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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Skits > Sketch > Shorts > Musical > Variety > The Honeymooners Lost Episodes 1951 – 1957: 60th Anniversary Edition (MPI DVD Box Set)

The Honeymooners Lost Episodes 1951 – 1957: 60th Anniversary Edition (MPI DVD Box Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Episodes: A



Back in the mid-1980s, the Showtime pay cable network score a coup when they managed to get the first tights to earlier and later skit versions of The Honeymooners that had not been seen in then 30+ years.  The classic had a great following then as it has now, just built on its influence and the 39 half-hour episodes filmed on 35mm film.  These new reels of old kinescopes of the live early and later versions of the skits that survived would be dubbed The Lost Episodes and they were a huge hit, soon moving onto VHS tape, syndicated TV and eventually many on DVD.  Now, for the 60th Anniversary of the show and the first broadcast of the first skit, a new 15-DVD box set from MPI has been issued and it is one of the most important DVD releases of the year.


For those unfamiliar with the show, here is the link to my review of the DVD set of those Classic 39 filmed episodes at this link:





Since Showtime offered those skits and they hit syndication, more Lost Episode skits have turned up and 30 here are all new to DVD.  The set has 107 of the known 128 skits (including several that were remakes) are here (the others are still lost) including 48 shorter and 59 that are longer.  This includes the latter sketches that are the first time Gleason laced the skits with musical numbers.


The first skit back in 1951 simply has Gleason as Ralph Kramden and Pert Kelton as his wife Alice, a grittier, darker, edgier and rougher version of what the show became.  He was much more of a louse, she was more a product of her time and of socio-economic circumstances.  Though she only played Alice for a season, she made for an interesting Alice and pairing with Gleason, but due to a mix of reasons (including the Hollywood Witchhunts of the 1950s) did not continue in the role when Gleason moved from DuMont to CBS.  Elaine Stritch and Patricia Morrison each played Trixie Norton briefly before Joyce Randolph took over the role for the rest of this era of the show.


Gleason would remake many of the skits with Audrey Meadows, though they would redo some of them again as well.  Like Charlie Chaplin, Gleason shot the same material over and over again until it became smooth, polished and ran with a flow that delivered the best impact, though I like the roughness of older variants where applicable.  This set offers a remarkable, rare look at a genius at work and even by the end of the Kelton/DuMont set of sketches, you can see the show take shape into the classic it has become.  It is also amazing how funny these are and remain, including how on the money Art Carney is as Ed Norton, who he always played.


In a 60 Minutes interview, Gleason said Lucille Ball was the one who dubbed him “The Great One” and after seeing this set, you’ll agree.



The 1.33 X 1 full screen, black and white image comes from old kinescopes (essentially the only way then to capture live TV before videotape was invented by filming off of a low definition picture tube) so even with some restoration, these will not look much better than they do here and the sources are not high quality enough to justify Blu-ray high definition release like Classic 39 episodes, so this is the definitive release of all of them.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also as good as it is going to get with sound varying from show to show, recording flaws, distortion, compression and harmonic distortion varying throughout, but usually sounding good considering the age of the productions.


Extras also include footage unseen for decades and include two cigarette ads featuring Gleason/Carney and Meadows separately for different brands, Carney’s funny Nescafe commercial, Carney & Meadows in a skit where they feign being British, Meadows sending up the show on Jack Benny’s show, The Red Skelton Show sending up the series with Peter Lorre as Ralph, six skits where Carney stays in character as Norton dubbed The Norton Interviews, two Lost Radio Episodes just found where the cast recorded two radio program versions of the show to promote the show and TV but where never broadcast, scripts for three missing episodes (not in PDF form), All About Trixie: The Joyce Randolph Interview, Dan Wingate hosting The Lost Episodes Story and a separate, nicely illustrated booklet with a fine essay by Robert S. Baker and episode guide to these shows.



We look forward to the eventual Blu-ray release of the original Classic 39 filmed episodes and we also recommend the later videotaped color series, which you can read more about at these links:


Collections 1 – 3



Collection 4



Second Honeymoon/Valentine DVDs




However, this is as definitive a collection of any era of the series to date and a terrific set.  If you are a fan, you’ll love it and if not and you see it, you will become a fan.  The Honeymooners Lost Episodes 1951 – 1957: 60th Anniversary Edition is a must-have collection.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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