Mark Burger’´s Video Vault

by Mark Burger


“GET SMART” — SEASON ONE (HBO Video): As a kid, I loved watching reruns of “Get Smart” on television, so it’s with a good deal of boyhood nostalgia that I revisit the first DVD boxed set of the CBS sitcom, which includes all 30 episodes from the 1965-’66 debut season. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, this inspired spoof of the James Bond craze stars the inimitable Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 of CONTROL, as he stumbles and bumbles his way through an ongoing battle with the nefarious forces of enemy agency KAOS.

Aiding and abetting Max — and frequently saving his bacon — is Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, whose wry sexiness made her the perfect foil for Adams. Providing sterling support is Edward Platt as “The Chief,” perennially infuriated by Max’s inexplicable combination of idiocy and resiliency, although it made for ongoing hilarity throughout the series’ five-year run. Add to this the frequently absurd gadgets and gizmos used by Max (including the legendary shoe phone), the Cones of Silence (one of my favorites) and Adams’ patented one-liners (“Missed by… that much,” “Would you believe…?”), and you’ve got an enduring classic. The first season’s guest stars include Dick Gautier (in his recurring role as Hymie the Robot), Tony Lo Bianco, Leonard Nimoy, Ted Knight, Alice Ghostley, Simon Oakland and even Johnny Carson. Four Emmy nominations that season included outstanding comedy series and Adams as outstanding continued performance in an actor in a leading role in a comedy series. This boxed set retails for $24.98.


ALICE UPSIDE DOWN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The first in a proposed series of films based on Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s award winning series of Alice McKinley children’s novels stars Alyson Stoner as a dreamy pre-teen trying to adapt to a new town and a new school. Sincerely acted but nothing special. **

“ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS” (Bagdasarian Productions/Paramount Home Entertainment): For those who can’t get enough of those squeaky voiced Chipmunks, Paramount has released a special edition of the 1987 feature film Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Chipmunk Adventure, which retails for $16.99 and includes a CD featuring 11 songs; and the feature-length Alvin & The Chipmunks Go to the Movies: Funny, We Shrunk the Adults, which is comprised of three episodes from the animated series and also retails for $16.99. Rated G.

THE BLACK ORCHID (Paramount Home Entertainment): Martin Ritt’s 1958 kitchen sink soap opera stars Sophia Loren as a young widow whose romance with a widowed neighbor (Anthony Quinn) hits a snag when his daughter (Ina Balin, in her screen debut) protests mightily. This tends to feel like a play — hard to believe it wasn’t — but gets mileage from its cast, which also includes Peter Mark Richman (then billed as Mark Richman), Whit Bissell and Virginia Vincent. Despite winning an award for her performance and being deglamorized, Loren (then in her early 20s) is still a knockout. Quinn is especially good as the hearty but lonely fellow trying to appease all sides of the issue. Produced by Loren’s husband, Carlo Ponti, and written by Joseph Stefano (who later adapted Psycho for Hitchcock!) **’½

A BREATH OF SCANDAL (Paramount Home Entertainment): Michael Curtiz directed this 1960 romantic comedy, adapted from Ferenc Molnar’s play by Sidney Howard, with Sophia Loren as Olympia, an Austrian princess with a past, who falls for John Gavin, playing an engineer named Charlie from Pittsburgh, in 1907 Vienna. Maurice Chevalier, as Loren’s father, warbles the title tune. The locations are lovely, but this is relaxed to the point of laziness. **

CELINE (Monarch Home Video): If the Chipmunks aren’t your idea of good music and for those who can’t get enough of Canadian-born songbird Celine Dion, here’s an unauthorized biography that’s as sappy as it is soapy, as it follows her through childhood hurdles (wearing hand-be down clothes, the size of her teeth, being teased by kids at school, her mother’s bad hairdo) to her big break in show-biz, thanks to promoter Rene Angelil (“I don’t work with acts; I create phenomena”), who she would later marry. Neither Jodelle Ferland (Celine as a child) nor Christina Ghawi (Celine as an adult) remotely resembles the real Celine Dion, much less each other. Unintentional laughs abound, starting with (but hardly limited to) the riotous hairpiece that Enrico Colantoni wears when playing the younger Rene. Here is Celine. She is woman. Hear her roar… and hear me snore. Rated PG. *’½

“HANDY MANNY: MANNY’S PET ROUNDUP” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A collection of selected episodes (including one never-before-seen) from the popular animated series that airs on Playhouse Disney, featuring the voice of Wilmer Valderrama as the title character, that of an industrious small-town handyman. This DVD retails for $19.99.

HANNAH MONTANA & MILEY CYRUS: BEST OF BOTH WORLDS 3-D CONCERT (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A two-disc extended edition of the big-screen concert extravaganza featuring teen superstar Miley Cyrus and her TV alter-ego, Hannah Montana. To date, one of the most successful concert films in Hollywood history. Then again, Woodstock and The Last Waltz weren’t in 3-D, now were they? This special-edition DVD, which includes 3-D glasses, retails for $34.99.

