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Saturday Morning With Sid and Marty Krofft

Rhino
Shows None better than C+
Special Features C-
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

I always found the Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning TV shows quite disturbing. There was just something very wrong about them. Mr. Show did a terrific spoof of HR Pufnstuf called Druggachusettes that suggested the programs were inspired by hallucinogenic drug taking. Seems likely.

This DVD gathers seven pilot episodes, introducing the likes of Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, The Bugaloos and The Lost Saucer. All of them are quite terrible, yet watching them again is kind of a kick.

Seeing Wesley (actor Wesley Eure billed by first-name-only for the show) act terribly brings back fond memories. I remember my dad waking up on Saturday morning, seeing the show we were watching and blasting Wesley's acting as the worst he'd ever seen. The DVD has the Lost episode that introduced Cha-Ka, the little ape boy. Urban legend had it that Cha-Ka was played by Ron Howard's brother, Clint (not true: He was played by Philip Paley).

Sadly, the Sleestacks, those iguana-like monsters that hissed, don't make it into this episode. However, Grumpy the T-Rex does. He's the dinosaur that never seems to catch anybody, and keeps getting a big log called "The Flyswatter" jammed in his teeth.

Until I threw this disc in, I didn't know that actor Billy Barty played Sigmund in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. This represented a low point in the diminutive actor's career. The same could be said for Johnny Whitaker, the child star of Family Affair, who never had a prominent role after his Sid and Mary Krofft detour.

Other shows include the high-octane comic teaming of Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi in The Lost Saucer, and Bob Denver's Gilligan-like turn in Far Out Space Nuts. It should be noted that Rip Taylor is a veteran of two Krofft shows, Sigmund and the absolute worst of the lot, Lidsville.

Special Features: There's a Lidsville commentary by George Lopez and an interview with a Krofft producer. It would've been some fun if they got the actors together for a little reunion.


The Truman Show: Special Edition

Paramount Home Video
Movie A
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

Director Peter Weir and writer Andrew Niccol's 1998 movie stands as an amazing time-marker in entertainment history. It predated the rise of reality television, almost predicted it, and the once-ridiculous ideas put forth in this film have become closer to reality. The idea of a show chronicling a man from his birth throughout his adulthood has probably been bandied about at some network offices.

When Weir cast Jim Carrey as Truman, a man unaware of his status as the star of the world's most popular TV show, the actor was struggling to find his crossover role. The Cable Guy, now regarded as a good film, disappointed with its initial theatrical release. While that movie was a departure from his usual clown status, it was still a comedy that required slapstick shenanigans.

Weir had helped another comic actor crossover to more serious roles (Robin Williams in the dreadful Dead Poet's Society), and his choice of Carrey was a daring one. Carrey delivered an amazing performance, solidifying him as a capable dramatic actor (who is repeatedly, and unjustly, denied Oscar nominations).

Watch closely for Paul Giamatti as a production assistant on the fictional television show. Ed Harris, Oscar nominated for the role of Christof, wasn't the first choice for the part. Dennis Hopper walked off the set due to creative differences, and Harris jumped in at the last minute.

Special Features: An excellent two-part documentary on the making of the film features the participation of many involved with the project. Extended and deleted scenes are intriguing, especially a "future cast" meeting where Christof discusses developments with cast members of the TV show behind the scenes.


Downfall

Sony Pictures
Movie A-
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

This is an incredible film. Bruno Ganz is Adolf Hitler, stumbling through his final bunker-dwelling days in this dramatic re-enactment of Traudl Junge's (Hitler's secretary) recollections (her memories were also captured in the documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary). Filmed in Germany and nominated for an Academy Award (Best Foreign Language Film), the film dares to show Hitler as the human he was. Ganz's performance goes from quiet and contemplative to stark-raving mad, without one misstep. This really is one of the century's greatest acting accomplishments.

The film was made in Germany, and it did cause some controversy. Some of Nazis are portrayed in a sympathetic manner, and while it might be likely that some Nazis performed the occasional positive act, portraying them as heroic is liable to get some blood boiling.

Special Features: A director's commentary and a making-of documentary. The documentary is an excellent, hour-long look at all aspects of the filmmaking. Actors talk about the travails of playing such historical figures as Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.

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