Yes, Shelfers its time for another edition of media roundup. Some very interesting selections and a few box sets that might be worth your while, and a duo release for Top Shelf Pick of the Week. Either way, if you are a Gene Wilder fan- this is your week. Hope your piggy bank is full.
Top Shelf Pick of The Week
Gene Wilder's The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother and The World's Greatest Lover.
This is the first DVD debut for both of these films, the firsts of Gene Wilder's directing efforts. In 1975, Wilder was just 1 year away from having done both Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. For little kids, like me, during that time his voice was somewhat recognizable, as he was the voice of "Letterman" on the PBS kid's show The Electric Company. And most kids knew him as Willy Wonka from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory which appeared in 1971. In the short 6 years since his co-starring turn in The Producers in 1968 to 1974's Young Frankenstein, Wilder was in the midst of a rising career and in many ways, a diverse one. He added to that diversity with directing, something which believe it or not wasn't always a popular thing for a rising star to do in those times. A flop could possibly hurt chances at future roles.
Smarter Brother wasn't exactly a box office smash- this was the year of the $260 Million giant (US box office take) known as Jaws after all- but it was successful, grossing $20 Million in US receipts. This was also the year of some other great films, Monthy Python and the Holy Grail, Return of the Pink Panther (my favorite of the series), Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, and the last two films from John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn and The Shootist. Many of these films and some others released this year did respectably well, but in time gained cult status. (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, perhaps the most cult of cult films, also debuted in 1975.) Although not the money maker that other films were, Wilder's directing debut was a solid performer. It never really became much a feature in the Home Theater Market- a hard to find VHS and a small DVD release in Europe. But now, all is rectified. Perhaps you've never heard of this film- you should have. Gene Wilder's Smarter Brother has steadily gained more of a following as years have gone by, and with good reason.
Smarter Brother is a quirky, funny film that makes good use not only of Gene Wilder and his terrifically flawed, yet endearing comedic hero- but also of other Mel Brooks stalwarts such as the beautiful Madeline Khan, the wonderfully crazy Marty Feldman, and the lovable Dom DeLuise. Wilder plays the titular role of Sigerson Holmes- Sherlock's younger and smarter brother. Never heard of Sigerson? Well, neither had Watson- but as Sherlock tells him, You didn't know I had a brother named Mycroft until I found it necessary to tell you." Sigerson is very jealous of his older brother's fame and sets out to get some recognition of his own by solving a case aided by a strange Scotland Yard Detective, Sgt. Orville Sacker (Feldman) and an actress, Jenny Hill (Khan). An excellent comedy that has gained more fans as the years have gone by.
Wilder's second film as director and star was The World's Greatest Lover. (Lover also had alot to contend when released. By 1977, the box office records were smashed and would never be the same, because of the debut of Star Wars. Wilder was also competing with Mel Brooks' High Anxiety, which was released a week or so later.) Set during the silent film years of Hollywood, Wilder stars as a baker named Rudy Hickman who decides to pack it up and try out for a "star search" for the next Valentino in which Rudy succeeds. However Rudy's wife falls in love with the real Valentino- and Rudy's got to win her back. The film also stars Carol Kane as his wife and the always funny Dom DeLuise as movie mogul Zitz. Both films are highly recommended and earn a place your shelf. A review of both will be forthcoming.
Also on the Shelf this week:
As if that wasn't enough for you, Gene Wilder also appears in another release this week: The Mel Brooks Box Set Collection. As we've previously mentioned, some of these films have already seen DVD release and the DVD's of those films included in this set are the same disc. But, if you haven't picked up History of the World, Pt. 1, Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles then this set is worthwhile. It contains most of Brook's best (standouts not included are The Producers and Spaceballs.) and I am hoping that most of them will see single issue release as well. Otherwise the box set will be the way to go, as it will be the only way to pick up High Anxiety, Robin Hood Men in Tights, Silent Movie, and To Be or Not To Be. Recommended.
Other Box sets worthy of being on your Shelf:
Mae West: The Glamour Collection
Carole Lombard: The Gamour Collection
Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection.
If you are a classic movie fan these collections are very tempting. Although if I had to choose between the sets, Carole Lombard goes in the cart, hands down. These box sets are priced reasonably enough- and each set has about 5 films each.
Alligator Records 35x35.
Contemporary Blues label Alligator Records makes a 35th Anniversary present for Blues fans. In this compliation AR presents the first recordings that it's artists made for the label over the past 35 years. Celebrated blues legends like Buddy Guy to more recent artists like Corey Harris appear along with many other great Blues artists.
Television: (check local listings for times)
Some shifting schedules over at CBS. Tonight is still the action pack night with NCIS and The Unit. And moving to Wednesday at an earlier time (thank goodness) is The Amazing Race. Don't miss it.
South Park ventures into "Cartoon Wars". Southparkstudio's episode description provides an interesting teaser: "Cartman and Kyle are at war over the popular cartoon, Family Guy. Kyle loves Family Guy and hates Cartman. The two boys embark upon a mad chase across the country and the fate of Family Guy lies with the first boy to reach Hollywood." We love Family Guy and South Park here at The Shelf - so this should be interesting.
Shelf picks on TCM:
April 4th: The Prisoner Of Zenda (1937) and a William Powell Myrna Loy double feature: First The Thin Man (1934) and Manhattan Melodrama (1934).
April 5th: Of Human Bondage (1934) and later, The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
April 6th: A gangster's girl, Myrna Loy falls for boxing champ, Max Baer in The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933) Walter Brennen does his prospector's jig for Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre(1948)
April 7th: Teacher's Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McClain struggle against a student's malicious accusations in The Children's Hour (1961) also the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet (1956)
April 8th: It's a great day for westerns on TCM with: Night Passage (1957), The Misfits (1961), Vengeance Valley (1951), Hang 'Em High (1968), Winchester '73 (1950), Tribute to a Bad Man (1956), and Devil's Canyon (1953).
Some classic film news (and some reviews of recent releases) courtesy of Barrie Maxwell at the Classic Coming Attractions page at Digital Bits. Check it out.
Also- speaking of an amazing race- take a few minutes to read about this amazing journey. 36 year old ex-paratrooper Karl Bushby is attempting to become the first person to walk around the world in a trip called the Goliath Expedition. He started at the southern-most tip of South America and has just crossed over the frozen strip of the Bering Strait (remember that thing that teachers used to teach that the Native Americans traveled over into America?) and reached Russia, where they have been detained outside of a village for not having properly registered with authorities, although they did have visas. You mean Russia has a border guard that can catch someone out in the middle of nowhere? Hmm. Anyway check out the interesting site and the blog maintained by his dad.
Well, that's all for this week Shelfers. And as always, your comments are welcome.
The clue obviously lies in the word "cheddar." Let's see now. Seven letters. Rearranged, they come to, let me see: "Rachedd." "Dechdar." "Drechad." "Chaderd" - hello, chaderd! Unless I'm very much mistaken, chaderd is the Egyptian word meaning "to eat fat." Now we're getting somewhere!