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N. N Wahlert "nnwahler" (seattle, wa United States)
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Benny Hills Golden Classics
Benny Hills Golden Classics
DVD ~ Benny Hill
6 used & new from CDN$ 7.04

5.0 out of 5 stars A LASTING TESTAMENT--BUT P L E A S E , MAY WE HAVE MORE??, May 26 2004
This review is from: Benny Hills Golden Classics (DVD)
It's been said that "a clown makes you laugh at him; a genius makes you laugh at yourself." I've always found this a rather narrow-minded view; it's quite possible to be both. Red Skelton & Benny Hill were two such examples. Indeed, one could call Benny Hill "The British Red Skelton." We of the English-speaking world spit on our clowns & mimes too much; we'd do well to take an example from the French & Italians (check out Fellini's awesome '71 documentary, "The Clowns").
TV comedy had two great auteurs: Ernie Kovacs & Benny Hill. By "auteur," I mean both had complete ability to time, pace & frame a good pantomime sight-gag. But at the risk of being a Benedict Arnold to my fellow Americans, I have to say Benny Hill's achievements outstrip Kovacs'--if mainly for the reason Kovacs died too young. Both men literally drank themselves to death: Kovacs, while driving home drunk from a party; Hill, from ITV's cancellation of his 21-year-old show, represented in the present volume.....his enforced early retirement had him smoking, eating, and drinking himself to death.
Forget Rowan Atkinson; he's a rank amateur compared with Hill's acumen for laugh-till-you-cry, uproarious slapstick entertainment. Here are the classic sketches that solidified his reputation....."Charlene's Angels"; "Super-Teech"; "Horny Boy-Scout Picnic"; "Hill's Angels: New York, New York"; "Hill's Angels: Enough Is Enough"; "The Stripper Clown"; "Clown & Ballerina"; "Wonder Granny Vs. Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde"; "Mr. Chow Mein: Chinese Opera Company"; "Hill's Angels: Pleasure Cruise"; "The Gay Caballero"; and many more.
But, by way of an open letter to Thames TV/HBO Video: PLEASE, people, may we have a DVD release of the great Hill sketches that NEVER made it onto home video?......Gems like "Foreign TV Commercial Goof-Ups"; "Wonder Granny Vs. Count Dracula"; "Mr. Chow Mein: Kung Fu Movie Director"; "Leprechaun Television (The Irish Independent TV Station)"; "Eurovision Song Contest"; "Lovely Lulubelle (The W.C.Fields Song)"; "Charlie's 92nd Birthday Celebration"; "The Woodstick Music Fair"; "Tex Cymbal, Rock Star"; and lots more??

Black Adder, Vol. 1
Black Adder, Vol. 1
DVD ~ Rowan Atkinson
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 33.82
11 used & new from CDN$ 9.84

5.0 out of 5 stars THE FIRST SEASON WILL ALWAYS BE THE BEST......, March 14 2004
This review is from: Black Adder, Vol. 1 (DVD)
The original "Black Adder" is one of the marvels of contemporary TV comedy (actually, it's now 21 years old). Brimming with imagination, intellect, and that irresistible grotesqueness known as British humor, it has everything going for it. For whatever reason, star Rowan Atkinson decided to quit writing his own material after this series (he relinquished that chore to upstart Ben Elton, whose name--at least in my book--will live in infamy as the man whose scathing 1986 critique of the great Benny Hill helped trigger the demise of the latter's classic sketch series.....it's never good form for one comic to criticize another).
But the present DVD's a wholly different ballgame. The premiere episode in particular is itself worth the price: apart from the title character here being almost as mentally inept as his erstwhile assistant Baldrick, it features the incomparable Peter Cook as a murdered nobleman whose severed head comes back to haunt the twerpish Edmund Blackadder; many series fans are turned off by the visual unbearability of the gory humor. MY constitution's robust enough to withstand it. Indeed, it's an awful pity those cheapos at the BBC cut the series' budget after the first year, forcing all episodes to be videotaped on the same set, episode after episode. Here the combination of interior AND exterior shots provide the necessary variety. (Funny thing--great as British comedy is to many of us Americans, it was ironically their style of TV comedy that led to stateside TV comedy's artistic downfall, with loads of visually stagnant fare.)
Never mind: Here's one of the supreme treasures of boob-tube comedy.

