The Meanest Man in the World [DVD Review]

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The Meanest Man in the World
2013, 20th Century Fox
Original Release: 1943, 20th Century Fox
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Alongside Bob Hope, Jack Benny is one of my favorite actors/comedians. The Jack Benny Program radio show (1932-1955) is one of my favorite programs of all time… and that’s including all TV shows, modern and classic. His TV show (1950-1965) is really fun as well.

Thankfully, whether on Turner Classic Movies or via DVD, Jack Benny movies are slowly finding their way to the public once more. Charley’s Aunt was released on DVD a few years ago, Buck Benny Rides Again has no official DVD release but you can buy it on DVD-R through various independent sellers, To Be or Not to Be not only has a DVD release but it is also the first Benny movie to receive a Blu-ray release. Additionally,George Washington Slept HereThe Horn Blows at Midnight have been available in the DVD-R format through the Warner Archive Collection since 2013 while 20th Century Fox gave The Meanest Man in the World the DVD-R treatment in the same year.

As far as Jack’s major starring roles go, we really only need to see Man About Town (co-starring Dorothy Lamour!) and Love Thy Neighbor (co-starring Fred Allen!) to get some type of DVD/R release.

Today, the focus is on The Meanest Man in the World. I didn’t realize this movie was available for purchase… it was released in April 2013. I’ve known of it for years and I think it might even be available for viewing somewhere on the Internet Archive but I’ve never seen any footage from it. So when I signed up for my Amazon Student account (free 2-day shipping, yay for going back to college) and discovered the DVD-R release of this movie, I knew what I had to order as my inaugural free shipping purchase. The only thing that ticks me off is the DVD case arrived cracked.

The running time is a bit disappointing. Only 57 minutes, but back in those days many movies were run as double features so you’d get all kinds of stuff clocking in just over/under one hour. This is a B-movie but Jack was an A-list radio guy so it’s a shame we couldn’t have had 20 or 25 more minutes of film.

Such as it is, The Meanest Man in Town may be light on plot and silly but it’s a good kind of silly. It even co-stars Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. Anderson’s character of Rochester was Benny’s faithful butler/valet through the majority of Jack’s radio & TV run. Of course, he’s only billed as Rochester here, which I think is kind of odd. He’s not playing the character of Rochester in the movie, yet here he is being credited as his radio show character’s name. Getting back on the track, the movie is silly and will not be mistaken as a comedy classic but it features Jack and “Rochester” and all I wanted and expected was some good one-liners from (and between) these two and that’s exactly what I got.

It’s a fun, breezy way to spend an hour. Who in the world doesn’t love to see Jack making a fool of himself to win over some girl? It’s not as good as George Washington Slept Here and To Be or Not to Be but I think it’s better than Buck Benny Rides Again and it could’ve been even better if it had a longer running time.

Thumbs up!

Cartoons From the 1980s That I Want On DVD – UPDATE

Five years ago on this very blog I made a couple of posts about ’80s cartoons that I wanted to see on DVD. I thought it’d be fun to look back and see where things stand now, so here’s the rundown as to what’s been released since on video/streaming since then…

Available:

Alvin and the Chipmunks – Still no full season releases but there are TONS of DVD sets out there featuring various episodes loosely tied together by some type of theme (movie spoofs, holiday, the Chipettes, etc).

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – This would the DIC series (also known as Series 2) that ran from 1989-1992. Shout! Factory released the series in two season sets back in 2012. My thoughts on the show are here and here.

Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos – Warner Bros. has a cool online store called the Warner Archive Collection. Basically, instead of going through the cost of mass producing DVD for shows & movies and then getting them into stores such as Target or Walmart, they manufacture them on demand as orders come in. They’ve also started a subscription streaming service. They specialize in releasing rare and obscure TV shows and movies. They hold the rights to a lot of Ruby-Spears cartoons so when they announced in 2011 that Karate Kommandos was available, I quickly picked it up and you can read about that here.

M.A.S.K. - The entire series was released in one box set back in 2011. It was, and still is, pretty expensive so I still haven’t bought it.

Pac-Man – Released in 2012 through Warner Archive.

Dragon’s Lair – Released in 2011 through Warner Archive.

Mister T - Released in 2011 through Warner Archive.

It’s Punky Brewster - The show never received a DVD dedicated to itself entirely but all but one episode (due to licensing rights) were made available as bonus features on the DVD releases of the Punky Brewster live-action show.

Superman – This is the short-lived 1988 cartoon produced by Ruby-Spears. It was released on DVD in 2009. My thoughts here.

Still not available:

Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling – I always assumed WWE owned the complete rights to this show but I discovered in my research that WWE shares the rights with a company called DHX Media. WWE is back on good terms with Hulk Hogan… so what are they waiting for?! Give us a DVD release! Honestly, I think by this point the best thing to do is to put the show on the WWE Network streaming service. The hardcore fans that subscribe to the network would eat this up.

Kidd Video – Okay, maybe the world doesn’t need a Kidd Video DVD set but that theme song is killer so Netflix or some other streaming service should step up and put the show out there.

Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies – There has always been a high demand for this show. It was popular when it was on TV, it’s popular now and it won Daytime Emmy awards while it was on the air. So it’s not like it’s an awful show that’s in demand. It’s a GOOD show that’s in demand. So why has it STILL not made it to video? Copyright/licensing issues. There’s still so many hurdles to clear with the show’s constant use of live-action footage and music that I doubt we’ll ever see a full season release. Oh well. You can always check out YouTube for a few episodes.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends – Okay, this one is kind of iffy. It hasn’t been released on Region 1 DVD in North America, but… the series did show up on Netflix back in 2011. After viewing the entire series on Netflix, I wrote about it here.

The Karate Kid - Apparently at one point it was available on Netflix, Hulu and the like but it’s disappeared since.

Teen Wolf – Not even an appearance on Hulu as of yet!

Shirt Tales – Still no Shirt Tales!

 

All told, I think we’re moving a long pretty well with my wishlist! Maybe in five more years, everything will have had a video release though I think a streaming service such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon would be a much better option for the more obscure stuff like Shirt Tales, Teen Wolf, Karate Kid and Kidd Video.

Six Holiday Classics That I’ve Only Recently Watched…

As much as I love Christmas, most of the holiday films I’ve seen have come from the 1980s or later. It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve discovered a number of great holiday films from many decades earlier. Some seem a bit forgotten and some certainly aren’t…

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The Shop Around the Corner
1940, MGM Pictures

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Six years before It’s a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart co-starred in this holiday romantic-comedy. If you’ve ever seen You’ve Got Mail, well, that was a remake of this movie — two people who don’t get along in person end up corresponding with each other anonymously via letters and end up falling in love. The only difference is that this movie takes place during Christmastime in Budapest. It was also remade in 1946 as In the Good Old Summertime, which starred Judy Garland & Van Johnson.

Despite being inducted into the Library of Congress and being ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 romance movies of all-time, The Shop Around the Corner seems to take a backseat to many of Stewart’s better known films like It’s a Wonderful LifeMr. Smith Goes to Washington, HarveyVertigo, Rear Window and The Philadelphia Story.

I thought the final scene between Stewart and Sullavan was particularly great and touching. Definitely worth seeking out for anyone that’s a fan of holiday or romance movies.

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Going My Way
1944, Paramount Pictures

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Though the movie doesn’t take place solely around the holidays, it is often lumped into the holiday movie category because one of the film’s final scenes takes place on Christmas Eve and also due to performances of “Silent Night, Holy Night” and “Ave Maria”. The movie was released in May of 1944 though so the studio obviously wasn’t thinking about this being a holiday movie when they released.

In one of Bing’s best roles, he plays the young and unconventional Father O’Malley, who has just been appointed to a new parish. Old ideas and new ideas collide between O’Malley and the parish’s other more conservative pastor, Father Fitzgibbon.

This film really racked up at the Academy Awards. It was nominated for 10 awards and won 7, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay.

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‘Thor: The Dark World’, ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘R.I.P.D.’… It’s a comic book movie bonanza!

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Thor: The Dark World
2013, Walt Disney Studios

Still so weird to me that Disney has owned Marvel Comics for a number of years now. As if the House of Mouse wasn’t powerful enough before that and let’s not even get started on them owning Star Wars! I’m waiting for Patton Oswalt’s fanfic to actually come true some day. It will not surprise me at all to see Disney try to pull off some type of Marvel/Star Wars thing years down the line once the next Star Wars trilogy gets established.

All that aside, I went to see Thor: The Dark World on opening weekend. Nowhere near as good as The Avengers, not as good as Iron Man 3 but it was definitely better than the first Thor movie. Thor has always been an interesting character to me. In the comics, at least. I feel like the movie version has been perhaps a bit too serious and wooden but whether that’s the fault of Chris Hemsworth or the writers, I don’t know.

