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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animated > Children > Educational > Literature > Friendship > Drama > Melodrama > Dora Rocks! (Dora The Explorer/Nickelodeon DVD)/Penrod & Sam (1931)/Tenth Avenue Angel (1947/Warner Archive DVDs)

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.

 

 

Now for 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,

 

Two bonus episodes of the series (Baby Bongo’s Big Music Show, Little Map) are the only extra.

 

 

Next we 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.

 

Then 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 shorts.

 

There are no extras.

 

 

Finally 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.

 

The area 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.

 

A trailer is the only extra.

 

 

The 1.33 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.

 

Lossy 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:

 

http://www.warnerarchive.com/

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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