Holiday Specials

FIR’S 2001 DVD STOCKING-STUFFER LIST

By • Dec 20th, 2001 • Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Share This:

From VCI Home Video: A Christmas Carol – This is the Alastair Sim version, one of a great many, and this release contains the original 86 minute B&W presentation, plus a colorized version, and a bonus holiday short: Max Fleischer’s Technicolor cartoon Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer.

This Dickensian morality tale has been done so often [I even wrote a version myself, called One Bloody Xmas Eve, a gangster version wherein an old hitman gets visited by the Don of the Past, the Don of the Present and the Don of the Future] that one could do a holiday weekend full of ‘Christmas Carols’. Of the many, only George C. Scott’s version (directed by Clive Donner, who edited the Sim version) rivals this one, and that Carol, to my knowledge, is only available on laserdisc and VHS. Brian DesmondHurst’s direction on this one brings out so many charming and telling details from even the most minor players that it’s no wonder the film is so infinitely watchable. Sim alone probably wouldn’t have accounted for its perennial nature. Checking the quality, I skipped over a number of chapters, stopping on Chapter 18, and found myself in tears within two minutes. Richard Addinsell’s melancholy score was in no small way responsible.

The Roan Group obtained the British negative to strike this master, and over there the film was called Scrooge, which is the title of these materials. As to the materials, there are few splices and only a smattering of negative damage here and there, but the transfer is another story. It looks like video, which is not a great recommendation. On side two, the same version is presented colorized, and I amazed myself by liking it quite a lot. Subdued browns dominate, which is fitting, and the choice of making the ghost of the future’s hand deathly pale was brilliant. It was so…7th Seal. Some of the lighting seems too bright in the colorized version, but it’s otherwise most pleasing. And the image actually seems less soft than the B&W one, though it has to be coming from the same original materials.

Also represented is the Max Fleischer’s Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer short, touted as having been shot in Technicolor, but the source material is definitely a color-based negative, grainy and with some wear. The narrator’s voice is full and dynamic, but the various reindeer sound like they’re talking from the back of the sound stage.

From MPI: The Rifleman, Volumes 1 & 2. These are episodes from the 1958-63 series, the titles of which are (Vol 1) Sharpshooter, Home Ranch, End of a young Gun, The Marshall, Duel of Honor, (Vol 2) The Angry Gun, The Sheridan Story, The Money Gun, The Mind Reader, and Bloodlines. Volume 1 has cast biographies. Volume 2 has outtakes. With Chuck Conners, Johnny Crawford, Paul Fix, and with guest stars Dennis Hopper, Leif Erickson, Sidney Blackmer, Harold J. Stone, Jack Elam, Michael Landon, Warren Oates, Vic Morrow, Royal Dano, Buddy Hackett, Denver Pyle, and John Carradine.

The rewards here are manifold. Luscious prints for starters. Seeing some of Sam Peckinpah’s earliest work, already laced with his cynical anti-cliched attitudes about the West, is another. And a collection of bloopers and gag moments from the series (unfortunately cutely edited), which inadvertently gives credible evidence to a long-standing rumor about series star Chuck Conners’ sexuality is the topper.

Back in the 50s and 60s, word had it that the former baseball player was gay. There was even a porno film in circulation that purported to be of Conners in homoerotic action. As with the since-refuted Marilyn Monroe porno film, and the currently-disputed Chuck Berry tape, their quality is so deconstructed that one is reduced to ‘best guess’ status when watching them. But in this five minute amalgam of innocent-enough outtakes, if one refers back to the insight that all humor springs from the psyche, we then witness Conners’ repeated breaks of character mid-take a) to plant a kiss on whoever his male costar happens to be at the moment, or B) to request a kiss. There are hours of outtakes available in DVD land, of cinema notables such as William Powell, Boris Karloff, James Arness, Nimoy and Shatner, Jim Carrey, Jackie Chan, etc., and these line-reading slips, or little intentional gags, always tend to be in character. Therefore Conners’ choices cannot help but make one ponder…

From Artisan: Twin Peaks, Season One – Finally out as a boxed set, this TV season was the most experimental thing to hit the boob tube since The Prisoner back in ’68. Remarkably, both are now available in gorgeous boxed sets. Twin Peaks became a phenomenon from the getgo, unlike The Prisoner, which paradoxically worked against it, since what might have become a great two year stint stretched to four and dissipated itself to the point that it lost most of its devotees and a great deal of its power. By the time it reached its conclusion it had strained its creativity too thin, and dipped perilously into self-parody. Nonetheless few regard this first season as anything less than great TV.

From HBO: The Sopranos, Season 2 – Another terrific adventure in TV, The Sopranos is consistently as good or better than anything one can find in the theaters. Superb casting, wondrous scripts and good direction take us for a long ride with corrupt families from whom we don’t feel appreciably removed. Not only is this a great boxed set to own, but it’s in widescreen format like the first season was. The image looks better than it did on TV.

Continue to page: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Tagged as: , , , , , , ,
Share This Article: Digg it | del.icio.us | Google | StumbleUpon | Technorati

Leave a Comment

(Comments are moderated and will be approved at FIR's discretion, please allow time to be displayed)