Hair (Widescreen/Full Screen)
Hair (Widescreen/Full Screen)
DVD ~ John Savage
Offered by raremoviefindercanada
Price: CDN$ 46.99
12 used & new from CDN$ 8.13

5.0 out of 5 stars A REAL "TREAT" OF A MOVIE MUSICAL, Dec 10 2003
This was one of the biggest movie surprises of the late 70s. It's absolutely incredible, the scope of a director who can follow up the cramped quarters & pent-up energies of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," with the exlplosion of the psychedelic generation in "Hair." But Milos Forman accomplished just that.
Forman imbues this movie musical with distinctive touches all his own: particularly the dizzying 360-degree spin around the lead singer in the opening "Age Of Aquarius" number; the endearing comedy of the "Black Boys/White Boys" number; protagonist Bukowski's drug initiation in the extended "Hare Krishna" number; and (my very favorite) the unexplainable warmth and human celebration of the "Good Morning, Starshine" number (shot entirely in close-ups and medium shots, in a convertible car!). The emotional lift experienced when the camera finally trucks back from a group of characters we've come to know & love, is beyond words.
Twyla Tharp adds her renowned choreography to all songs; director Forman gave her a free rein on all of them.
This disc has both the formatted & widescreen versions; the latter is obviously preferable.
It'll be fascinating to many who've only been familiar with Treat Williams, John Savage & Beverly D'Angelo through their subsequent work, that they're ALL terrific singers & dancers!

Christmas Carol, a
Christmas Carol, a
VHS
Offered by Media_Mom_Canada
Price: CDN$ 29.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 19.51

2.0 out of 5 stars RECOMMENDED IF YOU'RE NOSTALGIC FOR THE 80s, Nov. 12 2003
This review is from: Christmas Carol, a (VHS Tape)
This adaptation can be seen now as purely a product of its era: the Materialistic Reagan Eighties. (In fact, this & Bill Murray's '88 "Scrooged" make an ideal double-feature.) Critics at the time (mostly the TV sort) did handstands over this umpteenth take on Dickens' classic, some even saying it was better than any other version.
I WILL come out and say the one good thing about this film is that it sent me back to reading the original book (I'd endured two adaptations that year--this, and the first Muppet version, from '92 with Michael Caine). But the script for this one simply PRETENDS to be a faithful adaptation: it's told primarily from Scrooge's perspective.....we're supposed to "bah" to his every "humbug" and vice versa. And Scott's performance is worthy of a Nicholson in "The Shining"--all high camp, with the star sparing no opportunity to chew the scenery and mug shamelessly at every close-up. Needless to say, the Great Scott's done better elsewhere. There's no real RANGE to this performance--even at the climactic meeting with the Ghost-Of-Christmas-Yet-To-Come, he seems unfazed. Scott's Scrooge doesn't seem to be a changed man in the end--I'm fully expecting him to FIRE Bob Cratchit Dec. 26!!
The lesson to be learned here? Ebenezer Scrooge isn't Wile E. Coyote.
(Oh yeah--Scott's English accent is unconvincing......perhaps even nonexistent?)

Firemen's Ball (Full Screen) [Import]
Firemen's Ball (Full Screen) [Import]
DVD ~ Jan Vostrcil
Offered by MusicMoviesAndMore
Price: CDN$ 23.24
20 used & new from CDN$ 15.96

