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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Poverty > Literature > Satire > Media > Irish TV > Shorts > Silent Cinema > Socio Economic > Romance On The High Seas (1948/*all Warner Archive Blu-rays)

Cannery Row (1982/MGM*)/Finding Joy: Series 1 (2018/Acorn DVD)/Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Collection (1927 - 37/MVD/Kit Parker Films/Sprocket Vault Blu-ray Set)/Reluctant Debutante (1958/MGM*)/Romance On The High Seas (1948/*all Warner Archive Blu-rays)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Cannery Row, Reluctant Debutante and Romance On The High Seas Blu-rays now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Up next are a set of comedies, old and new, but especially a set of classics long overdue for restoring and saving....

We start with David S. Ward's remake of Cannery Row (1982) with Nick Nolte meeting Debra Winger in the tale of a declining area he is still living in and she is visiting thinking it is more alive than it is. With no more fishing or much canning going on, the place is a dead spot with people left behind because they have no means or energy to move on. Based on the John Steinbeck book, a sort of romance starts to develop between them in this comedy that reproduces the era in a decent way, even if it is a little more surreal and clean than realistic.

The supporting cast is not bad either, including Audra Linley (Mrs. Roper from TV's Three's Company and its spin-off) in a nice change of pace that shows what a good actress she was, but the film is a mixed bag, trying to be in the mode of The Sting (some of the same people are involved) and was part of a new retro Hollywood cycle (including Scorsese's New York New York (despite its deconstructive intents), Coppola's One From The Heart and even the David Bowie film Absolute Beginners, all reviewed elsewhere on this site) and in this case, it is a good-looking film that works its way into a predictable corner it never gets out of. Pairing Nolte and Winger has its pluses, but the film does not take full advantage of them.

Having John Huston narrate parts of the film seems like a last-minute add-on that does not work or matter and it is an interesting failure at best. It did not do well at the box office, but continues to be a curio. Adding to the troubles at the time is that Rachel Welch was the original co-star, but MGM decided to dump her, but she had already signed. Not a smart move, Welch sued for millions of dollars for contract violation and (still looking great at the time too) age discrimination and won! That bad publicity and her many fans also turned against the film, and it was gone from theaters soon after its release. Oh well.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra, though it would have been nice if Warner included the Tweety Bird cartoon Canary Row.

Joy (Amy Huberman) is a wallflower and she is having a tough time with her life after just breaking up with her boyfriend. You would think she would be happy to be suddenly promoted to be a (temporary) stand in for her network's show, The Happy Hunter. To attend and report various events and how to find happiness in Finding Joy: Series 1 (2018).

Joy is also a control freak, germaphobe, shallow and she depends on others for her happiness. The only reason why she got her new position at work is because she is the token blonde girl, but she is a far cry from the real show hostess who is on emergency medical leave. In truth, she is totally unhappy because she knows she at fault for her breakup and she is totally jealous of her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend who is prettier, nicer and kinder than her... and she somehow shows up at her news reports. Her reports on happiness only make her feel worst (since she is faking it), however this entertains the audience and get the ratings up (which make the networks happy), but the people are happier not because of her, but because they realize they are not as miserable as her.

This series was like a mix of Legally Blonde crossed with Pee-Wee Herman with a British/Irish accent in this Irish TV production. It was a comedy, but I found it a bit depressing making fun of stereotypes, relationships and females. And while the main character is at fault for her actions she is also a bully, but you don't feel sorry for her, the series seems to make you laugh at a bully being bullied. Extras include trailers and behind the scenes featurette.

Up next is a set that promised a great deal and delivers even more, far more, than I expected.

A sad split has developed in recent decades where singular comedy figures (Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chase, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, even W.C. Fields) while comedy teams are treated as if they are secondary and do not get as much respect or scholarly attention like The Three Stooges (whose point was to trash snobs), The Marx Brothers (taking snobs on on their own turf), Abbott & Costello (better than they get credit for these days), Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis (Paramount has been holding their films hostage to an extent) and any other classic team you can name.

As many of the silent comedy legends did not make it into the sound film era as we wish they had (save Chaplin, still making silent films years after everyone else moved to sound), the Three Stooges were still making shorts elsewhere with Ted Healy, but two longtime comedy stars had already became a hit late in the silent era: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Backed by the Number One studio in Hollywood (MGM) at the Number One comedy studio in Hollywood and maybe the world (Hal Roach Studios), the duos synergy was an instant hit and they became a huge worldwide sensation.

Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Collection collects a nice helping of their classic films from 1927 to 1937 that shows them at their best, funniest and hold up even better than I expected. I had not seen some of these in eons, but I am impressed by their boldness, the way they go out of their way for laughs (making most of today's comedy look very lazy by comparison) and the amazing, innovative ways they pulled off many of their sight gags, including sight gags few would dare to try today. Even some of the tricks using cinematography is unusual ways still works.

But then they are hilarious without trying and have a rare natural talent hardly anyo0pne in cinema history ever had. Using the promo highlights with some additions, here is what you get in this 4-Blu-ray disc set...

WORLD PREMIERES! Laurel and Hardy's legendary 1927 silent "pie fight" film THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY makes its video debut after being "lost" for 90 years! The only reel of L&H bloopers and out-takes, THAT'S THAT!