“I LOVE THE ’80S” (Paramount Home Entertainment): Paramount celebrates one of its most successful box-office decades with a selection of DVDs from the 1980s, including Airplane!, Beverly Hills Cop, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Footloose, Friday the 13 th , She’s Having a Baby, Pretty in Pink, American Gigolo, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Urban Cowboy, Some Kind of Wonderful, the Oscar-winning Terms of Endearment, the overrated Fatal Attraction and Top Gun, and many more. Each DVD comes with a bonus CD featuring four quintessential ’80s tunes: “Take on Me” (a-ha), “I Need You Tonight” (INXS), “Chains of Love” (Erasure) and “Lips Like Sugar” (Echo & The Bunnymen). Each DVD retails for $14.99. In addition, Paramount has also released an “Everything’s Duckie” special edition of Pretty in Pink (1986) and a special “collector’s edition” of Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), both of which were written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutsch. These editions, which include commentaries and documentaries (but not the ‘80s sampler CD), also retail for $14.99.

“LITTLE EINSTEINS: FLIGHT OF THE INSTRUMENT FAIRIES” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A selection of four episodes from the popular animated series that airs on Playhouse Disney, depicting an group of five young adventurers as they embark on journeys of discovery. This DVD retails for $19.99

MUHAMMAD ALI: MADE IN MIAMI (PBS Home Video/Paramount Home Entertainment): An engaging PBS documentary tracing the period in the 1960s when heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay lived in Miami — a period that included his winning the championship (twice), his friendship with Malcolm X and conversion to Islam, and his refusal to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War. This is as effective a portrait of the era as of the man himself. The footage of an Ali recitation with Liberace providing piano accompaniment is priceless. ***

ONCE IN A LIFETIME: THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF THE NEW YORK COSMOS (Buena Vista Home Entertainment): Matt Dillon narrates this first-rate documentary feature tracing the history of the New York Cosmos, the professional soccer team (owned by Steve Ross of Warner Communications) of the 1970s whose success heralded the dawn of professional soccer in the United States… except it didn’t quite happen that way. Pele is nowhere to be found, but among those interviewed are former players Giorgio Chinaglia, Shep Messing and Franz Beckenbauer, former team employees, sportswriters and even Henry Kissinger! Fast paced, fabulous and filled with incredible footage. Rated PG-13. ***’½

PRISONER OF HONOR (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Richard Dreyfuss produces and stars in this 1991 historical drama, originally broadcast on HBO, dramatizing the consequences of the Dreyfus Affair, a miscarriage of late-19 th century French justice (fueled by anti-Semitism) that saw an innocent soldier (Kenneth Colley) wrongly imprisoned at Devil’s Island for treason. Dreyfuss plays an investigating officer whose attempts to expose a military cover-up puts his own career in jeopardy, and a stalwart supporting cast includes Peter Firth, Jeremy Kemp, Peter Vaughan, Lindsay Anderson and Oliver Reed (who’s quite good). Director Ken Russell’s unusual approach to the fact-based proceedings ladles on the irony, both historical and otherwise, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer (thanks in part also to Barry Kirsch’s intrusive score), but this it not without its particular and occasionally peculiar merits. Rated PG. **’½

“SPACE ANGEL” — COLLECTION #1 (VCI Entertainment): Nine original episodes from the animated sci-fi series that aired in 1962 and featured “synchro-vox,” in which human mouths were transposed over the animated ones. Would I lie to you? This DVD retails for $14.99.

TABLE FOR FIVE (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Jon Voight, whose company produced this well-acted 1983 tearjerker, stars as a free-wheeling father trying to reconnect with his three kids on a cruise. Director Robert Lieberman’s feature debut affords sympathetic roles for Millie Perkins, Marie-Christine Barrault, Roxana Zal (in her screen debut) and reliable Richard Crenna, who’s excellent as the kids’ stepfather. Look also for Kevin Costner as a newlywed husband. Rated PG. **’½

“TRANFORMERS ANIMATED” — SEASON ONE (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2008 season of the animated series, based on the popular line of Hasbro toys (first introduced in the 1980s), which currently airs on the Cartoon Network. This special-edition DVD, which includes a sneak-peak photo gallery of the upcoming season, retails for $26.99.

“THE ULTIMATE MULAN TWO-MOVIE COLLECTION” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A DVD double-feature consisting of the special edition of Disney Studios’ award winning 1998 animated feature Mulan, which features the voices of Ming-Na and Eddie Murphy, and earned an Oscar nomination for best original music or comedy score; and the made-for-DVD 2004 sequel Mulan II, in which Ming-Na reprised vocal chores in the title role. This collection retails for $34.99.

“WALT DISNEY TREASURES: MICKEY MOUSE IN BLACK AND WHITE” — VOLUME TWO (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A limited edition DVD collection of over 30 early animated Disney shorts featuring Mickey Mouse, including the legendary “Steamboat Willie” (1928), which launched Mickey’s big-screen career, and 1935’s “Mickey’s Kangaroo,” after which the shorts were done in color. Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin hosts a series of retrospective documentaries and commentaries tracing the history of the character and the studio that created him. Plenty of DVD extras (including rare footage and drawings) for the Disney devotee. This boxed set retails for $32.99.

“WAYSIDE SCHOOL” — SEASON ONE (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2007 season of the animated series based on Louis Sachar’s popular series of children’s books, which currently airs on both Nickeoldeon and the Nicktoons Channel. This special-edition DVD, which includes a copy of Sachar’s best-selling book Sideways Stories from Wayside School, retails for $19.99.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2008, Mark Burger