Random notes on a random day...
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I know this is early, but being that it is close to Christmas, TV has naturally offered quite a bit of childhood "bling" to jaw about on Santa's lap. Some of the toys I have seen offered are quite cool. Others are perplexing. Some of it is downright disturbing. Hey, parents? Let your kids have a childhood. Don't give them stuff that makes adults uncomfortable. Let 'em be kids. Also- note to Santa- ever thought about posting a height and weight limit next to your chair? They do it at Disney World. Might help out the lumbago and get those parent's basement-dwelling, unemployed "big kids" off your case. Hey, if you are past "intro to hormone" stage and can legally work to earn Christmas money give the jolly fat man a break. If you're into the lap thing- keep that at home. We've seen you at the mall. Yes, it's cute for you and your high school pals to get a picture with ol' SC. But have you seen the man's medical bills? They must be horrible. And he probably doesn't have good insurance. It's got to be difficult to find a group plan for an old married couple, hundreds of elves, and a flying sleigh with flying reindeer.
But I digress...
This time of year is a virtual cornucopia of DVD offerings for film buffs. Here is a very short must list for any Shelfer. Of course, our own list is longer. You may add titles according to your tastes.
Warner's Classic Holiday Collection is a must have. Get this straight: these are CHRISTMAS movies. Those of you offended that someone made a Christmas movie- get over it. Move along nothing for you to see here. Why they had to call it a "holiday" collection is beyond me- no Thanksgiving movies here. The 3 DVD set includes Spencer Tracy's Boys Town, Barbara Stanwyk's screwball comedy, Christmas in Connecticut, and the early 1938 classic A Christmas Carol starring Reginald Owen (Admiral Boom from Mary Poppins), Leo G. Carroll (the Professor in North by Northwest) and June Lockhart (c'mon people! Lassie, Lost in Space, Petticoat Junction? ) in first screen role. All for less than $30. At that price, Santa can give it as a Thanksgiving treat so we can gather round and watch while eating leftovers and pumpkin pie.
The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 continues the tradition of DVD superiority that the first two volumes established. Tho' packed with features, interviews, documentaries, and commentary, its the shorts that are what 'ya come home fer. The four disc set contains many historical shorts that have never made it to either VHS or DVD, including Warner's first cartoon short: the black and white Sinkin' in the Bathtub. Also included are the first appearances for Porky, Foghorn Leghorn, and Daffy in his first starring role in a cartoon. Do yourself a favor- put it on your list or sneak it onto your kid's list before they mail it to the North Pole.
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection is a fantastic set from a very different chubby man- sans whiskers and red suit. This set hit the stores just last month and it features 14 of Hitch's films. Many of them are some of his best like Vertigo, The Birds, and Rear Window. Several other less than great films like Topaz and Family Plot round out the set, dubiously included as part of this "masterpiece collection". If you are a Hitch fan, as we are here at the Shelf, it is a no-brainer purchase. If you tend to pick and choose over your Hitchcock films, like a vegan at a Golden Corral buffet, you might want to pick up your favorites as single purchases. To truly create a great Hitch collection get this along with The Signature Collection, which contains some of Hitchcock's best; including Strangers on a Train, North By Northwest (a Shelf Top pick classic), and Dial M for Murder. It may seem somewhat pricey, but for a film buff, 23 films by one of cinema's best directors for less than $150 is a sound investment for a collection. They are at the top of my Christmas list.
Also on our list:
For Dean Martin fans: The Matt Helm Lounge DVD set contains all of Dean's campy spy films. He played the spy with tongue firmly planted in check way before a certain Mr. Powers arrived on the scene. The set contains all four spy spoof films, of which The Silencers is perhaps the best.
A true cinema icon, the original King Kong is available in both a single Collector's Edition and in a Collection set with The Mighty Joe Young and Son of Kong. Fay Wrey never looked so good- a DVD set with plenty of extras.
For pure silent comedy genius you can't go wrong with Harold Lloyd. The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Box set features all eleven silent feature films and many of his shorts. A bonus disc filled with features including interviews, retrospectives, some of Lloyd's own home movies and some of his photography. (What? You didn't know that Lloyd was an accomplished photographer as well? It's time to turn in your "Pop Culture Gadfly" membership card!) Harold Lloyd's famous short, Safety Last (You know, the one where he is hanging from the huge clock on the side of the building?), is just the tip of the iceberg. If you only know silent comedy as featuring Charlie Chaplin, you don't know much, brother. Introduce yourself to one of the greats, alongside Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Don't forget those books and CDs!
It has been hard finding a excellent book on Dean Martin, as well as Jerry Lewis. I think a book has arrived that just might be the ticket. Dean and Me: A Love Story was written by Lewis and is a seemingly candid portrait of their partnership, and a loving tribute to his friend Dino. If you are a fan- ask Santa to bring you this one post haste.
By the way Santa, a great stocking stuffer would be Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall. This recently discovered set of records by Monk and Coltrane are a jazz lovers find. Taped at a benefit in 1957, this performance ended up sitting in the National Archives for years. The CD shows Monk and Coltrane in rare form- a burgeoning master and a musician in transition, Coltrane had left Miles Davis and was now finding a grove with the complex master of music Monk. The two fed off each other's energy and you can hear Coltrane starting to break free and find his sound. Santa- don't leave this one in the sleigh.
Link Specials on the Shelf Menu today:
Along with your apple pie you can enjoy a little scoop of spoiler pix goodness for those of you eagerly awaiting Spiderman 3 .
A tough chew item on the menu: This is another sign that traditional newspaper comics are continuing their gradual descent into oblivion. In our ever-be-so-humble opinion they ruined Cartoon Network- this is just the next step. You might need the Tums after you read it.
Lastly, in the hard to swallow category of our menu: seems as if the Evil Twin plan works.
Enjoy the midweek, Shelfers. For your delight: a new "Classic Six Degrees" Competition for this week. Connect a current actor/actress to a star from classic films in six films or less. Today's challenge: Connect Billy Crystal to Abbott and Costello. Difficulty- no narration on Documentaries or Bio-pics. Good Luck. As always - post answers and/or comments in the comments section.
I'm neither poor nor innocent.