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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Live Action > Comedy > TV > Fractured Flickers (Jay Ward TV series)

Fractured Flickers: The Complete Collection


Picture: C     Sound: C-     Extras: D     Episodes: B+



Typically, when people think about Jay Ward, images of the Rocky, Bullwinkle, Boris, Natasha, and George of the Jungle come to mind.  And why wouldn’t they?  After all, Jay Ward and his partner Bill Scott were amongst the pioneering innovators in the world of cartoons.  But there’s another little gem out there that was conjured up by Ward and Scott that few people remember and even fewer knew existed.  This show was Fractured Flickers, and in 1963, they brought the show into America’s living room.  The concept behind the show was simple: take old-time films from the silent movie era and get talented voice actors to proved a new and funny dialogue track to go along with the images.  Oh yeah, and get the immortal Hans Conried to host the show.  Ward got his pals June Foray and Paul Frees from his Rocky and Bullwinkle shows to be the voice actors.  All these elements seemed to be a formula for success.  However, when it debuted at the very first (and last) Coney Island Film Festival in 1963, aficionados were appalled at the irreverent treatment given to these silent films.  Luckily for Ward and company, the show was enjoyed by the public and sparked a new interest in people for silent films.


Now, thanks to the folks at VCI Entertainment, all 26 episodes are available for the first time ever on a 3-DVD set, after having been pieced back together from various different sources.  And each episode retains the interviews with their guest stars, as the interviews were dropped from the show when the episodes aired as reruns.  The interviews were with famous actors and actresses, such as Bob Denver, Rose Marie, Rod Serling, and Paul Lynde.  The set comes in a large Amaray case similar to the type used for the Special Collector’s Edition of Once Upon a Time in the West (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and a small booklet included in the case detail the history of Jay Ward Productions and contains the episode guide for the series.  The best part is that each episode is broken down into chapters.  You can view each episode separately or select a “play all” option.


The image is presented in its original black and white 1.33 to 1 aspect ratio.  Unfortunately, since the series is so old, the picture doesn’t look so spectacular, but these sources are still on the cleaner side than they might be otherwise.  Give credit to VCI, though, because they didn’t do a bad job in restoring the picture—they just could have done a little better.  The footage containing Hans Conried and all the animated segments looks pretty good.  It’s cleaned up, but there are still lots of scratch lines, debris, and spots to be found everywhere.  The animated segments hold up well, as no interlacing errors could be found and there are only a few instances where the black lines don’t stay solid.  The real poor quality can be found in the footage of the silent movies, as there are scratch marks and grain everywhere, and the images seem jumpy.  Obviously, this was unavoidable and long before film restoration became the norm.  Since the show is so off the cuff, this is typical.


The audio comes in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, presented only in the English language with no subtitles or closed captioning.  The audio levels were all over the place at times, where sometimes it was near impossible to hear some parts.  Other times, the audio would be really low and then it would be back to normal.  There is some scratchiness to the sound, but it’s minimal.  Give credit to VCI again because they did a lot to fix the audio.  They had to do the best with what they were given.  They do point out where there are times where they couldn’t fix some of the material.  For example, in the first episode, they put up a title card before the episode begins to warn viewers that the audio for the Rose Marie interview is extremely poor and choppy.  Considering these episodes were pieced together from various sources, it’s remarkable they got anything at all.  The extras for this set are disappointing.  All you get are biographies for Hans Conried and Jay Ward, and you get them three times, once for each disc.  The only other extra is a preview for other mostly animated material available from VCI, and reviewed on this site, like their Popeye set and the terrific Somewhere In Dreamland set.


The show is a true marvel of television history.  Unfortunately, even though the series was enjoyed by the public at the time and later in syndication, this just wasn’t enough to keep the show going.  The show was light years ahead of its time, which is probably why it didn’t last long as a lot of the humor was just out of the grasp of 1960’s audiences, but the show paved the way for others who would borrow the show’s unique concept.  Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, and Steve Oedekerk’s Kung Pow: Enter the Fist owe thanks to Fractured Flickers for paving the way for them.



-   Antonio Lopez


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