Tag Archives: DVDs

Geekstuff: The Birthday Rundown

Well, I’ve been thirty-four years old for a week now and I’ve gotta say I’m liking it so far. There are times when being an adult is all about socks and shirts and ties, oil changes and mortgage payments, but I’m happy to say that my family and friends know that I’m still all about the books, comics, toys and games. Apart from a very nice polo shirt from my mother-in-law, most of my birthday bounty would have been eagerly received by seventeen-year-old me.

  • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox, from my young apprentice. Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
  • The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, from Laura.
  • A Boba Fett t-shirt, also from Laura.
  • The Ultimate Fantastic Four trade paperbacks volumes 1-5, from Miscellaneous G™.
  • Three Hellboy comics signed by Mike Mignola, from Chris.
  • A green FlyTech Dragonfly, from my sister-in-law and her family. A remote-controlled ornithopter! How cool is that?
  • A musical Batman card from my elder, bigger little sister.
  • Filthy lucre from my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents-in-law, which I used to buy:
    • 18 by Moby (CD)
    • Play by Moby (CD)
    • Hellboy: Sword of Storms (DVD)
    • Dune: Extended Edition (DVD)
    • Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (DVD)
    • Pan’s Labyrinth (DVD)
  • Last but not least, pumpkin pie from my grandparents-in-law. Yes, it’s more of a fall pie. I don’t care. I will eat it now and then, I will eat it anywhen!

[EDIT: I forgot a couple of things!]

  • Police Squad! The Complete Series on DVD, from the Wiitalas. Police Squad! didn’t succeed as a television series (a shame, because it’s hilarious), but it eventually evolved into three Naked Gun movies.
  • Spamalot Original Cast Recording, also from the Wiitalas. Laura and I saw Spamalot last year, and it was fantastic. My favorite song is probably “The Song That Goes Like This”, but they’re all good.
  • The first season of Arrested Development on DVD, from my sister and her boyfriend. Despite several people telling me I should have been watching this show when it was originally on the air, I’ve never seen it. I’m probably directly responsible for its cancellation.
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also from my sister and her boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think this book has something to do with that “fourth meal” I’ve been hearing about at Taco Bell.

Are my friends and family not awesome? Yes. Yes they are. They made me a very happy birthday boy.

Shatner DVD Club: Three Months

For my birthday this year, Laura bought me a membership in the William Shatner DVD Club. Since then I’ve received the following DVDs in the mail:

  • Immortel (2004) – This French film — directed by Enki Bilal, who also created the comics upon which the movie is based — is an interesting blend of live-action and computer-generated characters set against an almost entirely computer-generated backdrop. In the year 2095, the ancient Egyptian gods have reappeared in a pyramid hovering over New York City. The hawk-headed god Horus is being judged by Anubis and Set, and has seven days to… well, that would be telling. The story is bizarre, but nothing compared to the visuals, which range from stunning to jarring. Settings and vehicles are stylistic and work well, but most of the computer-generated characters just don’t mesh with their live-action counterparts.
  • Falcon Down (2000) – This bonus DVD was shipped with Immortel. Pilot Hank Thomas (Dale Midkiff) is recruited by Maj. Robert Carson (William Shatner) to steal a top secret plane and microwave weapon before both can be sold to the Chinese military. As techno-thrillers go, it’s no Hunt For Red October, but it’s got some decent aerial sequences and special effects. The story has a few twists and turns, but nothing truly surprising. There’s some docuentary-style footage that really doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the plot, and the movie would have been fine (if shorter) without it.
  • Close Your Eyes (2002) – Also known as Doctor Sleep, this one is a supernatural thriller in which hypnotherapist Michael Strother (Goran Visnjic) has a vision of a young girl who escaped from a serial killer. Together with policewoman Janet Losey (Shirley Henderson, who plays Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films), Michael follows the trail of the killer, who believes he has unlocked the key to immortality. Close Your Eyes is a fairly competent and gritty thriller, with a decent story that delves into the supernatural without going overboard.
  • Ginger Snaps (2000) – I haven’t watched the DVD yet, but I saw Ginger Snaps on The Independent Film Channel a few months ago. Unfortunately, I also saw the sequel, Ginger Snaps: Unleashed, around the same time and I remember very little about the original. The story involves a teenage girl who, after being bitten by “something” in the woods, begins to undergo a transformation that’s almost as bad as going through puberty. I’ll do a mini-review after I’ve had a chance to watch the DVD.

