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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Religion > Slapstick > Satire > Screwball > Acting > Stage > Alcoholism > Shorts > Relationships > Wr > Almost Sharkproof (2013/Cinedigm DVD)/Buster Keaton Double Feature: Free & Easy/Estrellados (1930/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/The Great Profile (1940/Fox Cinema Archive DVD)/Vitascope Comedy Collection Vo

Almost Sharkproof (2013/Cinedigm DVD)/Buster Keaton Double Feature: Free & Easy/Estrellados (1930/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/The Great Profile (1940/Fox Cinema Archive DVD)/Vitascope Comedy Collection Volume Two: Shemp Howard (1933 - 1937/Warner Archive DVDs)/The War Between Men & Women (1972)/Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me (1971/Cinema Center/National General/CBS DVDs)

Picture: C+/C/C/C+/C+/C+ Sound: C+/C/C/C+/C+/C+ Extras: D Films: D/C+/C+/C+/C/C

PLEASE NOTE: The Buster Keaton Double Feature DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the links below.

Here is a set of mixed comedy releases, old and new...

Simon Chan & Joe Rubalcaba co-directed Almost Sharkproof (2013) that wants to joke about Judaism, religion and be politically incorrect, but it forgets to be funny early on and is so self amused that it only misses being smug by being liter, lamer and more superfluous than anything. Jon Lovitz even shows up among the unknowns as some kind of loan shark, but it is the longest 82 minutes we have encountered on a while and you should beware of it by avoiding it.


Buster Keaton Double Feature: Free & Easy/Estrellados (1930) is actually two versions of the same tale Keaton made at MGM playing a loner guy who suddenly is the manager of a beauty contest winner in the middle of nowhere who he actually likes, but never hopes to get together with. Edward Sedgwick directs both version, the first of which is the English language version with a caucasian cast and the second with a hispanic cast usually in Spanish. Though neither is a knockout version, they are watchable and entertaining variants with the star being front and center. A silent cinema genius, he knows how to play for the camera in both cases and worth seeing for Keaton alone. Too bad they were not better or more commercially successful, as Keaton never made the transition to sound and MGM did not know who they had on their hands.

Walter Lang's The Great Profile (1940) is a screwball comedy that has fun with its star, the great John Barrymore (the title is inspired by him in part) as a great actor who thinks very, very highly of himself and is very, very drunk very,very often. Add sexism and some other political incorrectness and you've got a fiasco that at times is predictable and other times truly hilarious. Later referenced in a certain Looney Tunes cartoon and a somewhat influential work, you may think you have seen this one, even if you have not. Now exclusively available on line from Fox Cinema Archive as a DVD-R, the watchable 70 minutes also has fine turns from Gregory Ratoff, Mary Beth Hughes, John Payne, Anne Baxter and Lionel Atwill that make this one a must-see at least once. You won't be disappointed.

The Vitascope Comedy Collection Volume Two: Shemp Howard (1933 - 1937) covers the interesting and more impressive than you might expect work of Samuel “Shemp Howard” Horwitz in his years at Warner Bros. in comedy short subjects before he left for greater success at the then-smaller Columbia Pictures and became immortalized forever as an international sensation as a continuing permanent member of The Three Stooges, a shorts series that is still popular and people still watch.

We see him go from taking brief occasional turns in early shorts to being the #2 man to stars no one remembers to being a co-star to finishing his time at Warner in several Joe Palooka shorts. The most impressive thing is that he had amazing comic timing early on, could deliver his lines as funny without trying and as compared to the over-the-top Stooges antics, could be funny without going over the top and being outrageous. I liked this collection and Stooges fans should especially check this one out. Not bad at all.

Melville Shavelson's The War Between Men & Women (1972) was produced and co-written by future Barney Miller creator Danny Arnold and has Jack Lemmon (often breaking the 4th wall by talking at the camera to the audience) telling us his woes with women and life. It sense of isolationism for its lead reminded me of Arnold's underrated, short-lived Joe Bash, but despite the fun Marvin Hamlisch music score, the script based on James Thurber's artwork (Lemmon is a cartoonist/writer trying to make a living) is as bitter and shrill as anything anyone here may have made.

Barbara Harris is the woman of his eventual affections and we get more than a few moments where animation joins the live action, something too common these days that rarely works. It does not gel well here either, but the support cast including Jason Robards, Severn Darden, Herb Edelman, a young Lisa Elibacher, Dr. Joyce Brothers and Ruth McDevitt are a plus. Still, at 104 minutes, this is longer and more dragged out than I remembered. If interested, catch it in this fine new DVD, but others might want to skip it.

Finally we have Ulu Grosbard's Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me (1971) where songwriter Georgie Soloway (Dustin Hoffman) is about to self destruct, but not before we go on a surreal odyssey with him to find out why. He has an eccentric therapist (Jack Warden) who may be doing more harm than good, a woman (Barbara Harris again) he has mixed connections with and has a script that wants this to be another Graduate crossed with ideas of counterculture new wave filmmaking that are more absurd than effective or really telling us anything.

Grosbard and Hoffman fared much better a few years later with Straight Time and that is also too forgotten like this film, but at least this was ambitious and makes for a time capsule at least worth seeing once. It also shows how big Hoffman had become at this point to get this film made in the first place. Dom DeLuise, Candice Azzara and even Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show show up, so this is bound to be a curio for many. Nice to have it on DVD, even if I was not impressed with its unevenness.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Almost almost looks good in consistency, but the simple digital shoot holds it back from being better. In both versions, the 1.33 black and white image on the two Keaton films show their age as expected with scratches, flaws and specks throughout, yet they are nicely shot to begin with and the same presentation on Profile is not as rough, but can have some softness. That leaves the Shemp set with a nice set of transfers, including more than a few that have the best black and white crispness, detail and depth here.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on War (originally issued in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor 35mm prints, this often looks that good) and Harry (in DeLuxe color that does not look bad at all) look the best of all the color presentations. Director Of Photography Charles F. Wheeler (Silent Running, Slaughter's Big Ripoff, Truck Turner, Bad Ronald) lensed War showing his upscale Hollywood side visually with a rich-looking shoot, while Director Of Photography Victor J. Kemper (The Hospital, The Candidate, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, Dog Day Afternoon, The Reincarnation Of Peter Proud) is able to more than deliver the sometimes complex work this film needs visually even before editing on Harry.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Almost should be the best on the list being the newest and only multi-channel presentation, but this is often monophonic in dialogue and has soundstage issues throughout in which it never sounds full or complete, so the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on both War and Harry (much more professionally well recorded) can more than compete. But the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the two Keaton films are obviously are going to sound aged, a little compressed and a bit brittle, though they were well recorded for their time. However, they are the poor performers here along with Profile, which is in rough shape itself with constant background noise. The same sound on the Shemp shorts are better, especially early on.

There are no extras on any of these releases (not even trailers!), but to order The Buster Keaton Double Feature DVD or Shemp DVDs, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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