We all have our prize possessions; those items that mean more than some calculated amount. It could be a key, a stuffed toy or a simple picture, and for many there is certainly more than one. So on a shelf of DVD’s and Blu Ray discs stands one of mine. There is no lego or posters to honour it within my home like so many other films in my collection. It has no place of tribute other than it always sits within inches of the electronics in which it is placed for viewing. Despite it being a ‘silent film’ I can’t imagine it without surround sound and even though it is black and white the story is more vibrant than anything I’ve seen since taking a film class in university. The man often credited with creating the greatest film ever made (Orson Welles – Citizen Kane) calls this film the greatest ever made, and who am I to argue.
So here it is folks, Buster Keaton in The General.
If you’ve never had the pleasure, you really should. It is a stunningly crafted action filled comedy with stunts that one could not believe are real. However, not only are they real but Keaton directs and does his own stunts running around on a moving train. Literally folks! He jumps between box cars, jumps off the moving train, jumps on the moving train, sits on a cow-catcher of a moving train with a railroad tie in his arms, and sits on the trains coupling rods… no safety wires, no studio trickery, coupling rods as train starts moving. HELLO, but that is INSANE!
In its time (1926), it was the most expensive movie ever made. Oh sure, you’ve seen cars planes and even trains blown up over the years in which you’ve watched all kinds of action movies but that is the glory of special effects and a green screen. In 1926, if you wanted it to look real – then you had to do it. So not only is The General one of the greatest “chase” movies ever made, but Keaton actually takes out the whole frickin’ train and a bridge in a scene with 500 hundred extras.
So, I’m not even going to pretend this is a critical movie review and I’m Leonard Maltin… nope! It is hard to be objective when something this good blows your mind.
In a blue case, sits a piece of plastic with encoded information which is decoded in a machine and sent to a screen and speakers. The other day I showed it to my eleven year old with expectations he would get bored after he finished his popcorn. Instead he asked if we could watch more Buster Keaton films. How cool is that!
Just thought I would share… and yeah, it’s a good thing I have more Buster Keaton films.
I wasn’t really going to write about WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series, but when I posted watching it on my Facebook page, a few people were quite curious… so here we are. Now obviously, I’m not reviewing the show itself. If you’re reading this it’s because you want to know if the DVD release by Shout Factory has done justice to your lasting impression of the show.
Let’s start with a brief history lesson. WKRP ran from 1979 -1983 and due to a constant shifting in schedule it never became a top rated show. However, once it was in syndication and given a regular slot on the TV schedule, its repeats were often beating prime-time shows in the ratings. My own memories of the show are from watching re-runs as a teen.
Then it disappeared. The show just stopped airing. The reason was its subject matter… oh not the anti-establishment themes and its willingness to confront societal issues on a regular basis. No, it was the music. WKRP in Cincinnati was a victim of the very music it helped to promote. You see, the music being played wasn’t purchased the same way music was for a movie soundtrack. No one was thinking long term syndication at the time of taping; so music was loaned-out for a fee over a short term contract. When those contracts ended the artists and their labels wanted more money for their music, and a battle began.
Twenty years later the battles are mostly over. Recently, the DVD makers said they were at 80% of all music issues resolved. (For a complete list of edits go to http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/334984-wkrp-in-cincinnati-the-complete-series-review-see-post-218-for-comprehensive-info/page-11#entry4154266 )
What seems shocking is just how well the show holds up. Yes there are some very noticeable edits from time to time, but it really doesn’t impact the quality of the show. The reason of course is that the writers and actors didn’t rely on the music to generate stories. Instead they leaned on quality writing and well set up jokes. The one episode that would have created the most problem (Clean Up Radio Everywhere) – Shout got the rights to read the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine” which is just how it aired originally.
The funny thing is that my memory placed more importance on the music than it really should have. WKRP was a quality show that provided some of the biggest laughs ever (i.e. the classic “Turkeys Away”) and some of the more poignant (“The Concert” – where they dealt directly with the tragedy of 11 people killed at a Who concert in Cincinnati itself.)
Put it this way, from the time I pulled off the wrapping until the time I viewed the final episode, it was less than one week. I had to keep finding out what was next. The big disappointment in this is that WKRP was killed in its prime and it ends with the expectation that there should/could have been so much more.