Thursday, July 31, 2008

kiddies, it's time for the show!

Almost any kid (even if just in their heart) of the television era remembers coming home from school and going straight away to do their home work, brush their teeth, take their cod liver oil....ah, who am I kidding? We raced to catch the afternoon TV shows. Most inevitably reruns from other eras, you watched anything from comedies like Gilligan's Island or The Three Stooges and animated cartoons. Sometimes in the 80s and 90s there was new, syndicated cartoons like G.I. Joe, Thundercats and the like. Well, with the rise and dominance of DVD many kids and nostalgic or not-quite grown up adults can have their own collections of these shows. I just happened to notice a few favorites looming on the horizon that all Shelfers might want to take notice of:

Little Rascals: The Complete Collection-
Release date: October 28, 2008
Trapped in many public domain or less than superior quality "best of" DVDs for a long time, The Rascals are finally getting their due come October. This set boasts "all 80 of the original Little Rascals theatrical talkies in their entirety; fully Remastered, Restored and Uncut" according to amazon. com and comes in an 8 disc set with bonus features. Some of you may not be familiar with the work of Mssrs. Spanky, Alfalfa, Stymie and the rest, but rest assured - it is rascally indeed. They don't show too much of this on television anymore, even with cable- so this is a real treat.

Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6-
Release date: October 21, 2008
It is billed as the last in this series, but do not despair- Cartoon Brewmaster Jerry Beck has stated that more Looney Tunes on DVD will continue to be released and details will be forthcoming at a later date. And that includes previously unreleased to DVD Looney Tunes. (Perhaps a different banner collection or release strategy. Who knows?) Nonetheless- this is a no-brainer here. 60 great Looney Tunes classics, plus at least 15 bonus cartoons, tons of extra features- and all on 4 discs. I have the other 5 volumes, and they find regular rotation in the Loophole household. I am sure that will be the case with Volume 6. Each of the discs will feature a different theme; Disc 1: Looney Tunes All Stars; Disc 2: Patriotic Pals; Disc 3: Bosko, Buddy and Merrie Melodies (yea!); and Disc 4: Most Requested Assorted Nuts (including two of my faves: Fresh Airedale and The Oily American.)

Popeye the Sailor:1941-1943, Vol. 3-
Release date: September 30, 2008
I have absolutely loved these Popeye DVD sets. The remaster prints are fantastic and the bonus features are great. And the cartoons? Well, nothing short of pure animated goodness. My kids love 'em (as they do the other products mention here) and so do I. And having another set released so soon is great. I think in this case, releasing them in smaller, less expensive increments makes it more accommodating for the budget- so I don't mind as much. It's different with long running theatrical shorts, than say when they split TV seasons sets in two. That' s kind of a pain. What's the lowdown on Volume 3? Over 30 cartoons from the World War II years, with tons of extras. And the bonus features in these releases have been top-notch. What's great is that these are remastered and uncut- including some War -era cartoons that haven't been on television for years, due to PC concerns. So put it on your "to buy" list!

The Three Stooges Collection ,Volume 3: 1940-1942- Release date: August 26, 2008
Speaking of wartime shorts, it seems we've just started to enjoy Volume 2 when Volume 3 of The Stooges is right around the corner. I wouldn't have it any other way; keep 'em coming! When some genius finally decided to release the complete library of the Stooges oeuvre, he put an end to the four to six random shorts on a disc hell that the world had been in. These sets may skimp on the extras (and we would love to see some, believe me!), but the fact the shorts are being remastered and the fans are being treated with some respect is enough for me. By the way, as with the Popeye Vol. 3 set, some of the shorts included here, haven't been seen for years, and some may be decidedly un-PC because of the war era. Delicious. But nonetheless- this set also includes some legendary stooge shorts- including A Plumbing We Will Go, Nutty But Nice, An Ache in Every Stake, Matri-Phony, Three Smart Saps and so much more. And with an Amazon pre-order price of under $20, there is no reason you shouldn't make space on you shelf for this one as soon as possible.

And guess what- Amazon already has a pre-order page for
The Three Stooges Collection Vol.4: 1943-1945- Release date: October 7, 2008!
No cover yet, but that will come soon. These shorts include more Stooge classics like: Dizzy Detectives, Spook Louder, Crash Goes the Hash, Idle Roomers and more. Curly had a stroke in 1945, and the evidence of his slowing down is tragically evident in the last few shorts. The next volume in this series will have the last of the Curly shorts and the beginning of the great Shemp stuff. If this release schedule keeps up - expect Volume 5 in the first quarter of 2009.

Well kiddies- that's it for this afternoon! Be sure to mark these release dates down and tell your parents to pick you up some of these great goodies. Or heck, buy 'em yourself. You're old enough, right?
Stick around- we've got more reviews (Popeye Vol. 2 review is up on deck) and other Shelf madness coming up! 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.

Well, doc I've a terrific pain right here. Everytime I squeeze my Adam's Apple I can taste cider.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

everything old is stupid again

Well, the exit part is right. I know Laura (and her daughter) has mentioned this before at her Musings site (she's gone fishing- so I'm trying to do my insignificant part), but I can't help but be irritated at the stupidity of this article from MSNBC about a year long moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile area in South Los Angeles.
The reason for the ban? Basically, according to city council, in this "impoverished" area of L.A., there are too many fast food places. "Our communities have an extreme shortage of quality foods," City Councilman Bernard Parks said." Translation: the City Council thinks the poor in L.A. can't find a grocery store and can't cook. I find the whole attitude fairly racist and buying into stereotypes if you ask me. Apparently the City Council, and by extension the Mayor, feel that the residents of South Los Angeles are too stupid to figure out how to feed their family.

The article states:
"Councilwoman Jan Perry, who proposed the measure and represents much of South Los Angeles in her 9th District, says that's no accident. South LA residents lack healthy food options, including grocery stores, fresh produce markets — and full-service restaurants with wait staff and food prepared to order." I got it! Let's just ban the signs! That way no one can find them!
Can the economics of the area support more than regular grocery stories and fast food restaurants? How do they know that full service restaurants offer nothing but healthy food? Most places service "kid friendly" meals with hamburgers and fries at regular sit down restaurants- so does that mean the City Council will then proceed to dictate what can be on the menu when this latest hair-brained scheme doesn't work? I don't see fancy sit-downs sprouting all over the place anytime soon, and I don't see the residents patronizing expensive places in such an "impoverished area".
And how does the City Council of L.A. define a fast food restaurant? Are they only targeting national and regional chains? Or will they extend it to local mom and pop hamburger stands? There are plenty of those, hot dog stands and taco trucks all around. Anybody who has seen Diners, Drive-In's and Dives (love that show) has seen big old hamburgers at these Mom and Pop joints that make your head spin. In a good way. So how do you control local places? Do they intend to prevent free enterprise there as well?

According to the article, "If the moratorium is passed, Perry wants to lure restaurateurs and grocery retailers to area....A report by the Community Health Councils found 73 percent of South L.A. restaurants were fast food, compared to 42 percent in West Los Angeles." How do they exactly propose to do that in a heavily taxed state, with increased government controls and restrictions - especially in the food service and grocery industry, and in area that cannot necessarily support them? Is West L.A. more financially able to support other restaurants? The fact is, if a business or chain could be in business, and be economically viable and make profits in the area, there would be more. The whole idea of wanting business to come in, that depend on making a profit, by suppressing another (and similar) type of business - should really send up warning flags to anyone trying to make a living. It is, basically, an anti-capitalist measure, which I'm sure doesn't bother them a bit.

Uhhh...duh!There have been several studies demonstrating that poorer families choose less expensive food items at grocery stores, including less expensive, fattier meats. It doesn't have anything to do with choosing it because they don't have other options- it's because they may think that may be the only option within their budget. There are other ways, other types of protein and meats that have been suggested in these studies, that fit the same budget profile, that allow families to include healthier options in their diet. These studies also suggest that families can by fresh produce etc, at discount chain grocery stores, than smaller or specialty health food stores, which tend to be more expensive. Walmart, anyone? If you can have a Walmart, or such place in the community, which better transportation access (bus stops, etc)- you might see some improvement. It's still a community resources and money issue. In other words, at the base of the problem, it's an economic issue, not always an availability issue. What the City Council should be looking at is ways to address the economics, tax problems and financial problems of the area, and freeing the area to more market activity. Create more opportunity by decreasing the government footprint, as it were.
However- when socialists and others of the same mindset in the past have seen a problem with society, they've tackled it from an angle of government intrusion and take over - which, by the way, is what the Constitution was originally designed to prevent. This is but another attempt, in a succession of many, to try government dictates again to tackle a problem. Case in point- the recent Ethanol fiasco which created so many more problems, including increased food prices!

Since the problem is not only economics, but education in the sense of families learning how do things like cooking healthier, learning creative ways to budget etc., the solution isn't to clamp down on capitalism and free enterprise, which is exactly what the City Council is doing. Make no mistake- they may dress it up as an approach to solving obesity, but at the root of the situation is government intrusion: You are too stupid to live and take care of yourself the way we think you ought to, therefore we are going to tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do it.
And guess what- there are those who would rather the government do it for them. It's way easier! Case in point: (again from the article) "Rebeca Torres, a South Los Angeles mother of four, said she would welcome more dining choices, even if she had to pay a little more. 'They should have better things for children,' she said. 'This fast-food really fattens them up.' " How about stop giving your kids fast food for dinner, lady?

