Case Number 15292: Small Claims Court

CAVEMAN: V.T. HAMLIN AND ALLEY-OOP

VCI Home Video // 2005 // 53 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // December 21st, 2008

The Charge

And now, get reacquainted with the original inhabitants of Jurassic Park.

The Case

If you're a fan of the classic comic strip, you likely don't need introduction to Alley-Oop. He's the towering troglodyte from the Land of Moo who carries a big stone hammer yet wields a smart disposition. He's no Neanderthal, then; he's fast thinking and free spirited, preferring to go up against rogue dinosaurs in the jungles rather than confront the citizens of Moo. He rides his own domesticated dinosaur, Dinny, pals around with friend Foozy, and dotes over girlfriend Uoola. He's mindful of the wants and whims of Moo's King Guzzle and Queen Umpateedle and will serve his people in occasional rows with rivals from the neighboring kingdom of Lem.

Alley-Oop was created as a daily comic strip by American cartoonist V.T. Hamlin in 1932. Initially, Oop and his cohorts would lumber around the prehistoric land of Moo, generally interacting in clearly suburban situations. By 1939, feeling Oop was too confined in terms of story potential, Hamlin introduced a time machine to the strip, giving Oop and others endless possibilities to explore new worlds and situations. The strip has run in syndicated publication perpetually since its inception, now managed by Oop overseers, Carole and Jack Bender.

Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley-Oop is a 53-minute exploration of all things Oop, providing us insight into the diminutive yet determined Hamlin, a cartoonist motivated to establish himself in the daily lexicon of American culture. Alley-Oop served as that ever-present existence in the public eye and emerged as a fully licensed and franchised property over nearly eight decades (with most folks citing the Hollywood Argyles' hit tune, "Alley-Oop," recorded in 1960). The intriguing element of this documentary isn't so much its titular character but, rather, the revelation of a very strained relationship between Hamlin and long-time strip collaborator, Dave Graue (say it like "wow-ee"). Although historically reticent to discuss personal matters between the two, Graue conceded to documentarian Max Allan Collins to share some insight into the deteriorated partnership in on-camera interview segments. Graue maintains highest respect for the mercurial Hamlin throughout but certainly is left perplexed and saddened by the manner in which their collaboration fractured. Unfortunately, a cathartic ending never materialized, Hamlin passing away 1993 with the splintered regard left unresolved.

On this DVD, Max Allan Collins' award-winning documentary is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format (originally aired on public television in 2005). The image quality is what you would expect of a broadcast feature, this looking appropriately defined and rendered for television. Audio is presented in an equally suitable Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track.

This disc really shines in the area of extras; the team at VCI has unearthed some finds of certain interest to comics' fans. While the main documentary features lengthy interview segments with current Oop curators, Carole and Jack Bender, legendary graphic artist Will Eisner ("The Spirit"), and Dave Graue (filmed before his untimely death in 2001), the bonus features offer even more time with the Oop clan. A 43-minute extended interview with Will Eisner (also his last filmed interview) explores his views of the Oop strip and the evolution of comics in general. Next up is a 50-minute panel discussion from 2008, presided over by Collins himself and capturing reminiscences and recollections from producer Mark Lambert along with Carole and Jack Bender. A short excerpt, "Good Morning Tulsa," provides a 5-minute interview with the Benders, also. Lastly, there are two commentary tracks to the feature documentary, one from writer/director Collins and another from the Benders. In all, it's a very well rounded presentation of Alley-Oop lore.

If classic comic strip history is what you crave most, dig up a copy of this faithfully produced DVD.

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2008 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 53 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Audio Commentaries
* Will Eisner interview
* Panel Discussion
* "Good Morning Tulsa" interview

Accomplices
* IMDb: V.T. Hamlin
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1089933/

* IMDb: Fabulous Funnies
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0288950/combined