Shout! Factory // 1962 // 915 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // January 15th, 2012
Dennis Mitchell (Jay North, Zebra In The Kitchen) is back for one final season of calamity, aggravation, and hilarity.
Once upon a time, hit sitcoms knew how to come and go: they premiered, had a good run, ceased production, and went into reruns, where their good times continued in a seemingly-forever-loop. Somewhere along way, sitcoms succumbed to self-importance with the "farewell episode." Main characters were scattered to the winds, or their designated hangout was demolished, and in some cases both. Some farewells were fond, some were fetid, but nearly all were entirely unnecessary; these weren't real lives after all, so why did they need endings?
Despite its somewhat ominous subtitle, Dennis The Menace: The Final Season harks back to those innocent days where one could drop in on the sitcom folks any time at all and feel at home. No tangled narratives to unravel, no need to worry if you hadn't seen previous episodes to know who's who or what's what.
Dennis' thirty eight Season Four comic misadventures are laid out on five discs:
* "The Chinese Girl" -- International puppy love blooms, when Dennis meets the Wilsons' houseguest, a little girl from Hong Kong (Cherylene Lee, Donovan's Reef).
* "You Go Your Way" -- Dennis misunderstands when he overhears the Wilsons bickering, and spreads a rumor that they're breaking up for good.
* "Dennis And The Circular Circumstances" -- Dennis agrees to help distribute leaflets for Mrs. Elkins' (Irene Tedrow, Getting Straight) political campaign.
* "The Little Judge" -- The case of Mrs. Elkins vs. Mr. Wilson (Gale Gordon, The 'Burbs) comes before the court of hanging judge Dennis Mitchell. All rise!
* "Poor Mr. Wilson" -- Dennis misunderstands when Mr. Wilson explains he lost his money at the market, and spreads a rumor his best friend is destitute.
* "Dennis In Gypsyland" -- While writing a magazine article, Mr. Wilson goes undercover to get the inside scoop on a band of Gypsies, operating "on the edge of town."
* "The New Principal" -- Dennis makes a fast enemy of the school's short and overly sensitive new administrator, after innocently commenting about the man's height -- or lack of it.
* "San Diego Safari" -- The Mitchells and the Wilsons travel together to the San Diego Zoo for monkey business involving taking delivery on a chimpanzee.
* "Dennis At Boot Camp" -- Still in San Diego, Mr. Wilson visits the naval base and quickly runs afoul of the heavy brass.
* "Henry's New Job" -- Dennis frets over a possible career change for his father that would mean relocation for the family.
* "Wilson's Second Childhood" -- While writing a magazine article, Mr. Wilson decides to get the real scoop on modern youth by hanging out for a Saturday with Dennis and his friends. Look for an uncredited Kurt Russell (Backdraft) as one of the playground gang.
* "Jane Butterfield Says" -- Moonlighting from his magazine article writing duties, Mr. Wilson temporarily takes over the local paper's advice-to-the-lovelorn column.
* "Dennis And The Hermit" -- Dennis determines to get the real story on a hermit (Edgar Buchanan, Petticoat Junction) living in a shack out in the woods reputed to be a Civil War hero.
* "My Uncle Ned" -- Mr. Wilson is all set to publish a biographical book about his Uncle Ned (Edward Everett Horton, Lost Horizon), but Ned refuses to give his permission.
* "Junior Astronaut" -- The winner of a contest at Dennis' school is guaranteed a trip to Cape Canaveral to meet a real live Astronaut!
* "Wilson's Little White Lie" -- Mr. Wilson feigns illness in order to get some Dennis-free time, but his performance proves so convincing the boy is soon forecasting his impending doom all over the neighborhood.
* "Dennis, The Rain Maker" -- Dennis has a chance to collect ten dollars from Dad if he can get his genuine, book-taught Indian rain dance to end the long neighborhood drought by 2:30 pm.
* "The Creature With The Big Feet" -- Dennis' latest novelty item purchase has Mr. Wilson believing his yard has been invaded by Sasquatch.