I am not a french fry person. I'd rather have a baked potato orNo chips for you! have 'em mashed. But that's just me. It really has nothing to do with health, although it should. The thing is, my family can't afford to eat out at fast food places all the time- and my wife and I both work. We have three growing boys, and our time and budget is just as stretched thin as anyone else's. We've found it's cheaper to shop, cook, prepare, freeze or bake as much as we can- and that means leftovers get eaten. That's just how it is, and I imagine how it is for millions of families across the US. Do we eat as healthy as we should? No, not as much as we can- but we are trying harder. We are trying to be better at what we buy at the store and how to fix it. And if the kids ask for chips or candy- we sometimes say yes, but mostly we say no. It's supposed to be a treat- not a way of life. And if a government body came in and said- "Sorry, we're taking over and telling you what and where to eat"- not only would I be insulted and offended, I'd tell them to stuff it. While the author of the article mentioned only one resident in favor of the ban, aren't you the least bit curious as to why that is? Could it be they found more people oppossed it? So what is the solution? Helping families by tackling economic burdens (especially those created by the government?) or just telling McDonald's "Sorry- you can't come in here" ? Is attacking "Big Fast Food" just like attacking "Big Oil", "Big Business" etc - a convenient straw man that allows the government to obfuscate the problems they are creating or can't solve themselves? How about other ideas- grocery store start-up incentives, tax incentives, etc- or is that just too capitalist for the L.A. City Council?

More here, here, here and here.
What do you think? Please feel free to comment and sound off.

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.

Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.

Friday, July 25, 2008

dvd review: the big trail

Speaking of westerns... I hope you either ordered or picked up Fox Western Classics, which we reviewed yesterday. It is well worth it and you will enjoy it. As we mentioned, Fox released several westerns from the Fox and MGM catalogs recently, and among them was the legendary film The Big Trail. Why legendary? Well we'll tell you in our review. Is it worth your time and effort to place it in your DVD collection? After all we know both money and shelf space are valuable things. Check out our review of Fox's The Big Trail: Special Edition, and find out.

The Hard Facts:
The Big Trail: Special Edition
2 Discs in a keepcase
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Black and White
Widescreen: Fox Grandeur 70 mm version
& Academy aspect ratio version
Original Studio: Fox
Release Date: 5/13/2008
Rated: NR
Stars: John Wayne, Tyrone Power Sr., Marguerite Churchill
Director: Raoul Walsh
The Big Trail is legendary for so many reasons: it's the only talkie film for Tyrone Power Sr. It was supposed to be John Wayne's big starring feature. Director Walsh had even given him his film name. It was also one of the first roles for Ward Bond. It was filmed in legendary form: it was staged on location across 5 states, a literal cast of thousands, actual mountain ranges and vistas were crossed and wagons even lowered down the sides of canyons. In depth research was done to get as much as possible correct, and veterans of the old west were interviewed and sought as experts.
Raoul Walsh and Fox were filming this as the first Fox full length feature in their new widescreen process called Grandeur. In order to do so, theaters had to be fitted with new wider screens. Obviously not all of the theaters would do so. So the film had to be photographed twice; once in 70 mm and a second time in standard 35mm. The cameras were massive, the particular film designed for Grandeur was costly and there were many technical problems that made the project one of the most expensive of its time. Now just putting the money issue aside, that's a lot of time and work. William Fox owned the process outright as an individual property outside of the studio. No doubt, had the process succeeded and been financially viable, Fox would have dominated Hollywood..This was filmed to really sell this new Grandeur process. With the recent success of sound, studios were then looking for other ways to improve the technology of films to be the next big thing. Problem was the depression was in full swing, limited number of screens to display the Grandeur version and studios were beginning to cut back on costs, not expanding expenses. The short story is that The Big Trail bombed. It would be at least another 20-25 years before studios would invest big time in widescreen and even color films on a large scale. It set John Wayne's "A" film career back another 9 years, and Marguerite Churchill never really became the star that Fox was grooming. It would even be several years before Walsh would find big success when he went to Warner Brothers and directed Bogart and Cagney in The Roaring Twenties.
As for the film itself, it was pretty much shelved. In the 1980's, the Museum of Modern Art, which held the nitrate negative, set about to have it restored, and with success. Cinematographer and film preservationist Karl Malkames practically saved the movie. It enjoyed a new rival, not just among fans, but among critics as well. It was released on VHS and was shown on cable, but still in 35 mm. Eventually, the 70mm version was restored and shown on AMC and TCM, even though Fox released it in the standard format on a first run DVD. Now Fox has gone back and digitally restored the 70mm version and released the film in a great 2 disc special edition.