I should be receiving another movie from the club in the next week or so. It will most likely be Butterfly Effect (starring Ashton Kutcher), the Japanese disaster film Virus, or it2i2, an independent film that has been described by the London Times as “The Da Vinci Code meets The Matrix, only with a lower budget.”

DVD Review: Batman (1943)

Batman 1943 Serial (DVD)Batman (1943)

Starring Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, Shirley Patterson, J. Carrol Naish, William Austin, Gus Glassmire, Knox Manning, John Maxwell, Ted Oliver, Dick Curtis and Emperor Ming.

Directed by Lambert Hillyer.

Batman was a mere four years old when he first made the leap to the silver screen in 1943. At the height of World War II and Batman (Lewis Wilson) and Robin (Douglas Croft) secretly work for the United States government. The dynamic duo receives their assignments via coded letters and telegrams notifying them that criminal elements intend to steal shipments of radium.Gotham City apparently received shipments of radium about as frequently McDonalds receives shipments of McNuggets.

The criminal element in question: an underworld gang run by Doctor Daka (J. Carrol Naish), an agent of Emperor Hirohito who has designed a disintegrator gun that requires radium to function. In Daka’s diabolic hands, the disintegrator gun would undoubtedly be used to destroy the infrastructure of the United States and prepare the country for its ultimate dominance by Japan.

Yes, Batman is without question a product of its time. For example, here is how the narrator describes an all-but abandoned area of Gotham City known as Little Tokyo:

This was part of a foreign land, transplanted bodily to America and known as Little Tokyo. Since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs, it has become virtually a ghost street…

Later, when Bruce Wayne’s fianceé, Linda Page (Shirley Patterson) meets Doctor Daka, she shrinks back and exclaims, “A Jap!”

“Please to say, ‘Nipponese’,” Daka admonishes.

Detainment camps and racial slurs that might make current-day audiences chuckle nervously aside, the 15-part serial is pretty standard stuff: lots car chases and awkward fistfights, each episode culminating with the apparent death of the Batman in an explosion, fire, or crushed beneath whatever the crooks see fit to drop on his cowled head.

The serial did have a definite impact on Batman in the comic books, as it introduced both the batcave (called “The Bat’s Cave” in the movie) and the current version of Alfred. Prior to the movie serial, the comic book version of Alfred was rotund and clean-shaven, but Bruce Wayne’s on-screen butler (portrayed by William Austin) was tall, thin and mustachioed. He was also rather high-strung, a personality trait not generally seen in current incarnations of Alfred.

Perhaps the best thing about the Batman 2-disc DVD set is its presentation. The DVD cover art and disc menus bear a strong resemblence (especially in terms of color scheme) to Warner Brothers’, dark, edgy Batman Begins marketing material and DVD packaging. It’s a deliberate mimicking, as evidenced by the tagline on the back cover: See how Batman really began.

Apart from being a (very pretty) blatant rip-off, the packaging also fails to represent the movie versions of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder. In fact, there isn’t a single screen shot from the serial anywhere on the DVD cover, front or back.

Here’s the front cover/disc one menu artwork:This seems to be a classic Batman pose: the Dark Knight swooping in with his arms spread wide, cape flaring out behind him, one knee drawn up and the other leg fully extended. The wrapping paper Miscellaneous G™ used features the 1980’s-era Batman in a nearly identical pose.

Batman Disc 1 Menu
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Here is the back cover/disc two menu art:

Batman Disc 2 Menu
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Finally, here are Batman and Robin in all their glory:

Robin and Batman
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That’s a far cry from the Nomex survival suit and graphite cowl worn by Christian Bale, and Lewis Wilson isn’t wearing a utility belt so much as a utility girdle, but that’s definitely a bat on his chest and a cape on his back. For better or for worse, he’s the first of the movie Batmen.

DVD Review: Los Cuatro Fantásticos (2005)

Fantastic Four Ultimate Collector's Edition DVDFantastic Four Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD (2005)

Starring Horatio Hornblower, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Hamish Linklater, Kerry Washington, Laurie Holden and Maria Menounos.

Directed by Tim Story.

The Fantastic Four Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD comes with a miniature reprint of Ultimate Fantastic Four #12, a $5-off coupon (expired on 31 March 2006) for the 44 Years of Fantastic Four DVD-ROM, and a round “collector’s tin” containing the DVD, eight round “collector’s cards” and CD-ROM containing the first twenty-three issues of the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book series in PDF. In lieu of a regular DVD clamshell case, the collector’s edition also includes a cardboard stand for the collector’s tin.

