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HTF REVIEW: The Jack Paar Collection

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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted March 20 2004 - 11:06 AM

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The Jack Paar Collection






Studio: Shout! Factory
Year: 2004
Rated: NR
Film Length: 384 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3)
Audio: DD Mono
Subtitles: None
Retail Price: $29.95



On March 30th, Shout! Factory will release a 3-disc set of material that covers the career of the legendary Jack Paar who rose to fame hosting The Tonight Show and eventually The Jack Paar Program. Over the years Jack Paar’s talent for comedy and music helped make many people famous including Woody Allen, Carol Burnett and Liza Minnelli but his emotion for current events made him many enemies including journalist Walter Winchell. This 3-disc set features interviews, sketches, three complete episodes of The Jack Paar Show plus the 2003 PBC Documentary, Jack Paar: Smart Television.

Disc 1: Jack Paar: Smart Television

Running just under 60-minutes, this 2003 PBC documentary is pretty much a greatest hits package of some of Paar’s more memorable performances as host. Paar usually used the Cuban Missile Crisis as a mart of his Monologue but on February 2, 1959 Paar got the rare opportunity to interview Fidel Castro on his show and the infamous dictator spoke English, which was a first. Another interesting thing I learned was that it was Paar who introduced American audiences to The Beatles. On January 3, 1962 Paar had a brief segment on a “British band” who could be taking over the world. This footage was done a complete month before Ed Sullivan aired the band and they took off for legendary status.

Twenty-two days later a young Woody Allen made his first appearance on the television show, although it was his fourth time appearing on the show. In the introduction Paar informs everyone that Allen had been on three previous shows but was cut from each of them due to time constraints. I’m a huge fan of Woody Allen and thought his performance here was very good and he was certainly a lot more jumpy than what I was familiar with. Another big part of this documentary is the June 16, 1960 interview with Senator John F. Kennedy, which has been restored after years of only being available in a 30-second clip. Kennedy takes questions from the audience members and with the charm he’s showing it isn’t any shock he was elected President. We also get a wonderful segment from a 1962 performance by Judy Garland and Robert Goulet where Jack messes up their cue cards and all hell follows. Finally we get his farewell speech, which was recorded on June 25, 1965.

This is a very well done “greatest hits” package of clips, which should entertain those familiar with Jack’s work but those, like myself, who aren’t too familiar with the man certainly won’t learn much about him. There was very little talk about the personal side of Jack Paar so there isn’t much to learn here. Instead we are shown various clips, which many consider to be the best from his television show. Coming from someone who hadn’t seen much of Paar, I thought the documentary did a very good job at showing why the man was so popular. The interviews are all very entertaining especially the controversial segment with Castro and it’s also wonderful seeing Kennedy in his prime. New interviews with Dick Cavett, Regis Philbin, Hugh Downs, The Smothers Brothers and others are also mixed in with the television footage.

VIDEO---Everything is shown standard (4:3), which is the correct ratio of course. Considering I’ve never seen this footage before I’m really not sure how good it should look but basing my opinion on a first time view, I think everything here is in pretty good shape. Quality varies from episode to episode but overall I was pleased with the transfer. The black and white photography is very clear with only a few scratches. For the most part everything is very clear, although a few clips (especially The Beatles segment) looks a bit fuzzy as if it came from a worn master. The Woody Allen segment is very clear and is among the best quality on the disc.

AUDIO---The sound is Dolby Digital Mono and is good throughout. Again, I’m not too certain how “good” this stuff could be but I was pleased with the sound throughout the documentary and all the extras. If you’ve heard Paramount’s The Honeymooners set then the quality here is pretty much the same. There’s some light hiss in some of the tracks but the dialogue is always easy to hear and the music performances sound nice as well.

EXTRAS---All three discs are pretty much “extras” but I guess the feature is the documentary and disc 2 and 3 are left for the bonus material, which runs a good five hours. Like the clips in the documentary, V/A quality varies from segment to segment but nothing here looks bad but nothing is Warner quality either. If you’re a fan of Paar then I’m certain you won’t mind the V/A here.

Inside the case there’s a fifteen-page booklet with an introduction by Tom Shales, which is a very interesting read. While the documentary didn’t cover much outside the show these liner notes do a better job at letting newbies know who Paar was. The last few pages also give a description of what’s on this DVD Collection.

Disc 1:

--Getting on the Paar Show (Smothers Brothers)
--Hired By Jack (Dick Cavett)
--A Call From the President (Jonathan Winters)
--The Monologist (Regis Philbin, Hugh Downs, Hal Gurnee)
--Jack Quits The Tonight Show (Philbin, Downs, Gurnee, Richard Kennedy)
--A Monologue (Jack Paar)
--Ali & Liberace Round 2
--The First Family
--Jack and Judy
--Bette Davis and Jonathan Winters
--Jack and Hugh

These clips, ranging from one to nine minutes are outtakes or unused footage from the documentary. The first five clips are interviews, which are all very interesting and were apparently cut for time issues. “Jack and Judy” is a small clip from the show where Jack is interviewing Judy Garland. This here isn’t complete but the small clip is still a lot of fun. The Ali and Liberace clip is probably the most famous thing here and certainly lives up to the hype. The best clip however is the Bette Davis one where Winters is making fun of her voice. I’ve always heard bad things about Bette Davis and her attitude so it was rather fun seeing her being such a good sport here.

Disc 2

This segment here features five complete interviews as well as some of Jack’s favorite monologues from the show. As with previous clips, everything here varies in quality but it remains good throughout but don’t expect Warner quality here.

Complete Interviews:

--Richard Nixon March 8, 1963
--Cassius Clay/Liberace November 29, 1963
--Billy Graham December 13, 1963
--Barry Goldwater January 31, 1964
--Robert Kennedy March 13, 1964

Monologue:

November 2, 1962 Communism and the Cuban Missile Crisis
October 8, 1963 Gossip columns, England, film producer Sam Spiegel
January 31, 1964 Television commercials revisited
December 4, 1964 Life’s Big “Why’s?”
January 8, 1965 Stories From Men on the Street
February 5, 1965 Tollbooth Operators, Snowwomen

Disc 3

This final disc features three complete shows, which (according to this release) are among the best that Paar ever did for television.

November 16, 1962 Guests include Bette Davis, Jonathan Winters and Gisele MacKenzie.

May 8, 1964 Guests include Richard Burton, Bill Cosby and Arthur Godfrey.

December 11, 1963 Guests include Judy Garland, Robert Morley and Randolph Churchill.


OVERALL---Having not seen too much, if anything from Paar, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this set so much. The PBC documentary doesn’t cover too much ground but the clips shown are certainly entertaining and funny. The two discs worth of extras are all very funny and I’m sure fans will be very happy with the quality of everything here. Not being a huge fan I’m not certain if these interviews and complete shows are among the best of Paar’s career but I certainly enjoyed them.


Release Date: March 30, 2004

#2 of 5 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted March 20 2004 - 11:20 AM

Great review Micheal. Thanks. I couldn't but help notice the date of the above interview. That's the day after the Kennedy murder. I find it hard to believe that NBC wouldn't have pre-empted the Paar show. Was the assassination mentioned at all in the interviews? Also, a minor point, but you made a couple references to the "Strother Brothers". Did you mean "Smothers Brothers"? Steve
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#3 of 5 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted March 20 2004 - 11:54 AM

The Clay interview has two dates listed. One as the 23rd and another as the 29th. The booklet lists the date as the 23rd but after looking it up, apparently the 29th is the correct date because I believe Clay fought Liston s couple days after this show. And yes, it's "Smothers". :b I'm not too familiar with this show so perhaps some bigger fans could tell if any of the dates listed are incorrect.

#4 of 5 OFFLINE   Hardee

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Posted March 21 2004 - 03:50 AM

Thanks for the review, Michael. I seem to remember Jack Parr more as a Larry King type than what Johnny Carson did with the show. He was definately around during an interesting time.
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#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Richard Carnahan

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Posted March 21 2004 - 04:19 AM

It's too bad the original tapes of these shows weren't saved. All of Paar's shows--both TONIGHT (late 50s-early 60s) and the later Friday night program (early to mid 60s)--were originally in color.





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