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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Spoof > Skits > Slapstick > Music > Variety TV Show > Political Satire > Advertising > Bri > Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes (1967 - 1970/Time Life 6-DVD Version)/The Rise & Rise Of Michael Rimmer (1970/Warner Archive DVD)/Mr. Warmth: Don Rickles - The Ultimate TV Collection (1970 - 197

Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes (1967 - 1970/Time Life 6-DVD Version)/The Rise & Rise Of Michael Rimmer (1970/Warner Archive DVD)/Mr. Warmth: Don Rickles - The Ultimate TV Collection (1970 - 1975/Time Life DVD)/W. C. Fields: Comedy Essentials Collection (1932 - 1941/Universal DVD Set)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Rise & Rise Of Michael Rimmer DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here are some key new comedy releases you should be aware of...

Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes (1967 - 1970) is the smaller 6-disc version of two larger sets of the same name now being offered, but showing the rise of the greatest variety TV show of all time. Even in the very beginning, there was something very special going on with this series. Burnett has so much energy just at the start and it is now even uncanny how she has Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman and Lyle Waggoner (who was almost Batman on the 1960s TV show, did replace him for a post-series PSA, then lands up on this bigger hit show with more laughs before moving on to another superhero hit, Wonder Woman, so even he was destined for success it seems) presetting the priceless chemistry the series would have. That Tim Conway kept showing up is even more phenomenal, confirming the chemistry and greatness as noted in past coverage.

DVD 1 offers episodes with Lucille Ball, Eddie Albert, Nancy Wilson (whose appearance in the As The Stomach Turns segment over the top), Chita Rivera, Bob Newhart, Mel Torme, Nanette Fabray & Don Rickles. DVD 2 has Jim Nabors, Paul Lynde, Bing Crosby, Eydie Gorme (whose cover of the Bacharach/David classic A House Is Not A Home is pretty formidable) and Tim Conway. DVD 3 has Burt Reynolds, Nanette Fabray back, Don Adams and Leslie Ann Warren. DVD 4 has Lucille Ball, Gloria Loring and twice, Tim Conway. DVD 5 has Bobbie Gentry, Gwen Verdon & Phillis Diller in the same show (who join Carol in a tribute to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album you HAVE to see), Andy Griffith, Cass Elliott and Bernadette Peters. DVD 6 gives us Vikki Carr, Flip Wilson (who help do one of the best Mission: Impossible send-ups ever!), Carol Channing, Steve Lawrence, Jack Jones, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson and Tim Conway. The TV commercial parodies are great and with YouTube, similar sites and DVD collections, you can usually find the ads they spoof, which is a great plus. What an amazing set, which is as strong as any of the amazing releases we've reviewed elsewhere on this site.

Extras include a backstage tour of CBS Studio 33 where the show was originally taped, 13 exclusive new interviews with stars of yesteryear and today, with Alan Alda, Julie Andrews, Vikki Carr, Carol Channing, Bill Hader, Jack Jones (longer than expected but worth it), Jim Nabors, Queen Latifah, Gloria Loring, Don Rickles, Lesley Ann Warren & others, Never-Before-Seen Bloopers & Outtakes, Bonus sketches including "Morton at the Movies" and the all-time classic "The Dentist" and the opening number from the historic Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center TV special with a new introduction by Carol.

Kevin Billington's The Rise & Rise Of Michael Rimmer (1970) turns out to be an underrated, key British comedy (now 45 years old) that holds up well, involves some key Monty Python talent just as that troop was about to form, has some of that kind of humor here and is a political satire and more that stars Peter Cook (in one of his best roles and performances) as the title character, a young man who is trying to make a good showing at an advertising agency about to get involved in an election. Is this a smart mix, a deadly one or both?

As he makes his way around, he focuses on using sex effectively and before he knows it, advising a challenger to the Prime Minister and taking on a competing ad firm also dipping into politics. Things take an even more hilarious turn (in maybe the most unexpected howler of the whole film) when Cook's firm finds out the competition has a hapless employee taking a survey in a very staunch, conservative section of England that represents a serious voting block. The agency sends a busload of employees to get 'casually' interviewed and they feed him nonsense answers (like that they are or were Buddhists and much wilder) that he takes down as gospel serious and tabulates. The fallout leads to the biggest laugh for me.

There are a few down points that hold this back, but they are brief. I'm so glad Warner Archive has issued this gem on DVD, which must have been more shocking in its day to those who believe in Democracy and voting versus what we are getting today in the ways of manipulation, mass media manipulation and other big (and now secret) bog money moves that have made a mess of so much.

Making this film all the funnier than its fine directing, locations, script, shots and energy is that cast I was referring to that most true filmmakers would kill to have today: John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Kevin Billington (all three who co-wrote the screenplay), Ronald Fraser, Denholm Elliott, Vanessa Howard, Ronald Corbett, Arthur Lowe, Julian Glover, Valerie Leon, Dudley Foster, Richard Pearson, Michael Barrington, Dennis Price, Michael Bates, Jonathan Cecil, Frank Thorton, Diana Coupland, Graham Crowden, Norman Rossington, Roger Maxwell, Guy Middleton and uncredited turns by Sinead Cusack and the 'I'm still hurting from laughing' moment by Anthony Morton.

This just has to be some at least minor comedy classic that has yet to even be a cult classic, but it might just be too dangerous and subversive for that. Good!

There are sadly no extras.

Mr. Warmth: Don Rickles - The Ultimate TV Collection (1970 - 1975) brings together key TV works of the politically incorrect comedy icon that have never been issued on DVD before. All shot on analog video of the time, the first two entries are the two seasons of his military comedy CPO Sharkey (reviewed elsewhere on this site), joined by a series of TV specials he made that pulled back his edge somewhat. Volume 1 offers The Many Sides Of Don Rickles (1970) directed and co-produced by no less that TV legend Bud Yorkin (All In The Family) that has Rickles joined om stage talking with Harvey Korman, Robert Goulet and Don Adams as if they were between skits, then we get a few fairly good skits (Hippie Love-in has the underrated character actress Reva Rose as his wife) and Goulet singing at one point, but the times they just talk and joke around are more interesting. Don Rickles: Alive & Kicking (1972) brings Korman back as they are both joined by Juliet Prowse and Anne Meara, with more skits, less talk and Prowse's unique take on the Elton John hit Honky Cat. It is a bit better overall, but neither special has any huge laughs, except for first special's send-up of the debut of the failed Joey Bishop Show with Adams as Bishop (sort of) and Korman as an insane Regis Philbin that can more than challenge the great impersonation by the mighty Dana Carvey.

Volume 2 offers Mr. Warmth (1975), with Rickles solution to make a better special, get Frank Sinatra and John Wayne to show up. Both have amusing turns (Sinatra's appearance is cut in two for different parts of the show) and the star power is additionally upped with appearances by Jack Klugman, Bob Newhart, Helen Reddy, Loretta Swit, Carroll O' Connor, Jaye P. Morgan, Charlie Callas, Steve Landesberg and Rip Taylor. This is more like it, but the skits are not much better. Thus, Rickles (also 1975) is simply the man doing his stand-up routine on stage to a big crowd in Las Vegas, but he is joined by Michael Caine, James Caan, Elliott Gould, Jack Klugman, Don Rickles, Michele Lee, Jose Ferrer, Arthur Godfrey, Larry Linville, Loretta Swit, Bobby Riggs (!), Otto Preminger and Jack Palance. It is a refreshing change of pace, but a time capsule like the rest of the shows. That makes this whole box set at least worth a look, even if it is on the uneven side. It deserves to be in print and now fans and the curious can judge for themselves.

Extras include newly-shot intros from Don himself, never-before-seen outtakes and unedited scenes from the specials, a rarely-seen Tonight Show clip with Johnny Carson surprising Don on the CPO Sharkey set because of Rickles breaking something when hosting Carson's show, some side interviews by his friends and a clip of Don receiving the TV Land Legend Award from Jimmy Kimmel.

W. C. Fields: Comedy Essentials Collection (1932 - 1941) is a compact new release of 18 films the legendary comedian made in his rocky career, starting at the #2 studio in the Classical Hollywood period, Paramount. However, personal problems eventually ended that relationship, but he was able to get his career back on track and signed with the then-smaller Universal Pictures (the studio that also owns the older Paramount films, thus this set from them) and made a huge comeback that included some of his most important work. You can see from the early films here that he was not yet the lead star he became, but was well on his way.

With a few films per DVD each (some are only so long), we get...

Million Dollar Legs (1932) as a president.

If I Had A Million (1932) as a dying tycoon.

International House (1933) as an inventor trying out something called TV.

Tillie & Gus (1933) in a con artists situation.

Alice In Wonderland (1933) as Humpty Dumpty.

Six Of A Kind (1934) a Hollywood road trip movie with a great backing cast starting with George Burns & Gracie Allen.

Mrs. Wiggs Of The Cabbage Patch (1934) a Thanksgiving-set comedy.

You're Telling Me! (1934) as another inventor.

The Old Fashioned Way (1934) as a con artist in the theater business.

It's A Gift (1934) as a pharmacist when they were still called druggists.

Mississippi (1935) is a riverboat romp.

Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935) as a suppressed husband who can't take it anymore.

Poppy (1936) carnival con artist tries to steal inheritance by using his daughter to get it.

Big Broadcast Of 1938 musical variety feature.

You Can't Cheat An Honest Man (1939) as circus head who hates his daughter dating the troupe ventriloquist.

My Little Chickadee (1940) in a classic pairing with Mae West.

The Bank Dick (1940) as a town drunk who gets a security job after 'stopping' some bank robberies.

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941) as a filmmaker trying to sell a crazy script that pits Russians against con artists.

These are all entertaining, some very funny and some scenes are a riot, reminding us how brilliant Fields really was and how he has disturbingly been too forgotten since the 1980s. If anything his work was ahead of its time and is in need of serious rediscovery. This is a solid, pretty basic set to start with, but these films need special editions and it would be great if a Fields revival yielded this. This is also often smarter than you might expect.

A tribute featurette to Fields is the only extra.

The 1.33 X 1 color images on the Burnett and Rickles sets come from professional NTSC analog videotape (usually reel-to-reel 2-inch tape) and looks about as good as it is going to across both sets, but these have been nicely cleaned up and damage is limited.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Rise is just narrowly the best, only held back by the format, originally issued in 35mm, dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints (this copy has really good color too) and shot by the great Director of Photography Alex Thompson, B.S.C. (Alien 3, Year Of the Dragon) creating a subtle density that makes the humor and commentary vivid and funnier than it might have been in the hands of most cameramen. However, Thompson was a master and he only adds to everything that works about the film.

The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on all the Fields films look like the come from good 35mm prints, but these transfers are older, show their age and are further hampered by having so many films on each disc.

The audio in every case here is lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, all sounding as good as it would in this older format (versus better, lossless Mono), but the Rickles and Fields sets show more wear, compression and flaws throughout and could use some additional work.

To order the The Rise & Rise Of Michael Rimmer DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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