As gimmicks go, this one isn’t so hot. That’s going to look really nice sitting on the center channel speaker above my television until I inadvertently knock it off while fishing for a DVD or Laura gets tired of looking at it. Either way, the lack of a clamshell DVD case is going to make it a pain in the ass to store. Two points for initial impact, minus several dozen points for impracticality.

The round “collector’s cards” just what you might expect: images from the movie or marketing material with appropriate blurbs on the back. One for each of the main characters and a couple for the movie in general. Nothing too exciting there. Of course, the only place to conveniently store the cards is in the round collector’s tin.

The mini-comic looks like something Pizza Hut might have given away back in the early 1990’s. I can only guess that issue number twelve of Ultimate Fantastic Four was chosen because it is the culmination of the ultimate quartet’s first encounter with the ultimate version of Doctor Doom. It’s not bad, but a direct movie tie-in—say an issue of the comic book adaptation of the movie—would have been a better choice.

On the other hand, I’m very pleased with the other “ultimate” material, despite the fact that it doesn’t reflect the movie version of the Fantastic Four. The first twenty-three issues of Ultimate Fantastic Four (plus the first annual) more than makes up for the impracticality of the collector’s tin and the disposability of the collector’s cards and mini-comic, provided you’re at least interested in Marvel’s “Ultimate” line of comics, which I am. I’ll save comparison of the Ultimate Fantastic Four and the Lee/Kirby classics for another day.

Finally, there is the DVD itself, which has a full-length feature commentary by members of the cast and several “making of” featurettes. There’s also a video diary of the pre-release cast appearances, but to be honest, I can only take so much of Jessica Alba when she’s not portraying someone other than Jessica Alba, so I only watched a couple of minutes before exploring the rest of the disc. There’s only one DVD disc, so the ultimate collector’s edition isn’t exactly brimming with special features. There are a couple of music videos as well as the film’s teasers and trailers.

So which feature did I most enjoy? The Spanish language audio track, of course. I’m disappointed whenever I see that the only languages available on a DVD are English and French. Why? Well, mostly because I have no desire to learn French as a second language, whereas I would very much like to learn to speak Spanish. Also, Laura speaks a little Spanish, so she can relate the occasional amusing translation tidbit. For example, after Johnny Storm performs a stunt on a dirt bike in front of an arena of screaming fans, the announcer calls the stunt “old school” in the English dialog. In Spanish, he says, “We’ve seen that before, Johnny.”

Well, it amused us.

I’ve discussed the merits of Fantastic Four in a previous post, but I will say that the movie works very well on the small screen. The final battle, which seemed rather anti-climactic in the theater, played much better in my living room. Oh, and I like the Spanish version of the Thing’s voice better than I do Michael Chiklis’. Sorry, Commish.

Movie Review: Ultimate Avengers (2006)

Ultimate Avengers (2006)

Starring Justin Gross, David Boat, Grey DeLisle, Michael Massee, Nan McNamara, Nolan North, Fred Tatasciore, Andre Ware, Marc Worden and Princess Jehnna.

Directed by Curt Geda and Steven E. Gordon.

Ultimate Avengers, based on the Marvel comic series The Ultimates, is the first animated film produced by Marvel Comics and Lions Gate Films. It was released directly to DVD, and a sequel is slated for release (also direct-to-DVD) in July 2006.

Marvel’s “Ultimate” universe updates some of their classic superheroes (Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and The Avengers), retelling their origins in a more modern day setting. Some might say the Ultimate universe is Marvel’s way of milking their old standards one more time. After all, how many times can you re-tool the story of a kid getting bit by a spider? Personally, I think the concept works pretty well, and I’ve been collecting some of the Utimate collections as they are released in multi-issue trade paperbacks.

Ultimate Avengers does a fairly decent job of following the basic story set out in The Ultimates comic book, with a few minor and a couple not-so-minor differences. On the “minor” side of things, the comic book version of Thor, the tree-hugging son of Odin, has a goatee; his animated counterpart does not. Not a big deal. The movie, on the other hand, has an alien threat, something not in the first few issues of the comic book. I admit to being a bit behind on collecting The Ultimates (I actually have more issues of The Ultimate Spider-Man), so it may well be that the aliens are introduced later.

