Dora Rocks! (Dora The Explorer/Nickelodeon DVD)/Penrod & Sam (1931)/Tenth Avenue Angel (1947/Warner Archive DVDs)
Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C/D/C- Main Programs: C+
PLEASE NOTE: The Penrod and Angel DVDs
are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and
can be ordered from the link below.
some child-aimed titles, including two from the far past that we could see as
the beginnings of a genre if we wanted to consider it as such.
The new Dora Rocks! DVD single is the latest
from the Dora The Explorer series, a
huge, ongoing hit for the Nickelodeon cable network. Featuring another unintentionally funny
cover, it is a quality release that is amusing and entertaining, though I wish
the package was longer than 69 minutes.
However, it should be just enough for its intended young audience,
episodes of the series (Baby Bongo’s Big
Music Show, Little Map) are the
go back over 80 years for William Beaudine’s Penrod & Sam (1931), a decent-if-short (at 71 minutes!)
adaptation of the Booth Tarkington novel by the longtime journeyman
director. Produced by First National
Studios in their last days before becoming a permanent part of Warner Bros., an
all-boys club (very reminiscent of the one we know from Our Gang/The Little Rascals)
and their clubhouse is a great place to be, but the fun is shaken up when “a
girl” wants to join.
things start to get worse and more challenges suddenly surface for the young
guys and gals, played here by mostly unknown actors, though the legendary Zazu
Pitts This is a quality curio and still
smart fun that remains child-friendly and is as good as any of the newer
releases aimed at the same young audience.
This first of the sound versions of the book spawned later revisits, but
this is based on the original book outright.
Its odd how this does not age any more than the Our Gang/The Little Rascals
we have Roy Rowland’s Tenth Avenue Angel
(1947), one of many films from MGM to feature Margaret O’Brien, the studio’s
answer to Fox’s Shirley Temple (you could also have said Judy Garland, but she
had moved onto different films by this time) and though O’Brien was not as
popular as Temple (who was?) for the audience intended, she was still a very
appealing, charming young actress and you can see why she still had a run of
moderate hits and this film is a happy child in a bad neighborhood.
also has a serious high crime/gangster problem and this also has a Christmas
angle, but it is not pretentious, condescending or dumb. The supporting actors are strong including
Phyllis Thaxter as her mother, Angela Lansbury as her Aunt and George Murphy as
a criminal trying to turn over a new leaf.
Yes, this is predictable and formulaic, but it is child-friendly and
like Dora, fun intelligent
entertainment for young girls. However,
I would likely save this one for Christmas as a surprise, but it plays well
enough “off-season”. It usually works,
if not always and is the longest of the three titles here at 74 minutes.
is the only extra.
X 1 color image on Dora (produced on
digital video) and 1.33 X 1 black and white 35mm-filmed images on Penrod and Angel all look as good as they are going to for the DVD format. Minor softness and maybe some aliasing on Dora are there, but I am surprised how
really good looking Penrod is for
its age. Angel benefits from the gloss of the usual MGM production and has
no less than Robert Surtees as its Director of Photography, so it was
definitely going to look good.
Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is on all three DVDs, with Dora is consistent stereo and the rest Monophonic, but again, they
sound good for their age and Penrod
is particularly surprising in this respect.
Glad someone took care of these films!
To order the
Penrod and Angel DVDs, go to this link for both of them and many more great
web-exclusive releases at: