Ziggy Pop

A fantastic Technicolor restoration, the mammoth 1946 MGM revue ZIEGFELD FOLLIES dances and pratfalls onto Blu-Ray, thanks to the backers and showbiz “angels” at The Warner Archive Collection.

Since 1936, when Metro blew the box-office up with the three-hour epic The Great Ziegfeld, starring William Powell, the Culver City studio toyed with the notion of a rousing follow-up. Every producer within casting couch distance of MGM real estate pitched ideas for the wall-to-wall extravaganza that would showcase their top talent, likely in the new three-strip Technicolor process. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and while nothing was officially halted, reminders of the white elephant known as The March of Time – the i.e. 1929 precursor (in two-strip Technicolor) – that all but bankrupted the studio was deftly brought into play (that picture shot forever, before being eventually shelved; pieces of numbers would be chopped into two-color shorts for several years, in an effort to save grace).

Then along came World War II, and 100% dancing and laff pics morphed into all-star patriotic displays. MGM’s entry was the 1943 Technicolor Thousands Cheer, directed by rising star George Sidney. It did great biz, and forever pushed Sidney out of the short subject and B-units.

V-E Day had audiences craving escapist entertainment more than ever; thus, the still-simmering Ziegfeld concept was enthusiastically revived (truth be told, the production had been off-and-on filming for over a year). Every writer and choreographer at the studio was encouraged to toss creative brain matter in the pot, with one important proviso: this was not to be merely a re-creation of a Ziegfeld show, but modernized to suit sophisticated viewers returning from the battlefields and yearning for a perfect couples’ night at the movies (as Ziggy himself would explain in an opening – live from Heaven with a white-haired William Powell, draped in a dressing robe and rarin’ to start the proceedings).

Sidney was pegged to helm the whole megillah, but with the accent on sophistication – and the current king of the musical being Vincent Minnelli (who scored a gargantuan hit with Meet Me in St. Louis, and who just happened to be married to the company’s biggest musical star, Judy Garland) – the reins were handed over to him. As compensation, Sidney (and six other directors, Robert Lewis, Roy Del Ruth, Lemuel Ayres, Charles Walters, Merrill Pye) were given side bar skits, mostly involving comedy and schtick, getting indy nods in each of their segments, but with Minnelli receiving solo main title credit.

It was a wise decision, as the music stuff is what sold the pic, and with chic talent like Kay Thompson penning much of the highbrow stuff (along with 39 other writers, including Samson Raphaelson, Max Liebman, Lou Holtz, Everett Freeman, Irving Brecher, and Al Lewis), everything seemed to meld in perfect unison.

Of course, in any revue, there is bound to be some unevenness – I mean, the great material will dwarf the lesser efforts, but in ZIEGFELD FOLLIES, even the lightweight offerings are exquisitely palatable. The movie, as a whole, is a textbook on how to do this sort of thing (the “thing” being the more-money-than-God musical) – and nobody did that better than MGM.

It all begins with an erotic-tinged bang, as Lucille Ball, astride Silver (of Lone Ranger fame), whips up her fellow female equestrians in a live-horse carousel ride fantasy number (“Bring on the Beautiful Girls”) with sexy showfemmes nearly eclipsed by Virginia O’Brien’s climactic and comedic capper.

And “tally-ho,” and off we go.

Like any Ziegfeld production, the lavish musical numbers were balanced by slapstick and ancillary vaudeville-type routines, honed to precision Swiss watch timing by ace comedians of the day. While some of these routines were hoary – even by post-WWI standards – they were eaten up by the adoring crowds (many of the bits would subsequently be “hijacked” by the likes of Abbott & Costello and others). In tribute, a quartet of sketches is delightfully presented here, and feature Edward Arnold and Victor Moore in “Pay the Two Dollars,” about an arrest made of an innocent who accidentally spits on a bus (indeed, expectorating on public transit was a crime back then; I still remember the warning signs, as late as the 1960s); Arnold’s pompous lawyer, who refuses to let his client Moore pay, practically results in the boob’s life sentence! Then there’s “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with a married couple Hume Cronyn and the wonderful Fanny Brice (in her final screen appearance) trying to retrieve the winning ticket given to skinflint landlord William Frawley. There’s also “Number, Please” with a harried Keenan Wynn in a phone booth (which was “borrowed” by Abbott & Costello). And, of course, MGM’s top funnyman, Red Skelton, gets a chance to do his famous “Guzzler’s Gin” sketch – probably originally written to parody radio ads, but now, prophetically entitled, “When Television Comes” (remember, modernized).

