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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Shorts > Western > Rodeo > Scam > Music > Skits > Wedding > Relationships > Ghosts > Best Of Pete Smith Specialties, Vol. 1 (4 DVD Set)/Bronco Billy (1980/Blu-ray/both Warner Archive)/Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Edition (Time Life 21-DVD Box Set)/Plus One (2019/RLJ Blu-ray)/T

Best Of Pete Smith Specialties, Vol. 1 (4 DVD Set)/Bronco Billy (1980/Blu-ray/both Warner Archive)/Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Edition (Time Life 21-DVD Box Set)/Plus One (2019/RLJ Blu-ray)/Topper (1936/MGM/MVD/VCI Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Best Of Pete Smith DVD and Bronco Billy Blu-ray are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here are a new set of comedies, mostly classic, worth knowing about and often revisiting, and they're new to you if you've missed any of them...

We start with a set of live-action shorts that MGM produced for decades and remain one of the most successful such series of the pre-TV era. The Best Of Pete Smith Specialties, Vol. 1 has been issued with 75 (!) of the shorts on 4 DVDs, meaning you'll be able to overdose and fetishize every moment of these programs meant for entertainment at movie theaters before the big feature that try to play like special interest documentaries while being narrated to be comical and funny in the 1930s and 1940s.

They can get repetitive in style and some are better than others, but many are amusing and they are all family safe, then they all look very good for their age as they come out of MGM's lab. This set might not be to everyone's taste, but I found it enjoyable and had seen just about all of them at least once. Its a nice set for something different.

There are no extras.

Clint Eastwood's Bronco Billy (1980) is one of his smaller scaled hits, playing the title character running a rodeo in modern times as a tribute to the long-running tradition. This comedy is not bad and has aged well, including in a few ways I was not expecting. However, it is being issued on Blu-ray by Warner Archive because it has not held as popular as some of his other films and because it is part of a creative run that is now tainted by a big breakup.

Like all the films Woody Allen and Mia Farrow made together, some of the best works both ever made, Eastwood was with Sondra Locke and they too had a creative synergy that marked some of their best films. Like Allen & Farrow, Eastwood and Locke had a breakup that was very public, a bit ugly and actually landed up in court with Locke winning a lawsuit against he and Warner too lengthly to get into, but films like this got lost in the shuffle.

Locke plays a lady of means who suddenly meets everyone connected with the tent show they have and gets involved in unexpected ways. She and Eastwood had nice chemistry (all the harder then to think they broke up so bad) and even with a few cliches, this is a film that holds up enough and is worth a look. The Western was on the ropes (you could think of this as a contemporary Western to some extent) and this happened to arrive the same year as Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate killed big budget Westerns for a very long time, with Eastwood (a good friend of his since Cimino directed Thunderbolt & Lightfoot with and for Eastwood a few years ago, his directing debut (reviewed elsewhere on this site) so that how concentrated any relevant production in the dying genre had become.

Helping the film is how good it looks and its solid supporting cast including Scatman Crothers, Geoffrey Lewis, Sam Bottoms, Bill McKinney, Dan Vadis, Woodrow Parfrey, Walter Barnes, Merle Haggard as himself and even some of Eastwood's children at the time. It is worth a look for all those interested and makes for a great Blu-ray demo Visually.

A Trailer is the only extra.

Next we have an expanded box set version of The Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Edition, this time offering 21-DVDs including these 10 we covered on their own a while ago at this link:


That set included guest appearances by Jim Nabors, Imogene Coca, Mel Torme, Bobbie Gentry, George Gobel, Sid Caesar, Ella Fitzgerald, Bernadette Peters, Nancy Wilson, Martha Raye, Soupy Sales, Lucille Ball, Rita Hayworth, Pat Carroll, Cass Elliott, Diahann Carroll, Nanette Fabrey, Ray Charles, Pearl Bailey, Melba Moore, Carl Reiner, Steve Lawrence, The Jackson 5 (in their final years before leaving Motown), Roddy McDowall, Dinah Shore, Helen Reddy, Neil Sedaka, Ben Vereen and Rock Hudson. Another great 10 disc set subtitled 11 Years - Together Again has some of those names back, but adds Eddie Albert, Bob Newhart, Chita Rivera, Don Rickles, Burt Reynolds, Leslie Ann Warren, Don Adams, Gloria Loring, Phyllis Diller, Gwen Verdon, Andy Griffith, Vikki Carr, Flip Wilson (including a spoof of the original Mission: Impossible you have to see), Ruth Buzzi, Jack Jones, Lily Tomlin, The Pointer Sisters, Dick Van Dyke, Sammy Davis Jr. Petula Clark, Madeline Kahn, Paul Sand, Peggy Lee, Hal Linden and Stiller & Meara.

