Clearly MPI Home Video put their best foot forward when they released volume one of their three-volume Basil Rathbone -Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes Collections, for it can't be denied that the transfer of  SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR  was impressive indeed. From that point on, however, it's been a case of markedly diminishing returns as there has been a  palpable and steady decline in the quality of the subsequent  transfers, the very worst being the two films that are by leaps and bounds the best of the series, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, a fact that is downright alarming considering the inflated prices being asked by MPI, a company rumored to be in a financial bind. HOLMES addicts who are similarly cash-strapped need not despair, however. If you simply must have these titles, flawed as they are, in your library ---- rent them. MPI couldn't afford to copy-protect them.




While there can be no doubt that Jack Paar, the father of the TV talk show, is more than deserving of a dvd tribute of the highest order, The Shout! Factory's current 3 disc THE JACK PAAR COLLECTION is most assuredly not it. For the sad truth is that this understandably obscure video outfit's effort is a clumsy and slipshod thing, and the fact that the text on the back of the box states that the collection "represents the very best of this one-of-kind TV talk innovator" does this supremely talented and original individual a great disservice.

What you get for your hard-earned dollars is a reasonable documentary that seems to be repeated on PBS on a daily basis, some perfunctory and apparently randomly chosen clips from Paar's talk show ( many of which are excerpted in the documentary) and three "complete" , and unfortunately vintage-commercial free, episodes that are among Paar's weakest efforts. To add insult to injury, the visual quality on the clips, as well as the three "full" episodes, is roughly the equivilent of your typical six hour VHS mode, with plenty of visible age-related damage.

If Paramount's exemplary release early this year of THE HONEYMOONERS EPISODES (see review) represents the top of the classic TV heap, the unforgivably shoddy and shabby JACK PAAR COLLECTION is unquestionably the bottom of the barrel.     



Previously , we at  DVD CLASSICS CORNER have been cautiously advocating the practice of home video companies rereleasing the same dvd title a second  time ( a practice some disgruntled consumers label as "double dipping"), but only with the proviso that these new versions feature significantly improved picture and/or sound, and possibly additional footage and /or meaningful new extra features. Using those requirements as a yardstick, MGM'S second dvd release of John Wayne's THE ALAMO (timed to coincide with the theatrical release of the remake) is notable only for the sad fact that it is the laziest , most cynically conceived, and most thoroughly unnecessary dvd rerelease of the year thus far.                   

Like IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD and HAWAII, the original length roadshow version of THE ALAMO –which was re-cut only two weeks after its initial release--had been lost since its premiere engagement in 1960. In 1994, however, an uncut 70MM was discovered in Toronto, which was then seamlessly edited into the 1990 digital masters. This complete version, not seen since 1960, was then released in the terrific looking and sounding 1996 laserdisc version. (The entire final battle sequence was mastered from the 70MM print!)               

A few years ago MGM Home Entertainment released THE ALAMO on dvd for the first time, and much to the outrage of film buffs, even though the complete version was now available and ready to go in their vaults, it was the forty minutes--less short version that they chose to release, in a grainy non-anamorphic transfer.

Those of you who thought that MGM would rectify the situation with their second dvd release of THE ALAMO can, I reveal with much astonishment, check your hopes at the door. For the sad news is that the only new aspect of this shabby rerelease is the fact that it's anamorphic. Otherwise, it's the same emasculated version that escaped before, replete with the identical problems of a grainy image, innaccurate brownish flesh-tones, and hollow sound, that marred the initial dvd version.(I add that the laserdisc exhibited none of these problems. In fact, I've just finished transferring it to dvd , and in every way, shape and form my laserdisc/dvd copy is vastly superior to MGM's disgraceful double-dipper disaster. And forty minutes longer. 



Fans of this drama in which a post-World-War I colonel (an excellent Gary Cooper) sacrifices his career in order to further his belief that aerial combat is a thing of the future: pay no attention to the packaging which states that this is the "original 1.33:1 full screen version in which the film was shot". Not so. It's presented (approximately) in its original cinemascope wide-screen format. That's the good news-----all of it. The bad news is it's non-anamorphic. Worse news is it's exactly the same washed-out fuzzy transfer as the original laserdisc, which substitutes a bleary and occasionally distorted monaural sound track for the original stereo track. If you're a fan of the film, this slovenly dvd is better than nothing. If you've got the laserdisc and a dvd recorder-----well, you know what to do. The results will be the same. Maybe better.


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