The Film:
"Dedicated to the men and women who planted civilization in the wilderness and courage in the blood of their children." So begins The Big Trail, ultimately a tribute to a silent western, The Covered Wagon, and a tribute to the pioneers of the old west. John Wayne stars as Breck Coleman, a wagon train scout who is after the men who murdered his friend and mentor. It isn't long before he discovers that one of the men, Red Flack (Tyrone Power, Sr.) is the wagon boss for a wagon train setting out from the Mississippi and headed to the Northwest territories. Breck is offered the job as scout and takes it, intending to exact his revenge.
Along the way, Coleman encounters another member of the wagon train, Ruth Cameron (Churchill), who is headed west with her siblings after losing their parents. He falls for Ruth, but she is also being pursued by a lecherous gambler named Thorpe (Ian Keith). He almost enjoys frustrating Cameron as much as he is determined to have his way with Ruth. The tension escalates between Breck, the gambler and the wagon bosses who killed his friend. Breck and his sidekick Zeke are planning to finish the job when the trail ends.
In the meantime, they have their hands full guiding the wagons through some dangerous territory, fast-moving waters and Indians. The pioneers seem to meet difficulty and despair all along the way. The film almost certainly is built around some actual instances and accounts of those who remember the way it was.
In many ways, this is a film that couldn't be made the same way or have the same look without computer imaging. It has such an authentic feel to it that can't be duplicated. It is really an extraordinary film. You can tell from Wayne's performance that it's his first big role, but he handles it well. He is fresh and very young looking to those of us used to John Wayne as we remember him. The plot may be somewhat mundane in a way (1930 audiences had seen similar stories before in silents), but the whole package of the cast, the story and the visuals combine to make it a great flick. It has been sold short so many times, in fact, that this reviewer was even caught off guard by how good it really is. It's a great film, and one that offers so much in terms of film and history it should be a worthy addition to any film collection. You may think it is just another old western, but it won't be long before you are swept away by the visuals and caught up in the film altogether.

Bonus Features:
This DVD is packed with great special features including: a great commentary with film historian and author Richard Schickel on the 70mm widescreen presentation; several new documentaries: The Creation of John Wayne, Raoul Walsh: A Man in His Time, The Big Vision: The Grandeur Process, and The Making of The Big Trail. Also included are still galleries, original posters and pressbook gallery and theatrical trailers. Fox has really treated this film well and given fans a great package. This gives me hope that Fox is really seeing that fans appreciate not only the restoration efforts (which we do!) but also the extra effort to put in great special features that add to the context and enjoyment of the film. Especially a film that has such historical significance.

The film was originally filmed in 5 different versions: three foreign language versions, a 35mm "standard" version (basically that's what the Academy aspect ratio thing means) and the 70mm Fox Grandeur version. The Big Trail was digitally restored and re-mastered from the original 70mm elements to bring the sweeping vista of the west. It is a wonderful black and white breath taking view of an American west that still had people alive at the time of filming who were there when it was the wild west. If for nothing else, this film is a time capsule and a slice of film history. It was timing and other forces that didn't give this film the box office return Fox was hoping for. The depression, lack of screens, problems with distribution and advertising was a tidal wave that was hard to swim against. Had it succeed would the Grandeur process have been used for other films until it became cheaper? Would the other widescreen processes have arrived sooner? Who knows? Either way the restoration process on this film is fantastic and well worth picking up to see what can be done to save important, and maybe less self-important films.
The audio is not as great as one would want, but it may be too difficult with current technology to enhance it further. The sound is a victim of the early days of sound film, when microphones were hidden, actors were stiff and cameras were fairly static. In fact, the outdoor filming necessitated that the actors almost shout to be heard in some cases. It's not terrible, but it isn't the best quality. That should not be a dealbreaker for the fan though.

The Bottom Line:
If not for the pure historic value, the film should be on the film fan's shelf as an important and engaging experience. The western has been such an integral part of Hollywood history, it's a shame it isn't given the respect and attention it deserves as of late. It's doubtful that the decidedly un-PC topic of western expansion will never be treated the same way in our lifetime. Make sure you pick up The Big Trail and take a virtual trip through not only film history, but an American West caught on film that will never be seen again. It is a definite must-have.

Review Rating:
Individually grading the film and bonus features, the set would earn the following:
The Big Trail: A+
Bonus Features: A+

Overall Rating: We give
The Big Trail Special Edition 5 stars (Groucho glasses). It's a Shelf Classic!

Stay tuned- even more reviews and stuff from are regular cast of characters are on the way!

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 kill my own rats.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

dvd review: fox western classics

Last year, Wolf and I created a list of 20 Influential Westerns of the 20th Century. The list was expected to expand by a couple of titles, but we never revisited the list again. Perhaps that time has come for us to make it 25 Influential Westerns. Since last year, several westerns on the list (especially The Iron Horse in the Ford at Fox Box set) have finally made it to DVD for the first time, or in a remastered format. Also since then a couple of westerns that we wanted to add to the list have finally made it to DVD. In fact, last month many westerns hit the DVD shelves from Fox and MGM in particular. One such set was the Fox Western Classics DVD set, which contained The Gunfighter, Garden of Evil and Rawhide. It is a welcome thing to see such great flicks finally on DVD. But as always, we at the Shelf have to dig deeper in our ongoing quest to answer the burning question: is it worth placing in the DVD collection, or your online DVD rental queue. Is Fox Western Classics worth your hard-earned dough? Read The Shelf review of Fox Western Classics to find out.