One thing I was really hoping to see in Ultimate Avengers was an exchange between Captain America (Justin Gross) and Bruce “The Incredible Hulk” Banner (Michael Massee). In an incredibly irresponsible move, Banner allowed himself to become the Incredible Hulk, despite the fact that the Hulk is an uncontrollable menace. Captain America and the rest of the Ultimates have gone through hell to stop the Hulk’s rampage, and Cap is helping Bruce Banner out of a huge crater in the middle of the city. “We should get someone to look at that gash on your head,” Cap says. “What gash?” Banner asks, nonplussed; his forehead is unblemished. As a reply, Cap kicks Banner in the head. ((I’m paraphrasing this, as I think I’ve loaned my copy of The Ultimates to someone.))

As portrayed in Ultimate Avengers, Captain America would probably never kick Bruce Banner in the head, no matter how much Banner deserved it, and it was pretty obvious from the start that the exchange wasn’t going to happen, but I was disappointed that it didn’t, nonetheless. The battle between the Hulk and the Ultimates/Avengers was there, but the events that incited it and the manner in which it concluded were different from those in the comic book.

Differences aside, Utimate Avengers does tell the story of how the supergroup is formed (including Captain America’s final battle in World War II, which left him frozen in ice), and it establishes the alien threat that appears to be the basis for the animated franchise. It touches on some of the basic drama between the various characters (Hank and Janet Pym have a troubled relationship, Thor really wants nothing to do with the Ultimates, Bruce Banner is a tortured, self-centered genius, and almost everyone Captain America knew is dead), but isn’t as edgy as its comic book counterpart.

As far as animation goes, Ultimate Avengers was about average. Most of it is traditional cel animation, with the occasional computer-generated tweak here and there. The style is less cartoony than the current crop of DC animated series, reminding me more of some of the recent X-Men and Spider-Man animated series. The voice-acting was decent, but the Nick Fury character in the comic book is so clearly based on Samuel L. Jackson that poor Andre Ware really had to fight an uphill battle to make the character his own.

The DVD contains a history of the Avengers, clips fans submitted in response to a casting call Lions Gate did in late 2004, a couple of trailers, a DVD-ROM “What Avenger Are You?” game ((I most resemble Iron Man. This may or may not be because I chose “Robotics” as the career that most interested me. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m an alcoholic, billionaire playboy with a bad heart.)) and a trivia track, which is basically the Pop Up Video version of the movie. The history of the Avengers focuses heavily on the classic Avengers and Kurt Busiek’s New Avengers, but very little on The Ultimates, which is rather disappointing. I haven’t watched the entire trivia track yet, but I do know that Captain America’s first appearance was in Captain America #1, way back in 1941. Actually, I knew that without the trivia track, but those are the sorts of tidbits that pop up on the screen. ((The trivia track really needed another pass through proofreading. Watching the first twenty-five minutes or so of the movie with the trivia track turned on, I saw about a dozen spelling errors and an instance where one popup contradicted one that had appeared earlier.))

All in all, Ultimate Avengers isn’t bad. I think Cap could be a little edgier, and the non-alien storyline in the first few issues of the comic book allows the characters and their relationships with one another to take the forefront, but I don’t think a horny Hulk chasing Betty around Manhattan would quite fit the tone (or the audience) of this particular animated movie.

Coming to DVD: Threshold

Slice of Sci-Fi reports that the short-lived alien invasion series Threshold will be available on DVD this summer. Like The Tick and Firefly, the DVD will include episodes not aired during the show’s initial run. That’s a whopping six episodes of Threshold I haven’t seen (but Canadians have; where’s the justice?), which might be enough to entice me to buy the DVD set.

Bit o’ Treshold trivia: one of the episodes took place in Painesville, Ohio, where Laura was born. I still say she’s not an alien.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Men say “I Love You” with flowers and jewelry. Laura says “I Love You” with CDs and science-fiction DVDs. Ladies, you’re getting a raw deal.

B-Tribe - Spiritual Spiritual

Spiritual Spiritual
B-Tribe

This is the fourth B-Tribe CD in my collection. The others — ¡Fiesta Fatal!, Sensual Sensual and Suave Suave — are all excellent. The “B” in B-Tribe stands for “Barcelona,” and the music is a sort of techno-latin: flamenco guitars and Spanish vocals mixed with a lot of synthesizers. Spiritual Spiritual is definitely the most low-key and mellow of the four albums, but it still has all the elements that keep me listening to B-Tribe. In fact, I’m listening to it as I write this, and wishing I’d gotten around to replacing my crappy headphones.

