Believe It or Not, Starring Robert L. Ripley is a two-disc set containing 24 theatrical shorts that are part travelogue, part human interest, part history, part fanciful, all Ripley — believe it or not. These 24 theatrical shorts were originally shown in movie houses.
The DVD collection is subtitled "The Complete Vitaphone Shorts Collection." There are 12 shorts contained on disc one that date from 1930 and 1931. There are twelve shorts contained on DVD #2 that date during 1931 and 1932. These shorts are in black and white.
Vitaphone was an early sound film process that involved synching a picture to a record instead of recording the soundtrack on the film. This was used primarily with vaudeville talent and was also used for many of the first talkies. Vitaphone shorts were in use from the late 1920s through the mid-'40s . Each Vitaphone short in this collection is approximately seven or eight minutes in length. The total run time for both discs is three hours and 12 minutes in length.
Each short is narrated by Robert L. Ripley, the creator of the popular Believe It Or Not series, who brings us oddities that challenge our beliefs. One is the smallest book that is about the size of a thimble. He also introduces us to the Tuareg people whose men wear veils instead of their women. He shows us a huge house of cards and a sign written in 22 languages. Most of the oddities explained are located in the United States. None of these episodes are spooky or eerie like fans of the more modern Ripley's Believe It Or Not program might expect.
While I'm sure that people from the 1930s and 1940s were probably impressed by the oddities shown in these shorts, I think that today's modern people are probably jaded enough not to be impressed by a woman reciting 200 words in 24 seconds.
It was a nice nostalgic trip watching these shorts and the children enjoyed them more for the fact that they were black and white and therefore like nothing they had ever seen before. The DVD is not rated but I would certainly say they are suitable for a child to watch if they had the interest.
The collection is being made available for the first time ever on DVD by the Warner Archive starting March 16.
Here are a few QuickTime clips from the collection: