Tuesday, February 21, 2006


...media roundup time again!
That's right Shelfers- it's time for a quick look at the choice offerings hitting the stores this week. We at the Shelf have filtered out the unworthy and have a list to recommend to you, thereby eliminating all the costly leg work and research. Your price? Why it's free to all Shelfers! If that's not getting your money's worth, I don't know what is.

Paramount Comedy series
(Top Shelf pick of the week)
These two DVD sets are brought to you by Kino video, who has done some outstanding sets from favorite silent comedy stars like Stan Laurel (in his early career sans Ollie) and Charly Chase. First up is Robert Benchley and the Knights of the Algonquin. This set of comedy shorts mostly feature Robert Benchley and a few star a couple of his cohorts from that famous intellectual and arts round table of the Algonquin. I have become a great fan of Benchley in the last few years as I have been delighted to see several of his comedy shorts packaged as bonus features on some of the special edition DVD produced by Warner Brothers in the last few years. Benchley is usual presented as a commentator lecturing about some of the banalities and trivalities of everyday life. As he narrates, Benchley also appears as the everyman who has to battle these various obstacles that seem to befuddle and frustrate him at every turn. Very funny stuff, as Benchely has a flair for written and visual. Also recommended with Benchley (if you can order it from Amazon or Disney) Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio. This DVD has the 1941 Disney live action Feature: The Reluctant Dragon which stars Benchley as he tries to recommend a story to Disney for an animated feature. Along the way Benchley tours the studio as he discovers how animation works. Classic Disney and classic Benchley.
Next up from Kino: Calvacade of Comedy: 16 comedy shorts featuring legends such as Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and Milton Berle. Take a trip back to see these stars in transition from vaudville to radio and to the silver screen. Early television shows like the Jack Benny show and the Burns and Allen show and others were successes because of the intense and extensive experience of these great comedians. Some some of these shorts will seem outdated and the jokes a little shopworn, but it's a wonderful glimpse into the roots of american comedy.

Speaking of comedy roots; The Dick Cavett Show - Comic Legends is a DVD set that features several of Cavetts interviews with comedy stars such as Benny, Groucho (3 episodes with Groucho himself- a Cavett favorite), Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and many more. A wonderful collection for the classic comedy enthusiast.

Daddy Long Legs
Fred Astaire is a wealthy benefactor to a young French orphan, played by Leslie Caron. He pays for her college studies, and signs each letter to her "Daddy Long Legs". Eventually (could you have guesses) a May-December romance blossoms when the girl grows up and they meet. Features include commentary by Fred's daughter Ava and film historian Ken Barnes and Fox movietone Newsreels.

Pin-up Girl
Who was that famous picture of in World War II. You know the gal in the bathing suit with the gams that didn't quit that was on the wall of every servicemans barracks from here to Europe and the Pacific? Why that was Betty Grable, of course. Pin-up girl is very light musical comedy fare, but is done well. Features Martha Raye, Joe E. Brown and Shelf Favorite character actor Eugene Palallete (My Man Godfrey, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Lady Eve) in supporting roles.

If you like controversy and social commentary and politics in your films, go no further than these special editions of Midnight Cowboy from MGM and All the President's Men from Warners. All the President's Men will eventually be sold in the Controversial Classics: Volume 2 box set (Volume 1 is excellent - a must have). Midnight Cowboy and All the President's Men are packed with features and commentary. With all the revelations about Deep Throat, etc in the past year or so- it should be interesting to see how that is incorporated into the extras. You might get more entertainment than the daily fictions perpetuated in the news media. Hey, I'm walkin' here!

Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memiors of Major Dick Winters. Althought this has been out since Feb. 7th, we did not want to neglect it here. If you have either read Stephen Ambrose's book Band of Brothers or seen the HBO mini-series of the same name, you are familiar with Major Winters. Here, for the first time, is the account in the words of Major Winters. The only man to be active from the formation of Easy Company through the end of World War II, Winters is a humble, plain spoken man. Most, if any, praise offered in this memoir is for his fellow soldiers rather than himself. Amazingly enough, some critics are lambasting Winters for not being exciting enough or expounding upon himself and his story instead of just sticking to the story. Umm- hello? Shall we repeat the whole culture of lies exposition of a few weeks ago? Frey could learn a thing or two here. Sad thing is, we won't see Winters on the talk show circuit anytime soon.

Marx out of Print (thanks Pita)
This website was brought to our attention by Shelfer Pita, and it is a site to behold. Many rare and "out of print" articles about the Marx Brothers. Check it out.

TCM (Check local listings for times)
Feb. 22- The Naked Spur: Another great Anthony Mann western with James Stewart.
Feb. 23- My Favorite Wife: Screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.
Manhattan Melodrama: William Powell and Myrna Loy's first film together. Oh yeah, it also has Clark Gable.
Feb. 24- Swing Time: Classic Astaire and Rogers
Feb. 25- How the West Was Won: 'Nuff said. Hondo: John Wayne and dog!
Feb. 26- Captain Blood: Errol Flynn's first swashbuckler. Adam's Rib: Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn star as married lawyers on opposite sides of a case.
Feb. 27- The Lion in Winter: Peter O'Toole and Kathern Hepburn as royals Henry II and Eleanor in a medievil battle of wills.
Eat, drink, watch and be merry!

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

That dog don't take to pettin', son.

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