300 of 305 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Restored? Well, not entirely. Nevertheless, a great effort was made to create a worthy boxed set of Honeymooners material and this deserves a top rating. This is the most complete 'Lost Episodes' collection ever (and perhaps to ever be) offered. Of course, the series itself is not complete without the 'Classic 39' (available separately), but for all else classic black and white Honeymooners, this is it.
Let's start from the beginning ...
This set includes the first Honeymooners skit (without Audrey Meadows, but with Art Carney as a police officer) from 5 October, 1951. As a nice added touch, the original host introduction precedes it. From this and other early skits, we witness the initial incarnations of some of television's most famous lines of dialog. "Don't steam me Alice" was there from the beginning, but "'cause I'm already steamed" would only be added in later routines. "One of these days Alice" was also not yet accompanied by "Pow! Right in the kisser". The earliest surviving Joyce Randolph appearance (as Trixie) is in The Ring Salesman from 7 December 1951. The earliest surviving Audrey Meadows (as Alice) can be found in The New Bowling Ball from 20 September 1952. Both are included in this impressive set. The kiss at the end was there from the start, but the true magic between actors was yet to take shape.
This collection was pieced together into an impressive 15-DVD set. And no double-sided discs, so that's a big plus. The booklet is nice and colorful, giving you a brief bio, basic information about the skits, and features some nice images. In fact, all skits appear to be listed, whether or not the films still exist. For what no longer exists (or otherwise could not be found), a chronological placement and identification is included in the list along with the episodes found on the respective discs of this collection.
The content is as good as you would hope, tracing Honeymooners back to the very beginning and garnishing it with several special features of which many had not been seen since their original airing decades ago. Beyond the obvious, you will find 1954 radio episodes, several interviews then and now, commercials, cast appearances on other shows, additional non-Gleason skits, and even Honeymooners scripts which were never filmed. And in the case of Stand-In for Murder, whose first airing had an aborted ending due to original TV time constraints, we not only get see a few added seconds not seen on reruns and an explanation (of sorts) from Jackie Gleason about the intended ending and why it wasn't performed, but you have the option of seeing a complete re-working of the skit shot the following week. This is a particular treat to see two versions of that particular skit.
The quality and restoration? Certainly not much can be expected from these early days of television, so one must look at the previously-available material and compare. From the previously unavailable works, some have audio anomalies such as a ringing noise and 'tin-can' sound. In many cases, the source is likely as good as it gets. In others, there are certainly some improvements, but they're not always welcome. At times, audio was de-hissed to the point where select spots are nearly lost and others are too loud. To give an example, the video on Lucky Number has been greatly improved; the image has been steadied and sharpened, the audio is louder and clearer, but for some reason it now has static.
The original Lost Episode collections were cheaply put together and disc space was not well utilized. Twenty-four (24) discs were needed to complete the original MPI Lost Episodes collection. Not the case with this new, 60th anniversary collection. Each disc is loaded with material. For example, the first disc includes nine (9) surviving Cavalcade of Stars (1951-52) Honeymooners skits and the first nine (9) from The Jackie Gleason Show (1952-53).
In total, there are 107 Honeymooners skits from various sources (1951-57) as well as dozens of other features both old and new. Many sketches and full length shows are seen for the first time in over 5 decades. As noted, everything outside of the 'Classic 39' filmed between 1951 and 1957 (which is known to exist) is included in this set. Interestingly, several of the missing skits are available here in alternate aired versions which utilized the same script. What you won't find is the premiere episode of Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine from 29 Sep, 1962 which features Gleason and Carney in an air raid shelter sketch entitled Two Below, a 10th anniversary Honeymooners special from another episode featuring Gleason and Carney revisiting their Dial J for Janitor sketch, and at least two others filmed in the early 1960s but believed lost forever. Of the 1951-57 period, 21 known sketches which are believed to no longer exist are noted in the booklet.
