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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Back to Part One

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Classic Reviews Round-Up #37 and New Announcements (continued)

Less successfully resurrected is The Streets of San Francisco whose Season 1, Volume 1 Paramount/CBS has now released on DVD in a four-disc set containing 16 episodes.

The Streets of San Francisco: Season 1, Volume 1

This time we have an older curmudgeonly cop with plenty of experience on the force (Karl Malden) teamed with a young, enthusiastic investigator (Michael Douglas) with all the baggage such teamings invoke. Together they take on the usual range of crimes that characterize big cities. The first season was originally telecast in 1972-73 - 35 years ago, but from a plot line point-of-view, the shows feel fairly up to date. The virtual father-son cop relationship seems tired, however, and although the shows make good use of location shooting in San Francisco, we've seen the city in films so often that, like New York, it's no longer enough to sell a series. The DVD image looks a little tired too. It's sharp enough, but colours are a bit lifeless and there's more speckling and debris evident than in most other Paramount/CBS TV releases of the same or earlier vintages. The mono sound is quite adequate in terms of clarity and tone. The special features are limited to a brief Army Archerd interview with Malden and Douglas and a promo for the pilot episode.

I Love Lucy: The Final Seasons - 7, 8 & 9

Another constant in the history of TV is the comedy show. I Love Lucy is of course one of the classics and Paramount/CBS have completed bringing the series to DVD with the release of The Final Seasons: 7, 8 & 9. The set comprises the 13 hour-long shows (known first as The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show and later as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour) released during the 1958-1960 period as a follow-up to the six seasons of half-hour I Love Lucy shows that concluded in the spring of 1957. Despite the added length, these 13 shows maintain the same winning combination that made I Love Lucy such a success. Lucy is as unpredictable and outrageous as ever; the long-suffering Desi gets to shine occasionally from both a comedy and musical number point of view; and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as Ethel and Fred Mertz provide reliable and comfortable comedy back-up. The success of the Lucy shows and her and Desi's influence in the industry ensured that top-rank guest stars appeared on every show - Hedda Hopper, Ann Sothern, Rudy Vallee, Tallulah Bankhead, Fred MacMurray, June Haver, Betty Grable, Harry James, Fernando Lamas, Maurice Chevalier, Danny Thomas, Red Skelton, Paul Douglas, Ida Lupino, Howard Duff, Milton Berle, Bob Cummings, Ernie Kovacs, and Edie Adams. The extra length of the shows allowed extended plotlines that found Lucy and the gang frequently on the move, to such locales as Havana, Las Vegas, Sun Valley, Mexico, Alaska, Vermont and Japan. While all the shows are very diverting, the best of the bunch are "Lucy Goes to Sun Valley" (where Lucy makes guest star Fernando Lamas's life difficult), "Lucy Makes Room for Danny" (the Ricardos, Mertzes, and the Danny Thomas TV family all end up in court), "Lucy Wins a Racehorse" (Betty Grable and Harry James get mixed up in Lucy's scheme to make a horse she won in a contest a winner at the racetrack), and "Lucy's Summer Vacation" (Lucy and Desi end up sharing a cabin in Vermont with Ida Lupino and Howard Duff). As with previous I Love Lucy DVD releases, this new set looks top notch reflecting its original taped broadcasting rather than being live. There are a few speckles, but image clarity and contrast is very good and the shows look about as good as they ever did. The mono sound is a very good shape too. There is an abundance of supplementary material including such things as flubs, cast and crew biographies, original series openings and closings, and deleted scenes. Of most interest is a presentation by Desilu to honor Westinghouse's new sponsorship of the Lucy/Desi program. The principal cast members appear, pretty much in character, as part of a tour of the Desilu studio facilities. The other unique feature is colour footage of the set and a performance taken during 1951. Recommended.

Funniest Moments of Comedy

Lucy also makes several appearances in a new box set from Reader's Digest (distributed by Questar) entitled Funniest Moments of Comedy. It's a six-disc set totaling some ten hours of content that focuses mainly on TV programming, but also includes some movie material as well. The material is all clips or skits lifted, mainly in their entirety, from the original programs in which they appeared and framed by some supporting narrative. Nominally, it's organized as follows: Disc 1 - Favorite Moments of the Stars and Slapstick, Disc 2 - The Golden Age of Comedy, Disc 3 - What Made America Laugh, Disc 4 - Laugh? I Thought I'd Die!, Disc 5 - TV Comedy Classics, and Disc 6 - Unexpected Bloopers and Blenders. Aside from Disc 2 which is devoted to movie comedy and Disc 6 which focuses on miscues both from TV and movies, the material on the other four discs is mainly all TV-based comedy sequences and not particularly well organized. One is as likely to find a favorite comedy bit on one disc as another despite how the discs are titled. The sort of items you'll find in the set include: Carol Burnett's "Went with the Wind", Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?", Jackie Geason on rollerskates in "The Honeymooners", the Coneheads on "Family Feud" from "Saturday Night Live", Lucy promoting Metavitavegamin on an "I Love Lucy" episode, plus appearances from the likes of Burns and Allen, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Tim Conway, Phil Silvers, Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Steve Allen, Bob Newhart, Steve Martin, and so on. There's no doubt there's a wealth of great classic material in the set and I think comedy fans will be happy with the content provided one can get around the haphazard organization of it. Unfortunately there's only superficial chapter organization provided, allowing one to go to a favourite performer but not any specific comedy bit. The material is all presented full frame which is how it was originally broadcast or filmed, but the image quality is rather spotty. Some sequences are quite acceptable, but too many are soft or debris-laden. Similarly the mono sound varies from clear to scratchy. The idea for a giant comedy collection was a good one and the content of this one is pretty much all one could ask for, but the presentation in this case is sadly lacking.


New Announcements

The news this time is pretty sparse as it's been a quiet few weeks on the release front even from Warner Bros. As usual, the Classic Coming Attractions Database has been updated and sources for this edition of the column include studio press releases and websites, personal contacts, internet newsgroups, online retailers, and DVD news sites (The Digital Bits, the Home Theater Forum, DVD Times, TVShowsonDVD.com, and creepyclassics.com among others).

A&E has the Thunderbirds: 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Megaset planned for a July 31st release. It will contain all 32 episodes ever made on 12 discs, plus several bonus features including two 1965 making-of featurettes.

Following up its recently-released American Slapstick Giftset, All Day Entertainment now plans to issue Harry Langdon - Lost and Found. It will be a four-disc set containing 16 shorts from his period at the Mack Sennett Studios 1924-1926 and his first feature His First Flame (1926). Also included will be a new documentary on Langdon's career and various sound-era Langdon miscellany. The set should be released late in 2007.

Criterion's August plans include its fifth Eclipse release coming on the 14th, The First Films of Samuel Fuller which encompasses The Baron of Arizona (1950, with Vincent Price), I Shot Jesse James (1949, with Preston Foster), and The Steel Helmet (1951, with Gene Evans) - three titles long anticipated from Criterion. The company's regular release line in August features Luis Bunuel's The Milky Way (1969) on August 21st and possibly Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1959, with Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo) although the latter is unconfirmed as yet.

According to CreepyClassics.com, Fox will offer a Hallowe'en promotion box set early this fall comprising Chandu the Magician (1932, with Bela Lugosi), The Undying Monster (1942), The Lodger (1944, with Laird Cregar), Hangover Square (1945, with Laird Cregar), and Man Hunt (1941, with Walter Pidgeon and George Sanders). I'm not quite sure how the latter title fits into a Hallowe'en promotion, but it's welcome nonetheless.

Image has a July 3rd release set for All My Babies, the 1952 documentary (about an African-American midwife) that became an enduring classic and was used around the world by UNESCO.

Kino plans to release Silent Britain (2006 BBC Four documentary on the early years of silent film in Britain) along with A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929 British silent feature film directed by Anthony Asquith) late in 2007.

Lionsgate's Brigitte Bardot: 5-Film Collection is set for August 7th. It will include the films: Naughty Girl (1956), Love on a Pillow (1962), The Vixen (1969), Come Dance with Me (1959), and Two Weeks in September (1967). Also coming then is the Luis Bunuel: 2-Disc Collector's Edition which will contain Gran Casino (1947) and La Joven (1960).

Serial fans should be aware that an outfit called Restored Serials has begun issuing restorations of serials on DVD under the logo "Super Restoration Series". To date, The Adventures of Sir Galahad (1949, Columbia) and The Green Archer (1940, Columbia) have benefited from the company's efforts. I'll be reviewing the latter one in a future column, but my initial impression is favourable.

Sony has 20 Million Miles to Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition planned for a July 31st release. It will be a two-disc special edition containing both full frame and anamorphic (1.85:1) versions of the film, as well as a newly-colorized edition. Supplements are expected to include a commentary with legendary special effects master Ray Harryhausen and a video interview with Harryhausen conducted by director Tim Burton. According to CreepyClassics.com, Sony will offer a box set as a Hallowe'en promotion early this fall including The Werewolf (1956, with Steven Rich), Creature with the Atom Brain (1955, with Richard Denning), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), The Giant Claw (1957), and one other title yet to be announced.

Universal will have a double feature release on September 18th combining Anne of the Thousand Days (1969, with Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold) with Mary, Queen of Scots (1971, with Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson). The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972, with Cliff Robertson and Robert Devall) arrives on September 25th.

The anticipated street date is June 26th for two more entries in VCI's film noir line-up. Coming then are: Hammer Film Noir Double Feature Volume 6 and Hammer Film Noir Double Feature Volume 7. The former contains The Black Glove (1954, with Alex Nicol) and The Deadly Game (1955, with Lloyd Bridges) while the latter has The Unholy Four (1954, with Paulette Goddard) and Race for Life (1954, with Richard Conte). Both volumes will also be included in Hammer Film Noir Double Feature: Collector's Set 2 which contains Volumes 4 through 7 and will be released at the same time. Also coming then is the British-made The Glass Mountain (1949, with Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison).

Warner Bros. is set to release the two-disc Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection: Volume Three on September 11th. A set of all three volumes so far available will also appear on the same date.

Well, that's it for now. I'll be back again soon.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com
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