Tuesday, October 31, 2006

lights out

It's that time of year again kiddies... that time when you turn down the lights, cuddle up with someone to hold on to, grab some goodies and turn on...the radio? Yes, I said the radio. Well, it could be the computer, your ipod, a cd player- any audio player will do really. You see Halloween is one of those times when you can really get the willies by listening to a scary story. Sure, I guess you could watch a slasher film and all that, but as I've said before those gore-fests are not for me. No sir, I prefer watching the classics and the animated classics. But what really gets me in the Halloween spirit is listening to Halloween -themed old time radio shows.

Nothing beats the theater of the mind for scaring the beejeezus out of yourself. Think back to all the times when you were alone in your room or your house on a quiet night. The sounds that you heard, or thought you heard, created all kinds of images and possible scenarios that ran through your mind. What you imagined was more frightening than anything you could see on television.
If you are an old hand at old time radio, you probably know what I am talking about, if not, and you are interested, a whole great world will open up to you.

What follows are some of the things that make Old Time Radio great at Halloween and some links to some of the shows and a couple of sites that have a much larger comprehensive collection of shows that you can sample. Zoot Radio is perhaps one of the best sites out there and has a great forum of otr enthusiasts that are very knowledgeable and friendly, I heartily recommend it. And of course be sure to visit our friend Sallie over at Old Time Radio Experience, she has a great selection that you can select off the link on her sidebar. And Scar Stuff, Check the Cool Wax, and Mostly Ghostly have some great shows and audio.

We asked the gang at Zoot Radio to give us some of their favorite old time radio Halloween moments. Here is that list with some of our own favorites; these are the great things that make old time radio a hit at Halloween. Some are shows, series, or even special effects or actors. Check them out

Sound effects: Absolutely essential. One of the most famous special effects is, of course, the creaking door from the series Inner Sanctum. Serial shows like Lights Out!, Inner Sanctum and Suspense predate the Twilight Zone and other popular early television shows but have an anthology feel to them. Very creepy. Some recommendations from Zoot Radio include the above plus Fear on Four. As Zoot Radio member Smokie stated : "I'd like to listen to "Fear on Four" or one of the scarier shows in the dark this year, with only a lighted pumpkin in the window. OTR is best for Halloween because of the storytelling in the dark." You can listen to an episode of Inner Sanctum by clicking this link.

Creepy Heroes: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. How about The Whistler? "I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, many secrets hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes, I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak." The writing on these shows was first rate and sometimes quite macabre. This ain't your daddy's Batman. Trust me.

Ghoulish hosts: Did you know that actors like Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff hosted their own shows for a time. I particularly liked Peter Lorre in Mystery in the Air (that announcer that you hear is Henry Morgan, from Dragnet and Col. Potter from M*A*S*H). You can listen to an episode here.

Ghastly guests: One of the members at Zoot, Papajoemambo, recommended one particular show: Bela Lugosi on the Abbott & Costello Show (the Haunted House episode - 'You Vhant I should get de Harrt-bouuurne??')." While Fess64 told us "My favorite Halloween show is Jack Benny's 1941 episode with Basil Rathbone. Good Stuff!" (You can listen to that here) Comedy shows did particularly well in this vein as they could either do a parody of a movie or other suspense show, or even invite a movie star like Boris Karloff, to poke a little fun at themselves and the image Hollywood had created for them. One of my favorites is an episode of The Jack Benny Show where they did a take off on The Whistler in an episode entitled: "The Fiddler". You can listen to it by clicking here.

Movie/book adaptations: Some radio shows adapted films to radio, sometimes featuring the original stars. Films like Dracula, The Ghostbreakers and others have been featured on shows like Lux Theater or Screen Guild Players. The novels Dracula and Frankenstein have also been adapted to radio shows. Perhaps the most famous instance of a radio adaptation of a book is Orson Welles and Mercury Theater's production of War of the Worlds. An absolute Halloween must that you can listen to here.

Well, guys and ghouls - I hope this little look at old time radio might encourage you to do something a little different this Halloween. Click on some of the links we've provided above and try old some old time radio this Halloween. Turn the lights down, break out the cider, nab a little candy from the kid's baskets (don't even pretend you don't- besides they are in bed, right? Right?!) and curl up with some frightening friends from the past. And when you're ready - toss in Young Frankenstein, just for good measure.