The Hard Facts:
Fox Western Classics
3 Discs in slimcases
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Black and White/Color
Full Screen & Widescreen
Original Studio: Fox
Release Date: 5/13/2008
Rated: NR
Stars: Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Gary Cooper
Tyrone Power, Richard Widmark
Directors: Henry Hathaway, Henry King

The Films:

The Gunfighter (directed by Henry King)A minimalist classic, The Gunfighter is a western long sought for on DVD by many film fans. It is more of a moral tale, one filled with regret and longing. Gregory Peck stars as Johnny Ringo, the aforementioned gunfighter. His name is legendary, and many a hot -headed fast gun has tried to earn their reputation as being the man who killed Ringo. Ringo has spent the last few years weary of the life, the killing and the constant need to defend himself. He has lived longer than other gunfighters, and has lived long enough to see the uselessness of his past. The film opens with Ringo at a Saloon getting a drink when he is challenged by a young man, who was warned to leave him alone. Ringo tries to get him to go away, but when the young man tries to shoot him, Ringo kills him. Ringo heads out of town, warned about the young man's brothers. He gets away and then catches the brothers (one of whom is played by Alan Hale Jr.)off guard- disarms them and sends their horses off without their riders. Figuring he has a good lead on the brothers and a chance to get away, Ringo heads for the next town.
But Ringo has other reasons for being there. He wants to see his estranged wife (Helen Westcott) and their small son. When he is recognized by the barkeep, the sheriff comes to confront him and ask him to leave. Ringo discovers that the sheriff is none other than his old friend (and a former partner) Mark (Millard Mitchell). When Ringo reveals his true intention, he tells Mark he leave as soon as he talks to his wife. It isn't long before the local young hot head with a gun also discovers Ringo is in town. With this kid, and to be sure, the three brothers closing in on Ringo, he feels not just the weight of his past, but the desire for a new future with his wife and son. The question is: will he live long enough to see it happen?

This is a great film, and it's easy to see why it influenced so many other westerns in it's time. It mostly takes place in the saloon, while the whole town and other characters swirl around it. It gives the closed-in and trapped feeling that Ringo is feeling. Trapped by his past, it's hard to see a way for Ringo to get a chance at a new life, but the story and cast bring a sense of hope to the audience that it could happen. All the while, director Henry King, expertly builds up the tension of the other guns closing in on Ringo from all sides. Peck gives a great performance as you have no doubt he could kill quickly, but you also feel his deep regret and hope. Karl Mauldin and Millard Mitchell give great supporting performances. The black and white cinematography is wonderful and the print is a rich black and white film. It is perhaps the standout film of the set.

Garden of Evil (Directed by Henry Hathaway):
Susan Hayward stars as Leah Fuller, a woman who discovers her husband(Hugh Marlowe)is trapped and injured in a gold mine. She contracts out 4 men to help her go to Mexico and rescue her husband. The men, Hooker (Gary Cooper), Fiske (Richard Widmark), Daly (Cameron Mitchell) and Madariaga(Victor Manuel Mendoza)agree to help her for a share of the gold. They are able to reach the mine well enough and rescue her husband. The problem lies in getting back as the Apache are out looking to kill them. In order to survive they have to get through the area, titled The Garden of Evil. To complicate things more, the tension between the group escalates and you just know not all of them are going to make it.

While some feel this may be the lesser of the bunch here, I think it is a solid, enjoyable western. It's a great adventure/survival story beautifully produced in Cinemascope, and directed by Henry Hathaway. Widmark, Cooper and Hayward are all excellent here with Widmark and Hayward giving stand out performances. Everyone has some sort of agenda and motivation and an adventure story becomes a test of wills. It's best summed up by a great line in the film from Gary Cooper: "A cross isn't a bad thing to can be beautiful. And everybody has one." Good stuff.

Rawhide (Directed by Henry Hathaway):
Susan Hayward had previously worked with Hathaway in this great western flick that also stars Tyrone Power. Power is Tom Owens, an assistant at an isolated stagecoach relay station between the route from California to St. Louis. The stagecoach arrives one day with a woman and her baby niece as passangers, but they are warned that some recently escaped outlaws are in the area. The woman, Vinnie Holt (Hayward), is forced to stay behind at the station as the others think it will be safer there. They were wrong, of course, as the outlaws show up at the station and kill the stationmaster (the great Edgar Buchanan), and take Owens, Holt and her niece hostage. The only seeming advantage they have is that the outlaws, Zimmerman (Hugh Marlowe) and his gang (including Dean Jagger and a young Jack Elam), believe Tom and Vinnie are married. This keeps them together and alive for the time being. The outlaws plan to wait for the next morning and a certain stagecoach and rob it of it's gold bullion.
Tom and Vinnie are locked up and watched closely, but they need to overcome their hostility to one another and find a way out. Some of the outlaws don't seem to be as murderous in their intent, except for the wild card Tevis (Elam) who seems determined to take advantage of Vinnie. Zimmerman is barely able to keep them at bay and keep them together- and Tom and Vinnie struggle to find a way to exploit this and use their distraction to find a way out and find help.

Another excellent flick, and one of the few westerns Tyrone Power made, Rawhide really ratchets up the tension with the dialogue and near escapes. It's been described as a "western noir" and I think that is a fairly apt way to describe the drama. It could be redone (it has already in other forms) as a 1950's crime film noir gangster flick and no one would be the wiser. Hathaway's pacing is tight and it doesn't let up. There are very few slow moments in the film as it focuses on Tom and Vinnie's attempts to escape from the outlaws.