* "Dennis, The Confused Cupid" -- Dennis decides to play matchmaker for a pair of shy high schoolers.
* ""Dennis Goes To Washington" -- Dennis is specially appointed by the Mayor to visit our nation's capitol and petition for a national forest.
* ""The Big Basketball Game" -- The team's in trouble: Stretch Nichols (Butch Hengen) is threatening to quit on the very night before the big game.
* "Wilson's Allergy" -- Nothing the doctor prescribes can stop Mr. Wilson from sneezing, which always seems to start when Dennis is around.
* "Baby Booties" -- Mrs. Wilson (Sara Seegar, The Music Man) is suddenly knitting booties. What else is an uninformed boy with a penchant for spreading rumors supposed to think?
* "My Four Boys" -- Mr. Wilson wins big on an essay contest wherein he portrayed himself as a family man. Now in order to collect the prizes, he must produce his "offspring" for the contest judge (Harvey Korman, Mama's Family)
* "Dennis And The Homing Pigeons" -- Dennis' new hobby spells trouble when his new pet takes off for parts unknown with an important message for Mr. Wilson strapped to its leg.
* "A Tax On Cats" -- To prove the county isn't doing its job, Mr. Wilson wagers City Hall that he can corral at least a dozen stray cats within a day.
* "The Uninvited Guest" -- The neighborhood is being plagued by a rash of burglaries.
* "Dennis Plays Robin Hood" -- Dennis' plan to take from the rich and give to the poor inadvertently leads to Mr. Wilson and Mr. Elkins accusing each other of theft.
* "The Three F's" -- Mr. Wilson spends a day as Dennis' classmate, in order to prove this theory that the educational system is wasting taxpayer's money on frivolities.
* "Never Say Dye" -- Mr. Wilson endeavors to cultivate a more youthful image, in order to impress a movie starlet shopping for a biographer.
* "The Lost Dog" -- Dennis brings home a stray sheepdog, who promptly starts a love-hate relationship with Mr. Wilson.
* "Tuxedo Trouble" -- Dennis and his friends start their own laundry service by machine washing Mr. Wilson's tuxedo.
* "Hawaiian Love Song" -- Mr. Wilson promised to take his wife to Hawaii on their next anniversary. Now that the time has arrived, his memory seems to have fogged over.
* "The Lucky Rabbit's Foot" -- Dennis offers Mr. Wilson his lucky charm, in order to help his neighbor reverse a month-long bad luck streak.
* "Listen To The Mockingbird" -- Campaign fever grips Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Elkins, fiercely opposing one another for the office of Birdwatcher's Society president.
* "First Editions" -- Dennis' decision to sell his comic book collection prompts Mr. Wilson to see how much he could get for his collection of literary first editions.
* "A Man Among Men" -- Henry goes out of town, leaving Dennis in charge as "man of the house."
* "Aunt Emma Visits The Wilsons" -- Mr. Wilson worries that his dotty old Aunt (Verna Felton, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother) has taken such a shine to Dennis that she's considering making him her sole heir, as opposed to a certain doting nephew.
Note: The bright yellow insert listing episode content is slightly mistaken, affecting the lineups on Discs 2, 3, 4, and 5. The correct episode-by-disc breakdowns are listed above.
Shout! Factory has once again assembled a collection of episodes that (with some minor exceptions) look and sound remarkable -- standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, and Dolby 1.0 Mono -- reinforcing my opinion that black and white footage (when properly cared for) ages better than color. The mono track provides serviceable audio, though closed captioning for the hearing-impaired should be standard issue by now, shouldn't it? Extras are unfortunately, entirely nonexistent here.
While I enjoyed Season Four about as much as any of the previous three, I'd be lying if I said I thought this show could go another year without an extra-terrestrial lodger or a murder to be solved to keep things interesting. Like the man said: "Knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing."
Sunset falls on Elm Street at last. Goodnight, Dennis; may you remain forever young.
If anything, this series is far too innocent!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 915 Minutes
Release Year: 1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated