Yeah, the bells say "Happy New Year." So what? You wanna fightaboutit? Yeah, I know it's Halloween, and not Christmas. So what? You wanna fightaboutit? I didn't think so. Hey- there is a Halloween DVD just for you in today's roundup, but honestly there is so much goodness out there in the past week or so- I had to go with something sentimental and dear to my heart. So get ready, because here it comes...
Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
Holiday Inn: Special Edition
I have been waiting for a special edition of Holiday Inn for a while now, and last year I could wait no more. I found a DVD at my local Target which had both Holiday Inn and Going My Way on the disc, a Bing double feature. I was actually set to do a bargain bin review on the disc as it only cost me 5 bucks, but today, dear Shelfers..., today is a new day. Holiday Inn has its own special edition, and until Going My Way gets the proper DVD treatment (maybe paired with The Bells of St. Mary's) the bargain bin disc will still get rotation. For now, one of my favorite holiday movies of all time is going into the Christmas queue when the time is right. In some ways, you can watch Holiday Inn anytime of the year, but it always feels right about Christmas time. I usually watch it and White Christmas at my house as a Christmas Eve double feature while doing last minute wrapping, getting ready for Santa and any baking that needs to be done. It's become a nice little tradition.
Holiday Inn was based on an idea and plot by Irving Berlin and was the first film to feature the erstwhile Berlin hit, White Christmas. Song and dance team Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) break up the act after Ted steals Jim's fiancée (and Ted's dance partner) Lila, soon before they are to marry. Jim decides to retire from show business altogether and move to the country to get away from Lila and the heartbreak.
Jim finds out that country life isn't exactly all rest and relaxation, or cheap. So he comes up with a way to finance his country home and make it worthwhile, by opening a country Inn that is only open on holidays. It's a neat little plot device that allows for plenty of musical numbers centered on all the holidays of the year. (Some might be confused by some - we no longer celebrate Washington and Lincoln's birthdays separately and Thanksgiving graphics have question marks because Roosevelt tried to change the date, but failed. Come on people- this was 1942!) Jim even finds love again when he hires another performer, Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds- who was also great as fellow ghost Melody in Abbott and Costello's The Time of Their Lives) to work at the inn.
All is nice and cozy, until Ted comes around. Ted has recently been jilted by Lila, and his manager informs him about Jim's discover. When Ted visits, Jim attempts to keep him away from Linda, but eventually he is unable to. Ted proposes to make a film about Holiday Inn and wants to star himself, Jim and Linda. Jim refuses, believing that Linda now wants to be in Hollywood and with Ted. Life becomes lonely at the Inn, and Jim realizes that being in love Linda means he has to try and win her back. He heads out to Hollywood to consult on the film, but manages to steal a wonderful moment with Linda, singing White Christmas and winning her back. It's all very funny, sentimental, corny, and lovely all at once.
Besides Bing's wonderful White Christmas, number, there are many highlights in the film, including Astaire's famous Fourth of July Firecracker dance. The features include a commentary by film historian, Ken Barnes and interplayed with comments culled from interviews with Bing and Fred themselves. Also included is a behind the scenes look at the making of the song and dance sequences from the film, and a retrospective on Crosby and Astaire featuring an interview with Astaire's daughter, Ava Astaire-MacKenzie. The print and sound are much, much better than the aforementioned double feature disc. What a great special edition for a great film. Trust me, if you haven't seen it, you will love it- and not just because it's a holiday movie. If you've already seen it, you are probably on your way to get it. Make this apart of your family holiday traditions. Don't forget to save room for the new special editions of the original Miracle on 34th Street (Nov.21st- just in time to watch after eating lots of turkey) and It's A Wonderful Life (Oct. 31st- a nice treat for my Halloween bag!).
Warner Brothers Motion Picture Masterpieces
What is a classic film fan to do this week? Get a loan? Why can't we space these great sets out some more? I shouldn't complain, but I think about that sometimes... Regardless, this is a great set that should hop right in the cart next to Holiday Inn. Besides, you were saving HI for after Halloween at least, right? You've got to have something to watch so you don't OD on Halloween candy and flicks before Halloween week. That is the secret to a great Halloween- everything in moderation. This box set from Warner's features some of MGM's biggest hits from the 1930s, most of them literary adaptations:
David Cooperfield (1935) with child star Freddie Bartholomew, the inimitable W. C. Fields, Maureen O'Sullivan and an all-star cast.
