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Judge Dennis Prince's Blog

Judge Dennis Prince • Location: Rocklin, CA
• Member since: July 2004
• 205 full reviews
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Blog Review: This Is Your Life! - The Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 (1952 - 1987)
August 1st, 2005 7:03PM

Now this is refreshing! Long, long before our current batch of snotty celebs were ever "Punk'd" in such sh*tty and even spiteful manner (deserved though it may be in some cases), there was another sort of celebrity reality show that caught America's most famous singers, actors, comedians, and even national heroes in a heartwarming tribute to their accomplishments - not to mention completely off guard and unaware! The show was This Is Your Life!, created by legendary reality-show host, Ralph Edwards (Truth or Consequences, The People's Court. Originally broadcast from 1952 until 1961, Edwards would surreptitiously sneak up on unsuspecting celebrities - usually aided by friends, counterparts, and co-stars - to boldly exclaim, "This is your life!" The celebrity would usually be caught slack-jawed and disbelieving, realizing the planned night at the Brown Derby was about to detour into a tell-all trip down the notable's own Memory Lane (and some didn't appreciate this sort of amiable ambush). Nonetheless, during it's 9-year heyday of the 1950s through the tip of the 1960s, Edwards managed to corral and corner the likes of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Roy Rogers, Milton Berle, Lou Costello, and Dick Clark. The show would take a 10-year hiatus and then resurface between 1971 and 1973 where Edwards would thrust his patented book of secrets into the faces of Shirley Jones, Vincent Price, Richard and Karen Carpenter, and Bette Davis. (Although the show would return later in the 70s and also make a couple of brief runs during the 80s, Edwards would often turn over hosting duties to others such as Joe Campenella and Steve Allen.

The show worked well and captivated television audiences as they looked on to witness the reactions of their most beloved stars. It was a show that, while it's unnanounced oncoming wasn't necessarily welcome by the personalities caught in its snare, was not the sort to wallow and revel in the sort of sick salaciousness that permeates today's "reality" ilk; really, how many times can we watch as Paris Hilton tries to reason with a garden spade or look on as NBA center Jermaine O'Neal seethes, wanting to beat the living crap out of that insufferable Punk'd host, Ashton Kutcher? No, this original approach was a bit more respectful and sophisticated (although Edwards did often slip into the realm of the 'damn-why-did-you-have-to-bring-that-up-on-national-television' sort of expose.

A new three-disc release from R2 Entertainment, This Is Your Life - The Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1 looks to deliver some classic moments from the show's rich history. The advance disc reviewed here provided samplings from the eighteen episodes that are contained in the commercial release. You'll see Lou Costello genuinely touched upon receiving a gift from a group of underpriviledged children, Laurel and Hardy as clever as ever in their first TV appearance, Roy Rogers moved to tears at the sight of his old band of musicians, and a latter-day Betty White attempting to thwart Edwards' entourage.

"Betty White - this is your life!"

"Oh no it isn't!"

From what I saw in this sampler, this collection is sure to raise a lump in your throat and coax a tear from your eye at times. It's touching, it's real, and it appears to be generally respectful of those caught in the camera's crosshairs. While the enitre release hasn't been reviewed here, there certainly seems to be enough on tap that makes this worthy of a look. The video quality will certainly vary as much of the earliest content was captured via live TV cameras (yes, the show was originally staged live for television, leaving it wide open or all manner of miscue or mishap). As it stands, this one looks ripe for a review and well worth the time to revisit the grander days of reality TV.

Blog Review: A Tribute to Lon Chaney - Man of a Thousand Faces
April 23rd, 2005 5:05PM

I've been fascinated by the wonders and wizardry of Hollywood's great make-up men since 1970 when I peered into my first issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Like so many kids of the day, I was the sort enraptured by the distorted faces I saw within those pages, most coming from the mind and magic hands of the legendary Lon Chaney.

In A Tribute to Lon Chaney - The Man of a Thousand Faces amateur producer/director Scott Essman and his friends at Visionary Media descended upon Universal Studio's Universal Citywalk Cinema to stage a mock interview between fluttery female reporter, Ruth Biery, and Lon Chaney. the result is captured on this exclusive, non-commercial DVD. It's well authored and the purple disc played fine in my player.

I applaud the program for its inventive manner of providing historical insight yet it does suffer some from the low-budget execution. The main program - the interview - runs for approximately 30 minutes in which Mark Arnott portrays Chaney while Robbie Troy is dolled up as Ruth Biery. Seated side-by-side at stage left below the silver screen, Troy as Biery seeks to elicit the secrets and sensibility of Hollywood's most famous yet mysterious artiste. Arnott as Chaney plays it rather well, offering a rehearsed yet simultaneously spontaneous performance as he provides his answers and slyly ducks some of the reporter's probings. The two are joined on stage by other actors who are made up as some of Chaney's more notable creations including Erik from Phantom of the Opera, the vampire creature from the lost London After Midnight, and Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It's an interesting format, really, and imparts some excellent history (acknowledged to have been partly sourced from the research and writings of Michael Blake). This main program is followed by a 15-minute behind-the-scenes feature that shows makeup applications of some of Chaney's most famous characters.

All in all, I'd say this is recommended viewing for all long-time monster fans. It's not commercially available but you may sniff around www.lonchaney.com and perhaps inquire about it there.

Overall Grade: B-minus.

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