The Legend of Johnny Cash

The Legend of Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash

Twenty-one tracks that trace the Man in Black’s nearly half-century career in music, from “Cry! Cry! Cry!” originally recorded in 1955 to his 2003 cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt.” One of my personal favorites is “Delia’s Gone,” which appeared on American Recordings, Cash’s first outing with famed rock producer Rick Rubin. A bit of Man in Black trivia: the song “A Boy Named Sue” was written by Where the Sidewalk Ends author Shel Silverstein.

Enya - Amarantine

Amarantine
Enya

Amarantine is at least the seventh Enya album in my collection, not counting her work on the soundtrack for The Fellowship of the Ring and the two-track single Oíche Chiún. Alas, my copies of Watermark and Shepherd Moons have gone missing. Enya doesn’t disappoint on her latest release, which is rich with her signature sound. I read a review last week that points to this familiarity as being a bad thing, but for me it’s very, very good. Did I mention that I need new headphones? Man, these things suck.

Serenity

Serenity

Cross another item off the Amazon Wish List. I thought about picking this up about a week after Christmas, but couldn’t find it in the two or three stores I normally visit. I was a latecomer to the fandom of Joss Whedon’s Firefly series, but was just as eager to see Serenity when it hit theaters as the most rabid of Browncoats. If you have to ask what a Browncoat is, I suggest finding a copy of the Firefly box set and setting aside a weekend to watch the entire short-lived series. Then do the same with Serenity. If you ask nicely, I may even loan you my copy.

Movie Review: The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (DVD)The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)

Starring Steve Carrell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogan, Elizabeth Banks, Gerry Bednob, Leslie Mann and Amelia Earhart.

Directed by Judd Apatow.

Andy (Steve Carrell) is forty years old, lives alone, collects action figures, plays a lot of video games and rides a bicycle to work. He is employed at SmartTech, a Circuit City-esque home theater store, where he works in the stock room with Cal (Seth Rogan). Andy is also a virgin, due largely to some very unlucky encounters with the fairer sex as a young man. Once his co-workers learn if Andy’s “inexperience,” they embark on a crusade to rectify what they consider an egregious and wholly unprecedented situation.

Bam! Premise.

The 40 Year Old Virgin is laugh-out-loud funny, surprisingly touching, and unrelentingly crass. It is also not what I was expecting. See, I was thinking it would be the same type of humor as There’s Something About Mary: absurdist and adult-oriented, but never quite jumping feet-first into Lake Obscene. Laura was expecting the same thing and I believe she was put off by the reality. Me, not so much.

That said, The 40 Year Old Virgin didn’t quite live up to the hype. As funny as it was, there was still something missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. There are scenes that I could watch over and over, but I don’t know that I’d really want to watch the movie in its entirety again. A fine example of a scene I’ve watched multiple times is one in which Andy’s co-worker, Mooj (Gerry Bednob), explains that life is about people and children and connecting, and not about… well, a lot of other things that aren’t suitable for a semi-family-friendly weblog. It’s a stunning stream of obscenity delivered by an elderly Indian man and it almost makes me squirt whatever I’m drinking out of my tear ducts every time I watch it. That just ain’t right.

Similarly, the shock value of the chest-waxing scene makes it worthy of repeat viewing. If you’ve seen the trailer, I will say that Andy yelling “Kelly Clarkson” is the only piece of the scene that would be viable for a G-rated trailer.

Unfortunately, having a few very enjoyable scenes does not necessarily make a very enjoyable movie. The 40 Year Old Virgin can’t decide whether it wants to be a balls-to-the-wall crudefest or a tenderhearted love story so it tries to be both. I just don’t think it quite succeeds.

DVD Review: Airplane! “Don’t Call Me Shirley” Edition

Airplane! (Don’t Call Me Shirley Edition)Airplane! (1980)
“Don’t Call Me Shirley” Edition DVD (2005)

Starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and June Cleaver

Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that this is not a full review of the new Airplane! DVD. I only had time to watch the movie twice last night, and I’ll need to watch it two more times before I see every feature on the disc.Maybe. I don’t know if it’s possible to watch the “Long Haul” version with the audio commentary turned on, but that might be a good way to kill two birds with one stone.