And if all these goodies weren't enough here is our final weekly Halloween cartoon. You may have already seen it this year, but I can't help it, it is my favorite. We are all about the treats here at the Shelf. Hopefully, you won't get a rock tonight.

From all of us at the Shelf, we wish you a safe and Happy Halloween!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

If you're blue, and you don't know where to go to, why don't you go where fashion sits...

Monday, October 30, 2006

halloween candy review: peeps edition

Peeps. Yes, Peeps. They rear their heads almost every holiday season it seems, although I have yet to see Peeps in the shape of Thanksgiving turkeys. I have to admit that in past I consumed Peeps with fevor and passion unequaled in candy corners. They didn't show up in mainstream trick or treat bags. They were what you got at grandma's house. Or you had to pick up a package to squirrel away at your house like some sort of forbidden contraband. A shameful enterprise really; one that I am proud to say I have overcome. Yes, I am no longer constrained when I see a package of Peeps. Thanks to a fantastic 12 step program and some wonderful fellow group members (Hi gang! Resist the power of Peeps! Ha, how's the dental work coming Ricky? Shoutout to my peeps! Uh...oh, sorry.) I have finally gave up the pervasive Peeps power that held sway over me. And just to prove it, I am going to review Peeps for this week's candy review! Behold below the package of Peeps...

You see of course the "Ghosts" variety of the marshmellowy candy. Not much to see other than three rows of three ghosts each. Not much in the way of color, other than the eyes and mouth. Of course, they are bathed in powdered sugary goodness, which just gleams in the light... I mean they are just covered in sugar that is bad for you. Yes. Well, let's turn over the box shall we?

How whimsical. Beyond all of the obviously terrible ingredients listed, there is an illustration of a ghost and tombstone, all in the Halloween spirit. We note that the ghost has a rather large head. Heh, back in the "bad ol' days" I used to eat the head first like some sort of chocolate easter bunny. Wow. I am sure glad those days are past me. Now let's take a closer look at the Peeps themselves.

As you can see, the ghosts are connected together and are a bit sticky. I pulled one apart so you can see it apart from the rest. Not much to speak of really, just marshmellow...divine marshmellow...soft and sugary...

Aw, crap.
That's all for these Halloween Candy review. If you'll excuse me I've got to take care of some ghosts. Then I've got to call my therapist. See you next time.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

How'd you like to stuff one of them in a doughnut!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

weekly halloween cartoon

Here we are, once again, with a Halloween cartoon. Last week's cartoon was great! JC came out of the chute swinging for the fences with that one. This week we tried to fulfill the request of our lone commentor from last week's installment. Mr. (or Mrs.) Anonymous asked for something "obscure that isn't on T.V. anymore". I think we found something that fits the bill. It's definately obscure and certainly not on T.V. anymore. What we're talking about here kids is none other than Dr. Seuss's presentation of 'Halloween is Grinch Night'. Origionally released on T.V. in 1977, it's not the typical Halloween special. There are no costumes and no trick-or-treating. What it does have is ghosts, ghouls, and Grinch. The first thing you notice while watching is the voice of the Grinch/narrator. In this film, our green buddy is voiced by Hans Conried replacing Boris Karloff who passed away 8 years prior to the making of this Grinch tale. Mr. Conried isn't bad, but having grown up with a Karloff powered Grinch, it takes getting used to. This tale surrounds not only the Grinch, but Eukariah Who. The latter is the eventual hero of this tale.
It seems the Grinch has missed a few of his anger management classes and is back-sliding into Whoville terrorization again. Halloween in Whoville is apparently a pretty nasty night. It's the night the Grinch chooses to come out and scare any Who he might find. The Whos all lock themselves in and wait for the night to pass. For some reason, Eukariah ventures out and bumps into you-know-who. Suddenly the boy decides he can save his little burg from a night of frights. He decides to stall the Grinch by daring him to prove how scary he can be. This is where the ghosts and such come in. Dr. Seuss takes on quite a (presumably drug fueled) journey through the green one's bag of tricks which includes quite a few 'Seussian' creatures of the creepy sort. We see Max the dog again in this feature and he is presumably upset that he's still got a green jerk for a room-mate. The coloring in this feature is quite 'Halloweeny' and certainly has the air of the holiday. I think you can buy this on VHS through Amazon. There is also a DVD out there containing a collection of Seuss cartoons and one of them is Grinch Night. Seuss fans will certainly enjoy this. On a side note: 'Halloween is Grinch Night' actually won an emmy for Outstanding Children's Special in it's year of release. Hopefully you will all get a kick out of this somewhat obscure blast from the past. Without further trivialities from myself, the Shelf proudly presents for your viewing pleasure: 'Halloween is Grinch Night'.

