I am so excited this week that I get to talk to you about something I’ve been wanting to discuss in these pages for quite a long time. I’ve got a look at more goodies from Warner Archive this week, including their new blu-ray of 1982’s comedy “Victor/Victoria.” First off, I want to talk about the thing that is simply one of the most bizarre items to have ever come out of a major motion picture studio. So strange, you may not even believe me when I tell you about it.
What is this strange thing I want to tell you about? Some odd little horror movie or low-budget sci-fi flick someone conned Columbia pictures into making? Nope. I’m talking about something that was actually quite popular for a year or two. Between 1929 and 1931 MGM made a series of nine short films known as The Dogville Comedies. Directed by Zion Myers and Jules White—who would both go on to work for years with The Three Stooges—The Dogville Comedies are short parody films of popular movies of the day. Only they’re all recreated with dogs in people clothing, walking on their hind legs, with their barks dubbed over by humans.
I first became aware of these films years ago when TCM would show them to fill gaps in airtime between movies as part of their “One Reel Wonders” series. When you drop in the middle of a Dogville short and have no idea what’s going on, you’ll immediately begin to wonder if you’ve accidentally ingested some type of drug. The films are funny, strange, weird, bizarre, and sometimes off-putting by the sheer nature of trained dogs in people clothing. Warner Archive released all the shorts a few years ago, and if you, like me, have a fondness for the most bizarre of Hollywood offerings these are right up your alley. If the idea of watching a dog in a raincoat play a ukulele and sing “Singing In The Rain” doesn’t perk your ears up, then you can pass on these.
Moving on a few decades to the 1980’s, Warner Archive’s march of blu-ray goodness continues with one of the best films of that era making its debut in the format, Blake Edward’s “Victor/Victoria.” The late Blake Edward’s filmography is an interesting one. Edward’s had his fair share of clunkers, but when he hit the mark, he hit it dead center and made several films any director would be proud of just have one of.In a short list there’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Days of Wine and Roses”, and The Pink Panther series.
Without question, “Victor/Victoria”—which stars Edwards’ wife Julie Andrews, along with James Garner, Robert Preston, Alex Karras, and Lesley Ann Warren—is one of his finest films. Set in Paris in the mid 1930s, the crux of the film is Julie Andrews finding success on the cabaret stage as a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. That’s all I need to tell you about this one, it’s such a simply wonderful movie, and one I recommend most highly if you’ve never seen it.
I caught “Victor/Victoria” a few months ago when TCM aired it, though the film looked fine that night, it didn’t look nearly as good as this new blu-ray does. “Victor/Victoria” definitely has the look of a film from the early ‘80s, but this blu-ray brings out a depth and richness to the film. The film also features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound mix—a lossless version of the mix that was created for the DVD release in 2002. Also ported over from that DVD release is a great commentary track from Edwards and Andrews (Edwards passed in 2010). If you’ve never bought the film in any form, this is an absolute essential for your shelf.
That’s all for this week, I hope you’ll take a gander at one of these, or perhaps both if you’re really in the mood to test the limits of your friends with The Dogville Shorts.