Even though I said Thor is interesting, he’s a character I’ve never cared about him in a solo setting in the comics. Like Iron Man, he’s far better off with the Avengers, playing off the various personalities of his teammates, rather than being left on his own delivering internal monologues. I think this holds true when it comes to the movies as well. Yes, they’ve done a wonderful job with Loki in the Marvel movies but Thor just isn’t the guy to carry a movie on his own past B-movie status. But hey, visually, the movie looks really good. Most of it takes place on Asgard and not in the boring desert like the first movie did.

Some movies are theater-worthy, others are rental-worthy. I like the movie but I think it’s definitely something more deserving of a rental rather than spending $10 or whatever at the theater on it.

By the way, I’m really thinking Jaimie Alexander (who played Sif) would be PERFECT to cast as Wonder Woman should Warner/DC ever get their act together and give us that movie.

Speaking of DC Comics…

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How I Spent My Halloween Evening… plus more candles, Borden’s Halloween-inspired eggnog and Swiss Miss mint cocoa pudding!

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Listening to old-time radio shows, I’ve learned that one big tradition for Halloween parties “back in the day” was apple cider and donuts. During the various Halloween episodes of Jack Benny, they almost always make a reference to serving cider & donuts for the gang’s Halloween party. Since I don’t know a place in the area that makes/sells cider donuts (I miss you, Quality Dairy!), this sounds like the next best thing short of dipping the donuts into the cider, which I wasn’t about to do.

After I worked my second job last night (which was insane before trick-or-treating time and then deader than a zombie afterwards), I decided I would do the traditional cider & donuts along with the cliched viewing of Halloween (one of the all-time horror greats). I have to be honest, after an exhausting evening at work, when I got home around 10:45PM, I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I lasted until 11:45 and then went to bed and finished up the rest of the movie this morning while drinking coffee and eating maple bacon! Even though Halloween has come and gone, I plan on watching Halloween II (almost as good as the original) this afternoon on this lazy wet & gloomy but still warm & humid day.

By the way, I picked up the donuts from the way-too-close-to-my-house-for-my-own-good Dunkin Donuts and got old-fashioned cake donuts along with some sugar raised donuts!

And, yes, that is the 25th Anniversary DVD edition of Halloween. I don’t own the 35th Anniversary Blu-ray. :(

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Doctor Who – State of Decay [DVD Review]

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Doctor Who – State of Decay
1996, BBC Home Entertainment
Originally Aired: November 22 – December 13, 1980
Buy the DVD at Amazon.com

I absolutely admit to being a newbie when it comes to Doctor Who. I don’t know much about the history of the show or its characters and Wikipedia entries are so long-winded that they are very off-putting to someone new to Who.

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The above can be applied to every Doctor Who Wiki article ever written.

So, I’m doing things the old-fashioned way — I’m going to experience the show for myself. Thankfully, Netflix has ‘Classic Doctor Who’ for streaming (but they oddly feature only one story arc per season) and a few local libraries have tons, tons, TONS of classic Doctor Who DVDs.

I came across this particular DVD because I was searching the online card catalog for vampires and State of Decay popped up in the results because it features the blood suckers. I had been curious about older Doctor Who episodes for awhile and the fact that vampires were involved in this story arc made me feel justified that I was keeping with the Halloween spirit while watching these episodes.

State of Decay is a four-part serial from the 18th season of Doctor Who and the story as a whole is the second installment of what’s referred to as “The E-Space Trilogy”. For this particular serial, the Doctor and his companions Romana, K-9 and Adric end up on a planet with a medieval setting where there are three lords in what’s called the Tower ruling over the villagers. Every year the lords select young villagers to be brought to the Tower and they are never seen again. Turns out the villagers are being sacrificed to the last remaining Great Vampire (ancient enemies of the Time Lords) and that the lords of the Tower are vampires themselves.

Being my first sample of classic Doctor Who, I was surprised and pleased to see these story carry such a dark tone and Gothic atmosphere. I was expecting something steeped much more in science-fiction and goofiness. On one of the featurettes included on the disc, this serial’s writer stated that Hammer Films was his main source of inspiration for this story.

I also enjoyed Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor very much, so I’m looking forward running through the Fourth Doctor’s seasons.