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

in a class all by themselves

What style, what class. That Ginger's got a lot of sass. Opps, sorry... it was like a song running through my head. We'll take a break from our week full of Halloween tricks and treats to bring you this week's roundup. I won't say that we are doing anything original here, but I will mention that among the regular features here at the Shelf, the weekly roundup and the candy reviews seem to garner the most viewing. And I can't help but notice several other unnamed blogs and sites have been getting into the fray with their own version of the weekly roundup in the last couple of months. Some even call it a weekly roundup. I'm not saying that we were first or original or anything, but I'm glad to see the idea spread around. The reason we've being doing our Weekly Media Roundup for the past year, is because there really wasn't one out there that did much other than tell you what current Hollywood drivel was coming out on DVD. We had a hard time finding information on classic films, television, and special box sets coming out on DVD. And we couldn't find someone willing to just tell us what the best was and what was worth getting. So, as we were doing our own research, we decided to put together our regular weekly feature for you. Just this week, I've seen several sites that have recently begun to do the same. That's great, the more info that you get the better. With The Shelf- you know what you'll get- The Top Shelf Pick of the Week, more great selections and no filler. Who has time for filler? So without further delay, it's time to put on your dancing shoes and trip the light fantastic.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week
Ultimate Fred and Ginger Collection/ Fred and Ginger Collection Vol. II

You could go several ways with this: either buy Vol. II with the films, or you could purchase the ultimate set with Vol. I and Vol. II and extras. If you own the first volume, you can also take advantage of a special offer from Amazon.com that gives you the case, the Volume II discs, the extras discs, and bonus material with space to place your Volume I DVDs.
I am a huge fan of Astaire. When I think of grace and class and elegance, I think of Fred. When I was a kid, I didn't care much for the great song and dance films, but I sure liked Holiday specials like Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town (both discussed here at The Shelf). I recognized the voice and the face, but couldn't place him. When my dad told me it was Fred Astaire, I decided to give him another try. So when mom and dad turned to Holiday Inn on TV one Christmas, I sat and watched. I was very impressed with not only the fact that this guy could do some cool dancing with firecrackers, but he was funny as well. As I got older, I watched more and more films and really became a fan. He was one of the most talented and gifted performers to come out of Hollywood (and had one of the longest careers). I've heard an actor mention that Hollywood song and dance films wouldn't have survived as long as they did without Astaire. Well, count me in as agreeing with that statement as long as you put Ginger in the mix.
Wow, what a team. Someone once said of Ginger that she had to do everything Fred did, but backwards and in heels. Ouch. Often she would have to come in and shoot some extra footage just to get the shots of her dress or feet or angle of her head just right. Some days her feet bleed at the end of the day. The next morning she was on the set, ready to work. What an amazing performer. And to top it off, she was a great actress and had a wonderful voice (and was very beautiful). She was also quite gifted at comedy- one of my favorite Ginger films, without Fred, is Monkey Business with Cary Grant. Check it out, you'll see what I mean. Fred and Ginger had so much effortless grace and charm on stage, it's hard to believe they weren't at least the closest of friends off screen, but they weren't. They didn't dislike each other and had great respect for one another, but in Ginger's own words,"We had fun and it shows. True, we were never bosom buddies off the screen; we were different people with different interests. We were only a couple on film." And what a couple of stars they were.
The remaining Astaire and Rogers films included in this set are: Carefree, Flying Down To Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. Also included with Volume II is a new documentary on the famous duo entitled, Astaire and Rogers: Partners in Rhythm. The Ultimate Collection set also includes a new CD with 10 tracks from the films, a reproduction of the press books for Shall We Dance and Roberta, collectable photo cards, and mail in offers for free film posters. This is a wonderful set and a collection of some great films. You often hear that they don't make movies like they used to anymore. It's very true, but that doesn't mean that they don't make great films anymore, I just think true classics are fewer and far between in today's Hollywood. We else would people be willing to spend more money on sets like these and other classic film box sets, rather than spend it on a night out at the movies watching something that just doesn't compare? Trust me folks, this is a set you will want to purchase for you and everyone else in the family to enjoy.
PS- We will have a review of the new special edition DVD of that great Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film, Holiday Inn, after Halloween.

