Judge Patrick Naugle is off his nut.
"Don Rickles reminds me of another movie that I made: Willard."—Ernest Borgnine
Originally created as a ratings booster for the last season of NBC's variety program The Dean Martin Show in 1973, Dean's infamous 'celebrity roasts' quickly became one of the biggest franchise hits for the station with regular specials being beamed into comedy lover's living rooms. Featuring some of the biggest talents of the day—including Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Ruth Buzzi, Ronald Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Nispey Russell, and Dean Martin as their oft-inebriated ringleader—The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts became a huge hit with viewers. Come along on a rambunctious comedic journey with Dean Martin and watch some of the biggest names in TV, movies, and politics get their just desserts in Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Full Roasted! The lineup of roasted celebrities include Betty White, Ronald Reagan, Bette Davis, Muhammad Ali, George Burns, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, Dan Rowan & Dick Martin, Barry Goldwater, Suzanne Somers, George Washington, Dennis Weaver, Ralph Nader, Gabe Kaplan, Redd Foxx, Hugh Hefner, and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
There are certain things you can 100% count on while watching television at one thirty in the morning. At least one station will be playing a rerun of COPS. If you're surfing Cinemax, you'll stumble upon soft core porn (as we liked to call it as kids, "Skinemax"). And at some point you'll run across an infomercial for the "Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts" DVD set from Time Life. For years I've come across this infomercial, often stopping for an entire half hour just to watch clips from the show's uproarious roster of iconic, legendary comedians. Seeing Don Rickles, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, and Betty White making fun of their contemporaries is pure comedic gold. While I never bought the DVD sets they had for sale (only 4 easy installments of $19.99 each!), I will admit to being tempted once or twice.
When I found out I would be sent Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Fully Roasted for review, I was ecstatic. Finally I'd have the chance to not just see snippets and clips but entire roasts. In the end it was a lot of fun to see these roasts fully realized and uncut, but much like a movie preview for a new comedy, I realized the trailer (or infomercial, in this case) actually gave away the best parts. Yes, there are a lot of laughs here, but a lot of the comedy hasn't aged particularly well. There are many instances where roasters reference obscure people and events that were relevant in the 1970s, but are generally long forgotten by 2014. Some roasts are better than others, and because they're anywhere from 30-40 years old, some of the jokes are either too topical or a little too soft to illicit genuine belly laughs.
This isn't to say that these roasts aren't funny; on the contrary there are many spontaneous, amusing bits between Martin and his friends. In fact, one of the joys of watching Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Fully Roasted is seeing the camaraderie between Martin and the tables full of his friends. It's clear that Sinatra, Russell, Ball, Foxx, and the rest of the rotating lineup are all having the time of their lives on stage, each giving back as good as they got. One of the many pleasures of watching these roasts is seeing good friends yoking it up at their own expense; it's clear that no one feels offended (even when the issue of race is brought up, which it is often, usually by Don Rickles).
Even more amusingly, Dean Martin is either completely drunk during most of the roasts, or he was the best actor on the planet. Viewers should be prepared to see not just a lot of famous faces, but also a lot of not-so-famous faces (at least in 2014): Foster Brooks, Artie Johnson, and Agnes Moorhead may not ring a bell for younger viewers, but they're often just as funny as the big name roasters. (Forster's drunken persona is a real hoot.) If there's any true shining star of the show, it's easily the cantankerous Don Rickles (aka "Mr. Warmth"), who somehow received a free pass to say some of the most horrible things to his fellow roasters. Rickles brings down the house in several of the roasts included on this set (my favorite being his scathing zingers towards Telly Savalas), and makes this set worth sitting through.
Each episode of Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Fully Roasted is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, and the set is spread across six DVDs. There's a message before the start of each show that lets the viewer know that, due to the age of the source materials, there may be some flaws in the prints. Overall the image quality here is good, but fans shouldn't expect any miracles. The video transfers sometimes look worn with minor defects or damage. Any imperfections in these transfers can be overlooked and don't detract from the show. The soundtrack for each roast is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 in English. Not surprisingly, this is a very front heavy mix without any surround sound effects (and none are needed).
Bonus features include eighteen bonus comedy sketches from The Dean Martin Show (none of them as funny as the roasts themselves); three featurettes on the show ("Ladies of the Dais", "Beauty & The Beast: Ruth Buzzi vs. Muhammad Ali", and "Roast in Hell: Politicians Under Fire"); and exclusive interviews with Phyllis Diller, Ruth Buzzi, Shirley Jones, Tony Danza, Angie Dickinson, Carol Burnett, Sheila Kuehl, Jimmie Walker, Abe Vigoda, and Fred Willard.
Celebrity roasts have made a comeback in the past decade on Comedy Central, but the people being roasted are often parodies of themselves already (Flavor Flav, anyone?) and the jokes are clearly meant to be as outrageous as possible, which often means they're mean or gross without being very funny. It's also clear that the people on the dais aren't chosen because they're friends, but because they're considered "funny." Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Fully Roasted takes the roast theme back to its basics, offering up (mostly) amusing evenings between good friends having the time of their drunken, debauchery-laden careers.
Moments of hilarity amidst a lot of filler.
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