All this is well and good, but the music, the dancing and the beautiful girls are what made the Follies a crowning success for decades – and continues to do so in this production (there’s only so much you can modernize).

That said, certainly the most famous clip from FOLLIES is the only in-their-prime dance duet between Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. It’s a smooth, funny competition that is just a joy to watch. Astaire returns for “Limehouse Blues,” a serious piece with the then-newbie Lucille Bremer. Bremer was genuinely gorgeous and and talented, but the camera never quite clicked with her; by no fault of her own, she quickly vanished from the screen. Despite her shortcomings, the stunning number remains a keeper, and she looks pretty good with Fred (although, remember, he once partnered triumphantly with a hatrack). The crème de la crème for many is the hilarious Garland piece, “A Great Lady has an Interview,” wherein a famous movie star recounts (in song) her adventures in the biz to salivating reporters.

There’s even a misfire finale, involving a bevy of dancing beauties engulfed by an apparently out-of-control bubble machine. For all the smart input, one really does wonder WTF were they thinking (Astaire and Bremer wisely opted out of appearing in this panache, or demanded they be cut).

Trying not to exclude anyone, this epic bonbon also features Kathryn Grayson, Lena Horne, Esther Williams, James Melton, and Cyd Charisse; nevertheless, the original four-hour-plus running time was shorn to 173-minutes (in previews), then down to the current 117-minute duration. As produced by Arthur Freed, with luxurious photography by George Folsey, Charles Rosher, and Ray June appending Minnelli’s flawless direction, ZIEGFELD proved worthy of every penny Metro pumped into it; it was a massive post-war hit – just the tonic reunited marrieds, lovers and families craved. Critics loved it, too (always a plus).

The Warner Archive Blu-Ray is a masterful 1080p demo-quality platter that rates a top spot on every musical collector’s shelf. The superb new 35MM transfer not only restores the previously washed-out Eastmancolor TV renditions to its original Technicolor glory, but includes the 1946 roadshow Overture and Exit music. The soundtrack can be accessed in either the Forties mono or in remixed 2.0 stereo. I’m a stickler for authenticity, so the crisp, buoyant monaural sound is fine by me.

Extras abound as well, and include Joseph Newman’s The Luckiest Guy in the World, a Crime Doesn’t Pay two-reeler (likely because someone is playing Skelton’s “Guzzler’s Gin” bit on the radio), and two cartoons (Tex Avery’s Hick Chick and Hanna-Barbera’s Solid Serenade) that could have supported the ’46 playdates. There are also some fascinating audio outtakes, and a documentary featurette (aptly entitled An Embarrassment of Riches). As one might expect, the theatrical trailer also on view.

A terrific tsunami of talent and taste (bubbles aside), ZIEGFELD FOLLIES is the ideal example of how to show off in style!

ZIEGFELD FOLLIES. Color. Full Frame [1.37:1; 1080p High Definition[; 2.0 mono or stereo DTS-HD MA. CAT #B094BC7BQ. SRP: $21.99.

This title and others can be purchased at the Warner Archive Amazon Store or online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays® are sold.

Cool and the Gangs

With the holidays rapidly coming upon us, many friends, paramours, and mishpacha of DVD collectors are looking for the perfect Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa gifts. If that person in question is a music lover (and who ISN’T?), look no further. Time-Life, that company always at the forefront of mammoth collectable mini-libraries, has come up with a (solid) goldmine: THE SOUL OF THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, now available in a mind-boggling 10-platter set, housed in a retro slipcover.

In case there are a few out there unfamiliar with THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, it was an extremely popular late night rock TV series that ran from 1972-1981. Produced by Burt Sugarman, this slicker grandchild of Hullabaloo and Shindig was, in effect, the whistle stop made by Soul Train. And, indeed, there was a lot to whistle about. While an amazing amount of eclectic rock was presented on the SPECIAL, it was the extraordinary soul talent that music aficionados remember. And with good reason.

But don’t trust me (although that would be nice); let the discs do their own talking (or rather singing). Ensconced within these DVDs, presented in two parts, 1, from 1973-1975, and 2, 1977-1980 are 130 live, uncut numbers, plus some nice supplements.