More Great picks this week:
Groovie Goolies: The Saturday "Mourning" Collection
Just to show we're not completely off of Halloween today, we present for your approval The Complete Groovie Goolies. If you were a kid in the 70s and watched Saturday morning cartoons, chances are you saw some Filmation cartoons. This was one of them. Spun off from The Sabrina, the Teenage Witch cartoon, The Groovie Goolies were some scaredy cat monsters who were in a band (who wasn't back then?). Frankie, Wolfie, and Drac would have some wacky adventures, in which they would invariably demonstrate they weren't quite so scary (or brave) themselves, and then they would break out into a song. This set includes all 16 episodes and some great extras, including documentaries on Filmation studios, and The Groovie Goolies. It's time for a groovie goolies get together! If you are a little kid of the 70s, like me, you'll be anxious to pick this up and watch it this Halloween! Now if only they could put The Drak Pack on DVD! Anyone else remember The Drak Pack?

Essential Art House: 50 years of Janus Films.
We've previously discussed the importance and influence of Janus films in the last 50 years. This set includes a coffee table book on Janus films and the films included in the set, with an essay by film historian Peter Cowie and a tribute from Martin Scorsese. 50 DVDs are included in the set represented each of the 50 years of Janus films. It comes with a hefty price naturally, so this isn't a recommendation, so much as it is a wish.

Nacho Libre
Wolf and I are fans of silly and slapstick, so long as the silly is done right. We loved Napoleon Dynamite and worried about the director/writer, Jared Hess' follow up picture. Worry no more, with the talent of over the top and enormous presence, Jack Black, Nacho Libre is a hit. Wolf loves it, but I have not seen it yet. I will be correcting that oversight, now that the DVD has hit the stores. Check it out, and repeat after me, "silly is good."

Givin' It Up: George Benson and Al Jarreau
This is one of the best CD's I've heard in a while, and honestly I don't know why it took this long for these two to collaborate on a full scale project like this. Al is one of my favorite artists and has a natural and easy way of performing vocal acrobatics and brings vocal jazz to new levels. George Benson is an incredible jazz guitarist, and brings a little touch of R & B to his stuff. The two together prove to be a fantastic collaboration of what some call "smooth jazz". I just call it great. The album features a great version of a previous Jarreau crossover hit, Mornin' , a really special track of Billy Holiday's God Bless The Child, and an excellent version of Breezin'. The album features guest performances Patti Austin, Paul McCartney, Chris Botti, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke.

Splinter Cell: Double Agent
You are looking at the next chapter in one of the best action/adventure video game series on the planet, at least in my opinion. This is the only series in which I have played through all of the previous games (Splinter Cell, SC:Pandora Tomorrow, and SC: Chaos Theory) successfully- twice. If you aren't familiar with the story, this is a game based on Tom Clancy's world, so-to speak, of military action. You are Sam Fisher, a spy who doesn't exist, who works for a government agency named Third Echelon, which also doesn't exist. Sam is a Splinter Cell, a lone operative who gets in, gets the info, rescues the hostage, or gets the bad guy and gets out; and all without much of anyone knowing about it. The enemy doesn't know him, and if he's successful, never sees him. Third Echelon is a very secret organization that specializes in attempting to diffuse potentially dangerous world wide situations. If they can't prevent it from happening, then they do their best to stop it. These games are set in the very near future and have been surprisingly on target in it's look at international terrorism, problems in the former Soviet Union, North Korea, and technological terrorism and information warfare. The games focus on stealth and you can actually play through a level without... uh, dispatching and enemy. The gadgets and weapons may seem somewhat futuristic, but are based on items the US military is either currently using or developing. The story for Double Agent has Sam going undercover in order to track down some very dangerous material that has gotten into some very dangerous hands. You can read more about the story at Gamespot. Some of you might be surprised that I am a gamer- well, a selective gamer. Hey, fun is fun, whether it's classic films, otr, baseball, or Splinter Cell.

Last week’s South Park was on of the funniest episodes of the season. Don’t miss this week’s new South Park, or NCIS, Numb3rs, or The Amazing Race for that matter.
Now for some real “must see TV”:

This week’s Shelf picks for Turner Classic Movies.
TCM is bringing you the tops in entertainment. They don’t make like these anymore…

Oct. 25th: Nick and Nora head home to visit Nick’s parents in a sleepy little town, but a murder wakes everyone up in The Thin Man Goes Home (1945). Also don’t miss some old fashioned adventure in Ivanhoe (1952) and The Prisoner Of Zenda (1952).

