Sunday, November 25, 2007

reruns and leftovers

While you are on your second helping of Turkey soup, Turkey Terrazini or Turkey Noodle Casserole. how about another Shelf classic? This one is from Thanksgiving weekend of 2005. We'll be back with new stuff this week. Enjoy!

I love music. Different kinds of music. With me - it's not so easy to describe who or what I like. It's more - I know what I like when I hear it. So to speak. OK - I am a big band, jazz, blues, croonin' junkie -but at the same time I love Sting, INXS, Queen, Barenaked ladies, Aaron Copeland, Beethoven, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Rosemary Clooney- do you see what I am getting at? Eclectic doesn't begin to describe my collection. I like me some Brazilian Bossa Nova, and am just as likely to put Celtic harmonies, the Boston Pops, or the Beatles on my playlist. Again I know what I like. I love discovering new music- even though it just may be new to me. A couple of years ago I saw O Brother, Where Art Thou, and - like many other Americans - bought the soundtrack. That led to discovering and loving the music of Allison Krauss and Union Station (one of the most beautiful voices in music today) - even though I don't consider myself a Bluegrass gourmet. Soon after I wandered into the realm of Ralph Stanley, and for a reason I don't remember, Johnny Cash. That led me to rediscover Lynard Skynard. Maybe unrelated links, but a thread nonetheless.

I enjoy something which has been dubbed- "The Great American Songbook." Thanks to Rod Stewart, a Scot, many have started to discover or rediscover great "American" songs - stuff sung by Sinatra, Martin, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Nat King Cole, and others. You probably know most of the songs, or at least heard of them. They are American classics like "As Time Goes By", "Over the Rainbow", "That Old Black Magic", and one of my personal favorites, "Stardust." The thing about these songs is that they evoke some of the common culture, influences, and spirit of our country. And that's nothing to be ashamed of. Why did it take a Scot to make us remember that this stuff is great? Don't know - but thanks anyway. I've been enjoying this music for many years- but it's great to see so many others discovering it now.
Now if someone where to ask- "Do you love Bluegrass? or Do you love Country?" I would probably answer "Not really." However, were they to ask about certain artists or play certain songs within those genres - I might answer differently. I don't know why. I know what I like - and I don't always identify or like an entire genre of music. I don't really know anyone who could honestly claim they like every performance, every performer within a genre of music. We are too human, too rooted in our own life journey for that. But that doesn't mean we can't discover music, artists, or performances. I think the very act of discovery - the discovery of knowledge, music, art, film, words, and ideas - keeps us young and alive, no matter what our age. When we stop discovering, we stop living.

Music, to me, is a journey. I particularly think that our culture, our history, and our identity as a nation of peoples is so beautifully expressed in music, as much as in words or pictures. So its a wonderful thing to make discoveries and to return to old favorites. I have always enjoyed taking an artist I like and then making a journey of discovery through them. For example, I enjoy the work of Harry Connick, Jr. So - who influenced him- who does he influence? Who has a similar sound and what do they do differently with it. Potentially one could start with Harry- and then discover one of his influences- Thelonious Monk. It's then possible to go from Monk to John Coltrane, or one of his influences, Duke Ellington. Duke could lead you to Fats Waller and then, you could study Jazz during the Harlem Renaissance and then the roots of Jazz and Blues in the Mississippi Delta and the South. It is then possible to go from there to traditional Southern Mountain music and even the African influences of music in the Gullah areas of the Charleston coast. Could you then go from the mountain music and it's parentage in Scotland and Ireland and then pull back into traditional Gaelic music in the present? Sure. Or even go to Africa and discover the drums of West Africa.
See - a journey. One that all started with a Harry Connick Jr. CD that you popped in and listened to one afternoon. Music has such potential. We can take a wonderful journey, if we just act on our curiosity and impulse to learn. We are truly only limited by our curiosity and imagination.

We linked to a website in our last post- Pandora. Pandora is part of the online Music Genome Project. If you enter in an artist's name- Pandora will then play a selection by that artist and follow that with other artists with a similar musical DNA, if you will. Check it and see what I'm talking about. Another great site is allmusic. You can make a very similar journey by searching out artists and checking out their work, bios, and influences.
Take a little trip before we are truly inundated with Holiday music. Not that I don't love Holiday music- in fact, I do love it. But the wait will make it all the more enjoyable- trust me. In fact, once we roll into December you can also add Holiday music to Pandora and see what it comes up with. Enjoy.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

I don't care what you call me, man, just as long as my name is on the record.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the rerun where andy and barney eat all the pickles

OK, maybe not. But it is a rerun nonetheless; and a good one too. It's part two of the case for Thanksgiving from holidays past. A Shelf classic to be sure:

Hurray! Jelly Beans for Thanksgiving!
Shelfers, in the midst of your traveling and cooking or cleaning for the holidays, we hope that you will take the time to bow your head and take a moment of silence for an endangered species: Thanksgivingus animatis specialus. We will not review the material from our previous class, so if you need to- you may catch up later.
As we discussed previously, in the past decade the animated holiday special has all but disappeared from Network prime time television. This would be a real tragedy if not for concurring events and technology, namely cable and satellite television and DVDs. Walk into any If you've got no problem hunting a fellow bird for Thanksgiving, Woodstock- go for it.Best Buy or Circuit City, etc. and you will see many holiday DVDs; movies and animated shows alike. In recent years, the networks have sniffed the ad revenue in the air again and perhaps have realized that there is indeed something to running those specials. In fact, ABC has taken a bit of a lead in running the classics. ABC secured the rights to air the Peanuts holiday specials, taking them from CBS, the long time champ of the holiday special. Peanuts ruled CBS for 35 years. What kid doesn't remember the CBS eye logo spinning around with the dramatic music surging underneath telling us another holiday special was next?
CBS was smarting when ABC took the rug out from under them. The specials were getting perfunctory attention at CBS- ABC took the initiative and invested advertising and commercials in the series and it looks like it has paid off. At first they claimed that ratings was not a big deal; the network claimed at the time that they "won't miss the ratings. They were pretty modest. It's a matter of tradition."
That was then. Now the ratings have turned around to ABC's favor in regard to their investment. Now they are taking another step in the right direction. This year ABC is also running a longtime fan favorite Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. This is perhaps the first time in many years it has been run in primetime on a major network. ABC is also running two Charlie Brown Christmas specials (there are actually three) and The Grinch as well. CBS still has the rights to several Rankin Bass specials, Rudolph and several Frosty specials and will be airing those (Rudolph runs twice!). For many years the original Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and Frosty were the only specials you saw on network television- and they were rarely aired on the weekend. You had to go to cable to see anything else. That is beginning to change. The original fans of these shows are now adults and have or are starting to have kids of their own. They want to share these (and see them also) with their own children. Something that became tradition, then went away, seems to be making a comeback - at least where Christmas is concerned.
What does this mean for Thanksgiving specials? Well, not much- at least not in the present. TheDon't get mad, Peppermint Patty- get even. Bring back the specials! truth is that Thanksgiving specials were never in great abundance. Thanksgiving day has been the official start of Christmas programming for television right after the Macy's parade has gone off the air. I mean if Macy's winds up with Santa Claus as a finale- who are the networks to delay the inevitable. ABC, in a bold move (students, please not the light air of sarcasm in this statement) is airing A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on the night of Thanksgiving. This year that seems to be it. However, in the 70s and 80s in the weeks before Thanksgiving, families were able to sit down in front of a least a couple of animated Thanksgiving specials. Very few of them retained a special place as a must see special- but there have been more than you think. Today, in honor of this most rare of species we will list out the Thanksgiving animated specials that have appeared over the years, many which have been largely forgotten (some deservedly so). A few deserve to be remembered and seen still. Perhaps you will enjoy this trip down memory lane. Take the time to watch the specials when they air, and perhaps the trend that is returning, starting with Christmas, will spill over to Thanksgiving as well.

Not counting the occasional Saturday morning holiday themed special, very few Thanksgiving specials appeared in prime time. Here are a few that only appeared a few times.

The Mouse and the Mayflower (Rankin Bass, 1968)
If you thought the masters of the holiday special missed Thanksgiving, you are wrong. Rankin Bass hit Thanksgiving hard like your Aunt Mabel's Turkey Tofu Loaf. This cell animated adventure is about a Mouse that takes a trip along with the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower and ends up saving the ship and eventually Thanksgiving. Natch. Rankin Bassaficionadoss (including yours truly) eagerly await the DVD release of this classic. You can find it only used on VHS if you can't wait.

The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't (Hanna Barbara, 1972) This was a fairly saccharine-sweet adventure style cartoon. A young settler befriends a young Indian around the time of the first Thanksgiving. Some forest animals of the Snow White variety hang out with them, until they are dangerously cornered by a bear. Who will save the day? I actually don't remember this from childhood, but from having seen it on Cartoon Network about seven years ago.

Bugs Bunny Thanksgiving Diet (Warner Brothers, 1979) Bugs Bunny is the head of a diet clinic helping out other Looney Tunes characters with food related problems. Each problem transitions into a classic cartoon with a food theme. This one is actually funny and the new animation does a better job of leading into older segments. Although not on prime time anymore, you can probably find this on VHS at a rental store or online.

Daffy Duck's Thanks For Giving (Warner Brothers, 1980)
This is really only a Thanksgiving special in name only. Classic Daffy Duck shorts are joined by new animated transitions which have Daffy trying to get "J.L" to produce a new Daffy Duck film adventure: "Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th 1/2 Century."

This is America, Charlie Brown - The Mayflower Voyagers

(Paramount, 1988) While is not necessarily a "Thanksgiving special" it is an enjoyable and fairly informative look at the story of the meeting of the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Part of the "This is America" series, this special is available as a second feature on the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD.

Garfield's Thanksgiving (Fox, 1988)
A great classic! Garfield's vet tells Jon that Garfield must go on a diet, right at Thanksgiving. Jon is able to convince the lady vet to come over for Thanksgiving. When she comes over, she takes pity on ol' Garfield and tells him he can take a break from the diet for the special diet. Jon almost ruins dinner, but luckily it's his Harley- riding Grandma to the rescue. This one is readily available on the Garfield Holiday Celebrations DVD.

