12/08/06
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

We're in full holiday mode and the elves are turning out some outstanding gift-giving ideas for the couch jockeys on your list. As long as your couch potato has a sense of humor, we can safely suggest that any of these will not only make the season bright, but have you and yours ho-ho-ho'ing all the way to 2007.


Beavis and Butthead -- The Mike Judge Collection (MTV/Paramount)

Say what you will about the political correctness of the content, however Mike Judge's Beavis and Butt-Head animated shorts -- that originally ran on MTV during the mid '90s -- hit a nerve, or more like severed a pop culture artery. Judge and MTV have once again joined forces to create the ultimate 10-disc anthology, gathering all three of the triple-disc "Mike Judge Collection" box sets as well as the Special Collector's Edition of the dynamic duo's 1996 feature-length film Beavis And Butt-Head Do America.

While not authoritatively complete, Judge has chosen 122 of the nearly 200 Beavis And Butt-Head­ installments for the bulk of this13-plus hour package. All the great ones are here: "Washing The Dog," "1-900-BEAVIS," "Late Night With Butt-Head," "Date Bait," "Figure Drawing," "Mr. Anderson's Balls," "Teen Talk," "Liar! Liar!," "Generation In Crisis," "Choke," "The Great Cornholio," "Sprout," "No Service," "Sexual Harassment," "Prank Call," "Leave It To Beavis," and the series concluding episode "Beavis & Butt-Head Are Dead".

Those familiar with the original broadcasts will recall the variety of brief music videos that were usually accompanied by off-screen and sometimes off-colour comments by the boys. For many fans, these underhanded social commentaries were as entertaining and amusing as the cartoon itself. Enthusiasts can rejoice as there are a total of 39 clips from a range of artists that include Korn, P.J. Harvey, Rollins Band, Pantera, Madonna, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Alice Cooper, Soundgarden, Salt N Pepa, and Rush.

The set is jammed with other extras as well. From a behind-the-scenes perspective, none are as revelationary as the three-part "Taint Of Greatness: Journey Of Beavis & Butt-Head" documentary. Here, viewers are taken beyond the ink and celluloid to examine the creators and the unexpected phenomenon that literally defined a generation. Additionally, there are plenty of MTV-related promo appearances, including various Video Music Award ceremonies, their unforgettable 1997 Thanksgiving Special with Kurt Loder and even the Butt-Bowl segments that aired during the Superbowl. Plus, a never-aired segment of VH-1's I Love The '90s, as well as the uncut pilot short "Frog Baseball".

Danger Mouse --
The Complete Seasons 1 & 2 (A&E Home Video)
The Complete Seasons 3 & 4 (A&E Home Video)
The Complete Seasons 5 & 6 (A&E Home Video)
The Final Season (A&E Home Video)

Kids of all ages should get a kick out of this UK exported cartoon. For those who didn't catch it in the mid '80s -- when the Nickelodeon cable network aired it in the lower 48 -- here is the premise. Danger Mouse is not only a mild mannered superhero, but also the world's smallest secret agent. Along with his incorrigibly silly sidekick Penfold, they fight international crime syndicates. Their headquarters -- located in a Central London mail box -- is also where they touch base with their chief, an old-school stuffed shirt named Commander K. The show blended an action-packed James Bond-esque adventure with some of the most clever dialogue to have ever been written for a children's cartoon show.

The series was first shown on the ITV network in England between September of 1981 and March of 1992. All 89 installments -- spread over these four titles -- are offered up just as they aired and in their original sequence. While definitely a product of a time predating computer-generated animation, the images and sound throughout the DVDs are decidedly crisper than both the broadcasts and the mid '80s home video tapes that have been out of print for nearly a decade.

Filling out each set is a handful of fun supplements. Primary among them is the eagerly-anticipated release of the formerly un-shown pilot, titled "The Mystery of The Lost Chord," which turns up on Complete Seasons 1 & 2. There is a karaoke version of the oh-so-catchy theme song and even options for 'alternate' versions of the theme on The FINAL Seasons box set. Speaking of extra goodies, both The Complete Seasons 5 & 6 and The FINAL Seasons contain an episode in the continuing adventures of "Count Duckula," -- another action/adventure serial brought to life by Cosgrove Hall Productions animation studios, the same fine folks who created Danger Mouse.

Benny Hill --
The Naughty Early Years DVD Set One 1969-1971 (A&E Home Video)
The Naughty Early Years DVD Set Two 1972-1974 (A&E Home Video)
The Naughty Early Years DVD Set Three 1975-1977 (A&E Home Video)
The Hill's Angels Years DVD Set Four 1978-1981 (A&E Home Video)
The Hill's Angels Years DVD Set Five 1982-1985 (A&E Home Video)

Each of these sets contains original full-length episodes of the Benny Hill Show, exactly the way they were telecast across the pond. By the time they were shown stateside, the contents had been crudely whittled down to half their length. More often than not the editing had no regard for continuity, meaning that those sketches that happened to run throughout a show, were haphazardly represented. Thankfully, the folks at A&E wisely decided to restore every song, dance and skit for these collections and yes, that even means the oft-rumored never rebroadcast black and white episodes from the late '60s.

In the US much was made of the show's strong sexual innuendo -- which is G-rated by 21st Century standards. However, when seen in proper context, modern viewers can observe that there was decidedly more to Hill's wit and humor than bawdy scenes and scantily clad ladies -- although that never seemed to hurt. Particularly fascinating is Hill's obvious affinity and homages for the physical humor of American comedians such as Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton, and most evidently, Charlie Chaplin.

All of the classic skits and characters are here, sporting their complete and unadulterated peccadilloes. Hill himself inhabits his own inimitable creations, such as the rotund, squinty-eyed and perpetually salutary Fred Scuttle, the barely-intelligible and misunderstood Mr. Chow Mein or rock idol Tex Cymbal. Equally ingenious are the Hill-penned ballads and songs that usually opened the show. In fact, Hill had a top ten pop hit in the UK with the tale of "Ernie, The Fastest Milkman In The West." Other musical favorites found within are "Beach Of Waikiki," "News Of The Family," "Dapper Dan, The Lady Killer Man," "Wild Women," "Juanita Bonita Delores," "My Garden Of Love," and "Broken-Hearted Lovers Stew." Speaking of music, there are plenty of other rare performances by the female vocal trio The Ladybirds, as well as other guest singers -- all of which are once again restored to their rightful place on the broadcast.

Of course Benny Hill Show regulars will note the presence of his reoccurring cast mates. Most easily recognizable as key members of the ensemble are "Little" Jackie Wright -- the older bald man that Benny always slaps on the back of the head -- as well as Bob Todd and Henry McGee -- two of Hill's most celebrated straight men -- and, of course those lovely Hills Angels. Jenny Lee-Wright, Anna Dawson, Sue Upton, Bettina Le Beau, Sue Bond, Louise English and Abigail Higgins, just to name a few contributors.

The DVD sets are stacked with bonuses scattered throughout. Prime viewing includes Hill's rare silent movie Eddie In August (1970), the documentary The World's Favourite Clown (1991) and the A&E Biography episode on Hill's life, titled "Benny Hill: The Laughter And Controversy". There are a pair of mini-documentaries "I Was A Hill's Angel" and "Hills Angel's: Off The Record" that take a look at the ladies that made up the Hill's Angles. And if you really think you know Benny, you can take the "Cheeky Challenge" -- an interactive trivia game with new questions on each quiz.

So whadda ya waiting for? Crank up "Yakety Sax" and make this a holly, jolly Benny Hill holiday!


Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


 

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