Oct. 26th: Another married couple puts on the proverbial deerstalker caps in several mysteries in Fast Company (1938), Fast And Loose (1939), and Fast And Furious (1939). Later it’s Katherine Hepburn in two wonderful films with some of her best leading men: Adam’s Rib (1949) and The African Queen (1951).

Oct. 27th: Time to turn the lights out for some excellent Halloween thrillers: Bela Lugosi in White Zombie (1932) and Boris Karloff in The Walking Dead (1936).

Oct. 28th: You are in for a treat today, many great classics: Suspicion (1941), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), King Kong (1933), Ride The High Country (1962), and the original is still the best; Scarface (1932).

Oct 29th: Recent box set subject Ronald Reagan in the excellent Kings Row (1942). Later watch the lovely Audrey Hepburn in Two For the Road (1967) and the man of a thousand faces, Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Oct. 30th: Catch Mickey Rooney in the very first Hardy family film: A Family Affair (1936).

Oct. 31st: What better way to end a “boo”-tiful month: Freaks (1932), Cat People (1942), The Masque Of The Red Death (1964), and House Of Usher (1960).
Happy Halloween!

That was a elegant dance around the great picks of all things media this week. Our Top Shelf Pick is an excellent choice, but there are many others this week. Next week there will be plenty more, and we will be here to guide you through just as we always have. Stay tuned for the latest in DVD news as well. The rest of this week we've got some great Halloween fun in store right up through to the big day. Coming up: Our Weekly Halloween Animated Special that you can watch right here, our weekly Halloween Candy review, a special article and tour of The Edgar Allan Poe Museum for your spooky delight, and a special trip back to when radio was king and some classic Old Time Radio Halloween moments. All this and more on The Shelf.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't realize I was disturbing you. You see, every once in a while I suddenly find myself... dancing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

halloween candy anyone?

You see, this is the reason why I couldn't write professionally. I can't satisfy a deadline to save my neck. Once again, I am bringing you this candy review a litlle later than planned. Part of it has to do with my real job taking up a lot of my time, but a large portion of it has to do with my aversion to time constraints. I hate forcing myself to do something because I feel it effects quality. Then I have this major revelation that if our readers were looking for quality, they may look somewhere else. Having not set a high standard for you to gauge by, I essentially have helped myself out. With that in mind, lets get on with the weekly Halloween candy review. In an attempt to make up for my tardiness, I am reviewing two holiday candies in this post. A double whammy ,if you will. I've been running out of candy to review lately. I mean, there's plenty of it around ,but as you can tell from our previous Halloween candy reviews we only talk about unique or special items. Those items can be hard to find. Once again, I was saved by the local pharmacy. Pharmacies are always the best place to look for 'different' holiday candy. They tend to carry the fun stuff. This time around I found a deal on two items. With a price of two for $3.00, I couldn't turn it down. The items I found were 'Rattlin' Skull' and 'Coffin Candy Dig'. Distributed by Malibu Toys, these items focus on the packaging a little more than the contents. This isn't such a bad concept when working with such a young demographic as trick-or-treaters. Though I couldn't find an official website for Malibu toys, I was able to find a few write ups on the company. From what I can gather, their basic philosophy is to provide candy products with toy features. This causes a stiff price ($1.59 each) for the candy under review, but it also results in something worthwhile. When you finish that snack size snickers bar, you just throw the wrapper away. When a child finishes one of these products, there's still a toy left over.

The first item on deck is the 'Rattlin Skull'. As you can see in the picture, it's just a simple plastic skull. What makes it different is that there is a compartment shaped like the top half of a brain attached to the top. This 'brain box' is made of clear plastic allowing you to see the multi-colored candy inside. The candy compartment has to be removed in order to open it and get the candy out. The candy itself is nothing special. It's just a bunch of multicolored pieces of processed sugar that tastes like like a generic, non-tart Smarty.

The kids will enjoy candy as long as it's made of sugar and doesn't taste like turds. That's just a basic fact of life. What will make them like 'Rattlin Skull' is that it's also a toy. Now it's not the greatest toy in the world, but it's a toy nontheless. The 'Rattlin Skull' has a set of teeth which are attached to a string that is anchored within the skull. Pull the teeth out and let 'em go. The skull starts to convulse, so to speak. It's quite high powered and mine actually rattled it's way off of the table before I could catch it. When you do this with the 'brain box' and candy in it, there is an accompanying rattle to the shakes. We see where it gets it's name. It's not the greatest invention in toy history, but at least it gives you more than an empty wrapper.