A Tale of Two Cities (1935) starring Ronald Coleman
Pride and Prejudice (1940) with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson in this oft-filmed Jane Austin tale.
Treasure Island (1934) a great flick featuring Wallace Beery as Long John Silver and Jackie Cooper as Jim Hawkins. This may be a great surprise to those used to the Disney version.
Marie Antoinette (1938) starring Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power in the final film of legendary M-G-M production chief (and Marx Brothers Champion) Irving Thalberg. How about skip the disaster-in the making Kirstin Dunst film coming this year and check this out.
Hollywood's Legends of Horror
See, I told you there was some Halloween in this post! Can I help it if they start releasing the Christmas stuff in October? Nonetheless, this is classic "B" movie
horror thrillers at their delightfully best. Fu Manchu fans will no doubt be glad to see The Mask of Fu Manchu included in this set. This film features Boris Karloff in the title role and the lovely Myrna Loy in an early screen role as Fu Manchu's daughter. Also included is Ted Browning and Bela Lugosi teaming up again for Mark of the Vampire, and Shelf fave Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill in Dr. X and Humphrey Bogart in The Return of Dr. X. Lastly don't forget Peter Lorre in Mad Love, and Ted Browning's The Devil-Doll featuring Shelf fave Maureen O'Sullivan and Lionel Barrymore. Grusome fun.
More TV on DVD:
Numbers: The Complete Second Season
The first couple of seasons were excellent and it appears that season three is off to a bang. One observation: I've been enjoying the season sets of Northern Exposure lately and I love the movie Quiz Show. Rob Morrow is an excellent and underrated actor.
Simon and Simon: Season One
This is one of those detective shows that I loved watching in the 80s. It had a kind of Odd couple twist with a regular joe and preppy brother detective team.
Paula Dean Celebrates!
What is it with the holiday theme today? Like I said the stuff starts coming out in October. I can't help it. It's there. This book is subtitled: Best Dishes and Best Wishes for the Best Times of Your Life. So what better companion to Holiday Inn than a book that is about holidays and family celebrations. With a year's worth of holiday recipes and decorating and serving ideas, you can add a little extra something to your holidays. I have to admit I am a bit partial to Paula, and have actually made several of her delicious recipes.
Gladys Knight: A Christmas Celebration and Before Me
Just give in and go with the Christmas stuff, OK? Trust me- there are plenty more that hit the stores this week. But I have a soft spot for Gladys Knight (I'm a big fan). This Christmas Album was recorded with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The album Before Me is a nice tribute to the great performers that influenced her. Two great albums for fall out this week. Just save the Christmas one for later!
Chris Botti is a great musician and has appeared on numerous albums of other artists. I am normally weary of the slew of holiday albums that come out this year. Too many of them, especially from current pop stars, are redundant and bland (or too over the top). Jazz artist Botti gives his own spin on the holiday classics and gives an excellent, yet low key and subdued performance. Not your regular Christmas album. Pick it up before the stores crowd it out with all the bubblegum pop wannabe plastic holiday discs.
Don't miss this week's: Amazing Race, South Park, The Unit, NCIS, Numbers...whew.
The Shelf picks for Turner Classic Movies:
Oct. 12th: It's a Marx marathon: A Day At The Races (1937), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), and Duck Soup (1933).
Oct. 13th: It's Friday the 13th, therefore bad luck features!- Joel McCrae gets mixed up in an assassination plot in Foreign Correspondent (1940). Later, brother and sister Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey buy a house, but unfortunately it's haunted in The Uninvited (1944). Bonus: the delightfully bad Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959).
Oct. 14th: Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery argue through a marriage that may not be legal in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941). Veronica Lake looks amazing for being 300 years old in I Married A Witch (1942). Bob Hope is framed for murder in My Favorite Brunette (1947).
Oct. 15th: Steve McQueen holds off the Nazi's in Hell is for Heroes (1962). Orson Welles, Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh find everything isn't as it seems in Touch Of Evil (1958).
Oct. 16th: It's an "Our Gang" feature: General Spanky (1936)!
Oct. 17th: Jean Arthur goes undercover in The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) and Betty Hutton and Howard Keel whoop it up in Annie Get Your Gun (1950).Hey- sure Christmas came a little early today, but tomorrow we'll be back to Halloween with this week's Halloween Candy Review. Here's a hint: it will be a Pop Rocks Spectacular.
What's the use of worrying about your beard when your head's about to be taken?