And of course perennialnnel classic:

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (Paramont, 1973)
What else can we say, other than perhaps no other special is able to top it. Peppermint Patty invites herself, Franklin, and Marcie over to Chuck's for Thanksgiving. One problem - Charlie Brown and Sally are headed to Grandma's for dinner and aren't cooking. Linus recommends that perhaps they have two dinners: one for the gang early and then the Browns can head to Grandma's. Snoopy handles cooking duties which includes Jelly Beans, toast, popcorn, pretzels and sundaes. Peppermint Patty gets pretty ticked and freaks out. Marcie reminds her that she invited herself over and PP apologizes to Chuck. Then Charlie Brown does what he should have done in the first place: he asks Grandma if his friends can come for dinner. When the gang heads for Grandma's condo, Snoopy and Woodstock then pull out the real Thanksgiving food that he hid for themselves. Woodstock, who apparently has no issues with cannibalism, wins the wishbone. I love this special- it's actually one of my favorite Charlie Brown specials. Also it has a very under-appreciated song: "Little Birdy." Love it. Do yourself a favor - watch it Thanksgiving night.

Well Shelfers- that's the case for Thanksgiving we think it deserves all the respect we can give it. Hopefully animated specials will continue the trend and return in abundance soon. Until then, enjoy them on DVD or cable if you can.

Finally from all of us at The Shelf- Happy Thanksgiving! Snag a drumstick and an extra helping of pie for us and enjoy Charlie Brown tonight! Be safe-

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

What did you expect, a turkey card?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

it's cheating, I know- blame the tryptophan...

Yes, it's been a busy week or so around The Shelf- and you've missed the Shelf madness. But like you- this is a busy time of year. Well, we still can't let it go buy til the weekend without something! So we're delving into our bag of tricks and presenting a Shelf Classic from Thanksgiving past: I know it's cheating, but hey- I've got stuff to stuff. Today we present: The Case for Thanksgiving, part I. Tomorrow we'll give you part II. In the meantime, enjoy the posts, eat some extra pumpkin pie, sit at the kid's table and have a happy Thanksgiving.

I believe a call to the Human Society is in order here. People- dogs don't care to be dressed up...especially for the holidays. And the wig is just plain wrong.

You will, no doubt, remember our award winning coverage of the history of animated specials and the Top Shelf picks for Halloween specials. When I say award winning, I mean that it should have won an award if there was such a thing. But let's stay on track here...
Thanksgiving is no stranger to the animated special. However, it does get short shrift as far as the amount and quality of specials. In fact, we dare say that only the Fourth of July and Labor Day fare worse. Labor Day was a goner the minute Jerry Lewis locked it in, and they realized no one care to see an animated musical about the AFL-CIO. Columbus Day doesn't count, because we all know it's not politically correct. Are there still places that celebrate that archaic holiday? I mean when will people learn that Columbus, OH is frightening place and never deserved a holiday to begin with. Just think of all the other deserving towns or cities that deserve... wait a second... I'm getting some information from the production team... Christopher who? Oh... I see. Well, that's different. Ahem.
Back to our feature.
Hi Uncle Joe! How's Aunt Mabel's Rhumetism? Oh, she's fine...and she came? Darn!
Like the Thanksgiving animated special, the holiday itself is sort of in a bit of limbo. I know many people who enjoy Thanksgiving as one of their favorite holidays, myself included. Everything about it is pleasant, especially the older you get. I mean, once you get bumped up from the kiddy table to fill a vacancy at the "Main Table" - there's no turning back. At least until Aunt Mabel comes back next year when her rheumatism isn't so bad. Darn that Aunt Mabel.

Since Halloween folded up and left town, Christmas busted into town, without any regard for TThis fella doesn't mind waiting his turn.hanksgiving, or even without calling ahead first to let us know it was on the way. In the rush to get the house ready- Thanksgiving- expected and invited- was knocking at the door. We answer the door sheepishly, knowing what needs to said. Thanksgiving, grinning from ear to ear has no clue. All we can say is, "Come on in, Thanksgiving. Good to see you. Sorry we can't visit long. You see, Christmas just blew into town and we kind of weren't expecting him this early. I'm sure you understand. Just stay and have some dinner and watch a little T.V. before Christmas gets here. Then we've got to rush, rush, rush. You know how it is. The house has to be just right."
Yeah. See what I mean. Short shrift.

Retail stores are barely putting discount signs on the Halloween candy the day before Halloween, and the Christmas candy and other holiday flash and tinsel was on the next shelf- waiting for Halloween to vacate the place like some New Yorker waiting for the tenant above them to die so they can move in to that rent controlled haven. It's fairly pathetic. The day afterThey even found a way to commercialize smells. Halloween, I snuck down to the nearby unnamed electronics store chain and they were playing Christmas music. Freakin' Christmas music. Shelfers, I know you have been there. I know you have your own sad little experiences. It's not that Christmas isn't great. It is. We are big fans of Christmas here at The Shelf, as you will see coming in the month ahead. But all things must be enjoyed in moderation and in perspective. In fact, I would argue that without first commemorating a day of thanks, we are essentially diluting the true spirit of Christmas and the season in general. Since when did our culture stop needing to feel and recognize gratitude? Since never. Duh.