Bonus Features:
The Gunfighter- Featurettes: Arthur Miller Painter with Light & The Western Grows Up. Includes a restoration comparison the original theatrical trailer and advertising and still gallery.

Garden of Evil- Featurettes: Travels Of A Gunfighter: Making Of Garden Of Evil & Henry Hathaway: When The Going Gets Tough. Includes audio commentary by film and music historian John Morgan, Nick Redman, Steven Smith and William Stromberg, isolated Music Track, restoration comparison, original theatrical trailer, Interactive Pressbook, advertising & still gallery.

Rawhide - Featurettes: Susan Hayward: Hollywood's Straight Shooter & Shoot It In Lone Pine! Includes a restoration comparison, original theatrical trailer, Interactive Pressbook, advertising & still gallery.

Thankfully, Fox didn't forget the extras and included some nice featurettes in the set. Unfortunately there is no commentary on The Gunfighter or Rawhide, but the commentary on Garden of Evil is good.

The film prints are quite crisp and clear. The restoration work done on the films was excellent. It really displays the great cinematography of the film makers and the richness of the various outdoor shooting locations. Audio is also top notch with some great music for all the films.

The Bottom Line:
Fox Western Classics is a great set and a no-brainer for any western fan. I am particularly impressed that Fox was able to pull off some great restoration prints, pack them with some good features and make it a very reasonable purchase in the stores. It is a set you'll want to have in your collection to watch again, especially The Gunfighter. I hope they will continue to pull this great films out of their vaults, and I think the three film sets (as they have been doing with last years Fox Horror Classics and this year's upcoming Vol. 2) are great as it is affordable and you can keep adding to them to your collection. All I can say is keep it up, Fox! I can't wait for a Western Classics Volume 2!

Review Rating:
Individually grading the films and bonus features, the set would earn the following:
The Gunfighter: A+
Garden of Evil: B+
Rawhide: A
Bonus Features: A

Overall Rating:
Fox Western Classics is a MUST HAVE!
We give it a great 4 and a half stars (Groucho glasses)

Stay tuned- we've got more reviews, news and other great stuff lined up. Don't miss it!

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.

Yeah, I heard about you. I heard you're a cheap, no-good bar-room loafer. If I didn't have somethin' else on my mind I'd take them guns away from ya and slap ya cross-eyed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

what's happening in the 'hood

The Batman stuff is kinda winding down a bit here and there- thanks to all those who linked to our review and commented as well. Not everyone agrees with my review, but that's what's great about the movies; we all have our perspective and we can talk about them and learn about what grabs us and what doesn't. Speaking of winding down, our Californiacation/Jericho contest ends tonight at midnight- so if you haven't sent us an email contest entry - do it now! Time's a'wastin!

Thought we would take another trip around the Shelf Community Neighborhood and point out some wonderful writing and articles that I've enjoyed lately. I hope you will enjoy them as well. So sit back and enjoy this trip through the Shelf neighborhood!

First of all, our good friend Laura has just passed the three year mark on her great blog, Laura's Miscellaneous Musings. She's got her finger on a lot of great topics and watches and reviews a lot of great classic movies. She keeps my Netflix queue full. It is one of my daily reads and a favorite- so be sure to stop on over and wish her the best!

Bird Dog over at Maggie's Farm vacationed in Italy recently and has been posting some great pictures and commentary. It's the internet equivilant of your relative's vacation slide show, only much better, more interesting and better pictures. You can find most of the posts at this link. If I had half of Bird Dog's great eye for photography, well I'd be a great one-eyed photographer, but I'd have some great pix.

Jacqueline at Another Old Movie Blog has a great tribute and article to singer Jo Stafford who died recently. A very interesting woman and interesting career. Go check it out. I remember her great numbers in DuBarry Was a Lady, which we reviewed last year. We don't make 'em like her anymore.

One of the best film reviews and articles I've read in awhile is over at TCM's Movie Morlocks site. It's a in depth look and review of one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart/Anthony Mann westerns: The Man From Laramie. It's nice to know I wasn't crazy to see a comparison to Shakespeare. It is well worth your time to read it.

Another great article (this time about some films I've never seen, but want to) is from the one and only Self-Styled Siren. She talks about movies, that have releases over in Europe, but alas no R1 release for the states. It's a common lament here at the Shelf. The Siren is one of my favorite film bloggers, if not just for her deep knowledge, but also her humor and warmth. Speaking of DVD no shows here in the US, I'm still awaiting a DVD release for The African Queen. Waiting...waiting...still waiting....

Finally, another Shelf favorite, John at Greenbriar Picture Shows, has written a review/commentary about The Dark Knight as well. It's a great article, wonderfully written (as usual) and he has a different take on the film than I do. So go check it out, if nothing else than to see a picture of John when he suffered from Batmania long ago! Did I mention it was John's 500th post at the Greenbriar? No? Well it is! Congrats to John.