Next on the list is the 'Coffin Candy Dig'. This little item was a little deceiving. I looked at it through the wrapper and assumed it was a Nerds rip-off packaged in a plastic coffin. I was right and wrong. As you can see, there is a plastic, yellow corpse in the coffin buried in specs of grey colored candy. Inside the package, you also get a cover to the coffin and a 'digging implement'. It's really not advisable to actually dig the candy out with the provided equipment. I tried this (in the name of science, of course) and only spilled it everywhere. Your kid's smaller fingers may be more adept at this, but it still has potential for a mess no matter what you do. The best way to eat it is to just spill a little into your hand and go the old-fashioned route. As I said before, I thought the candy would be a cheap Nerds rip-off. The shape and texture were a carbon copy but the size was a little smaller. The flavor was not what I expected at all. I expected it to taste like plain old specs of flavorless sugar. Much to my chagrin, it had a different kind of berry flavor. It was pretty good, actually. After eating the candy, my assistant and I discovered that the 'corpse' was loose and something underneath it was rattling. We removed the plastic body only to discover three peices of hard candy in the shaoe of bones. This wasn't listed on the wrapper so it was somewhat unexpected. It's not as much of a toy as the 'Rattlin Skull' but the 'Coffin Candy Dig' will hold it's own with the toddler set. I've watched my 4 year old play with an old bottle top and a paper clip before so I know he can do something with a plastic coffin.

In my humble opinion, I think my $3.00 was pretty well spent. I wouldn't go out and buy a ton of them to hand out on Halloween, but I might toss one into a bag or two. These are the type of items you get your own kids or that kid who shows up on Halloween in a costume they put some work into. I have really appreciated the effort put into Halloween this year by the retailers and manufacturers. I've noticed an improvement in products and display this year. It seems as though the spirit of Halloween might be making a come back. If that's something we like, we need to let them know by patronizing their stores and buying the new Halloween products. I'm not one to support over-commercialization, but these products are fun for the kids and being able to take mine to go look at and play with the new products is fun for me too. Let's let our local businesses know that we enjoy the Halloween spirit by picking up a 'Rattlin Skull' or two. Maybe we can help Halloween to make a come-back as one of the best holiday seasons. As far as the Shelf is concerned, we're already on it.

A week or so ago I was asking who this is in this comic strip with Miss grundy. So far, I've had no takers. It's still driving me nuts cause I still can't figure it out. Take another look and see if you can help.

Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception.

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,Voices whisper in the trees, "Tonight is Halloween!"- - - Dexter Kozen

Friday, October 20, 2006

holiday dvd preview

Don't laugh! You men don't understand. I just feel so...so bloated!

I know, I know. You don’t even want to think about Christmas yet. I don’t either. So, I’m not. I promise. Except....Well, I can’t help but be aware and pick up on news about DVDs and specials coming up for the Christmas Holiday season. I would be remiss if I did not pass them on to you, at least for informational purposes. All you have to do is to mark some dates down on your calendar, and note what comes out when, and then forget about it. You will at least be aware of what’s coming out (and there is some great stuff), and be able to plan your budget (or not) accordingly. You see! This isn’t about Christmas at all. This is a public service. I slave, and I slave and I get no thanks whatsoever.

Every year, around this time of year, a slew of CDs and DVDs hit the market in time for the holidays. I object to the gloss over Thanksgiving that occurs right after October 31st. Long time Shelfers will remember last year when we made the case for celebrating Thanksgiving proudly. I feel Thanksgiving gets short shrift when malls and stores go straight into Christmas mode. However, in this case, this is an exception. I appreciate the fact that some of the new stuff is spread across release dates, which is easier on the consumer and allows them to actually watch them starting after Thanksgiving.

Today I am highlighting some new releases that will definitely bring out the Christmas kid in you. Some are hitting DVD for the first time, others are special editions. Between these and the other animated specials and movie classics, you could make yourself sick this year. So remember, all things in moderation.

Already out
Holiday Inn Special Edition: See last weeks roundup for the lowdown.