Popular culture is a wonderful thing, but it sort of has an "evil twin" side to it called over-commercialization. That used to be a very popular term back in the 60s and 70s when everyone worried about the holidays becoming too commercialized. But I've got news for ya': it's been going on for decades. It's fine in some aspects. Surely, certain holiday commercials and Snuffy and bullet know how to take it easy.products occupy warm spots in our hearts. But when it is done in non-stop excess, we can't enjoy it. In fact we may resent it. And the thing is, Thanksgiving is kind of hard to commercialize, outside of food and maybe cards. It doesn't mean companies haven't tried, but in the end a day based on gratitude is a hard way to sell toys and candy. So the companies pay perfunctory tribute to Thanksgiving while they are rolling out the toys and candy and hawk decorations and advice on how to have the perfect Christmas. The T.V. and stores tell you to hurry, "time's a-wastin' "(wither Snuffy Smith?) and you have to buy this and that to have it just right. If it's not right, then no one will enjoy it! Rubbish. As it is- all this stuff puts family Too...much...pie!time in tretcherous territory. Now, don't get me wrong. Decorating, baking, etc. is wonderful for the holidays. But when you are worrying about perfection, what time do you have left for the loved ones who don't want perfect- they just want you. Truth hurts, doesn't it? If you only learn one thing today Shelfers, learn this: There can be too much of a good thing. Too much of anything leaves little room for anything else.

Remember Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory? All the kids that were abducted by Oompa Loompas and never seen again, were children in excess. All kids like candy and Doompety DO!television, etc., but it has to be moderated by things like heart, learning, and living a good life. The true blessing of childhood is the ability of children to see truth, feel love and express them both. When we adults cram everything down their throats and indulge every single whim- we dilute that. Sometimes to the point of obliterating that. That's what the Oompa Loopmas were singing: "Who's to blame? The Mother and the Father." Didn't catch that the first time you saw it did you? Oompa Loompa, Doompety do.

Perhaps it's the feeling that holiday purchases are being forced down our throats- or perhaps it's because we feel like the things like products and perfection are getting in the way of time with family and friends; but that same thing happens to holidays. Days that were meant, like children, to express love and truth- become diluted by gross commercialization.
Therefore, today at the Shelf we are making the case for Thanksgiving. We throw the gaunlet down- we dare you to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, in full, and hold off on Christmas til next Come on! You know you want to make one!week. Sit down with your kids and enjoy some holiday cheer. Keep the Christmas stuff in the attic for now. Watch some Thanksgiving specials, bake some pumpkin pies, and heck throw in the ol' hand turkey. Enjoy Thanksgiving in it's fullness and aromas, in it's family time and goofy traditions. And be grateful that old Aunt Mabel is still around to tell you those silly stories about her rheumatism. Remember she may not be around next year. While you may be bumped up to the "Main table," we know that you look back at the kiddy table with fondness. Maybe next week once you are in the stores, hearing der Bingle croonin' about Rudolph above the din of the crowd, you will have carried a bit of the grateful spirit along with you. And then you'll thank us. Trust me, it will be worth it.
And next year, when Christmas blows into town right after Halloween skips out, tell 'em you already got company. Thanksgiving is propping it's feet up and staying a while. Tell Christmas you'll be glad to see it in December.

Tomorrow in part II, we look at the rare species known as Thanksgivingus animatis specialus. Be here.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.

Monday, November 12, 2007

thank you......

The following is a re-post from Memorial Day earlier this year. I re-post it today because I feel it is a suitable statement for today as we observe Veteran's Day all across the country. Please thank a vet for his or her service not just today, but whenever you see one. As far as I'm concerned, every day of freedom that we have in this country should be celebrated as veteran's day because without them it would not be so. Enjoy.

"As we fire up the grills today and enjoy family and friends I challenge us all to remember those for whom this day began. For centuries man has engaged in battle. Since time began there has always been a group somewhere who took up arms to defend their own or others who could not do so for themselves. Today we remember those who undertook this duty for our nation, but did not live to return home. I am not ashamed to say that as Americans, we live in the greatest nation on this green earth. God smiles on this country and those who feel otherwise can go jump in a lake.
The Declaration of Independence and Constitution alike are documents inspired of God and we live under the protection of their great canopy today. Lets take today to enjoy our freedoms and remember those who stand watch and hoist that canopy for us.

