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Best of Warner Bros.: Comedy - 20 Film Collection: DVD Review

Jul 15th, 2013

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Sure, some of these are legitimate classics, but is this standard-def box set worth the investment...?

Warner / 1935-2009 / Street Date: July 2, 2013

A Night at the Opera

96 Minutes / 1935

The iconic Marx Brothers comedy starts off quickly and establishes its dingbat iconic status before its first reel comes to a close. Even compared to other antique titles on this box set, A Night at the Opera has a gutsy, rebellious spirit to it – it may not be a classic piece of filmmaking, but when it comes to gags, it delivers… even after eighty years on the scene.

Video: 1.33:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0; English, French, Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: We get an impressive screen-specific audio commentary from Leonard Maltin, as well as two featurettes – Remarks on Marx and an excerpt from Groucho’s turn on The Hy Gardner Show – as well as some shorts, and the movie’s trailer.

Stage Door

91 Minutes / 1937

As the snotty, stuck-up diva-and-then-some at the center of Stage Door's revolving whirlwind, Hepburn is both intensely nasty and exceptionally watchable. For her best performances - and this is one of them, of course - Kate was able to not just be real or have that "it" factor that projected her on-screen persona with a generous helping of tinseltown charisma; she was of a sensibility tailor-made to the movie screen.

Video: 1.33:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0 English, French, Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: We get a musical shortUps and Downs (21:00) and then a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast from 1939 starring Ginger Rogers and Rosalind Russell (58:00). Also included is the film's trailer.

Bringing Up Baby

102 Minutes / 1938

Fast-paced and punctuated with pratfalls and near-slapstick shtick, Bringing Up Baby overflows with wit and clever writing. The movie helped solidify Grant's persona as a comedic actor, but Hepburn would never play silly again. What a pity. Not particularly successful at the box office, the film has become essential viewing for any serious film enthusiast.

Video: 1.33:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0 English, French, Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: First is a feature length commentary with director Peter Bogdanovich. He tends to be distracted by the film, lapsing into pleasure until he erupts with laughter. But in between these self-indulgences, he offers a bit of history and background, quotes from interviews with both Hawks and Grant, and points out filmmaking techniques. Also here is a collection of trailers from Howard Hawks' movies: Bringing Up Baby (2:22); Sergeant York (2:01); To Have And To Have Not (2:49); The Big Sleep (1:52); and, Rio Bravo (2:49).

The Philadelphia Story

112 Minutes / 1940

A prototypical romantic comedy of its era, The Philadelphia Story works like a well-oiled machine. The melodrama within the confines of this zany tale is often too saccharine to stomach, but with a triptych of stars like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart leading the way, once you decide to give yourself over to the picture, its zippy charms far outweigh its inconsistencies.

Video: 1.33:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0 English, French, Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: Included here is a thorough screen-specific audio commentary from film historian Jeanine Basinger, as well as a George Cukor trailer gallery, and a list of the awards the picture won.

Arsenic and Old Lace

91 Minutes / 1944

I am not overly fond of Frank Capra movies thanks to their propensity towards sentimentalism. But those I do like – Arsenic and Old Lace is definitely up there - exhibit an edginess not often found in his other films. This edginess in Arsenic is really a function of the outlandish plot. If they tried to play it seriously it would be laughable, so the only logical recourse is the dark comedy, with an emphasis on comedy.

Video: 1.33:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0; English, French subtitles.

Supplements: Alas, the only bonuses here are a short description of the background of the film and some quick notes about its adaptation from the play.

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