Lots Of Fun With Jack And Groucho! .... 2-Disc Set Featuring
David Von Pein | Mooresville, Indiana; USA | 09/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This budget-priced 2-Disc "TV Classics" DVD collection from "Platinum Disc Corporation" dishes up a nice, healthy portion of video material featuring two comedy legends -- Groucho Marx and Jack Benny.
The DVD twin-pack contains 18 half-hour episodes of two very popular television programs from the 1950s and early 1960s -- "You Bet Your Life", starring Groucho Marx (aka: "The Best Of Groucho") and "The Jack Benny Program".
Each of the two featured television series in this collection gets its own single-sided disc (with separate Amaray-style Keep Case box). The "You Bet Your Life" disc, in fact, actually contains MORE episodes than what the packaging indicates. There are 13 Groucho shows here, even though the box claims there are only twelve, making this set an even better bargain.
Many of these "You Bet Your Life" installments are new to the DVD-Video format. Well, they're "new" to me at any rate. I have several other DVD releases of "YBYL" and I'm sure that several of the thirteen shows included here are not among those found on other DVDs. Which actually surprised me quite a bit; because I was pretty much expecting the exact same episodes I've already collected via other video discs. But, to my pleasant surprise, I found several programs that I didn't already have.
The "Jack Benny" disc has far less programming than its Groucho counterpart -- 5 episodes. But, even so, this set is a great value. And these Benny programs are just as funny as ever.
The five Jack Benny episodes included are:
1.) "Goldie, Fields, And Glide"
2.) "How Jack Met Mary"
3.) "Hong Kong Suit"
4.) "Jack Goes Christmas Shopping"
5.) "New Year's Show"
Video quality for this set isn't too bad; but it isn't exactly stellar either. The Groucho shows look a tad better than the Benny episodes, IMO. Aspect ratio is the original TV-screen shape of 1.33:1. Audio is a re-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1, but it sounds pretty much the same as the original Mono, which isn't surprising since neither one of these TV series would benefit at all from "enhanced 5.1 Surround Sound" audio.
Speaking of the audio on these discs, it's actually kind of odd to think that a DVD company would even WANT to upgrade the audio of these old Mono programs to a 5.1 Surround soundtrack -- especially Groucho's show, which is 99% dialogue. There is, therefore, no need whatsoever to add any additional "discrete" audio channels to the DVD soundtrack, because no information is going to be sent to the "surrounds" anyhow.
In a program that features nothing but people talking, nearly all audio should stay rooted in the center (front) channel, with virtually nothing going to the rear channels. However, for some reason the Platinum Disc people have re-mixed these shows into some type of "faux 5.1" anyhow. But you could never really tell it. The so-called "enhanced" sound is a complete waste here.
There are no bonus items included on these discs. The packaging claims there are "Scene Selections" for all of these programs. This information, however, is incorrect. No chapter stops are included at all. There is, however, a "Play All" feature on both of the discs.
For fans of old-time 1950s-era television comedy, this 2-DVD set is a good purchase. And at a cost that amounts to mere pocket change per episode, this set is truly a deal that even the mega-penurious Mr. Benny would undoubtedly appreciate.
Other "Jack Benny" and "Groucho Marx" DVD Recommendations.........
Avid Groucho fans will probably want to pick up the nicely-done multi-disc DVD sets that have been issued by "Shout Factory" -- "You Bet Your Life: The Best Episodes" and "You Bet Your Life: The Lost Episodes". There are 36 total episodes included in those sets (18 shows per boxed set), plus many bonus supplements as well -- including outtakes, "stag" reels, 1950s "DeSoto" commercials, and some rarely-seen pilots for other Groucho programs too. Some great stuff in there.
And for admirers of that always-39-year-old violin-playing comedian named Benjamin Kubelsky (aka Jack Benny), GoodTimes Home Video has produced a pretty nice low-priced 2-Disc DVD set called "The Best Of Jack Benny", which contains 17 full-length programs (15 of which are from Jack's own 1950-1965 TV series). The other two shows in that collection include a Benny-hosted special ("The Jack Benny Hour"), plus an episode of Ronald Reagan's "General Electric Theater", which has Jack appearing as a guest star."