This spring, Inception Media Group started distributing home video content sourced from Hollywood Select Video. I previously reviewed the HSV box set of Roger Corman classics, a set marked by lousy to passable transfers and a persistent watermark on the screen. Hollywood Select Video’s Dahling: A Tribute to Zsa Zsa Gabor, with it’s inconsistent transfers and again that persistent watermark, is not just a lame tribute to a high class icon. It’s an homage to the dollar store that proves HSV’s place in the lower echelon of video distribution.
One doesn’t expect every video distributor to be Criterion, but you wonder if an outfit as sloppy as Inception/HSV has any kind of pride in the work they do. The titles in this $14.99 list are all available elsewhere in collections focused on horror, Jack Benny, or canines. Perfunctory notes admire Gabor’s classic elegance, but the selections made for this disc were obviously made because they were cheap and easy to license.
That said, there is a curious rarity in the bunch. G. E. True Theater: The Honest Man (1956), hosted by Ronald Reagan, is a bad transfer of a kinescope teleplay starring Jack Benny and features only a few minutes of Gabor. What makes it watchable is the direction by Frank Tashlin, who cut his teeth animating cartoons for Warner Brothers. He went on to direct some of the great 1950s comedies like The Girl Can’t Help it and Lewis and Martin vehicles like Artist and Models. Tashlin’s Hollywood ouevre is marked by sharp compositions and high production values, neither of which are present in this kinescope from the early days of television, but it passes the time easily enough. Less successful are Mooch (1971) and Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie (1984) (in a muddy transfer from VHS), whose titles promise more than the pictures can deliver in entertainment value. Worse, the copy of the disc I have does not actually include the Milton Berle Show (1950) program listed on the case. Extras include four movie trailers, mostly for films which have similarly tenuous connections to Zsa Zsa, but hey, it’s a good reminder to track down Queen of Outer Space (1958), available from Warner Home Video, who cares about things like transfer quality and presentation.
The best video transfer in the set is saved for the dog feature, Mooch, and the sight of a mutt imagining itself glammed out in alternately blonde, brunette, and redhead wigs may be worth a couple of bucks to you. But the privilege can be had elsewhere for considerably less than the $14.99 list price this set goes for, and that’s hardly a fitting tribute to Gabor, who barely appears in the film.
Gabor, now 94, has been in the news recently after an extended hospitalization. Her husband Prince Frederic is continuing their Thanksgiving tradition while she recuperates: he is donating 500 turkeys to the homeless. The ailing star deserves better than this turkey of a collection.