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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Action > Car Chase > Slapstick > Road Movie > Teens > Dominican Republic > Politics > Talk Show > I > The Gumball Rally (1976/First Artists/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/On The Road, Somewhere (2015/Candy Factory DVD)/Protocol (1984/Warner Archive DVD)/The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Fri

The Gumball Rally (1976/First Artists/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/On The Road, Somewhere (2015/Candy Factory DVD)/Protocol (1984/Warner Archive DVD)/The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends (1976 - 1991/Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy/Time Life DVD Set)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Gumball Rally Blu-ray and Protocol DVD are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

These are our mostly classic, latest comedy releases...

Chuck Bail's The Gumball Rally (1976) is an interesting entry in the comedies of the 1970s (with lots of wild stunts with near-zero visual effects help in the Evel Knievel era) that wants to capitalize on silent comedies, the influential success of What's Up Doc? and al the bandit/chase films of the time (Smokie & The Bandit was not far away) in the First Artists' production that has some fine stunts, fine actors and a few good moments worth seeing. Unfortunately, it cannot come up with much new (it wants to also be a modernized version of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and all the yesteryear car chase films it inspired in the 1960s) we have not seen before, but did some business in the pre-home video era.

Michael Sarrazin is the lead, whose character summons all the others for the cross-country race of the title, all snapped out of their boring lives to participate and before you know it, the race begins. Normann Burton, Gary Busey, Nicholas Pryor, Susan Flannery, J. Pat O'Malley, Tim McIntire, Steve Keats and Raul Julia lead the energetic cast in a film that definitely has some energy, but this has become more of a time capsule than anything else despite the collection of sports cars here (they have aged oddly too) and its healthy 1970s cynical attitude that actually does not go far enough to stay commercial.

Still, in an age of endless Fast & Furious films and imitators on auto-pilot, this is worth a look just to see what does click and fans of these kinds of films should see this one at least once. At this point, some of the locales and the actors save this from being more dated.

Guillermo Zouain's On The Road, Somewhere (2015) is a road trip film that comes from the Dominican Republic, so that in itself makes it fresh versus the usual locales as three friends (Arnold Martinez, Javier Grullon and Victor Alfonso) take this one last trip before they go to college, but of course, a bunch of unforeseen things happen that make it funny, wacky, humorous, a little reflective and lead to a few mishaps. That is the case with these films, so there are not as many surprises and to be blunt, they are not always as wise as they could be.

That is not to imply we get any idiot plot, but in the too-short 71 minutes here, the script could have come up with a better way to use the time with the low budget not the only excuse for any issues it might have. It is worth a look for what does work, but it could have been much more if the makers had thought a little harder on things.

Herbert Ross' Protocol (1984) should have been easily been a big hit for Goldie Hawn and a fun film people liked, but this Holiday release did poorly, is one of the poorest films Ross would ever direct and ended Hawn's reign as one of the top box office women in Hollywood. The now politically incorrect screenplay has her accidentally save a major Arab official not be assassinated after getting his entourage stuck in traffic in the film's awkward opening. Then it becomes this fish-out-of-water tale that I only bought her so much in and what starts out as lame never recovers.

Now the screenplay was written by Buck Henry, who is far from lame, but it was adapted from a story by future tag team of bad mall movies, Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, who (along with Harvey Miller) offer all kinds of unfunny things only they would laugh at and the result is 95 minutes of bad political humor, bad timing, Hawn out of her element, no edge to anything and a flop that has rightly been forgotten about.

Warner Archive has it out on DVD and if you must, see it at your own risk.

The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends is the second entry into this new series (after Jerry Seinfeld, reviewed elsewhere on this site) in what we expect will culminate into a DVD box set. The friends this time are Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy, all making a national impact on the show that launched so many great careers at a time when the media was so different. Martin and Williams seem outright otherworldly and really wild in their initial debut shows, while Murphy gets to break out from helping Saturday Night Live make its first comeback. All three would have interesting movie careers too, with Williams and Murphy becoming huge box office.

Martin's episodes include Jimmy Stewart promoting The Shootist and Karen Black plugging Burnt Offerings, then another show has Sylvester Stallone pushing Rocky III. Williams drives Steve Lawrence to laughs on one show and teaming up with Johnathan Winters in another. Murphy has at it with McLean Stevenson post-M*A*S*H, then with that series Wayne Rogers (by coincidence) in another show. The final episode has fighter Randall ''Tex'' Cobb as well as a really fine performance by the underrated Angela Bofill.

Another well chosen, rich collection of shows, it is a fun sit-through more than worth your time.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Rally can show the age of the materials used bit, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on video before and is the best its looked in a long time. Fans will be happy and I like how this was shot big and wide for a large screen, something most car chase/car based movies since lack. Technicolor did the prints and I wonder if dye-transfer, three-strip 35mm prints were struck in the U.K. or not.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Road is a new digital shoot (the newest shoot on the list) that is consistent enough and not bad simply because the makers don't take wild liberties with color and the image in general like way too many HD shoots today. It also gets credit for looking this good on a limited budget.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Protocol is not bad, but can be a mixed bag at times with some parts of the print not being in the best shape, though this was never a great film visually by any means ands even too often looks like a TV sitcom of the time in its flatness and lack of imagination.

The 1.33 X 1 on the Carson DVDs are from analog NTSC video and can (even by their own admission in some disclaimer spots) have analog videotape flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker (those old film clips have NOT been updated), tape scratching, cross color, faded color, color dropouts, distortion, audio dropouts and tape damage. For the most part however, this looks as good as the DVD feature films here and color is decent.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Rally is well mixed and presented, but falls short by today's standards when the cars race, crash and other loud moments kick in. However, it is the best sonic performer here versus the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Road, which has some mixing issues throughout that is either an issue with the production and/or the video transfer. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Protocol also has issues with empty Pro Logic surrounds and sounds a generation down, unless it too is Dolby Stereo theatrical at the lats minute. Very odd.

The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 on Carson has the earlier episodes in Mono and later ones in Stereo, but they sound better than the DVD feature films and even have their moments against Rally. Glad the tapes were as preserved as they were in the archive.

Protocol oddly has no extras whatsoever, while Rally and Road offer Original Theatrical Trailers and Carson has the option (which I preferred) of watching each episode with all of its original commercials, plus it comes with an episode guide in a paper pullout inside the DVD case.

To order either of the Warner Archive releases, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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