There is the famous phrase "All gave some and some gave all..". We hear it now and then and most of us pay little attention. Today is the day we remember those who gave all. My grandfather fought in and was wounded in the invasion of Italy in WWII. He is with us today because our family is greatly blessed. There are those who fought alongside him who never made it back to their families. I once heard him talk about the horrors of war saying that since returning home he has thought "Why did I survive? Why is it that when I was injured that I came out OK yet there were so many others who never made it past 19 or 21 years of age and returned home dead." He told me once that he had a great friend in his unit from Tennessee. He said they fought together in North Africa and into Italy. After he was wounded, he was taken to a field hospital and then to Charleston, S.C. to recover. Once he had gained his bearings in Charleston, he says he went to great lengths to check on the status of his friend who was still fighting overseas. In the process of doing so, he discovered to his horror that his unit had gone on to spearhead an attack on a city held by the Nazis and was almost completely wiped out. The list of casualties included his friend. This caused him to wonder why he survived and why he wasn't dead with his friend. I know he is grateful that he is here with us today, but I understand why he has had concern in the past.

There are those who have gone on before who died for the cause of our freedom or for the freedom of another. I don't care what your politics are. Whether it's our freedom or the freedom of some other nation, it is still freedom. People say that our soldier are dying for nothing in Iraq, but I say that disrespects the fallen who went out and put their life on the line for the freedom of another. No soldier ever died for nothing as long as they believed in the cause for which they fought. Let us put partisan views aside today and remember those who will never make it home. For the sake of their memory and the honor of their families, let us join together this day in a moment of silence to remember those who have fallen. I know we've all seen this video clip of the soldier returning from Iraq and surprising his son. As a father of two boys, I know what it is to enjoy the love of your children. In my career I have had several instances where I thought that I might not have made it home to see them again. Luckily I'm still with my family, but as we watch this clip today, let's think of what it is like for all of those little boys and girls past and present who won't get to hug mommy or daddy again. Let's think that even though our soldiers fight for freedom right now in another country, they still fight and die for freedom. Let's honor them for their courage and sacrifice and let's think about what it means when we hear "some gave all"."

In America you can go on the air and kid the politicians, and the politicians can go on the air and kid the people.

Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. ."

Friday, November 09, 2007

sesame street contest over

The Sesame Street Old School, Vol. 2 Contest is over. Congrats to our three winners. And a special thank you to the great folks at Genius Entertainment and Sesame Workshop for sponsoring the contest! We should be posting a new contest very soon. We've enjoyed the participation and reaction to these giveaways and hope that all of you will continue to enter. Please tell your friends and share The Shelf with them this holiday season! We have 0 calories, but lots of taste.

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 thought we were gonna get television. The truth is... television is gonna get us.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

classic stars, classic dvd news

It's been a long week since this past Halloween. And we've been busy here at the Shelf, reviewing new releases just for you. Awww - twern't nothin'. We'll be loading up those reviews here shortly (in fact, be sure to check back tomorrow!). Until then, we have some exciting DVD news that should have classic film fans excited.

Forbidden Hollywood, Vol. 2 (March 4, 2007- not yet available for pre-order)
This is one set that I was hoping would've been released this year. It was about this time last year that Vol. 1 came out, which we reviewed here, to much acclaim. I had great hopes that some titles like Night Nurse (check out this great post on the film at Another Old Movie Blog) would be on the next set and that there would be a documentary or features. It looks like my hopes are well founded. Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 2 will be released in a three disc set on March 4th, 2008 and will have the following 5 titles, all hitting DVD for the first time: The Divorcee (1930- Norma Shearer), A Free Soul (1931-Lionel Barrymore), Three on a Match (1932-Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak), Female (1933- George Brent and Ruth Chatterton), and the highly sought after Night Nurse (1931-Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable) There will be commentaries and theatrical trailers for some of the film. Also included will be a brand new, feature length documentary, Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood, that covers the years before and during the Hayes code. Fantastic! What more could you ask for? Well, how about a Volume 3? I am especially looking forward to The Divorcee (one of the films that really pushed the Hayes office over the edge) Three on a Match and Night Nurse. I can't wait.

Joan Crawford Collection Vol.2 (Feb.12, 2008- available for pre-order)
Many have been waiting for Warners to release the much talked-about Vol.2 of Joan Crawford classics. I know many have been hoping that Johnny Guitar would be included in that set as well. I've got good news and bad news. Warners is finally releases The Joan Crawford Collection Vol.2 on February 12, 2008. The bad news is that fans will have to keep waiting for Johnny Guitar. That's OK- there's some good stuff here to tide you over! The five films included in this set are: A Woman's Face, Flamingo Road, Sadie McKee, Strange Cargo, and Torch Song. As usual with Warner's box sets, a bevy of trailers, commentaries, cartoons, vintage shorts and other extras will be locked and loaded.

Lastly- The Bob Hope MGM Movie Legends Collection (Dec. 4, 2007- available for pre-order)
Not too far off in December, MGM will release a 7 disc Bob Hope: MGM Movie Legends Collection on Dec. 4th. Three of the films are new to DVD: Alias Jesse James, Boy, Did I Get the Wrong Number and The Facts of Life . Four others have been previously released: I'll Take Sweden, The Princess and the Pirate, The Road to Hong Kong and They've Got Me Covered. No extras to speak so far. When we get to release date and if we receive a review copy, we'll let you know.

