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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Show Business > Live Television > Satire > Politics > British > Stand-Up > Shorts > Slapstick > Tra > Titfield Thunderbolt (1953/**both Film Movement Blu-rays)/A Touch Of Class (1973/Avco Embassy/*both Warner Archive Blu-rays)

My Favorite Year (1982/MGM*)/Passport To Pimlico (1949**)/Robin Williams: Comic Genius (Time Life 5-DVD version)/Thelma Todd & Zasu Pitts: The Hal Roach Collection 1931 - 33 (MGM/MVD/Sprocket Vault DVD)/Titfield Thunderbolt (1953/**both Film Movement Blu-rays)/A Touch Of Class (1973/Avco Embassy/*both Warner Archive Blu-rays)

Picture: B/B/B-/C+/B-/B Sound: B-/C+/B-/C+/B-/C+ Extras: C+/C+/B/C+/B-/C- Films: C/C+/B/C+/B-/C

PLEASE NOTE: The My Favorite Year and A Touch Of Class Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for a new group of classic big screen comedy you may not have heard of entirely, but you can now see for yourself...

Richard Benjamin's My Favorite Year (1982) is a film at the time that rightly got raves for the performance by Peter O'Toole as a one-time name actor who has fallen on hard times and has become an alcoholic. Enter a young TV executive (Mark Lynn-Baker) who wants to get him on live TV (circa the mid-1950s) on a hit TV show he works on as a writer, who is also a fan. Easier said than done, so the madness begins.

I like the cast and they get the period correct enough, but the screenplay sometimes becomes too much like a sitcom and thus, the 92 minutes are not spent as well as they could be. Benjamin, a good actor, can direct and his work is not bad here either, it is just that script. However, the supporting cast that includes Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna and William Macy (just coming off of his hit TV series Maude, who just passed away as this disc was issued) are welcome. Either way, the film has a following and if you have not seen it, this Mel Brooks-produced work is one you should see at least once to see it for yourself.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Director Benjamin and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Henry Cornelius' Passport To Pimlico (1949) is one of the first Ealing Studio comedies, a big hit about a small part of England just after WWII where they are still occasionally finding bombs that have not been properly disarmed. One afternoon when some of the local kids are playing not far from the site of one such discovered weapon, they accidentally loose control of a spare wheel, which promptly rolls into the bomb area, setting it off!

No major injuries, but one of the locals (Stanley Holloway, My Fair Lady) falls in under amusing circumstances, he sees a hole in the ground that reveals a hidden room. When he gets back down their under more dignified circumstances, he finds treasure and paperwork that the residents are on foreign land. When a professor (Margaret Rutherford, a later Miss Jane Marple, et al) confirms the authenticity of the documents, the court rules that this section of town is not part of the U.K. and all chaos breaks loose.

Residents suddenly become entrepreneurial, especially since they do not have to pay taxes on anything. Though it plays well today, it works best when you understand the history that was very large in mind at the time of rationing that was still going on in the country (and may soon return) that made life their much tougher. Hermione Baddeley leads the rest of the decent cast in what is at least a minor classic for some of British Cinema.

Extras include an illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and an essay, while the disc adds an on camera interview with BFI curator Mark Duguid, Stills Gallery, Restoration Comparison clip and Locations Featurette with Film Historian Richard Dacre.

All of Robin Williams' classic HBO specials have been brought together in this epic 5 disc set from Time Life that fans won't want to miss in Robin Williams: Comic Genius. The features included are the following:

Off the Wall (1978)

An Evening with Robin Williams (1983)

An Evening at the Met (1986)

Live on Broadway (2002)

Weapons of Self Destruction (2009)

It is interesting to see a raw uncensored side of Robin Williams in his early days and see his metamorphosis over his long career. His kinetic energy and wit is unmatched and completely unique, and that is certainly captured here in this collection. If you've only seen him in movies, then you'll definitely want to check out this other fun side of Robin Williams.

Robin Williams: Comic Genius is presented over five DVDs in standard definition with full frame and 16:9/1.78 X 1 presentations depending on the year of production. While compression issues are evident, it's original 2.0 Stereo sound mix (lossy Dolby Digital in all cases) suits the material fine. It would be nice to have had the set in HD but the upscale is passable for the nature of the program.

