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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Shorts > W.C. Fields - Extravaganza

W.C. Fields – Extravaganza (Passport Set)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: D     Content: B



W.C. Fields was once one of the great screen icons, and this was strongly so up until the late 1970s.  Between his Paramount films being trapped in the holdings of the Universal Pictures catalog (who does not do enough with them) and a new groundbreaking law that stopped anyone from using the images of big stars (particularly of the past) without the permission of the person’s estate, Fields has suffered the most.  That is why the new Extravaganza DVD set from Passport is so interesting.


DVD One offers three of his sound shorts: The Fatal Glass Of Beer (1933), The Golf Specialist (1930) and The Dentist (1932), all of which are from poor prints, especially in their sound.  They are not particularly funny either, though a few moments are amusing.  DVD Two has his silent 1925 D.W. Griffith comedy Sally Of The Sawdust.  Fields is good and it is considered one of his best works, but it follows the same Griffith formula that constantly annoys.  The print is better than anything on DVD One, but this is overrated as a film overall.  DVD Three has an old TV tribute to Fields that was meant to fit an hour time slot, the 1915 silent short Pool Sharks, a likeness of Fields in the animated RKO/Van Beuren Rainbow Parade in three-strip Technicolor called Cupid Gets His Man, from 1936, and a section of other interesting pieces under the name W.C. Fields Film Follies Festival.  The cartoon print is not bad, particularly in the color department.


Those semi-extras that finish this set off are a highlight, including a long trailer for International House, a famous clip (too short versus the real thing) of a real earthquake hitting as Fields is shooting a scene and what he does about it, trailers for You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man, My Little Chickadee, and The Bank Dick, Fields “coaching” a checker game, a promo for a Fields festival showing three of his short films (The Barbershop, The Pharmacist, and The Fatal Glass Of Beer) and then there is a toy ad.  You have a man doing a good impression of Fields (if he does not totally look like him) for a game called Chick-A-Dee from the Marx Toy Company.  This is in color and has four cut-out plastic chickens at the four corners of a marble-holding disc.  Whoever pecks the most marbles wins.  It is an ironic way to end this set.


The picture is as varied as we have ever seen in such a collection, rarely in color, always 1.33 X 1 full screen.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono usually shows how old the sound is and it is often.  The piano for the silent footage is especially obnoxious, especially by being a bit clearer than authentic sound film sound.  A curio that is not always satisfying, Extravaganza is still worth your time, especially if you have no idea who W.C. Fields is.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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