Good stuff, right? Well, that's not all- we've got some reviews of some recent releases that would make any classic film fan happy this holiday season. And they very well might be winners in the first annual Shelf DVD releases of the year! Who knows? Well see...

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.

There's only one guy in the world that can do a nurse any good and that's a patient with dough!

Friday, November 02, 2007

out with the old, in with the new

Our Reef Giveaway is over! Congrats to all five of our winners! A copy of The Reef is headed to Anne, Sanjay, Lesha, Shelley and Daniel, courtesy of Genius Entertainment and Wonderworld Studios. That means we have a new giveaway starting now!
Three lucky Shelfers can score a copy of Sesame Street Old School: Vol.2 (1974-1979)!
Thanks to the kind folks at Genius Entertainment and Sesame Workshop for sponsoring the contest! I'm pretty excited about this one. It hits the shelves next Tuesday and contains several full episodes and tons of clips of animation and Sesame Street skits from when I was a kid watching it. If you were a kid during this time, you'll probably have many hours of fun going down memory lane, and if you have pre-schoolers, introducing them to what you watched as a kid.
Again the rules are as simple as can be. The only excuse you could possibly have for not entering is either you won this past week or you are lazy! So open up your email and enter today!

We are giving away three copies (one per household)and the contest runs through next Thursday.

Email us your entry at
1.You MUST include: Your name and full address in the body of the email, and "Sesame Street Vol.2" must be in the subject line.
2. The contest is only open to US residents
3. Only one entry per email address (and household, please!)
4. Contest ends on Thursday November 8th, 2007 at 11:59pm. We will draw the winner and notify them by email sometime on November 9st.
Please note that your information will be held confidential and will not be published and only used solely for identifying the winner and shipping the prize. Also, we will mail the prize to you, but cannot guarantee that the post office will treat it with the same respect as we will when we send it out. We will only guarantee that we will mail it to the address you provide to us.
So get those emails in and good luck!

Let the contest begin!

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 thought we were gonna get television. The truth is... television is gonna get us.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

dvd review: vincent price collections

I know Halloween is over, and we're in a new month and all, but Wolf and I still have a couple tricks and treats up our sleeves. Just to round out the week and all. Undoubtedly, many of you watched some great Halloween cartoons here at the Shelf and at home. You probably even popped in a few of the classics like Dracula or Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. Huh? Huh? Huh? Awww... sure you did. This year we got an opportunity to review two new box sets from Fox that were perfect for Halloween. Of course, dear Shelfer, we are looking out for you. Or job is to watch and give you a comprehensive review. The question is, are these sets worth your hard earned cash? Are they worth your time, or are they just a frightening waste of time?
HA! See what I did there? Halloween...frightening...? Heh... Oh, never mind. Let's get on with this special double feature review of Vincent Price: MGM Scream Legends Collection and The Fly Collection!

The Hard Facts:
Vincent Price - MGM Scream Legends Collection
3 Flip Discs, 2 single
in five slimline cases
Studio: Fox
Original Studio: MGM
Release Date: Sept. 11, 2007
Rated: UR for all films
Stars: Vincent Price

The Fly Collection
Four Discs in four slimline cases
Studio: Fox
Color/Black & White
Widescreen (Cinemascope)
Original Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: Sept 11, 2007
Rated: NR for All Films
Stars: Vincent Price

Vincent Price is today more widely known for his campy horror image. That’s a shame, because in reality his career was so much more varied. The films from the Scream Collection really demonstrate why. The Fly Collection also shows the beginnings of his particular career in film noir-ish type horror films. When he stopped making the campy type horror films, it was partly because he was disappointed with the turn that had been made towards more gory, slasher-type films and away from the nightmarish, inner sanctum-type horror and the playful terror films he was so adapt at. Above all else, Price was a gentleman and cultured human being, so he was aware of the impact of these type of films. The Screams Collection is almost a smattering of the peek and end of his horror career in those type of films, with Witchfinder General being last. After that film in particular, he still remained in the public eye, especially on television, playing up his iconic image. If anything else, it must be said, Vincent Price knew his audience and knew how to entertain. Perhaps out of all of those actors who we generally think of as the masters of the horror genre, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price were perhaps the best (and very similar) and most admired, by fans and industry alike.

The Films:
MGM Screams Collection:
The Abominable Dr. Phibes/ Dr. Phibes Rises Again:
Price plays Doctor Phibes, a man possess by revenge, madness and his own disfigurement. He wears a mask, but speaks through an electronic wire and eats through his neck. He is out to eliminate the doctors he holds responsible for his disfigurement and for his wife’s death. The twist: Dr. Phibes concocts his killings patterned after the ten deadly plagues from Biblical times. While his plan carries on, he is living in art deco surroundings and in lifestyle reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera (indeed the film reminds one of Phantom in several ways). The terror is balanced with humor and camp- only the way Price can pull off. In Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the self same Doctor returns, though it was thought he was finished off in the first film, he comes of suspended animation, and travels to Egypt, seeking out an elixir which may bring his wife back from the dead. Whereas revenge was his previous motive, now Phibes just takes out whoever stands in his way. While many fans love these films, I really thought the camp was a little too much, although the revenge twist was rather unique. Probably the average disc in the set.

