Monday, November 20, 2006

A two-disc visit with a film director, a preview of a collected
television series and five films starring the great Boris Karloff are in this week’s DVD column.

An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder

With just six low-budget cult films under his belt, one wouldn’t think
that director and writer Kevin Smith would be the celebrity he is, but Smith
has definitely entered the select club of film directors whose celebrity
transcend just being a film maker.

Like Cecil B. DeMille and Alfred Hitchcock, Smith has become a
personality. Perhaps the only other contemporary director who achieved this
kind of name recognition is John Waters.

Smith has had a regular segment on “The Tonight Show,” has popped up as
an actor in other productions, has appeared on several episodes of “Dinner
for Five,” written comic books, and has made a habit of appearing for
question and answer sessions on college campuses and other venues.

In 2002, some of these college appearances were shot for the
direct-to-DVD release “An Evening with Kevin Smith.” Four years later the
sequel, “An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder,” is being released
at the end of this month to coincide with the DVD release of “Clerks II.”

If you’re not a fan of Smith’s movies (“Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” and
“Dogma,” for instance), then pass by this two-disc collection. If you think
you’re going to see something that resembles “Inside the Actor’s Studio”
with earnest conversations about the art of filmmaking you would be sorely

Instead these two appearances (one shot in Toronto and the other in
London before “Clerks II” went into production) are raucous meandering
conversations between Smith and fans of his work. They ask questions that
range from typical fan boy geek inquiries into the fictional universe Smith
has created to issues quite more personal.

And Smith doesn’t shy from any of it. In fact he seems to revel in the
opportunity to reveal things most people wouldn’t about his marriage and

Smith’s subject matter is not only dicey, but his language is definitely
NC-17. Just like Smith’s movies, this isn’t a production for kids to watch.
As a Smith fan, I enjoyed the over three hours of Smith’s unrehearsed
repartee with his audiences, but I know this isn’t for everybody.

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Get Smart
I received a preview disc the other day on the up-coming release of the
classic television spy parody Get Smart on DVD. Time/Life is releasing the
show in two forms: the complete first season with 30 episodes of two hours
of bonus features and a collection of all five seasons – 138 episodes on 25
discs with over nine hours of bonus material.

That’s a lot of “Get Smart,” but if you’re a fan, this is good news.

“Get Smart” was a satire of “the Man from Uncle” and other mid-1960s spy
shows and movies. Starring the late Don Adams, Maxwell Smart was a bungling secret agent who ultimately succeeded either through luck, the help of his fellow agent 99 (played by Barbara Feldon) or occasionally through his own

Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, “Get Smart” was full of puns,
witty send-ups of the spy genre and plenty of gadgets – my favorite was the
“Cone of Silence” in which people couldn’t hear themselves speak!

The preview disc had a sampling on what is in the two collections,
including the show’s pilot; the Emmy-winning episode “Ship of Spies;” and a
segment from “The Bill Dana Show” featuring the origins of Don Adams’s

“Get Smart” was a favorite of mine while growing up and I still laughed
at Smart’s ineptitude. I think the shows hold up pretty well.

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The Boris Karloff Collection
I will readily admit I will watch anything with Boris Karloff. I’ve been
that way for years and even subjected my poor parents to taking me to “The
Ghost in the Invisible Bikini” back in 1966 – one of Karloff’s decidedly
lesser productions.

My fascination with classic horror films is what drove my interest in
film. For me Karloff remains the consummate character star – an actor who
clearly enjoyed changing his look and screen persona for every role.

So I have to be very objective about this three-disc set with five of
Karloff’s film as I enjoyed every one of them despite the fact this is not
the prime Karloff material.

Films such as “Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Black Cat,” or “The Mummy”
are not on this set. Instead the DVD producers present “Night Key,” “Tower
of London, “The Climax,” “The Strange Door,” and “The Black Castle.”

“Night Key” is an enjoyable B-movie with Karloff playing an elderly
inventor of a revolutionary security system. “The Climax” was Karloff’s
first color production and is basically a re-make of “The Phantom of the
Opera” with Karloff as a doctor obsessed with an opera singer. “The Strange
Door” and “The Black Castle” are both costume dramas with a horrific
undertone. Karloff plays a supporting role in each film.

The best film of the lot is “Tower of London” a sweeping re-telling of
the story of King Edward the Fourth of England whose overthrow is plotted by
his brother. With Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price – one of Price’s first movies – in the cast, this is a fun film.

Karloff is the evil executioner Mord, one of his most striking roles.

While not the best grouping of films, “The Boris Karloff Collection” is a must-have for fans such as me and, maybe, you.

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© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. My words alone.

1 comment:

Kip W said...

Tower of London reminds me of Bedlam, which had a jolly throwaway scene of an inmate who is in because he has invented motion pictures! And since they're in the form of flipbooks, that means he invented animated motion pictures.

Hooray for movies -- for bringing us the truth!