That's it for this visit to the neighborhood kids. Thanks for taken a ride with us. Don't forget to come back for more Shelf madness- we'll have even more reviews coming up this week. 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'm sorry. This is the fun-vee. The hum-drum-vee is back there.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

film review: the dark knight

Update: Welcome to new readers from Dirty Harry's Place. And thanks to DH for the link. You've been a Shelf fave for a long time; we've linked to DHP since the beginning. Good Stuff that is a daily read. So please stick around and try out the archives and feel free to comment and jump in on the discussion!

I went to see the new Batman film, The Dark Knight. This is not a traditional film review, per se- but one with a commentary. Lord knows, you've probably seen plenty of the film reviews out there. Besides being an all- around film fan and classic film geek, I was a comic book geek in a previous life. Long-time Shelfers will remember how I love the Superman flicks, and was excited about Superman Returns. In the end, however, I was ultimately disappointed but what the film wasn't. I still think Superman II was the last great one. I liked some of the Batman films, but to me some of the animated series caught the character much better than the flicks. Tim Burton did OK with the first one, but everything after that was like watching your favorite Snowman melt: slowly, but surely, everything you liked about it just ebbed away.

Then came Batman Begins, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It still felt like it lacked...something, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. No apologies for taking out the bad guys, an origin story and a great cast. In fact, Christian Bale was great and Gary Oldman and Michael Caine were inspired bits of casting. Now comes The Dark Knight. I am not trying to be over the top, or anything, but when I say it's a masterpiece, I am using my words carefully. Forget all the posthumous Oscar talk for now- who knows how the Academy will look at this film, if they even consider it, given their recent track record. For now, just forget about the Oscars, and just think about this- The Dark Knight is everything a Batman movie should be, and everything the previous Batman flicks didn't get right.

Director Christopher Nolan has pulled together one of the best films, not just superhero film, of the year. The Dark Knight, like the great Iron Man flick, ventures out of the comfort zone and forces the viewer to think and to ask questions. Sure it provides the great suit and great gadgets, but these two films have a hero who has to ask - what being a really hero is all about and what defines making a difference. The Dark Knight has stepped up the superhero drama and provided a test of wills in a real world setting about real world problems. You cannot watch the film and not think about the post 9/11 world we live in and how we fight the bad guys who cannot be reasoned with, and the bad guys within who can be bought off. In fact, there is no stylistic, crazy looking Gotham city. The backdrop looks like every other huge metropolis. Perhaps that was the point- not to distinguish Gotham apart as a dark fantasy land, but to reinforce the idea that this could be, and in a way has been, us.

There is no Batcave this time (Wayne Manor burned down last film, and they allude to the fact that it is being rebuilt in this one), there is no flashbacks to Bruce Wayne's tragic past. He is Batman- he knows what he is and what he has to do. He also makes the hard choices and takes the consequences when lesser men cannot. To paraphrase Oldman's Police Commissioner Jim Gordon at the end of the film: "Batman is not the hero Gotham wants, but the hero Gotham needs." I know some commentators and politicos have been talking about the film in relation to terrorism and Bush, etc. I don't know how else to say it, but some of them are right. I don't want to make this political, but the film is very much tapped into where we are now, but also still evokes ageless themes. The Dark Knight presents some of the same choices that our real world is throwing at us right now- do we appease a madman, because he says he'll stop killing? Can we truly handle the sacrifices necessary to stop the madmen and bad guys of the world? Can we have faith in our fellow man when it seems everyone is out for themselves? Can we allow the good guys to do their job, even if it isn't quick and neat without casualties? What kind of world do we really want to live in and is peace merely the absence of violence- or is it a peace of heart, being able to live strong making the right choices and knowing that good will out in the end- if we stand up for it? In a way, The Dark Knight continues the themes and discussion started by 300.

Heath Ledger's Joker is one of the best performances where an actor has taken an iconic part and completely inhabited it and made you forget anyone else had the role before. All of the praise is warranted- he is the standout performance in the film. But then again - so was Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freedman as Lucius Fox. Heck, everyone was great- but this was a turning point to be sure for Ledger. If this is where he was headed as an actor, then we lost a great one on the cusp of some really great performances. His Joker not only redefines the role and reinforces what he was conceived to be, but it also is the perfect foil to Bale's Batman. This is one of those rare instances where I disagree with Leonard Maltin's take and agree with Roger Ebert (read their reviews). The evil that the Joker represents isn't about money, or even power- it is uncompromising. It is destructive and resents that which is good. Even the Joker acknowledges to Batman that he doesn't have any rules- he is chaos personified. He even manages to take the crusading district attorney Harvey Dent, (Aaron Eckhart) and push him to the brink and create the classic villain Two-Face.