Special Features include:

Rare Archival Footage of Robin's Early Standup

Raw footage from HBO's promo shoots and press interviews

People's Choice Awards honoring Rob and E! Press Room Footage

Newly produced featurettes

and Exclusive new interviews with Lewis Black and Robin's manager, David Steinberg.

These discs are also offered in a larger, more expensive, more extensive DVD box set with 22 discs and the same title you can read more about at this link...


Our oldest comedy entry here are a collection of live action short distributed a long time ago by MGM. Thelma Todd & Zasu Pitts: The Hal Roach Collection 1931 - 33 has the two funny ladies (who go back to the later silent era) in 17 'two-reelers' finding themselves in various wacky situations and encountering other obstacles in a group of works that are hit and miss, but work a little more often than not. Seems the studio was trying all kinds of things (semi-experimental even) to see what would work best and though they were not the massive success of Our Gang/The Little Rascals series.

Made before the Hollywood Production Code of censorship kicked in, they do get away with some interesting items here and there, but nothing is too shocking (especially by today's standards) and these are interesting enough that they should be more well known and have had much better circulation over the years. Roach knew what he was doing and seeing any of his lesser-known productions is always worth the time it takes to check them out.

Extras include stills & poster gallery, plus audio commentary by various fans/film scholars on the shorts throughout.

Charles Crichton's The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) is another Ealing Studio comedy hit, this time dealing with another small town, but this one wants to keep its soon-to-be cancelled train route of the title. In the face of city hall, they decide they want to take it over and run it, plus make sure it is not nationalized, but some greedy locals, a bus company and others do not want them to have this independent success, so the fight begins.

A man of some wealth (Stanley Holloway) agrees to back this and after a court fight, they are off to get the train going, including a luxury bar and comical conflict follows that includes personality clashes, dangerous games of chicken and more. The cast is great here, but unless you've seen them in other ealing films, you might not know John Gregson, Hugh Griffith, Sidney James or Gabrielle Brune, plus the great Jack MacGowran (Fearless Vampire Killers) is here and there's no credit here for him, old or new, save on the film print. The trains and other mechanicals are also great, even if the bad matte work with blueish haloing can be a bit much. There are enough laughs here that you should catch this one.

Extras include an illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and an essay, while the disc adds an Original Theatrical Trailer, Stills Gallery, Restoration Comparison clip and Locations Featurette with Film Historian Richard Dacre, Lion Locomotive featurette, Making Of featurette, Douglas Slocombe Home Movie Footage with interview audio and Slocombe on Crichton with stills.

Finally we have a comedy about adultery, Melvin Frank's A Touch Of Class (1973) with George Segal in full comedy guy mode meeting Glenda Jackson with her children in the park when he is playing a game with friends in a park in the U.K., which leads to them talking... and deciding to have an affair. Too bad he is a bit toxic and dysfunctional, plus she might not be as together as she thinks.

The film (co-produced by the Brut Company, the one that makes men's colognes) has its moments and the leads are good together, but this becomes repetitive, we wonder if they really love each other and it is a comedy that can only do so much to make infidelity funny, something that is problematic from the get go and the makers know it. It handles the subject with maturity at times, but it is still never going to be outright funny. Paul Sorvino and Hildegard Neil make up the solid supporting cast, but the film puts itself into a counterculture corner (no matter how upscale it is or tries to be) and the film ultimately does not work. Still, you should see it just to see what they tried.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

As for playback quality, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Year, the 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Passport and 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Class (issued in three-strip, dye-transfer 35mm technicolor prints at the time, you can see some of that quality here) can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of these films and look fine for the most part throughout. With only very minor issues, they tie as the best performers here.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Thunderbolt can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film except that it has a slight yellow cast in too many shots despite that it often looks accurate for being a film originally produced and issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor. It was Ealing's first color comedy. Why the yellow, I don't know unless it is a internegative issue, but it is fine otherwise.

The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on the Zasu DVD set can vary in quality, but they look fine overall, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all the shorts can vary in quality as well, they fare better than expected for their age.

Class and Year offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes and Passport and Thunderbolt offer PCM 2.0 Mono sound, all films issued in theatrical monophonic sound, but Year and Thunderbolt fare best sonically, if not spectacularly, while Class and Passport sound more aged. With all that considered, I doubt any of the four films here on Blu-ray could sound much better.

To order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, My Favorite Year and A Touch Of Class, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Williams)



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