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Tales from the Dog and comedy from the Poodle

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

A very mixed bag of DVDs is in this week's column.

Dog the Bounty Hunter: The Family Speaks

This new DVD is a collection of two episodes of the highly popular reality show, "Dog The Bounty Hunter." If you've missed this show, it depicts the life and careers of a flamboyant Hawaiian-based bail bondsman and his family. Duane "Dog" Chapman looks like a professional wrestler, clearly enjoys the challenges of hunting down those who've skipped their bail and yet acts like a big brother to many of the fugitives treating them with respect and offering advice.

Dog himself has had a rough life and had served a prison sentence for murder. He is a Christian, though, and wrote in his new autobiography that God led him to be a bounty hunter.

This DVD details the most famous episode in Dog's career when he and his brother and son were held in Mexico in 2003 when they successful captured Andre Luster, an American serial rapist who was convicted on 86 counts. Because bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico, Dog and his colleagues were briefly jailed.

In 2006, U.S. Marshals on order of the federal government apprehended Dog because Mexican officials were considering asking for extradition. Dog was released on $300,000 bail after a storm of public opinion.

The DVD was produced before this summer when a Mexican judge announced the statute of limitations had expired. Dog is still under the provisions of his bail agreement, however.

For Dog fans, this is probably something they'd like to see if they've not seen it already. At 47 minutes, though, the first program is a bit padded with people making the same statement over and over and the same news footage repeated as well.

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Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

Have you ever heard about the Salton Sea in southern California? I hadn't until I watched this entertaining and engaging documentary about a huge lake created by an accident at the turn of the 20th century.

No one intended to channel water from the Colorado River into a geographic natural bowl and no one thought the result would be a lake 35 miles long and 15 miles wide with water almost as salty as the ocean.

Real estate developers in the 1950s and '60s saw the area as the next Palm Springs: a resort and retirement community featuring a lake for fishing, swimming and boating.

A flood in the 1970s reversed those plans and the area looks more like a ghost town.

What has made it worse is the unique ecology of the lake. There are natural fish kills that range in the millions making the lake problematical for recreational uses. However, the lake must be preserved because it's an important wetlands area for birds.

The films starts out focusing on the largely odd population who insist that living in the desert next to a salty lake is a good thing, but it takes a more serious turn when depicting the ecological challenges the lake presents and why it must be saved.

Like all good documentaries this film captures your interest even though you knew nothing about the subject when you started watching.

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Weiss-o-Rama: Six-Hour Comedy Collection

Okay, film fans, here's a test for you who are the following people: Ben Turpin, Snub Pollard and Poodles Hanneford?

Poodles Hanneford?

Well, if you're student of silent comedy you might remember Ben Turpin, best known for his crossed eyes, and Australian comic Snub Pollard, who starred in his own comedies as well as supporting others.

Turpin, Pollard and circus clown Hanneford, renowned for his trick riding routines, are among the performers featured in this collection of admittedly obscure short comedies produced by the Weiss Brothers in the waning days of the silent era. The Weiss Brothers were low-budget producers whose company, Artclass Pictures, ground out short subjects, westerns and serials through the silent days and into the early talkies.

These are not on a par with the shorts made by comics such as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd or Charles Chaplin. The Weiss Brothers' shorts were considered a notch or two below those made by Mack Sennett and Hal Roach.

Still, there is plenty of goofy fun in this collection that was carefully compiled by Richard Roberts, who said in one of his audio commentaries that he saved us from the worse of the Weiss Brothers collection.

The pictorial quality of these shorts is dazzling, taken from archived original 35mm prints and the musical scores are great. The comedy itself is hit or miss and there is plenty of politically incorrect material that might offend some.

Besides star vehicles for Turpin and Pollard there are two shorts from the "Izzie and Lizzie" series depicting the romance of a Catholic girl and Jewish boy ripped off from the Broadway hit show "Abie's Irish Rose." There is also a series of shorts based on the comic strip "Hairbreadth Harry," a popular parody of melodrama.

For hardcore silent film and comedy fans, this collection will provide some very interesting, if not entertaining, viewing.

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Last of the Breed

Earlier this year three legends of country and western music, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price teamed up for a tour titled "Last of the Breed." They were accompanied by the western swing group Asleep at the Wheel, and one of the concerts was taped for this DVD.

The result is something very, very cool: three veteran musicians who are clearly at ease with one another and with their material just having fun on stage.

There are 35 classic songs in this concert, including standards for each artist such as "You Were Always on My Mind," "Okie from Muskogee," and "For the Good Times." The music of Bob Wills also looms very large. The man credited for creating western swing influenced all three performers who talk about Wills in a loose, but entertaining interview that is part of the disc's extras.

As I'm a sucker for western swing, I enjoyed this concert very much.

I can't really imagine which artists of the current generation of country performers will occupy the role these three have in another 25 years. They will have very big boots to fill.

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