Alfred Hitchcock once termed movies (and all entertainment drama) as “life with the dull bits cut out.” Producer Sugarman apparently took that advice when he culled his archives. The two parts (572 and 428 minutes, respectively) are 100% pure full-length performance art. And the roster is Hall of Fame-plus. The collection presents now-legendary songs (and artists) as you’ve never seen or heard them (bootlegs have been circulating since the 1980s, with smeary colors and undistinguished flat audio). While the shows were never filmed on celluloid, they did render a respectable enough visual presence to have the series get several Emmy nominations during its nine-year-run. To reiterate (with benefits), they look and sound better here than they did in their original broadcast.

With brief intros by guest hosts like Lou Rawls and Don Cornelius , THE SOUL OF THE MIDNIGHT SPECIALS features iconic appearances by James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Issac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Preston, Diana Ross, Chuck Berry, Natalie Cole, Teddy Pendergrass, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Chaka Khan, Sly and the Family Stone, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Commodores, Billy Preston, The Spinners, Barry White, Bill Withers, Sister Sledge, The Staple Singers, Chic, The Stylistics, Kool and the Gang, Al Green, The O’Jays and tons more music heavyweights.

I’m not going to list all the songs, but, for me, the most memorable sweet segments of my past include “Could it be I’m Falling in Love,” “I’ll be Around,” “Love Train,” “Georgia on my Mind,” “What’d I Say?,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Freddie’s Dead,” “In the Midnight Hour,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Stand!,” “Superfly,” “Thank You for Letting me be Myself,” “Show and Tell,” “You Make me Feel Brand New,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me,” “Everybody Plays the Fool,” “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything,” “Lady Marmalade,” “Lovin’ You [just to be clear, Minnie Riperton, not Elvis],” “Respect Yourself,” “Sex Machine,” “Cold Sweat/Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “You Sexy Thing,” “Love Hangover,” “Nothing from Nothing,” “Le Freak,” “We are Family,” “I Will Survive,” and “What’s Goin’ On?” to name but a few.

But there’s even more.

Each DVD contains special interviews with such luminaries as Gladys Knight, Bobby Womack, Patti LaBelle, George Benson, James Brown, Thelma Houston. Teddy Pendergrass, and Quincy Jones. PLUS, Disc 10 is a complete 1974 Midnight Special Special: Marvin Gaye, Live from the Atlanta Stadium, August 5, 1974. Furthermore, there’s a 40-page full-color illustrated booklet that offers some historical background, and, natch, the complete chronological roster of artists and songs.

In a perfect world, I might have included maybe one complete Midnight Special, just for the experience/comparison. Or, at the very least, a collage of TV commercials that accompanied the actual broadcasts. But, as I often bitch, that’s just me. The world, after all, is NOT perfect. Although for soul addicts, this set comes about as close as one could wish.

THE SOUL OF THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL. Color. Full frame [1.33:1]; Mono audio. Time-Life Video/Burt Sugarman Productions. CAT # 33571-X. SRP: $119.95.

Victorian’s Secret

Outside of Hollywood and the Karloffs, Lugosis and Chaneys (Sr. and Jr.), no one, prior to WWII, personified movie horror more than Tod Slaughter. Even the name is a charmer. The UK-based actor had been around for years, but it was his embracing of lurid Victorian Era penny dreadfuls in all their graphic glory than cinched the deal (Slaughter was the first to do a sound version of Sweeney Todd, the straight razor/non-musical edition, released in 1936). This is no more apparent than in the recent Kino-Lorber Studio Classics (in concert with Euro London Films, Inc.) release of 1939’s THE FACE AT THE WINDOW, one of over a dozen grotesque delights Mr. Slaughter chilled and thrilled his admirers with.

Working from F. Brooke Warren’s 1897 play, Slaughter (with his oft collaborator producer-director George King) relishes every bit of villainy that can be squeezed out of the vehicle. It’s 1880 France, and the nastiest, richest dude in the country is none other than Chevalier Lucio del Gardo. Satanic in appearance, with top hat and cloaked black cape, del Gardo’s/Slaughter’s mustache practically twirls itself. He’s a womanizing, thieving, murdering, torturing mofo of the worst order. Currently, he’s out to ravish Cecile de Brisson, the gorgeous daughter of a banker facing a disastrous financial tsunami (and guess who was responsible for that?). Chevalier’s solution: sell me/marry me/trade me your luscious spawn, and I’ll cover your losses. Banker Brisson is in woe-is-me territory, disgusted by the prospect, but… The woman in question understandably feels worse, as does her poor but honest fiance, Lucien.

