VCI Home Video // 2003 // 480 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 29th, 2003
The decade of spins, fads, and late night drive-ins!
Did you ever wonder if Hollywood was any good at portraying the real 1950s? In the '80s classic Back to the Future, teenage protagonist Marty McFly zips back in time to check out the far-out fads of the golden aged '50s. But was that the real story? In VCI's Forever '50s, history buffs and media nuts can peer back into time and see what was really going on during the poodle skirt decade. This three-disc set is a hodgepodge of various commercials, short films, newsreels, sports footage, and movie trailers spanning 1950-1959. Along the way viewers will meet up with Eisenhower as he wins the election "in a landslide"; check out the zoo babies of the Chicago Brookfield Zoo; witness General Van Fleet visit Seoul; discover the fashion trend in swimsuits from 1958; ogle as Steven Rockefeller takes his bride; and many other defining moments that made the '50s such a beloved time in American history and pop culture. Elvis fans unite! Hula-hoopers get ready! The fabulous '50s are back!
I, like most folks, romanticize the 1950s. When I watch those great creature features of yore or visit a neon-n'-'57 Chevy themed restaurant, I get the warm and fuzzy feeling that the '50s would be a hoot to visit. With Forever '50s viewers get the next best thing -- stock footage and film shorts of the Elvis years. Certainly this disc offers no shortage in memories -- the dang thing runs well over eight hours and covers just about every topic imaginable: fashions, sports, war time news, Hollywood happenings, and the all-important birthday extravaganza of Pope Pius XII (what, you mean weren't there? Shame, shame, shame...). Truth be told, this is a specific set that will draw a certain audience: if you're into death metal music and piercing every body part possible, ten minutes worth of this may make you feel like slitting your throat (or heaven forbid, someone else's). However, if you love be-boppin' along to the likes of Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, you've found your way home. Depending on your historical tastes, various parts of Forever '50s will hold more interest than others. Personally, I loved watching the old time movie trailers for such classics as Frank Sinatra's The Man with the Golden Arm and Vincent Price's horror fest The House on Haunted Hill. If political documents are your bag, there's plenty of newsreel footage about a 1956 H-bomb test over the Pacific and the crisis in Iran. Sports nuts will drool over the footage of the Tour de France of 1955 and the 1956 Rose Bowl featuring UCLA and Stanford. In between there are also "lighter" stories ("Chimp Beast the Heat," "At Home with Joan Crawford" and "It's Refreshment Time"), as well as reports on the latest fashion trends (which by today's standards appear to be comparable to the Amish way of living). There is no real way to review this set -- it's all historical stuff that can and should be appreciated a half a century later. Though it takes a long time to weed through everything (and some footage is more snooze-inducing than others), Forever '50s is a fun, far out watch. Martini glasses and bomb shelters not included.
Forever '50s is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, though each of the segments is of varying degrees of quality. Some footage is presented in black and white whiles others are in the splendid glory of Technicolor. Not surprisingly, none of the segments look great -- grain and dirt is prevalent throughout most of these shorts with colors and black and white levels often tainted, soft, or just plain dull. Even with its imperfections (and there are many due to the age and treatment over the years), it's nice to get all these historical documents in one DVD set. The soundtracks are all presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. Much like the video portions of this set, the audio mix leaves much to be desired. Pops and crackles can be heard throughout, as well as distorted dialogue, effects, and music. In short, the quality of this disc is below mediocre. But since no one expected these throwaway news shorts and archival reels to be seen again, these are most likely in the best shape possible. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks have been included on this disc.
Though the set itself claims the third disc is a "bonus" DVD, in reality it's just an extension of the rest of the material -- trailers, shorts, and the like. More of the same, so if you enjoyed the first two discs you'll get a kick out of the third.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: VCI Home Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 480 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated