MY REVIEW: Complete Carlin

Discussion in 'DVD' started by John_Berger, Jan 5, 2004.

  1. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    (I am not submitting this as an official HTF review; however, since I can find no review I decided to give my own personal review. If the admins want to make this an official review, I can modify it later to reflect the same look and feel of other reviews.)

    I have been a George Carlin fan since I was an early teen, even though I probably should not have been watching his shows at that age. I have just about all of his concerts throughout the 1980s and 1990s memorized. But up until this point I was restricted to VHS for watching his shows. I even recently converted a number of my George Carlin VHS tapes to two DVD-Rs just for permanence and convenience.

    It was therefore with great joy when I purchased Completely Carlin from MPI Home Video. This six-DVD set contains four of George's complete concerts, a DVD with a number of his best skits throughout his career in the 1970s and 1980s, and a DVD called George on George, which will be explained later.

    All six of the DVDs are as follows:
    • Playin' With Your Head (1986 concert)
    • What Am I Doing In New Jersey? (1988 concert)
    • Back In Town (1996 concert)
    • You Are All Diseased (1996 concert)
    • George's Best Stuff
    • George On George
    George is most famous for his list of dirty words, but in this set he attacks just about everyone – from “guilty, white liberals” to “Christian conservatives”; from fear of germs to parents who over-protect their children; from annoying state mottos to annoying human habits. As you can expect, if you cringe from even mild swearing, stay away from these DVDs. George's trademark irreverence is nicely preserved in this set and will offend just about everyone at some point in time.

    Obviously, his four concerts are what you would expect them to be, so there is no real need to explain what those DVDs are.

    George's Best Stuff is a great DVD that runs about 1.5 hours, loaded with some of his skits from concerts that do not have their own DVD in this set. Having only been exposed to Carlin's concerts from the early 1980s onwards, it was really refreshing to see some of his skits from his 1970s concerts. It also includes some bits from his time in Comic Relief 1986. The editors also did a good job of keeping the various jokes from the different concerts in theme with each other, making the various clips flow very smoothly.

    George on George is a great, introspective DVD regarding his life in New York to his desire to be comedian to his partnership in the comedian team of Burns and Carlin to how his two decades of concerts on HBO changed his life as a comedian. For those who might be wondering, he also explains why he has such an avid hatred for golf and golfers.

    Now to the DVDs themselves.

    Video: [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The video is quite crisp, as would be expected. Each concert is relatively new, so the video is just about as good as can be expected. I generally focus on picture clarity than things like “solid blacks” and so forth, particularly since I've been watching nothing but worn out VHS tapes of George's concerts for the past 20 years. In that particular area, DVD shows once again how superior it is in video quality when compared to its VHS counterparts. The video is very crisp and very clean.

    I'm sure that many will dislike that I'm being very narrow in my analysis of the video, but video quality is not truly what these concerts are really about. Comedy like the type that George specializes in is based more on words than actions, so it makes no real sense to go into the color depth or black level issues that are beneficial to other DVDs.

    Audio: [​IMG][​IMG]

    All of the DVDs tout Dolby Digital 2.0; however, do not be impressed by this statistic at all. In fact, when it comes to audio, this is where MPI severely dropped the ball. The audio quality of these DVDs, most notably the three newest concerts, is far below my expectations.

    When listening to these DD 2.0 discs in Dolby ProLogic mode, the dialog is crisp and is solidly in the center channel. The problem is – so is everything else!

    Let me explain.

    For the past several months, I have been listening to most of Carlin's acts through the albums that I downloaded (legally!) from eMusic, which contains his entire audio library. All of these MP3 albums are in crisp, clear, glorious stereo sound that sound like you're right there at the concert. Many of the VHS tapes that I have of George's various concerts, including some of those in this collection, are in Dolby Surround sound.

    Unfortunately, all of these DVDs (except for Playin' With Your Head) are in Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural audio! What's worse is that all of the concerts clearly state in the very beginning that they are being presented in Dolby Surround! What even makes this even more bizarre is that Playin' With Your Head is the oldest of all of the concert DVDs! So the oldest of the concerts is in stereo, but the three newest concerts are in mono! Can someone explain this?

    Why MPI mixed the newer, “presented in Dolby Surround” DVDs to actually be Dolby Digital mono is beyond me. It does say to me, however, that these DVDs were not given the respect that they deserve. In fact, I have the one concert (What Am I Doing In New Jersey) on VHS video, and I confirmed that the soundtrack to that VHS tape is clearly in stereo.

    Before I get accused of being anal-retentive (which I am, by the way, but at least I admit it), I'm looking at this from a highly-experienced DVD authoring perspective as well as the perspective of a Carlin fanatic. To create DVDs that blatantly state in the beginning of each that they are “Presented in Dolby Surround” but are instead presented in monaural audio is mind-boggling. After all, it's not like any of these concerts are especially old and that the original stereo soundtracks are no longer available. For a VHS tape to have superior audio quality than its DVD counterpart is disgraceful as far as I'm concerned.

    In my eyes, if you're going to make what appears to be a worthwhile collection of anything, you should make it be the best that it can be. It is clear to me that MPI Home Video did not bother to do this. As a long-time Carlin fan, I'm thrilled to have his concerts on a superior and more permanent format; however, I am incredibly disappointed that MPI clearly did not give this DVD set the time and quality mastering that it deserves.

    If you're a Carlin fan, this still is a worthwhile purchase; however, I for one will never be able to really look at this set as any kind of a “collector's set” because of the high “what this set should have been” factor.

    On the plus side, all of the DVDs are single-layer so I could always remaster them to keep the same video quality but add the Dolby Surround soundtracks from the videos or the albums. Since each disc is single-layer, each could easily have their own DVD-R. You know, I just might have to do that, but it's a shame that I should feel the need to do so. MPI Home Video should have done this already.
     
  2. MartinTeller

    MartinTeller Screenwriter

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    Are you kidding me? Why on earth do you need surround sound for stand-up comedy?
     
  3. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    It's totally the principle of the matter. MPI either took the cheap way out or just didn't care to master the DVDs properly. THAT'S the issue. It's like having a movie that starts with "Filmed in Technicolor", but the movie is presented in black-and-white!

    Of course, just look at any of the DD/DTS threads. If you think I'm being petty about the audio, you haven't seen anything until you see one of the famous HTF DD/DTS threads!

    You also obviously missed [​IMG]
     
  4. Aaron Cooke

    Aaron Cooke Second Unit

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    Nice to see a review of the box. I wish i could get that george on george disc individually, but i already had a few of these discs before I knew there was a box set so I'll just have to live without it. I think i got the last of the Carlin DVD's i needed for christmas so I think it will be time for an extended Carlin marathon sometime soon!
     

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