5.0 out of 5 stars COULD BE FORMAN'S GREATEST EVER (& THAT SAYS A WHOLE LOT!), Oct. 9 2003
He may be bathing in millions on account of his big Oscar wins for "Amadeus" & "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"--but director Milos Forman perfected his basic style with films like this, one of the most cherishable little comedies ever made. Indeed, its hour-and-fifteen-minute length makes one crave reliving this warm and extremely human story again and again.
Made while Forman was still living under Communist rule in Czecholslovakia, "Fireman's Ball" was meant as a satire of government bureaucracy, though the story can be enjoyed purely at face value. The firemen are pathetic pillars of the community who engage in endless and logic-bending arguments over ridiculous little points, desperately nabbing any reluctant teenage girls for the beauty pageant; while the people outside are enjoying and upsetting the ball (even stealing all of the edible raffle prizes) to their hearts' content. Everybody's concerned only with himself or herself......until an outside siren leads everybody to a fire destroying an old man's house. Finally, everyone seems united in a common cause. The tragedy of the story--as well as the Czech people--is driven home.
Absolutely wonderful transfer--those of us who've caught it in infrequent TV broadcasts (notably on the USA network) have had to endure white subtitles obscured in decrepit-quality prints, or lost in the screen detail. Here they are completely readable. The interviews with Forman & his erstwhile photographer Miroslav Ondricek are enlightening. My one complaint is that this Criterion Collection edition doesn't give us Forman's original English-language introduction, appended to original American & British prints of the film (he looked quite stylish in a beard).
Amazing, too, that this film uses no professionals among its actors--simply friends and even schoolboy pals of Forman's.

Spy Vs. Spy: The Complete Casebook
Spy Vs. Spy: The Complete Casebook
by Antonio Prohias
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 48.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PROHIAS WAS A RARE SPIRIT, Oct. 5 2003
In my early MAD Magazine days, I naturally took to the more visually-oriented stuff (Don Martin, Aragones's "drawn-out dramas," etc.); the movie & TV satires I didn't graduate to till I began actually watching the stuff they satirized. Among the former things above, Antonio Prohias's iconic spies ruled the day.
I know the strip wasn't to everyone's taste; I guess it's a matter of being reared in the uninihibitedly-violent era of cartoon humor I grew up in. Indeed, there's something rather childish about the bonk-about retaliation engaged in by Prohias's venerable creations (I'll confess- I was always rooting for the White Spy!!--I guess he fought DIRTIER).
But there's another side to Prohias many will find relevatory. He fled to the US from Cuba in 1959 to escape arrest & execution by Castro; this book does show us his earlier strip, "Tovarich," depicting a despicable Soviet dictator meant as indirect reference to the situation of Prohias's native country. Other entries in this book show "one-shot" cartoons he did for MAD: One such article is "The Pearl." Not many have seen this cartoon, but its 2 pages are potent stuff indeed. It's an incredible story of a deep-sea diver who kills an octopus to claim a pearl; the diver's pummelled by a one-eyed old salt, who rides the high seas and whose lifeless hand provides a sunbather with the stolen clam; the sunbather's given one too many strong drinks by a floozy, who nabs the clam; she's shot to death by the bartender. He breaks open the clam, only to find a paper advertisement for Earl's Pearl Shop!
Powerful stuff, and you'll see more of the same in "Spy Vs. Spy--The Complete Casebook." He's no longer with us, but Prohias's work collectively tells us a whole lot about human greed and oppression.

Laugh-in Boxed Set 1
Laugh-in Boxed Set 1
DVD ~ Dan Rowan
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 146.00
9 used & new from CDN$ 95.67

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LAUGH-IN S T I L L RULES!!!, Oct. 5 2003
This review is from: Laugh-in Boxed Set 1 (DVD)
What a joy to see these things (mostly) uncut after 30 years' time. When I was a grade-schooler growing up in the late sixties, my parents always sent me to bed a 9 p.m. Mondays, so they could watch "that dirty show." Now I can fully appreciate this show from its "heyday" period (when I was "old enough"--circa 1971--producer George Schlatter was practically pressured out). Unbelievably zany, inside-out visual humor: co-host Dick Martin said they didn't desire to do "televised radio," and made it as visually imaginitive as they possibly could, and THEN some.
Believe me, the visually boring"innovations" of Norman Lear ("All In The Family," "The Jeffersons") are a fraud in comparison to the provocative stuff that Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, George Schlatter & the gang could do every week. And what a cavalcade of great comedic talent! Do we have ANYONE today who can measure up to Jo Anne Worley, Alan Sues, Arte Johnson, and Ruth Buzzi?

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