A nice little bonus which will likely be welcomed by all is that once you place a disc in your player, it almost immediately goes to the main menu and is ready to play. This feature was included in all but the first disc.
I used to watch Honeymooners every time I had a chance on NY's WPIX 11 back in the 1980s and 90s. First at 11pm, then 11:30, midnight, 12:30 and so on until it nearly disappeared except for the 24-hour marathons a couple of times a year. I copied and collected episodes from TV and enjoyed them until I was able to get the original 'Lost Episodes' on VHS, then DVD, and eventually, the 'Classic 39' on DVD as well. I've viewed every skit from those sets many times over and memorized most of the dialog. I was excited to hear about this 60th anniversary set but was skeptical about the level of restoration. Though the improvements are not always obvious, the clear improvement for me is in the sheer breadth of this collection. A welcome improvement to previous collections and so much more to enjoy and learn to love. Perhaps there are some new favorite moments to experience. No matter what, this is an impressive set and a worthy purchase for any and all interested in early television, Gleason, Carney, Meadows, Randolph, and of course, The Honeymooners.
I realize this was a rather long review, so I thank you kindly for reading.
85 of 87 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I have watched just part of Disc 14 - enough information for this fan (who watched the Honeymooners on first telecasts in the 1950s) to give the package a *****.
I find that the June 1, 1957 sketch, Manager of a Baseball Team, looks beautiful for a kinescope...but besides the surprisingly good audio-video, we finally, finally have the final sketch from the '50s! (Needless to say, this episode was listed on three earlier packages which contained a *1953* rendition!).
I would have paid the full price for that historic episode on its' own, so my effusiveness can be understood!
There is very little material missing here...and both listed and nonlisted items are carefully notated. Hopefully, the apparent next-to-last sketch of May 11th, 1957 will be soon issued.
Another two sketches are not included: two 1962 efforts, from the American Scene Magazine, Gleason's return to weekly variety. Carney was back...but no Meadows or Randolph. This, plus the excellent 1966 remake of The Adoption, with Carney and Meadows.
For relatively new fans, I'll say that, generally speaking, you will not find "Classic 39" quality throughout any entry here - that season was done live on film, which benefitted the actors who could err and not worry that the error will be beamed out to the cosmos; the naturally, the writing and editing was exceptional. There are, shall we say, Classic *sketches* in this collection: i.e., Stars Over Flatbush, Peacemaker, Kramden vs. Norton, One Big Happy Family, Finders Keepers, Boys And Girls Together, etc.)
Also found herein is a new interview with Joyce Randolph (Trixie, 1952 to 1957); and old interviews with her TV "husband", Art Carney, in character, in various settings, including The Ed Sullivan Show.
Another featured extra is a group of Ed Norton "Interviews" from that final season. Gleason interviews Norton on current events, the most interesting the announced move by the Brooklyn Dodgers that they will soon be playing three-thousand miles away! The jokes are only mildly mildly funny but the full melancholy of the sports scenario hits a little closer to home: soon the Chauncey Street quartet will be joining the Ebbets Field, "Sym-Phony", as depressingly conspicuous by their absence, as well - Ralph, Alice, Norton, and Trixie would not return until 1962.
Ellen Burstyn fans, look out!! She's show briefly in the '57 shows as a "Glea Girl"!
All political correctness aside, or should I say generational stereotyping aside, this show offered more than just laughs. We can watch a very underappreciated actor, Jackie Gleason, emote, and make the Charlie Sheens (all due respect) drop their heads. Yes, it sounds corny, but this show had "heart". Alice Kramden may have beeen the first TV feminist but her exasperation was couched in true love, respect, and understanding of her blue-collar guy. No effort, as today, to turn the tables on the dude who just doesn't get it.
So, take a row seat near the front, look at the drivers' rear view mirror, and let this collection, in tandem with The Classic 39 set (also on Amazon), take you right to the Moon!!!