Tales of Terror/ Twice Told Tales:
This is one of the more enjoyable discs in the box. API really made its eating money off of the Poe adaptation films like Tales of Terror. Several Poe stories make up three different short segments of the movie. In The Black Cat, Drunken lout, Montresor Herringbone (Peter Lorre in a great, funny performance,) is only concerned about his next drink. After he meets wine connoisseur, Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price), he invites him home, only to later discover that he’s having an affair with his wife. Herringbone exacts his revenge by killing his wife and drugging Fortunato and walling them inside his basement. Although he is rather pleased with himself, his weak mind and a black cat will be his undoing. Morella tells the story of a young woman named Lenora, who returns to her home after sometime away, only to discover her father (Price) is a wreck. He couldn’t let go of the grief, nor his wife, as her decomposing body is kept in a room in the home. He warns Lenora about her mother, Morella, and that it was her birth that caused her mother’s death. And before you can say Mommy’s home- she is! The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar is also about revenge from beyond the grave, as Price stars as Mr. Valdemar who dies from a painful disease. He gets some ease and comfort in his passing from a hypnotist, Mr. Carmichael (Basil Rathbone), who is supposed to put him in a trance to ease his transition from life to death. However, Carmichael has other plans and keeps him trapped between life and death, which won’t end well for Carmichael.
Twice Told Tales adapts Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories in a similar manner. Dr. Heidegger's Experiment is about two friends (Price and Sebastian Cabot) using water from the fountain of youth to restore youth to four friends, and bringing one long-dead bride back to life. Rappaccini's Daughter has Price as a slightly mad scientist and overprotective father who has infused his daughter from birth with poison. Her touch is deadly, and may have deadly consequences when she finds true love. The House of the Seven Gables adapts that story to the big screen with Vincent Price in particularly delightful villainous role. This disc was my favorite of the set. Gothic horror tales, with humor, psychological terror, no much in the way of gore- but more in the way of romance, revenge and spooky stuff. And all with some classic film stars to boot! Good stuff.

Theater of Blood/ Madhouse:
The lesser disc of the set in my opinion. Theater of Blood is a campy revenge tale of a hammy, over the hill actor Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price), who kills himself, after hearing what the critics really think of him. Shortly thereafter the critics begin to be murdered in mysterious, Shakespearean ways. The perpetrators are none other than the returned actor, his daughter and his deadly troupe of equally hammy actors. Madhouse is the only flick in the set that also features Peter Cushing, in their first on-screen pairing. Another revenge flick (sense a pattern here, kids?), but this time, Vincent Price is the victim. He plays former horror star Paul Toombes, who played Dr. Death onscreen. An actor-turned-writer Herbert Flay (Cushing), convinces him to bring back his character for a TV series. It isn’t long before people around Toombes including cast and crew are murdered in styles reminiscent of Dr. Death. Toombes is losing his mind, and people suspect him of murder. But is it really him? These films, particularly Madhouse, were headed in the direction that Price feared. Price fans ( I am one, but not of this genre) will disagree with me, but I didn’t care for them too much. Price fans, particularly of this genre, will undoubtedly eat them up.

Witchfinder General
Price returns for the last time in these bloody horror films as Matthew Hopkins, a "witchfinder" appointed by Puritan Royalists in 17th Century England. He sets about the country side doing what the English peasants in Monty Python and the Holy Grail so desperately wanted to do: burn witches. Of course, Hopkins has other methods, and is not above accepting bribes. However, he makes a mistake in allaying someone’s punishment by bedding the fiance of a soldier in Cromwell’s army. When the soldier, Marshall, discover’s Hopkins treachery he decides to expose him and eliminate him once and for all. This was really the film that many fans were looking forward to. It is imaginative and different, but it is also more over the top than his previous films. While I remain ambivalent about it, I know many who are glad to see it finally on DVD.

Bonus Disc: Includes featurettes: Vincent Price: Renaissance Man, The Art of Fear, and Working With Vincent Price. The featurettes are pretty good. VP: RM is conversational documentary, but it lacks any cohesion. Otherwise these are decent features that give a lot of information about the man and his career in horror films.