As if this isn’t enough, the city of Paris is being laid waste by the Wolf Killer, an apparent lycanthrope, who’s repugnant face is always seen at the window of his victims before he kills and robs them (guess who’s involved in this as well!?).

Del Gardo, who’s sexual desire for Cecile puts him at the top echelon of the Snidely Whiplash Club, can’t wait to fate-worse-than-death the virginal damsel (and then toss her aside when he’s done and merrily trot off to look for his next female). Will he? Can he? Who can stop him? Is he even human?

All these questions and more are answered in this swift, crowd-pleasing shocker, rife with lust, sadistic chicanery and, natch, horror.

Without actually tying actress Marjorie Taylor (as Cecile) to the railroad tracks, Slaughter indulges in a myriad of other ways to have tons of fun, savoring every sinister cliché and seemingly awaiting for the audience to hiss his every entrance. The supporting cast is as game as Tod, and includes John Warwick, Leonard Henry, Aubrey Mallalieu, Robert Adair, and Wallace Evennett.

LSS, watching a Tod Slaughter movie is truly like being transported back to a mid-late 19th century gaslit local playhouse. One can’t peg these enjoyable dark frolics as simply good or bad; they’re in a class by themselves. Indeed, Tod Slaughter is virtually his own genre. The movies, not surprisingly immensely popular (and we’re not just talking about the masses; Slaughter’s pics found great nostalgic favor with major show business/literary players, not the least being critic/author/screenwriter Graham Greene, who wrote “You find yourself immediately…in the grip of the fine firm traditional dialogue [and] the magnificent casting…which plank you surely back into that vague Victorian period, when anything might happen.”), took each narrative seriously enough to decorate the frame with terrific authentic sets and period costumes (art direction by Philip Bawcombe). The scripts, this one by A.R. Rawlinson (treatment by Randall Faye), likewise remain faithful to the time when were written; there is no emotional spectrum of multilevel shading, mere pure black and white. SEGUE to the excellent, atmospheric photography by Hone Glendinning, and the foreboding score by Jack Beaver. Which brings us to the subject of sight and sound; it should be mentioned that the one caveat of the Slaughter movies has always been the lousy condition of most of the prints. Hard to watch, even harder to understand over the “bacon frying” soundtrack. No more (at least, in this case). The new 1080p transfer of THE FACE AT THE WINDOW is extraordinary. I have never seen a Slaughter pic look or sound this good. Extras include audio commentary by film historian Jean-Claude Michel, and a trailer gallery. We can only hope that Kino-Lorber plans on releasing more of the actor’s work, giving us devotees a veritable Slaughter fest.

THE FACE AT THE WINDOW Black and white. Full frame [1.37:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA. Kino-Lorber Studio Classics/Euro London Films, Inc. CAT # K25066. SRP: $24.95.

Japanese Chaplinese

“Tash would constantly be at us to check out these silent one and two-reelers playing at some rundown theater in L.A.” This reminiscence was told to me by the brilliant animator Bob Clampett about his days and nights at Warner Bros. Termite Terrace back in the 1930s and ‘40s. “After a long – and I mean LONG – day’s work, the last thing we wanted to do was to watch twenty-year-old movies into the early morning hours. Back then, it was the only outlet for seeing these pictures. Frank would remind us that it wasn’t just Chaplin and Keaton – but scores of other fantastic then-forgotten comedians…All that second-tier Mack Sennett and Hal Roach stuff…I guess he had the last laugh.”

To be sure, there are many laughs to be had with the Olive Films/Paramount Blu-Ray release of 1958’s THE GEISHA BOY, one of the director’s finest (of eight) collaborations with frequent star Jerry Lewis.

Frank Tashlin, whose Looney Tunes are among the funniest cartoons ever made, dreamt of breaking into live-action comedy – a goal realized by his contributing inventive visuals for the Marx Bros. and, more prominently, Bob Hope. Tashlin’s work on A Night in Casablanca encompasses its most memorable gag. A cop approaches Harpo, who is leaning against a brick structure. “What are ya doin’, holding up that building?” he asks the mute funnyman, who ecstatically nods. Need I divulge the punch line?

