Thursday, November 04, 2004

We Are DVDs, If You Please

I apologize for not blogging much recently (the problem with blogging entirely about old stuff is that the impetus to blog usually comes from something new happening -- and when your blog is about "nothing new," well, bang goes your motivation). Will get some essays n' stuff up soon.

Meanwhile, here are some random points about upcoming DVDs of old stuff:

- The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection, due this Tuesday, doesn't appear to be much of a box set in comparison to the products that other studios are putting out (like WB's set of the later Marx movies, which made a great product out of an overall less good group of films). According to people who have seen the set, the only bonus features are about 15 minutes' worth of interviews from the Today show -- which, absurdly, get a whole disc to themselves -- and none of the missing footage in Animal Crackers and Horse Feathers has been rediscovered. (Animal Crackers suffered cuts when it was reissued after the implementation of the Hays Code; Horse Feathers also lost a scene to the Hays Code, and frames were lost in another scene for unknown reasons.) However, contrary to a bizarre newspaper item that said that "insensitive" material would be cut from Duck Soup, people who have seen the set report that that movie is uncut. Basically it's a set that preserves the movies as seen on VHS and TV, with the picture slightly but not spectacularly improved. Buy it for the movies and watch the special features on the WB set.

- If you're wondering why I've said that I think Boy Meets World was a good show, the second season gives some idea of what I mean: it switched the location from junior high to high school and made the kids grow up rather quickly (one of the few shows that ever made kids age faster, rather than slower), and solidified the characters, as well as its ability to build episodes around themes without coming off as preachy. I'm not saying it's an all-time classic, but it's excellent sitcom writing: well-structured stories, interesting characters, and above all laughs that don't come from obvious "jokes" but from character-specific lines and actions. If you find a place that rents TV shows, it might be worth a look. One I particularly like is "The Beard," where Cory is asked to play Cyrano for a school bully with a poetic streak; the A and B stories are intertwined and connected by the theme of men learning that women need to feel appreciated, and almost every laugh comes from something unexpected, rather than cookie-cutter sitcom lines.

- WB has announced a collection of their classic gangster movies, along with the usual commentaries, featurettes, and bonus cartoons and shorts from the year the film was made. Nothing bad can be said about this, particularly since The Public Enemy will be the original version, not the cut version issued after the Hays Code was implemented.

- Finally, coming in distant February, a disc of what might possibly be the funniest movie ever made (I'm not saying it is, just that it's a candidate), Preston Sturges' The Palm Beach Story. It's one of those "oldies" that seems to appeal very strongly to people who don't normally go in for old movies -- perhaps because it seems to fit in with postmodern, age-of-irony sensibilities in the way it simultaneously parodies the conventions of movie comedies (like the ridiculous tacked-on twists that provide a happy ending for everyone) while accepting them. Plus it's got the "Ale and Quail Club," which everybody seems to love.

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