But trust me this isn't a "Batman versus several costumed villains" flick. Batman isn't about the camp- it's more about the heart and philosophy of good versus evil; personified by the choices and actions of the characters- not their costumes. The best way I can describe it is- the story and flow is organic. Even the introduction and story arc of Two Face is integral and organic to the larger story. The Joker is the real villain, and taking down evil isn't going to be pretty. Some particular scenes are very strong. Although Ledger dominates every scene he's in, Oldman is a fantastic presence. Towards the big climax of the film, even the average citizen making a life and death choice in the ferry scene is so powerful as to have you wondering how things are going to play out. Look for a great small performance by Tommy "Tiny" Lister as a prisoner on the ferry that will have you second guessing what you think will happen.

The rest of the supporting cast is great. Nolan not only pulled off a brilliant directing job and screen writing job (with his brother Jonathan), but he inhabits the cast with some great performances. These are pros turning in a great job in small roles: Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Jai White, William Fitchner, Nestor Carbonell, Monique Curnen and Eric Roberts. (Yep, that Eric Roberts. Excellent as a mob boss.) All in all it is a fantastic movie. One worth seeing several times, and one that deserves a great DVD release with all the bells and whistles so you can enjoy it again and again.

It's not often that I step out of my comfort zone of classic film and write about current flicks, but this film warranted it. I am really enjoying this year's popcorn cruncher bonanza. Indy 4 and Iron Man were great rides (although I have qualms about the Indy 4 ending) and I am excited to see Hellboy 2 (another favorite), The Mummy, Tropic Thunder, and even the new Bond flick Quantum of Solace, which had a great trailer attached to The Dark Knight. (Two other great flicks that had trailers before The Dark Knight that look to be great are Ridley Scott's Body of Lies and Zach Snyder's Watchmen.) It's just turning out to be a fun and action packed popcorn movie summer.

The Dark Knight is a solid 5 stars- go see it. In the theater. You won't be disappointed.

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.

Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

jericho californication giveaway

Congrats to our Early Edition winners! This was obviously a well loved show! We had a lot of response and we'll be shipping out the prizes to the lucky winners by this weekend. Of course, you must know what that means- that's right! It's time for us to begin a new contest!

We have two giveaways for this new contest. One lucky winner will recieve a copy of Californication: Season One, the Showtime series starring David Duchovny. Also, another winner will recieve a copy of Jericho: Season Two. We have only one copy of each to giveaway this time so enter the contest early! All you have to do send an email to (note the rules below) with a subject of Californication/Jericho Giveaway in the subject line by July 23rd at 11:59 pm est.

The rules are simple:

Email us your entry at
1.You MUST include: Your name and full address in the body of the email, and "Californication/Jericho Giveaway" 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, July 23rd at 11:59pm. We will draw the winner by July 25th.

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.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence day thoughts.......

The following is a repost from last July. I felt that it's words were worth repeating.

Back in July of 1776, the war for independence was far from over and seemed all but lost. George Washington and the continental army were in New York licking their wounds from a previous loss and unknown to them, they were preparing for another defeat. Some citizens supported their cause. Some did not. Some fed them. Some did not. Things were not looking good for the Americans. Even patriotic citizens doubted the ability of their military to defeat the British and sometimes wavered in their support. America as a society was a "fair weather friend" to these soldiers fighting for freedom and the fledgling government whose vision of independence brought on their call to arms. Yet, during this same time in Pennsylvania the Continental Congress was in session and in the process of making world history. When all seemed lost and it appeared that the popularity of the continental polititions and their ideas was all but nil, they girded their loins and by the inspiration of God Himself drafted a bold document for the world to see and envy for centuries to come.On July 9th 1776 in New York, George Washington ordered that this document ,which was called at this time the "Dunlap Broadside", be read aloud to his assembled army and whatever citizens who may wish to hear. When the reading of the Declaration of Independence was complete the words had inspired the soldiers and citizens so much that they began to celebrate uncontrollably. The words of that document resonated in the souls of those who heard it so much that even in a phase of war where many pondered accepting amnesty from the British in exchange for surrender, citizens and soldiers alike gathered around a statue of King George in New York and removed it's head. The head was taken to their leader George Washington as a symbol of their desire for freedom and their approval of the words read to them earlier in the day.In today's America, we are similar to the fickle citizenry of 1776. Some support our government and some don't. Even some who call themselves patriotic doubt our country's ability to win our military engagements over seas. Worse yet, we have citizens in this country who believe that we are always wrong. There is no mystery as to why our country has been askew as of late. It's the fault of the people.There are good citizens in this country and I hope I am one of them, but the confused far outweigh the understanding people of this nation. Somewhat like the America of 1776, we have been experiencing political upheaval with folks pointing fingers and choosing sides. The resolve and unity of September 12th 2001 have all but disappeared from us. We need something to bring us together to be a nation of one. Once again we need nothing less than devine words inspired by God to touch our souls and remind us what we stand for and what we are made of. For the remainder of today's post I give you those words; the words of the Declaration of Independence. These words at one time were strong enough to cause ordinary citizens to march out and bring back the head of a king and I believe they are still that strong today. Read and ponder and don't forget: today is not just July's Independence Day.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united states of America

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Feel free to comment if the need strikes you.

The time is near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves. George Washington


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