Speaking of features, here’s a list of what’s on the “Don’t Call Me Shirley” Edition DVD:

  • Original theatrical release (widescreen)
  • Trivia track
  • Extended “Long Haul” version (with deleted scenes, interviews and more)
  • Audio commentary by producer Jon Davison and writer/directors Jim Abrahams and David & Jerry Zucker
  • Theatrical trailer

Laura and I watched the original theatrical release last night, then Laura slept on the couch while I watched the trivia track, which is essentially the “Pop-up Video” version.As far as I can tell the “pop-up” effect is accomplished through the use of souped-up subtitles, which is pretty spiffy. I really wish they’d do this with more movies. The last time I saw something similar was on the MTV Spider-Man animated series DVD. The pop-ups point out where David and Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and pretty much everyone they’ve ever known appear in the film (in one form or another). They also point out little production and continuity goofs as well as providing mini-bios for many of the film’s stars.They mention, for example, that Ted Striker is wearing a Navy uniform when he meet’s Elaine in the bar, but later is in an Army hospital. What they don’t mention is that Ted says he was a pilot in the Air Force.

As transfers to DVD do, this one looks pretty clean, but I wasn’t really nit-picking audio or video quality because I was too busy laughing at jokes and sight gags that I’ve seen at least a dozen times before. No matter how many times I watch Airplane!, it never gets old to me. The same is true of the first in the Naked Gun series, but for my money Leslie Nielsen’s deadpan delivery just doesn’t get any better than Doctor Rumack in Airplane!Every time I see two people sitting in an office or conference room, I’m tempted to stick my head in the door and say, “I just wanted to tell you both good luck, we’re all counting on you.”

It’s not just Nielsen, either. Airplane! is like a gathering of good ol’ boys who—while certainly very accomplished thespians—weren’t (at that time) generally thought of as comic actors. Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and Robert Stack are all ridiculously funny, each bringing their own style, each delivering lines that I could quote in my sleep. Relative newcomers (again, at that time) Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays are equally hilarious as the headstrong-yet-clueless Elaine and the deeply troubled Ted Striker.

The Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team may not deal in sophisticated comedy, but there’s a lot to be said for their brand of outlandish, in-your-face humor. Airplane! holds the tenth spot in the American Film Institute’s 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time, though I would probably kick it up a notch or nine.

Batman Returns, more or less.

Batman and Robin - The Complete 1949 Movie Serial (DVD)I finished up the 1949 Batman and Robin serial over the weekend, and I must retract something I said about it in a previous post. See, I asserted that the 1949 version of Batman had no utility belt. Boy, was I wrong. He may not use any bat-gadgets in the first half-dozen or so installments, but when he finally does, it’s a doozy.

Minions of the fiendish Wizard lure The Dark Knight and The Boy Wonder into a trap, seal them in an airtight room and pump CO2 (that’s carbon dioxide, kids!) in through the vents. Robin, whose job description apparently reads “fall unconscious at the first hint of danger,” collapses in a heap on the floor. In classic cliffhanger fashion, the episode ends with Batman slumping to the floor as well. Is this the end of the Dynamic Duo?

Of course not. You only think you saw Batman fall face-down beside Robin last week. In reality, Batman knelt next to his sidekick and instructed Robin to breathe through a special device. A device he retrieved from his utility belt. Turns out that big old belt has both function and form. In fact, there’s a full-sized, fully functional acetylene torch on Batman’s hip, complete with ignitor and hoses that lead… well, let’s not think about that. Batman wasn’t really into miniaturization in those days, I guess. After cutting a hole in the door, Batman tucks the torch back into the ridiculously huge holster on his utility belt. How is it that I didn’t notice that thing before? It boggles the mind, really.

You know what? That’s why I love those old serials. The sheer audacity employed in getting the heroes out of one seemingly fatal scrape after another entertains me. I chuckle to imagine the audience going to the theatre week after week to find out how Batman and Robin (or Flash Gordon) managed to escape certain doom. Would there be any cries of “That’s impossible! They were both aboard the plane when it exploded last week!” or “They didn’t have time to get to the trapdoor!” or did the audience simply accept that they didn’t really see the Caped Crusader fall into the pit a week ago?

Even the revelation of the Wizard’s identity in Chapter 15 is a big cheat, but there’s no reason to spoil it for future viewers, is there? I don’t know what the official moratorium on spoilers is (probably less than fifty-six years), but I’m not telling you who the Wizard really is. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.