I'm very sick to my heart right now. I just realized that I missed watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving last night. That alone wouldn't be so bad, but what's worse is that I also missed watching the last Peanuts special that Charles Schulz ever worked on, He's a Bully Charlie Brown. I have never seen it before and just am not happy that I didn't realize that they were on last night. Used to be I couldn't wait until the week of a major holiday and then I would sit down in front of the tube and that spinning "Special" logo would fill the screen. When the last note of the fanfare concluded, you knew you were in for a treat. Several animated specials and many toys, McDonalds, and Peppermint Patty commercials later, you could peacefully go to sleep. Yep, those were the days. In some ways, they'll never return for those of us who experienced them. Perhaps that is why we cast them in such a romantic, rosy hue. Ah- but not today. Today we celebrate our media roundup with some great primetime specials of the past. So grab your popcorn and get ready. You can even start by watching the spinning "special" logo here. Shhh! The special is about to start...
Top Shelf Pick of the Week!
The Grinch and Miracle on 34th Street Special Editions
The week of Thanksgiving meant more than just Thanksgiving cartoons, days off from school and lots of leftovers: it meant the first Christmas specials out of the gate: The Grinch and the annual airing of Miracle on 34th Street. Miracle was an automatic given on Thanksgiving night, possibly because it begins during Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. It's a neat way to kick off the Christmas season and yet not quite kick out Thanksgiving altogther. Do I really need to summerize anything for you? Good- lets move on to what you really want to know: Is it worth buying these films again? Yes, these have been previously available on DVD (in fact, you probably can find both versions out in stores today). However, even if you already own previous versions, you might consider picking these up. I own the older Grinch version, but I've held off on Miracle in anticipation of a SE release.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas SE is a two disc affair that has features a remastered edition of the original animated classic and another animated Dr.Seuss special, Horton Hears a Who. This DVD set is tagged as a "50th Birthday Deluxe Edition." The "50th" refers to the birthday of the book, as the special is only 40 years old, having premiered in 1966. New to the DVD are several special features; a featurette entitled "Dr. Seuss and the Grinch - From Whoville to Hollywood", Pencil tests, "Songs in the key of Grinch" with composer Albert Hague and grrreaat Grinch vocalist Thurl Ravenscroft (aka: Tony the Tiger and a bajillion other characters), and "Who's Who in Whoville" gallery. If you don't own it, this is definitely the edition to pick up. If you own the previous edition, well that's up to you. The previous edition already included Horton and is a decent DVD. The features on the SE will probably win me over.
The Miracle on 34th Street Special Edition is also a two disc affair that has the remastered 1947 original version, the colorized (around the 1980s) version, and a 1950s television remake. In addition the set has an audio commentary featuring the great Maureen O'Hara, in which she tells a funny story about the parade scenes being filmed during the actual Macy's parade and many people being extras, unawares. The DVD set is packed with other extras; an AMC documentary on the film, documentary on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Movietone News reels, poster stills and promotional shorts. In other words- this is not only the edition to pick up if you don't own it, but it is the edition to pick up even if you own the previous edition.
More classic DVD goodness:
Preston Sturgess: The Filmmaker Collection
Seven great Preston Sturges films are included in this must-have set: Sullivan's Travels,The Lady Eve,The Palm Beach Story,Hail the Conquering Hero, The Great McGinty, Christmas in July, and The Great Moment. Several of these films are arguably some of the great comedic films in American cinema. Several are on several AFI's 100 lists. These are just great films from this gifted director. The Lady Eve and Sullivan's Travels were previously available on very fine Criterion DVD releases. But (look online) for around 5 bucks a flick you can own a great collection of some great American comedy. One of my favorite films is the underappreciated Christmas in July. Check it out.
O'Henry's Full House
I haven't seen this film, and hadn't really heard of it before. Two things have encouraged me to check it out. It features a rare film appearance by one of my favorite radio comedians and writers, Fred Allen. The second thing was a confirmation from Greenbriar that Fred Allen's segment is included in the film, as it was previously cut for a theatrical release. The film is comprised of five O'Henry short stories, and features an aray of stars. I look forward to seeing it.
Classic Comedy Teams Collection
This box set features two films each from three different classic comedy teams. Abbott and Costello: Lost in a Harem and A. and C. in Hollywood
The Three Stooges: Meet The Baron and Gold Raiders
Laurel and Hardy: Air Raid Wardens and Nothing But Trouble
A few of these films are previously available, and each double feature is available separately. But you want the set, don't you- for all the classic comedy goodness. Especially The Three Stooges set- I've only seen these films several years ago on AMC and cannot find them anywhere. Until today that is.
