I watched the International House disc last night (which also includes the 45-minute 1994 A&E Biography documentary, W.C. Fields: Behind the Laughter). I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The feature looked great for a 1933 film. Quality-wise, it's worth watching for Burns & Allen and Fields, as well as performances by Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee, and the 10-year-old (Baby) Rose Marie--of Dick van Dyke fame--who belts out a tune with a brassy voice that belies her age. As a side-note: one of the co-stars of the picture is Peggy Hopkins Joyce, who was apparently the inspiration for Anita Loos' character Lorelei Lee (immotalized by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). Some have described Peggy Hopkins Joyce as the Anna Nicole Smith of her day. Even though this film was subject to vetting by the Hays Office, Fields gets away with several risqué jokes. I would rate the film 3 stars out of 5.
The A&E Biography documentary (the only real extra in the Universal's Fields box set) presents a nice overview of Fields' life & career.
At least based on this disc, I'll retract my criticism of Universal from another thread. I hope to watch the rest of the set over the weekend, and will post my thoughts on Monday.
I watched "It's a Gift" last night. As well as not being a very strong movie, it stuck for about 5 seconds at one point (am I wrong for expecting single-layer disks to be very reliable?), and the disk seemed to contain nothing else than this 67 minute movie.
But I started watching "International House", and it looks much better, and the disk seems to have some extras.
I'm really looking forward to seeing My Little Chickadee for the first time in years. The Bank Dick will duplicate the Criterion, tho it's nice to hear it may be a better copy.
My review is up at digitallyObsessed. It seems Universal put a good deal more effort into this set than the Marx Bros. one for some reason, or the Fields material is just in much, much better shape. But they did restore The Bank Dick significantly beyond the Criterion disc, which floored me. It looks very nice indeed.
Professor Quail (W.C. Fields): Hey! Where am I? Woman: Wu-Hu. Professor Quail: Woo-Hoo to you sweetheart. Hey Charlie, where am I? Hotel Manager (Franklin Pangborn): "WU-HU!" Professor Quail: Don't let the posy fool you.
IMHO--shared by many others, including grandson & biographer, Ronald--It's a Gift is Fields' best, most consistently funny movie. Granted, comedy is a very subjective matter, but if you love W.C. Fields, this one is pure gold.
Have now watched You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, and My Little Chickadee, and am very happy.
I have never seen these movies looking or sounding so good. As per Colin's review.
However, I had a case of an almost-picture-break-up at about the 42 minute point on the Cheat movie, and several strange 4 second or so pauses, screen dark, between some chapters of Chickadee? Tomorrow will give the Bank Dick a go. If that's all the glitches that the set contains, I will be very pleased
Sorry for my opinion about It's a Gift. Excessive "Padding" as per the review.
I love the movie "The Big Broadcast of 1938" that became available on DVD earlier.
The only other Field's film that I have a passion to see would be Poppy. And I would like to see the Biopic with Rod Steiger on DVD some day. But I count this set as a Gift.
Seeing that we have SIX OF A KIND (Burns and Allen) and BIG BROADCAST OF 1938 (Bob Hope) on other DVD compilations, my vote for Volume 2 films: THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK THE OLD FASHIONED WAY YOU'RE TELLING ME POPPY MILLION DOLLAR LEGS MISSISSIPPI TILLIE AND GUS
The first four seem to have had new transfers in the last several years, but I think the last four needs work. There are still a few oddities left like ALICE AND WONDERLAND and MRS. WIGGS, but the above eight are my first choice.
I just hope this initial set does well enough to convince Universal to do more. For some reason, Fields and Laurel and Hardy don't seem to have the fan base they once had and that is disappointing.