A Chipmunks Christmas: 25th Anniversary Edition.
Somehow this escaped our notice. Talk about feeling old. Nothing like slapping a year on the old special edition to make a body feel old. Has it been that long? I haven’t seen the original musical cartoon in a long time and I wonder if it’s included here. Either way, this was a warm, sentimental yarn in which Alvin gives his Christmas present (a harmonica) to a sick boy. Try to hold back the tears. *sob!* Also includes a music CD (which you can buy separately) of the Chipmunks Christmas tunes.

Coming Soon
Oct. 31st:
Scrooged: Yule Love It! Edition
I think there has been more DVD editions of this film than other versions of A Christmas Carol. At least it seems that way. However, this edition that appropriately comes out on Halloween day ( I always felt that this was a ghost story that happened to take place on Halloween), seems to really deliver on the extras. Personally, I love Bill Murray, but there has to be a lot of time between viewing on this one.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Special Edition
Wolf did a classic Shelf article on this film and what it means. That link is for future reference you know. I mean you don’t totally have to break out of Halloween mode for just a little bit to read it, but you could if you wanted. Yeah, you know. Yeah. Anyway, don’t get to terribly excited by this, as this is a repackaged version of the previous two disc edition of a couple years ago. If you don’t have it, well now you can get it in a nicer box.

Nov. 7th:
March of the Wooden Soldiers
This is the Hal Roach/Laurel and Hardy version of the Babes in Toyland story. There was a colorized version that was trimmed. This set features the restored film and both black and white and colorized versions with a bonus cartoon. This film is a holiday tradition for a lot of folks. I've never seen it before that I can recall. I plan to rectify that this year.

Nov. 14th:
Bah, Humduck
This is new. I don’t know much about it other than it is a Looney Tunes send off on The Christmas Carol. I hope it will be aired in prime time, as I am saving my ducats for the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 4 and Walt Disney Treasures. Santa, are you reading?

Nov. 21st:
Miracle on 34th Street: Special Edition.
I am looking forward to this, as I have held off on buying a copy in hopes of a special edition. This is a two disc affair, which also includes the colorized version. I don’t care for that, but the extras include commentary and the cooperation of Maureen O’Hara. I am looking forward to that, as her commentaries are great.

O. Henry’s Full House
This is a film from the 1950s, about which I must confess that I have not seen. It was more a collection of films from different directors and actors, which included radio’s Fred Allen. One of the films is, I have been told, an excellent version of O. Henry’s great Christmas story “The Gift of the Magi”.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: Special Edition.
This is also a two disc special edition which makes the previous DVD version obsolete. I don’t always like double dips, but this looks to be a very nice set packed with great special features. Perhaps the DVD I am looking forward to the most, aside from Miracle on 34th Street.

Well update this list sometime in November as the list warrants updating. Have you marked your calendars? Good. Now forget about Christmas and get to carving those pumpkins. Candy review coming soon.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Look Doris, someday you're going to find that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn't work. And when you do, don't overlook those lovely intangibles. You'll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

the stuff dreams are made of

Looking around at this semi-lackluster week, I'm a little reluctant to name a Top Shelf pick of the week. There are some good items out there to be sure, as you will soon see, but nothing just grabbed me. Then I remembered that a couple of weeks ago, when we had no roundup, there were several items that would have easily been a Top Shelf pick. So, in an amazing time-bending feat, we give you our Top Shelf picks from two weeks ago, and then the rest of today's roundup.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
Humphrey Bogart The Signature Collection Sets, Volume 1 and Volume 2
When I was in high school and just starting to discover great movies existed beyond my few years, I had a poster of one actor who I considered to be one of the best: Humphrey Bogart. I loved his films and watched as many as I could find. I read books about him, drooled over Lauren Bacall, perfected some of his signature lines. Heck, during my days as an actor, I subtly worked in a Bogart mannerism into my character. I though it was a great piece of business and interpreted it into my character's way of thinking. I thought it wouldn't be really picked up, until someone from the audience approached me at the reception after the show and said, "I see you're a Bogart fan! Me too!" I guess in some ways many of us are. We love his unflappable spirit, his independence, his determination that things would get done his way, his toughness, and his way of getting the girl. The actor was all of that and more.
Bogart was named top male actor in an AFI poll. It was not far off. Starting in some great films, memorable films, and arguably some of America's greatest films, his range and the breadth of his work often eludes many people. He is most well known for his role in Casablanca and his marriage to Lauren Bacall. He is also associated with tough guy movies, gangster films or film noir. What some people perhaps don't know is he was a Broadway actor before he came to Hollywood, and that he actually enjoyed doing light comedy, or that he had been in a western. He acted against type in some films, but still even in more traditional roles he brought something unique or personal touches. Directors such as John Huston and Howard Hawkes loved working with him. Actors respected him. Actresses wanted to play opposite him. Bogart was a great actor and a great talent. I think these DVD sets offer a glimpse beyond the Bogart of Casablanca, or even beyond The Maltese Falcon. Sure these films are included, but the other films offer different glimpses at Bogart as an ensemble actor, an actor using stereotypical role as humor in a comedy, an actor demonstrating humanity and duty from some of the unlikeliest of characters. I love the films in these sets. In fact, I cut my classic film teeth on many of them. Casablanca is perhaps one of my all time favorites. That and Treasure of the Sierra Madre are previous releases. High Sierra and Across the Pacific are great films of Bogie at his toughest. One of his most underrated films is All Through the Night, a comedy, in which he plays a crime boss who leads his boys to take out the Nazi's on the home front. Of course perhaps one of the biggest parts of the second set is the three disc special edition of The Maltese Falcon, which includes the two previous versions and tons of extras. This has been a set I've looked forward to since its announcement. These are most definitely, highly recommended.