Ben Hecht wrote that one of his more pleasurable Hollywood writing sojourns occurred when shacked up with Harpo and Tashlin in Marx’s abode hammering out a 1949 silent feature to star the clown sans his siblings. Once the sleazy producers sold the project to UA as a Marx Bros. comedy, both Hecht and Tashlin (with Harpo’s blessings) left the now-unhappy former labor-of-love project, which ironically became known as Love Happy.

Tashlin’s ideas for Hope translated into mucho critical and audience acclaim via his cartoonish bits for The Paleface. When The Lemon Drop Kid started to drag in the rushes, Hope asked Tash to step in and pep it up without credit. The picture was huge, and Hope rewarded the former animator with Son of Paleface; the rest be history (Clampett told me that at Tashlin’s 1968 funeral only three members of the show business community were present: himself, Hope and Ray Walston).

That Frank Tashlin and Jerry Lewis should collide like two locomotives hellbent for mischief was a near-given; how unsurprising is it that this former Merrie Melodies master would be best remembered for his big screen efforts starring either Lewis or Jayne Mansfield – the movies’ closest evocation to live-action cartoons.

Tashlin’s first Jerry adventure had been the 1955 Martin & Lewis Technicolor riot Artists and Models, arguably the team’s best movie (with a plotline concerning the effects of comic books on America’s deteriorating youth). Now working as a single, Lewis chose Tashlin to helm 1958’s Rock-A-Baby, a strange re-working of Preston Sturges’ Miracle at Morgan’s Creek. Lewis, who increasingly disliked his position in the Hollywoodland pecking order as what he termed “…a second-class citizen.” wasn’t that far off base. His vehicles were often remakes of earlier movie triumphs – with Lewis’ roles having been previously enacted by African-Americans or women (Scared Stiff, Living it Up, You’re Never Too Young).

By 1958, Jerry had risen to the position of one of the top entertainers in the world – and here his desire to emulate the great Chaplin surfaced with a vengeance. Tashlin thus concocted a story wherein Lewis – an inept magician, known only in the picture as The Great Wooley – finagles a USO tour of Japan. His numerous faux pas, mostly regarding lewd sexual confrontations with a buxom Hollywood starlet, bring unprecedented joy to an orphaned Japanese boy – thereby setting up the narrative.

One might think this poignant twosome betwixt the big kid and small one would be lip-bitingly cloying, but they amazingly work. The scenes involving Lewis and the child actor Robert Hirano make the fast and furious sight gags ring louder than the bells of Notre Dame.

And dames there are plenty. The child’s aunt is the ridiculously beautiful Nobu Atsumi McCarthy, who instantly becomes devoted to Lewis. Ditto the female sergeant assigned to the tour – Suzanne Pleshette in her screen debut (who looks like she’s all of 15 years old). Finally, there’s the literal butt of all the pic’s jokes – the mercifully good sport Marie McDonald, who was saddled with the moniker “The Body” throughout her Tinsel Town tenure (comedy fans might best remember her as one of Abbott & Costello’s island objects of affection in 1942’s Pardon My Sarong).

As reel after reel unspools, McDonald, thanks to Jerry, is embarrassed in a bathhouse, has her clothes repeatedly torn off, gets Barton MacLane shoved into her business and is booty-bounced down an airplane gangplank – much to the giggling delight of the up-till-now solemn tiny tot Mitsuo Watanabe (Hirano), whom Lewis hilariously name-mangles as Mitzvah Wet-Nebble.

As with most Tashlin pics, the underlying sexual material is as eyebrow-raising as it is obvious. This is immediately evidenced via the lush main titles, which are akin to the director’s attempt to do a color video promo for Naruse’s subsequent When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Tashlin’s credit is plastered over a gorgeous geisha’s bare breasts).

Pleshette, who already has mastered the disbelieving Oliver Hardy double take (which she would further hone on The Bob Newhart Show), gets some big yuks in an essentially thankless role. Her seriously disturbed “ewww” looks at Lewis whilst he tosses a salad (in the most extreme clean slapstick sense of the word) skillfully underlines the joke. Ditto her deadpan response to Lewis’ fears of being captured and brainwashed by the communists (“I don’t think there’s much chance of that.”). Less so is her Fifties feminine politicizing once she realizes that Lewis and Kimi (McCarthy) are becoming an item. Eschewing all that “women’s emancipation” jazz, Pleshette vows to be submissive to the next man she meets…like all the Japanese girls. She really needs to see a Meiko Kaji/Lady Snowblood movie.

