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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Sex > British > TV Situation Comedy > Military > Gangster > Kidnapping > Mystery > Detective > Musi > The Best House In London (1968/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/CPO Sharkey: The Complete Season One (1976/Time Life/Star Vista DVD Set)/Every Little Crook & Nanny (1972/MGM)/John J. Malone Double Feature: Hav

The Best House In London (1968/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/CPO Sharkey: The Complete Season One (1976/Time Life/Star Vista DVD Set)/Every Little Crook & Nanny (1972/MGM)/John J. Malone Double Feature: Having Wonderful Crime (1944/RKO) + Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950/MGM)/Sombrero (1953/MGM/Warner Archive DVDs)

Picture: C/C/C+/C+/C+ Sound: C+/C+/C/C+ & C/C Extras: C-/C-/C-/C-/D Main Programs: C/C/C/C/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Warner Archive series DVDs above can all be ordered from the link below.

Here are six ambitious attempts to do comedy that prove the even with proven talent, comedy is hard and there are no guarantees with the most underrated of genres...

Philip Saville's The Best House In London (1968) was originally rated X when that rating meant extreme mature audiences, but this British sex comedy has a few amusing, even shocking moments, but even Joanna Pettet's beauty and presence cannot save this silly outing with David Hemming as the man sleeping around with every woman he can get (we see him in action in the opening in a hot air balloon!), the activities at the title locale and will Pettet's social purity stop his wild ways?

The cast is better than the film with interesting turns by George Sanders, a(n again) politically incorrect Warren Mitchell, Maurice Denham, Bill Fraser, Martita Hunt, Ferdy Mayne, Charles Lloyd Pack, Peter Jeffrey, John Cleese and Margaret Nolan. Made by the British division of MGM, the problem is not even that it is British humor at times, but just too silly and childish for its own good. Great cast though.

CPO Sharkey: The Complete Season One (1976) was NBC's attempt to have another hit like Sanford & Son by taking a raw stand-up icon (the great Don Rickles) and put him in a situation that restrained him for the censors, while still letting him be funny enough. They were also hoping to have a military comedy hit in the mode of Gomer Pyle USMC, Hogan's Heroes and The Phil Silvers Show (as Sgt. Bilko) aka You'll Never Get Rich, but several things did not work. For one, no one wanted to see a new such show after the Vietnam fiasco had ended, plus, the show unexpectedly added more drama than expected.

This might have made a forerunner of so-called dramedies, but added to the inconsistencies and awkwardness of such a show trying to emulate the Norman Lear/All In The Family innovations while not beginning to deal with its politics despite a diverse cast. That certainly makes it a curio, though most of the cast remains unknown, it deserves this belated DVD release just on Rickles attempt to try a big hit sitcom. It's as stiff and odd as I remembered and I remember expectations were for 'Gomer Pyle goes insane', but that above all may have doomed the show.

Cy Howard's Every Little Crook & Nanny (1972) is a wacky, if not very funny, gangster spoof that seems like a 1960s film, made instantly dated arriving the same year as the first Godfather, but MGM might still have hoped for a What's Up Doc?-type hit. With an over-the-top Victor Mature as a head gangster lying about it in public ('there is no such thing as the Mafia!') having his son kidnapped (never funny despite the script's efforts) and landing up with Lynn Redgrave as a nanny who is actually a teacher who they just drove out of business who had a lease on one of their properties.

Again, the cast is much more impressive than the script of jokes including Paul Sand, Margaret Blye, Austin Pendleton (who fared better that year in What's Up Doc?), Dom DeLuise, John Astin, Louise Sorel, Phil Foster (of Laverne & Shirley), Pat Harrington Jr. (of One Day At A Time), Pat Morita (the original Karate Kid films, Happy Days), Severn Darden and brief turns by Isabelle Sanford, Vic Tayback and Ed Peck. Most of these sitcom stars did better on TV and the kidnapping idea has aged very, very badly. See only if you must.

The John J. Malone Double Feature has two films from two different studio attempts to launch a mystery comedy series about a detective lawyer and both attempts fell way short. Eddie Sutherland's Having Wonderful Crime (1944) was made by RKO and has Pat O'Brien as the main character in a middling 70 minutes romp trying to find a missing stage magician with Carole Landis and George Murphy as backup. The result is flat.

Norman Taurig's Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950) is even sillier with an annoying title song, MGM trying to perk things up having Marjorie Main as Mrs. O'Malley, who becomes involved with the case at hand when she wins a radio contest then runs into our detective (now played by James Whitmore, partly drunk) on a train trip. Ann Dvorak, Phyllis Kirk and Douglas Fowley show up as decent support, but the script is sillier and mystery no better. These are curios at best that makes one wonder if the books, radio show and TV show were this bad.

Norman Foster's Sombrero (1953) has 'cheesemaker' Ricardo Montalban (stealing every scene in the film as the supposed lower-social guy) in this musical set in Mexico City who can sing, dance and outwit anyone, trying to seduce a young Pier Angeli whose father (Thomas Gomez) is the town mayor. Vittorio Gassman is the head of a wealthy family, trying to marry off his daughter Nina Foch in a 'legitimate' way. Along with some decent musical numbers, amazing dance number, real Technicolor, nice locales and turns by Yvonne De Carlo and Cyd Charrise, MGM put the time and money into this one, but it has aged oddly. Bullfighting also show up in its 103 minutes, but it works best on its star power and its comedy is not bad; as good as anything here. The best of these releases, it is at least worth a look.

The 1.33 X 1 presentation on CPO is the softest originating from old analog NTSC color videotape in standard definition and includes a disclaimer, but it did not look much better to begin with and some shots are not bad. The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on House has a good color print and is in decent shape, but this is just too soft too often in a way that has nothing to do with how it was shot, so it has the second-poorest showing.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Crook is better, though not a runaway best performer here since we still get some off shots, but the MetroColor is consistent enough, even if it bleeds a bit at times. The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on both Malone films look good for their age, even if they come from two different studios. But the 1.33 X 1 image on Sombrero is just a sliver better than the rest, even with softness at times, as it was a dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor film for which MGM went all out to make it look good and the hard work holds up.

All DVDs here are in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound, all showing the age of the material, but London, CPO and Crime, the first of the Malone films, sound better than the others which have their share of compression.

Extras are few here, with all the films but Sombrero and O'Malley having Original Theatrical Trailers, while CPO has a clip from The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson where Carson discovers Don Rickles has broken his cherished cigarette box he brought form New York when he guest hosted for him. Carson interrupts Rickles on the CPO set to confront him about breaking it, then not telling him about it. It is rightly a famous clip for fans of both.

To order any or all of the Warner Archive DVDs above, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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