Classic short comedies BERTH MARKS (1929 and 1936 (with more sound) versions), BRATS (1930 and 1937 (with more sound) versions; I like the older copies of each a little more), HOG WILD, COME CLEAN, ONE GOOD TURN, HELPMATES, THE MUSIC BOX (the legendary Academy Award winning "piano moving" short), THE CHIMP, COUNTY HOSPITAL, SCRAM!, THEIR FIRST MISTAKE, TOWED IN A HOLE, TWICE TWO, ME AND MY PAL, THE MIDNIGHT PATROL, and BUSY BODIES in addition to the feature films SONS OF THE DESERT and WAY OUT WEST (which includes the team's famous soft shoe dance routine).

EIGHT HOURS of EXCLUSIVE extras - 2,500 rare photos and studio documents, audio and film interviews with L&H co-workers, 12 original music tracks saved form glass acetate records and trailers plus a full restoration of their one surviving color film (they are in the opening of an industrial film promoting timber), THE TREE IN A TEST TUBE.

and Excellent, informative Audio Commentaries by L&H historians Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bann.

Each short averages 20 minutes a piece and tend to be the best work overall, with the longer films being a bit experimental and has the team trying to figure out how to go longer narratively, et al. I like them too, with Music Box lasting 40 minutes as the longest short and being the best of the shorts, Desert at 68 minutes and West at 64 minutes. No matter the running time, the work is priceless, the extras here extensive and this is easily one of the best sets of the year. Nice to see Laurel & Hardy and their legacy finally get the respect they deserve.

Vincente Minnelli's The Reluctant Debutante (1958) is one of the legendary director's lesser-known films, but one of his most interesting as a classy couple (Kay Kendall (in sadly one of her last films before her untimely death) and Rex Harrison (the inspiration for the voice of Stewie on the massive animated TV hit Family Guy, as well as the stage and future big screen My Fair Lady and original Dr. Dolittle films) have huge plans for her daughter (Sandra Dee in more than her usual teen romance fluff film) to be in the top of the social register in London, but it is not going to; go smoothly since she is not interested in all that prestige pomp and is interested in a young guy (John Saxon, being positioned to be a future big lead actor before becoming a genre film legend instead) who is a drummer and not a Dow Jones expert.

Angela Lansbury also shows up as a non-stop talking society woman who drives everyone nuts and has her moments. The result is a film with more ups than downs, a few more laughs than expected and more amusing moments that work than you might think. Even when the film has off moments, something additionally interesting is always turning up to offset that, so it is definitely a film worth taking a look at. Nice it is being reissued in such a fine new, restored edition.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

Finally, we have the impressive big screen debut of no less than Doris Day, Michael Curtiz's Romance On The High Seas (1948) with Day as a singer named Georgia (in surprisingly great form here) pretending to be a woman aboard a ship who happens to have stayed home unknown to her husband, who has a spy on the ship spying on his 'wife' who Georgia is now substituting for!

Besides the fun with mistaken identity there, the infamous Oscar Levant shows up to play piano and sing, Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore round out the main cast, Busby Berkley delivers the big musical numbers (he directs them) and through legendary co-writers Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, we get several new songs, including the classic ''It's Magic'' that continued to cause Day's star to rise and is also remembered as the song Bugs Bunny sang (with altered lyrics to reflect his love of carrots) taking a shower under a short-lived waterfall in one of the most successful Bugs short animated cartoons ever made... Rabbit Every Monday, and later casually when battling Count Bloodcount (Abracadabra vs. Hocus Pocus) in Transylvania 6-5000. Too bad they are not included here as extras.

Extras do include an Original Theatrical Trailer, menu access specifically to all the songs in the film you can click to to see and hear, classic Warner animated short Hare Splitter and live action short Let's Sing A Song From The Movies. In the meantime, you can read about other films she made later in this DVD set of hers we covered years ago (and hope all arrive on Blu-ray at some point) for your reference:


Now for playback quality, which is impressive across all the Blu-rays. The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Cannery looks good and accurate, shot by the legendary Sven Nykvist, A.S.C., with some nice, consistent color (from MetroColor) and slight softness to communicate a nostalgia. I holds up well and is one of the highlights of (re)watching the film, rarely showing its age.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Debutante was also processed in MetroColor, but was shot in the older CinemaScope format, so it has some permanent distortions and soft spots inherent to those older lenses. With that said, we get many great shots and impressive compositions from a time when the scope frame was still considered a gimmick by many (it took decades before that thinking ended) and has been restored to look as good as it ever will.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Seas was produced in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor version of the film and this restored version looks like it often with some demo shots and shows the effort and money on the screen. Detail is fine, so alignment of the strips worked out well for the age of the material. Nice!

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes on all three Warner Archive releases have also been cleaned up without ruining the sound and I doubt they will ever sound better, though Debutante is actually offered in the artificial stereo format known as Perspecta Sound (often used on large frame VistaVision films) and is worth playing back in various surround formats to see if you can get even better sound.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on all the Laurel & Hardy films, shorts and semi-long feature film, can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film that I have ever seen. Save a few film prints, their work has never looked better, all shot on nitrate film of the time, some shots might be flawed or softer than others, but very often, the image is sharp, clean and clear. That means the acting, physical comedy and set-ups are more vivid and have greater impact, resulting in it all being even funnier. Fans will be shocked and the PCM 2.0 Mono across most of the films sound impressive for their age. Needless to say it makes all the older copies of these films, especially in low-def formats, obsolete.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Joy has a little motion blur more often that one would like, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is joke/dialogue-based and not that strong, but passable.

To order any of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, Cannery Row, Reluctant Debutante and Romance On The High Seas, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Joy)


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