Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Lost Columbia Cartoons - King Midas Jr.

Firstly, apologies for the recent lack of posts. Been a busy few weeks for yours truly.

And secondly, for this series, I decided not to make screenshots of whole cartoons, and instead I will post short video extracts of the remaining Columbia cartoons (but watch out for the occasional complete cartoon). The reason for this is because my computer just can not cope with DVD playback (I mainly get frozen pictures), which results in making the process of obtaining screenshots time-consuming, tedious, and just damn annoying! Nevertheless, I do hope that these video extracts will prove fascinating to you good folks.

Ok, I'll stop moaning about my computer now!

Today's post will be...

This cartoon, King Midas Jr., was directed by John Hubley and Paul Sommer, and was released on 18th December 1942. This apparantly no longer exists in the Columbia archive, but does survive in the collectors'/traders' circuits as a complete 16mm colour print.

The short focuses on King Midas Jr, who is given the power of touch by his infamous father. Unfortunately, a mix-up by the angels/telegram boys results in him turning everything he touches into...rubber!

This 1m 30s extract is taken from the ending where, after his futile attempt to eat a banquet without turning everything rubbery, he attempts suicide, but it's not that easy! However, there is some hope for the little king (which relates to a conservation effort during WW2)...

King Midas Jr exerpt
Uploaded by ldglover

This video will be available for the next four weeks.

Monday, May 07, 2007

DVD Review: The Goodies - The Complete LWT Series (Network - Region 2)

“C’mon everybody, it’s gibbon time!”
Despite the BBC’s reluctance to repeat any episodes of The Goodies (bar the miraculous showing of the “Winter Olympics” episode last year – the first repeat for 20 years!), Network’s “Best Of” DVD compilations has proved to be best-sellers. And now, Network is releasing the entire last series featuring the antics of the inventive-yet-idiotic do-gooders who will do “anything, anytime”, with Tim Brooke-Taylor as the patriotic coward, Bill Oddie as the scruffy rebel, and Graeme Garden as the corduroy-wearing scientist. The main difference, other than this is not a compilation, is that this set comprises their entire output for ITV!
Frustrated with waiting for the BBC to give them the go-ahead for another series, and due to the need of money by Graeme and Bill, the trio decided to accept an offer from LWT. After the 1981 Christmas special, the ITV series started on January 1982. Despite a poorly-suited 6:30pm showing on Saturdays (the BBC broadcasted their shows after the 9pm watershed), it did receive a respectable amount of viewers, but according to LWT (who just had a change of management), not enough to justify the high cost of making the series. Locked in a three-year contact but not required to make any new shows, the trio had no choice but to pursue separate projects (however, they were allowed to reunite to provide voices for the BBC cartoon Bananaman). Even though they never officially split up, it was the end of the madcap trio.
However, we are treated to some great episodes, including their enrolment as oversized dwarves, battling the spread of football hooliganism into ballet, their search of the missing Arthur C. Clarke (and having an encounter with Bigfoot at the same time), Bill disguising as a Swedish au-pair to look after (and get rid of) his replacement – a baby robot, and Graeme selling a new line in pets – people dressed as dogs!
As many fans also know, the series was very heavily influenced by the American theatrical cartoons, mainly Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. This series contains such references as the Roadrunner and Disney’s Snow White. Also, there are animation references in the use of props, such as the one featured below (no prizes for guessing who the character is).
Although the series can not match up with the earlier BBC shows, there are still uproaringly funny after 25 years. Funny moments include the return of Kitten Kong, Bill on a destructive rampage on his birthday, and a punk rendition of “I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside” (containing possibly the only bleeped-out swearword in the entire series). I don’t mind admitting that I had the fit of the giggles during the beginning of Bigfoot, where “Arthur C. Clarke” (who is really Graeme in disguise) tries to prove his crackpot theory that the Loch Ness monster…
…is in fact “a common garden rhinoceros, floating upside-down underwater, holding a French loaf in his mouth, balancing a tortoise” (it sounds more plausible).
Sadly, despite initial news that the seven episodes will be digitally-restored, the episodes are in fact straight-transfers from the archive tapes (perhaps they blew the budget on the bountiful extras). For 1980’s videotape, the picture and sound quality is very acceptable with little damage. As we come to expect from Network, all episodes retain the opening LWT logo, adcaps, and endcaps.
Unlike the previous sets, all the episodes are on disc 1, which includes commentaries by Tim, Graeme & Bill on two episodes. Like the previous sets, Bill leads the way with Graeme being the most-quiet participant.
However, disc 2 contains a mouth-watering selection of extras, even more than their previous sets. The set includes two loosely-related sitcoms: Doctor in the House and From the Top.

Doctor in the House, loosely based on the Richard Gordon books, centres around the antics of the good-natured medical student Michael Upton and his laddish mates. Most of the first, and the entire second series were written by Graeme and Bill, just before The Goodies first started. The episode featured on this set, Doctor in the Box, is about the goings-on during a filming of their medical college, with Graeme making a cameo appearance as a TV chairman. The first two series are already available from Network (DD Home Entertainment has also released the first series as a mail-order release).
From the Top is a children’s sitcom starring Bill (who co-wrote the series with his wife, Laura Beaumont), and is about a forty-something bank manager who quits his job and enrols on an acting school with a bunch of teenagers. Made soon after the unofficial break-up of the Goodies, it further showcases Bill’s song-writing talents. In this episode, Growing Up…& Out (the opening episode of the second series), Bill discovers that this fellow students were growing out of their uniforms, and appeals to the headmistress that they should be allowed to wear what they choose. Unfortunately, he didn’t account for their extreme tastes (one girl turns up in a squeaky rubber dress). It is interesting to note that Bill co-wrote the theme tune with ex-Monkee Michael Dolenz, who was also the director-producer of the first series.
Also featured are five songs performed by the Goodies on two 1970’s ITV music shows: Shang-A-Lang and Look Alive. The selection features most of their chart hits, including Black Pudding Bertha and the infamous Funky Gibbon (sadly, Graeme’s microphone didn’t work properly during the performance).
Also included are individual and group interviews taken from the ITV archive. Sadly, Network was supplied with “cropped-widescreen” versions of a couple of This Morning interviews (which were broadcast in the early 90’s, before the days of widescreen broadcasts). The interview footage was edited to remove any clips of other TV shows, but as this would be a clearance nightmare, it is perfectly understandable.
The remaining extras include a stills gallery and a couple of news footage, including Tim being a judge in a 1981 turkey competition.
To round off the package, a very-informative booklet is provided, giving extensive details of all the programmes and the extras.
Despite the lack of restoration, this is still a hilarious and essential DVD set. The humour has not aged at all, and the extras are plentiful and pleasing. If Paramount Comedy saw fit in repeating the ITV episodes, we can hope that they (or any other satellite/cable station, but preferably the BBC themselves) will broadcast the long-neglected BBC shows. Highly recommended.
DD Home Entertainment currently has no plans to release their own (mail-order) DVD set.

Images (C) ITV Productions & Network
Text (C) Lee Glover. Not to be copied without permission.