This is an interesting collection that features 17 silent films never released on DVD and several other archival rarities. The set includes some of the earliest screen appearances by Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, and Harold Lloyd. I am a big fan of silent comedies and this is a must for the library of any silents fan.
The Thief and the Cobbler
This is a much talked about animated feature film that has been in the works for a long time. Cartoon Brew has discussed it many times over. The film was created by master animater Richard Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and is the story of a poor cobbler (aren't they all?) in love with a young princess. Many things and world events reportedly caused backers and producers to hold up the release of the film. If you are a fan of animation that isn't of the Happy Feet/Over the Hedge/Open Season variety- do yourself a favor and pick this up. Give the talking animals a break this season.
A Fish Called Wanda Special Edition
This two disc special edition was set to be released this past summer, but was held back until now. The film was written by John Cleese and as such, features a bevy of John Cleese goodies in the special features department. For my money Michael Palin was one of the best performances in the film and his scenes were perhaps among the funniest. That combined with the excellent cast, great lines, and overall great script make this DVD an easy pick this week.
This may seem to be another greatest hits repackage. And essentially it is, but still you can't go wrong with this CD set featuring some of the best of the Dublin foursome. The DVD features footage from a live performance in Italy. And yes, Bono used to have a short mullet. Business in the front, party in the back.
There are some of the last new episodes for the rest of the year on tonight:
Numb3rs, NCIS and The Unit- this season has been excellent thus far. Last week's episodes were among the best. Catch 'em on CBS Innertube if you've missed them.
No new South Park this week- but there will be a new Amazing Race on Sunday. They are down to 4 teams now and the challenges are getting harder.
I really love Turner Classic Movies this time of year. They really pull out all the stops to bring you the best classic holiday films, some of which aren't available on DVD. Check back with us in the next week as we preview the month of Decemeber and bring you "TCM for the Holidays". In addition, don't miss some previews/reviews of some first run and original programming for Decemeber on TCM. The Shelf and TCM will be the places to be this December.
Shelf Picks for Turner Classic Movies this week:
Nov. 21st: Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn do their best to stay alive and discover the her dead husband's secrets in Charade (1963). Then stick around for an evening with John Ford: Mogambo (1953), The Lost Patrol (1934) and Wagon Master (1950).
Nov. 22nd: It's Basil Rathbone as urbane detective Philo Vance in The Bishop Murder Case (1930). Then Cary Grant and Tony Curtis find they have their hands full in Operation Petticoat (1959). Later you'll find there is No Name On The Bullet (1959) in this Film Noir classic.
Nov. 23rd: What better way to digest that big Turkey meal than with some light comedy on TCM? A slew of Doris Day movies including The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), That Touch of Mink (1962) and Lover Come Back (1961).
Nov. 24th: If you aren't out shopping you might as well be watching some great movies. First part of the day: Westerns!- Seven Men From Now (1956), The Desperadoes (1943), The Westerner (1940), McLintock! (1963) and The Wonderful Country(1959). The second part of the day: Ray Harryhausen films!- The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), Jason And The Argonauts (1963) and the shorts Rapunzel (1951) and King Midas (1953).
Nov. 25th: Irving Berlin done right: Top Hat (1935), White Christmas (1954) and Easter Parade (1948).
Nov. 26th: Some excellent Christmas films: The Bishop's Wife (1947) and White Christmas (1954) again. Also stick around for some excellent musicals: In The Good Old Summertime (1949) and Singin' In The Rain (1952).
Nov. 27th: It's tough guy day on TCM. You've got your gangsters: Little Caesar (1930). You've got your detective: The Thin Man (1934). You've got your soldier: Sergeant York (1941). You've got your grizzled old tough guy: The African Queen (1951). And you've got your suave guy in the wrong place at the wrong time: North By Northwest (1959).
Awww- now the "Special Presentation" is over. And I have a strange craving for York Peppermint Patties. Hmm. Guess it won't be long before we're watching the Parade. Don't stuff yourselves too much. Enjoy this Thanksgiving, and be sure to give thanks to the man upstairs and give thanks to those you love. See you around the bend.
Update: Unfortunately there is a bit of sad news to report: Director Robert Altman (Short Cuts, M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller) has passed away at the age of 81. Link to report is here.
Then he slunk to the ice box. He took the Whos' feast. He took the who pudding, he took the roast beast. He emptied the ice box as quick as a flash. Why, the Grinch even took the last can of who hash.