The Fly Collection:
The Fly
Vincent is known for The Fly, and yet, contrary to what some people (who haven’t seen it), he wasn't the Fly. Price plays François Delambre, an industrialist in Canada. He is awoken in the middle of the night by two disturbing phone calls. His sister-in-law, Helene (Patricia Owens) calls to confess she has killed his brother, Andre Delambre (David Hedison), a scientist. He can scarcely believe it, but his night watchman at his plant calls to tell him that someone has been killed at the plant, and it appears to be his brother. The police and François arrive to confirm the gruesome turn of events. Andre's head and hand have been completely crushed in a machine. Helene, for her part, seems distracted, sad and yet not sorry that she carried out what she claims were Andre's last wish. She then tells François and Police Inspector Charas a story they can hardly believe. She relates the last few weeks that Andre had discovered a way to teleport matter. But their happy home life with his wife and son was doomed when he takes it upon himself to test the process himself. He teleports himself, but a fly accidentally finds its way into the machine, thus blending their DNA. Andre comes out of the machine with his body, but the head and arm of the Fly. Helene and his son Philippe search for the "white headed fly" to try and duplicate the process. After they are unable to catch the fly, Andre's mind begins to go and he tells Helene (through notes) that he fears he will lose control. When all hope is lost, he burns his notes, destroys his equipment and with Helene's help, destroys himself. The police can't believe it and begin the process to charge her with murder and commit her to a mental institution. A chilling discovery by François near the end of the film, turns the situation on it's ear. And the famous scene is unforgettable.
This film is a classic and so well done, that to me it's really not a horror movie. It is more a sci-fi thriller, but some have associated it with either genre. Either way, the film is great, and the script (written by James Clavell who would go on to write Shogun) is fantastic. Fox put money into the film, as it had a very large budget for a science fiction film. It was filmed in Cinemascope color, which is telling about how much the studio was behind the film. The Fly was a smash at the box office, which ensured the inevitable sequel. Great stuff.

The Fly Returns.
The title is somewhat misleading. The Fly doesn't return, but his son, Phillipe, does. All grown up, Phillipe is eager to carry on his father's work and carefully correct what went wrong with his father's experience. Since his mother Helene has long passed away, his uncle François is all the family he has left. And François tries to discourage Phillipe from the experiments, but when he sees that he can't dissuade him, François gives his consent as long as he can help. All is going well, until Phillipe's duplicitous assistant who wants the discovery for himself betrays him. The assistant tries to kill Phillipe by placing him in the transformation booth with a fly, thus recreating the terrible creature. Will Phillipe suffer the same fate as his father, or will François be able to save Phillipe where he couldn't save Andre?
The Fly Returns is a very apt sequel, but weaker than the original. It was filmed in black and white, which was a bit of a mistake considering the first was in color. The pace of the film is different, and it has a different feel. It's almost a film noir with a sci-fi twist. All in all, the pair make a great double feature, and with Price reprising his role as François, it's an excellent film.

Curse of the Fly
This film really has no big connection to the previous installments, other than to cash in on the name. Some relatives of the Delambres recreate the teleportation process and begin to experiment with more serious consequences. Humans are mutated and all sorts of creatures result- addressing the original concept of what can go wrong when man steps into areas of science that used to be the purview of God. The only thing- there is no fly involved in the film. Go figure.
This is the weakest of the set, but it is very much more of a sci-fi horror film than the other two. It's a cult classic, and many fans have been waiting for it's release. Even though it's not the same quality as the other two films, it's still scary fun. And for the completest, it's great to have all of them in one set.

Bonus features:
The Fly disc has an enjoyable commentary track with David Hedison. And the fourth disc is a bonus disc called The Disc of Horrors which includes a great episode of A&E's Biography series, profiling Vincent Price. It also has a making of feature, Fly Trap: Catching a Classic and theatrical trailers. Also included in the set is an interesting booklet that details some of the facts of the making of the films. All in all this bonus disc is great, and the features are much better here than in the previous set.

The video and audio transfers in both sets are excellent, with The Fly looking particularly good. In the Scream Legends set, however, all of the films, except for Witchfinder General, are previous DVD releases that have been repackaged for the set. Otherwise everything looks and sounds great, with the edge given to The Fly Collection

The Bottom Line:
Both sets are fun, but I have to admit that enjoyed The Fly Collection much more than Scream Legends. I suspect, however, that has more to do with my tastes than with the quality of the set, which is excellent. Fans of Price's API films will definitely want to pick up Scream Legends, and Witchfinder General in particular for their collections. I would like to recommend the Tales of Terror/Twice Told Tales disc for the casual fan, like myself, who don't go in for the camp and blood.
The Fly Collection is very much recommended as an all around great set, despite the weaker third film. Vincent Price is great and the bonus disc is well done and informative. The set is fun and should fit right alongside other classic thrillers and sci-fi classics. Don't miss it.

Review Rating:
Individually grading the films and bonus features, the sets would earn the following:
Vincent Price: MGM Scream Legends Collection:
Dr.Phibes/Return of Phibes: C
Tales of Terror/Twice Told Tales: B+
Theater of Blood/Madhouse: C-
Witchfinder General: C+
Bonus Disc : B+

The Fly Collection:
The Fly: A+
The Fly Returns: B+
Curse of the Fly: C+
The Disc of Horror Bonus Features: A

Overall rating:

Vincent Price: MGM Scream Legends Collection:
3 stars (Groucho Glasses)

The Fly Collection:
4 stars (Groucho Glasses)

That's all- stay tuned for more DVD reviews of some great television like Sesame Street Old School Vol. 2 and Meerkat Manor and some recent fantastic classic film box sets, including The Jazz Singer, Mickey and Judy and Barbara Stanwyck Signature Collection. Also stay tuned for a special post from the Wolfman himself, to perform a post-mortum on Halloween 2007.

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 shall never forget that scream as long as I live...


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