Another can't miss item from this month:
Abbott and Costello: 100th Anniversary Collection, Season One and SeasonTwo
These sets present a bit of a problem. This is the Abbott and Costello show, sure enough, but there was no television 100 years ago. Of course the "100th Anniversary" part refers to Abbott and Costello themselves. But don't let the word games dissuade you from picking up these sets. Most budget price DVDs of A &C are The old Colgate Comedy Hour shows, which are usually in terrible shape. These sets are from the self titled show Bud and Lou had later that also costarred future Stooge Joe Besser. The prints look great and there is some good extra material including some rarely seen home movies and interviews with Lou's family.

DVD releases this week worthy of your attention:
Icons of Horror: Boris Karloff
Could you get more masterful than Boris Karloff? Movies, television and radio- he really had a steadier career than contemporary Bela Lugosi, but was equally pigeon holed into a genre. Thank goodness for some of the Abbott and Costello films, or I would think that this guy didn't have a sense of humor. Nonetheless, for your Halloween pleasure, four lesser known films from Karloff's talented career are in this set (some are funny!): Before I Hang, The Black Room, The Man They Could Not Hang and The Boogie Man Will Get You. Good scary stuff. For more great lesser known Karloff give the great Tower of London (also with Basil Rathbone) from the recently released, Boris Karloff Collection a try. It's not what you'd expect.

TV on DVD:
Charmed: The Complete Sixth Season
Also great for this time of year, is the highly enjoyable Charmed series, which finished it's last season this past television season (and we covered in a previous roundup here) . I started watching around season 5, then the wife and I began watching the reruns when we could catch them on TNT. When the season sets came out, this was something we both sat down to watch together and enjoyed. I used to ascribe this as a guilty pleasure, but I don't anymore. I like what I like, and this is great entertaining television.

Hitchcock Presents: Season 2
Perfect for Halloween, of course. Alfred even directed a few himself. If you have season 1, then this is a no-brainer. Pick it up and enjoy some old fashioned suspense. A little murder never hurt anyone.

In addition to must-see's like this week's South Park, The Amazing Race, NCIS, The Unit and so on, there is also TCM!

Shelf Picks for Turner Classic Movies
Keep in mind these aren't the only good films listed for their day, only our picks for each day. We love 'em all. It's just sometimes, you need to change it up a little. Besides, we might have picked one last week that's also on this week. You just gotta spread the love.

October 18th: Lady Killer (1933), The Heiress (1949), and Mildred Pierce (1945)

October 19th: The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947), Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and Woman Of The Year (1942).

October 20th: The Horn Blows At Midnight (1945), Mark Of The Vampire (1935) and The Return of the Vampire (1944)

October 21st: Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), The Ghost Breakers (1940), Shenandoah (1965), and Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)

October 22nd: High Society (1956), Going My Way (1944), Marie Antoinette (1938), and Tower of London (1939)

October 23rd: The Producers (1968), Captains Courageous (1937), and The Champ (1931).

October 24th: The Big Street (1942) and Scaramouche (1952)

That's it for this week kiddies. It' s getting close! If you haven't put out the decorations in the yard or bought the candy, it's time to go out and get it done. To help get you in the spirit, Wolf will be around later with this week's Halloween Candy Review. Stay tuned.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I don't mind dying, but I hate to be divided up into small pieces.


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