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DVD Reviews

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

There are some odd choices on the new DVD release list this week.

Lil Abner

When this DVD arrived at the office, one of the reporters asked, Dobbs, what is this?

She had never heard of Lil Abner and, of course how could she have? The famed comic strip by Al Capp had long been gone by the time she was old enough to reads the funnies.

The nature of popular culture is that unless there is a way to extend the appeal of a book, TV show, movie or a song beyond the generation for whom it was made, these creations are bound to fade away.

Cartoonist Al Capps comic strip was a huge hit for years. His tales of the hillbilly Yokum family and their neighbors in the rural town of Dogpatch were not so gentle satires of American culture and politics. Capp originated the phrase Sadie Hawkins Day as a vehicle in his comic strip in which the women chased the available men for marriage. The phrase has lived on in the language, although it means somewhat different things.

When Daisy Mae finally caught her beloved Lil Abner, the event was the cover story for an issue of Life magazine.

In the late 1950s a popular Broadway musical was based on the strip and eventually adapted for the screen. Lil Abner is a loud, garish affair with plenty of good looking women (Leslie Parrish, Stella Stevens and Julie Newmar) chasing after completely undesirable hillbillies. Only one is good-looking, Lil Abner himself (Peter Palmer), and he is so lazy and conceited that one cant imagine why he would be so desired.

That is, of course, one of Capps satiric points, but what worked as a comic strip simply comes off as irritating when portrayed by flesh and blood actors.

Over-the-top performances, stage-bound direction, and forgettable songs make one wonder why the folks at Paramount thought this film was worth digging out of the vault.

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Teachers Pet

I love a good newspaper movie (check out Five Star Final and While the City Sleeps) and I was looking forward to watching this film. Clark Gable stars as Jim Gannon, the city editor for a New York daily who isnt impressed with higher education but eventually changes his mind when he meets up with college instructor, Erica Stone, played by Doris Day.

Well, while this film has some good moments, the problem is that it becomes a romance and Gable is old enough to be Days father and looks every day of it. I always find it interesting how we accept a geezer chasing after a young woman, but we get all queasy when an older women is attracted to a younger man.

When Gannon grabs Stone in one scene and kisses her passionately, Stone almost collapses with ecstasy. In real life, she would have called a cop.

Not the best outing for either star, although this film shows the charm of Doris Day, a performer is who well worth re-discovering.

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This amazing documentary follows the fortunes of two rocks bands, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, from 1996 to 2004 and at times its unlike a true life This is Spinal Tap.

Director and producer Ondi Timoner won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Festival this unflinchingly sad and funny look at how people chase success and what it can do to them once they achieve some part of it.

The film asks, What is the goal of being in a band? Artistic accomplishment or becoming a star? Or is it both?

For the drugged-out Anton Newcombe, leader of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the creation of his music is most important. One assumes that Newcombe would rather be a solo act who just records as he repeatedly attacks both his band members and members of his audiences at performances.

The commercial success of Courtney Taylor and the Dandy Warhols clearly inflames Newcombe because at one point the two bands were not only at the same level of success in the independent music scene, but they geniunely admired each others music.

You dont have to like or know the music to become caught up in the Newcombes self-destructive antics.

This two-disc set has plenty of extras including 2 more hours of deleted scenes, music videos and other footage.

Music lovers and documentary fans have plenty to like in Dig!

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