Throughout 2013, Warner Home Video has been issuing large DVD collections as part of their 90th Anniversary Promotion campaign. We’ve already seen 20-film boxed sets for Best Pictures, Musicals, and Romance. Now we have Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Comedy and the set is not without problems. The good news is that these sets are sturdily packaged. While so many studios have resorted to lighter-weight cardboard folders to house (and scratch) discs, Warner has stuck with plastic cases. Organized in chronological order, the earliest 10 films are contained in one large case, while the most recent 10 are in a second case. Both fit neatly in a cardboard box that also holds a 24-page illustrated booklet containing synopses of each film.
Now for some bad news: three of the DVDs are full-frame, 1.33:1, non-anamorphic presentations. I’m not talking about the early, pre-widescreen features. Spies Like Us (1985), Grumpy Old Men (1993), and Ace Venture Pet Detective (1994) are all offered up in this outmoded form. In 2013, when the vast majority of consumers own widescreen televisions, this sort of thing is simply unacceptable. Basically it makes this collection look even more like a sweeping of the warehouse floor to clear out the remnants of a medium that is quickly becoming archaic (most collector’s would no doubt prefer a Blu-ray collection rather than standard DVDs).
That’s a big deficit and I would, quite frankly, be surprised if anyone doesn’t consider this a deal-breaker. In this day and age, many movie collectors are scrambling to ditch their non-anamorphic discs and upgrade to 16X9-enhanced versions (if they’re bothering with DVD at all). All of this might be more easily excused if the price was right, but the MSRP on the set is $98.92. It’s also worth mentioning that the term “comedy” is quite broad in this instance. The time period covered here is 1935 (the Marx Brothers’ classic A Night at the Opera) to 2009 (The Hangover). The first 10 have been arbitrarily labeled “The Class Acts” while the second 10 have been dubbed “The Class Clowns.”
In addition to Opera, the ‘30s are represented by the backstage, slice-of-an-actress’-life Stage Door (1937), starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. Hepburn also appears, paired with Cary Grant, in Howard Hawks’ screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (1937). Moving into the ‘40s, we get both Hepburn and Grant (along with James Stewart) in The Philadelphia Story (1940) and even more Cary Grant in Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). The only entry from the ‘50s is the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz road picture The Long, Long Trailer (1954). Blake Edwards’ all-star romp The Great Race (1965) is all we get from its respective decade.
Moving into what could be deemed the modern era of film comedy, Blazing Saddles (1974) and The In-Laws (1979) might just be where many younger viewers choose to begin. It also may be where many casual fans encounter doubles in their existing collection. Included films like Caddyshack (1980) and Vacation (1983) have been available on DVD at deeply discounted prices for so many years, it’s easy to imagine quite a few people interested in this set will already own at least one or two of these. Additional ‘80s titles include: Risky Business (1983), The Goonies (1985), and Beetlejuice (1988). In addition to the previously mentioned ‘90s entries, there’s Analyze This (1999). Wedding Crashers accompanies The Hangover as the most-recent title.
Think long and hard about Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Comedy unless you are able to track it down at a deep discount. Warner Bros. obviously has a wide-reaching, distinguished catalog of titles, but I’d recommend focusing on individual titles rather than this grab-bag in which many of the most-popular titles look downright terrible in their dated, standard definition presentation.