contributions to the continued failure of his act includes responding to George confessing mid-high-dive that he is afraid of water by moving the tub in which his brother is attempting to land.
John Stephenson is the Rodney Dangerfield of the animation world; this relates to his 254 IMDb credits including many classic cartoon series but most people at best knowing him as that guy that was in that thing. Stephenson channels the snarky effeminate persona that Paul Lynde uses for his predatory canine characters in other HB series to play Kwicky foe Wilford Wolf. The success of this sincerest form of flattery succeeds to the extent of untrained ears likely thinking that Lynde voices Wilford.
A "Kwicky" cartoon that appears in an early episode likely is the intended pilot. Our lead breaks the third wall by directly addressing the audience on coming out of his cute little house. He explains that most people incorrectly believe that koalas are slow. We soon learn that they are very fast.
The conflict this time is that Wilford wants to capture Kwicky to collect a large bounty that a hunter is offering for a koala. Wilford uses his cunning, rather than his Acme-style devices and his physical attributes, in his effort to capture his prey.
Last but not least is "Crazy Claws." The most notable aspect of this series about the titular wildcat with almost adamantium-caliber claws is the aforementioned educational element. Park Service employee Ranger Rangerfield works in botany lessons while trying to keep the peace as dastardly Yosemite Sam clone Rawhide Clyde and his snickering floppy-eared hound attempt to stop that feline. Examples of that schooling include how wild flowers grow and why leaves change colors each autumn.
All of this adds up to great nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember eating junk cereal and staying in our pajamas until noon every Saturday so as not to miss a minute of the joy courtesy of Hanna-Barbera and the Krofft Brothers. Thanks to Warner, Millenmials and Gen Zers can experience some of that magic.
Warner Archive pulls a twofer regarding the DVD release of the 1979 original version of "Going in Style." We get a quality comedy that does not resort to sex or cheap laughs for entertainment. We also get a golden boys cast in the form of senior actors in both senses of that word. This dream ensemble is George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. This film also makes a great companion to the Archive DVD of the Carney/Lily Tomlin 1977 noir movie "The Late Show."
The entertainment value of "Style" alone warrants adding this well-remastered DVD to your collection, The clip of Burns and Carney plugging the film on an episode of the Dinah Shore talk show "Dinah and Friends" should seal the deal. This seven minutes in Heaven has Shore being her usual good sport when Carney does a classic Ed Norton bit. Burns perfectly setting up a story about Carney playing pocket pool in a "Style" scene should seal the deal.
Burns is semi-fresh off the success of the 1975 film "The Sunshine Boys" and more fresh off his bigger hit "Oh God." Carney also is basking in the glow of this Oscar-winning performance in "Harry and Tonto" (1974) and his "Show" fame.
Joe (Burns), Al (Carney), and Willie (Strasberg) are fixed-income roommates in a shabby Astoria apartment. They stereotypically spend part of their day feeding pigeons in the park.
Joe watching money wheeled into the bank as he cashes his meager Social Security check has him put two and two together in a manner reminiscent of the real housewives who pull a heist to make ends meet in the 1980 comedy "How to Beat the High Cost of Living."
Joe concludes that a bank robbery is no-lose situation in that the trio enjoys a better standard of living if they succeed and do not experience much of a reversal of fortune if they get caught. Al is a more eager accomplice than Willie, who largely is along for the ride. Willie also checks out soon after the caper.
The main event goes off without a hitch. This venture nets them both fun and profit. Watching Carney especially channel Norton as he grooves out to the tunes of a street steel-drum band is a highlight. Al and Joe subsequently hit Vegas to enjoy their new-found wealth.
Our boys experience reversals of fortune on their return home. Both the law and time are closing in on these senior versions of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton with much less yelling and despair than the originals. The better news is that the past-primetime players have fun and adventure before facing their new normal.
The delight of this "Style" extends beyond seeing Burns and Carney do their bit during their golden years. As mentioned above, this movie entertainingly tells a tale almost as old as time without sacrificing art for commerce. How sweet it is.
The DVD release of "Shazam!: The Complete Live Action Series" provides lovers of good cheesy '70s shows another reason to thank the elders for Warner Archive. This release is nearly as exciting as getting the '70s Hanna-Barbera "Scooby-Doo" clone "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" from Archive a few years ago.
From a more objective perspective, "Shazam!" is similar to the late-80s low-budget syndicated series "The Adventures of Superboy," which has the college boy of steel and his buds battle a buffonish Lex Luther and other baddies. That series also is in the Archive catalog.
The concept behind "Shazam!" is that mid-20s newscaster Billy Batson, played by dreamy teen idol Michael Gray, is the alter-ego of Captain Marvel. Dreamy Jackson Bostwick plays Marvel until being replaced due to an injury late in the second of the series' three seasons.
Billy and his sidekick/advisor Mentor spend their days traveling around in a motor home helping teens and post-adolescents out of jams largely of the younguns' own making. Each story is wrapped up with a moral, delivered by Bostwick through most of the series and by Gray in the final episodes.
Billy is granted his powers, and is guided by, six animated elders who deliver a cryptic message near the beginning of each episode.
The dual significance of "Shazam" is that it is the magic word that Billy, and at least one young and stupid boy in the greater Boston area, shout to transform from an average Joe into the super-powered Captain Marvel and also is the acronym of the names of the elders'. That group consists of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
The two restrictions on the great power that goes along with the great responsibility of being Captain Marvel are that only Mentor can witness the transformation and Billy can only undergo it when it is absolutely necessary.
Plots included a young blind teen and his slightly older brother recognizing the accommodations that the blindness requires and the capabilities that the blind boy retains after losing his sight. Another episode has Captain Marvel setting a good example for a young boy with a history of trespassing to ride a neighbor's horse by volunteering to go to jail for a crime of which he is innocent.
One of the more inadvertently entertaining episodes is a special two-parter in which Billy helps a girl who is trying to help her brother break ties with a middle-aged drug dealer for whom the brother is working. Seeing Billy deny being a "pusher" himself and watching the girl run around with a bag of what is clearly baking soda is very funny 40 years later.
Aside from the underlying message of "drugs are bad; ok," Billy teaches the girl that she should act responsibly by narcing on her bro. merely than by taking his stash.
The third season, which is presented as part of the "Shazam!/Isis Hour," is also fun by having Isis appear in a few "Shazam" episodes to help out Captain Marvel. This is similar to Scooby-Doo and the meddling kids helping the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt when they have a joint show. This wonderfully nostalgic show is also out on DVD.
The bottom line is that "Shazam!" is an awesome example of the fun type of show that broadcast networks used to air on Saturday mornings. This genre has plenty of action and wonderfully low-budget effects.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Shazam!" is encouraged to email me. I am especially eager to hear if anyone transformed into a super hero after yelling "Shazam!"