The hysterical head-on meets with Kimi’s behemoth boyfriend, the pituitary Great Ichiyama (Ryuzo Demura) represents Tashlin and Lewis in high gear. It also punctuates the fact that THE GEISHA BOY is an incredibly smart movie for 1958.

The American obsession with the Japanese post-war culture that began specifically with two Brando pics Teahouse of the August Moon and Sayonara is continuously stated via the color scheme and set design. Suburban homes were regularly hanging multi-hued paper lanterns over their patios, and becoming kimono-obsessed. Furthermore, the influx of the Kurosawa imports on Yankee shores were reaping hefty profits. That Ichiyama is a Japanese baseball player and, in the course of events, gets pitted against the recently-transplanted Los Angeles Dodgers (who guest star) is another shrewd marketing move.

The supreme coup is the casting of former silent screen star Sessue Hayakawa as Kimi’s stern father. His efforts to cheer up his grandson result in the picture’s biggest single laugh: his using slave labor to construct a mini bridge on the River Kwai in their backyard. Hayakawa, dressed in the identical military uniform that he had worn a year earlier in the David Lean WWII epic, had them falling out of the aisles in 1958. A friend of mine once told me that he and his mom were passing by a theater playing THE GEISHA BOY and you could hear the laughs out on the street. The manager told his parent, “It’s the bridge scene. This is a very funny movie.”

In contrast, Lewis’ devastating treatment of Mitsuo – even when prefaced by his “I hate to do this” twinge of conscience does grate on one’s nerves, bringing to mind the occasionally leaked episodes of the comedian’s dark side. The adoring idolizing child is crushed as Lewis all-too-realistically delivers the ultimate snap: “I don’t like you anymore. I don’t want you anymore. You’re not my son. I don’t love you!” Little Mitsuo’s pained reaction suggests he’s a tick away from committing hara-kiri – or, perhaps more appropriate in his case – hara-kiri, jr.

The last but not least facet of THE GEISHA BOY‘s success is the connection between Tashlin and his Warner Bros. roots – the astounding non-human sidekick, Harry Hare (whose “introducing” card in the credits gets larger billing than Pleshette’s).

Per capita, Harry probably ratchets up more chuckles than Lewis and the cast combined. In a series of impossible visuals, Harry Hare proves himself a master of comic timing. Reportedly when an adolescent once asked Lewis about the rabbit, the comedian replied, “What do you mean ‘rabbit’?” He then went on to terrify the youth by disclosing that there were multiple bunnies utilized for the picture – since the hot lights and hours had them dropping like flies. Whether he was being sarcastic, bluntly honest or simply Jerry, he set the stage that undoubtedly culminated in years of therapy for the inquisitive sprout. If indeed true (and we hope it isn’t), our hats are off to Harry and all the other Harrys who, unbeknownst, gave their lives for their art.

The final denouement comes when Lewis discovers that Mistuo has stowed away and is ensconced with Harry in the rabbit’s carry-on traveler. Strapped on top of a fast-moving taxi, this simultaneously becomes both a harrowing Mitsuo and Mitt Romney moment. Oh, yeah, and speaking of taxis, we can’t sign off without mentioning Sid Melton as a wise-cracking cabbie – a plus if ever there was one!

Like Rock-A-Baby, Olive Films’ 1080p anamorphic transfer of THE GEISHA BOY is A-1 from the get-go. Haskell Boggs’ VistaVision cinematography is so sharp and detailed that it borders on the outrageous (and revealing, as in the one teeth-grinding occasion where viewers can clearly see wires stringing up Harry for a gag). The Technicolor pops with rich comic strip swatches, especially in Lewis’ Great Wooley red carry-on, the deep blue skies and nighttime Japanese lanterns adorning the Hayakawa’s pond. Walter Scharf’s mono score sounds terrific with its buoyant riffs and Asian motifs.

All said, THE GEISHA BOY is a Jerry Lewis vehicle that even his non-fans will find hard to resist – although I’m sure they’ll try.

THE GEISHA BOY. Color. Letterboxed [1080p High Definition]. Olive Films/Paramount Home entertainment. CAT # OF349. SRP: $29.95.