That is an amazing line-up you will not see the equivalent of today, the shows hold up extraordinarily well, all episodes are uncut unlike what you see in half-hour syndicated packages, each episode has great surprises and laughs and they never grown tired or get old. They just impress and get better with age, including the Final Show, which gets its own DVD with a bunch of extras. All discs have interview segments, behind the scenes featurettes and sometimes bonus skits. We also get another great high quality booklet in the box that matches its size and length, this time covering each season cleverly, two pages at a time.

I love the show, it never fails to amaze and this is the second such Burnett box set and it is as strong as the great Lost Episodes set, reviewed elsewhere on this site.

Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer's Plus One (2019) is a very unfunny comedy about romance and marriage that will make you ask, it took two people to direct this? Jack Quaid and Maya Erskine star as friends who might have been more for the last few decades, who suddenly have to endure a sudden series of weddings when a ton of their mutual friends start tying the know within a surprisingly small period. This wants to be a comedy, but its more like a video sleeping pill.

Will they get married? Viewers will want to quickly fire for a divorce form watching the long, long, long, long 99 minutes that tend to pander tot he audience, play in that fictitious world where everyone needs to get married or they are alone and worthless (wait, that is a subsection of real life, right?) and that means this 'plus' is a real minus. Haircut 1-- anyone?

Rightly Deleted Scenes and unnecessarily Extended Scenes are thankfully the only extras.

Finally we have the original Topper (1936) directed by Norman Z. McLeod, with Constance Bennett and Cary Grant as a couple who love to party in high society as part of that society, when they wreck their ever-valuable car and get themselves killed. However, they are still around as ghosts (not going to heaven yet?) and land up helping, while having some fun with, the title character (Roland Young in greta comic form) who is married and dealing with all kinds of issues himself.

Billie Burke is his wife a few years before Wizard Of Oz immortality, plus then actress Hedda Hopper turns up along with Arthur Lake, Eugene Pallette and Alan Morbray. The result is an influential hit comedy classic that also inspired two sequels, a TV version and more than a few imitators. Everyone should see this one at least once.

Trailers for all three Topper films are the only extras, but the sequels are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Billy seems like just a new, high quality HD master Warner just did, which we've come to expect from the Archive collection, then you keep watching and you start getting shots of excellent, outstanding color (and not just during the tent shows) that can be stunning, demo quality and even above the rating I am giving the film. There are still flaws and spots that hold it back a bit, but it is stunning.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Plus is a generic HD shoot at best that has more detail issues and flaws then expected, so forget any dreamlike wedding movie, while the 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Topper might have some flaws from aging, but looks pretty decent for tis age and that it likely did not come from the original camera negative. It can more than compete with Plus.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Plus has an inconsistent soundfield, is very talky and not very impressive, so it is no surprise that the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Billy can actually more than compete and is in much better shape than expected. Topper is here in PCM 2.0 Mono and cannot help but show its age.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white image on the Smith shorts looks very good throughout since they were all transferred from first-rate 35mm film materials, so no problems here. The 1.33 X 1 color image on the Burnett DVDs are once again, in great shape for their age and the old NTSC format, remastered as well as possible, but we do get minor analog videotape flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and tape damage in parts. Otherwise, it is up to al the great previous sets and singles we have covered to date.

Both DVD sets offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound that is fine for their age, but I bet we'd get a little more quality out of potential lossless encodes. Otherwise, they play fine.

To order either The Best Of Pete Smith DVD and/or Bronco Billy Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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