Judge Cynthia Boris recalls when TV variety spiced up her life as she watches Dick Van Dyke in classic sketches.
DVD on DVD
Dick Van Dyke is a TV legend and one of my favorite comedy actors. From his namesake TV series to roles in movies like Bye Bye Birdie and Mary Poppins, Van Dyke has a style all his own. Tall and lanky, he made a career out of physical comedy, but was also a wonderful song-and-dance man who would have been right at home on the vaudeville stage.
Dick Van Dyke: In Rare Form is a collection of TV appearances from the 1950s, before he became a household name, but fans of his TV series will recognize many of the routines. The majority of these sketches come from The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom and are introduced by Pat Boone himself. He obviously had a real love for Van Dyke's brand of comedy and it shows.
Most of the individual sketches presented here are done in a no-frills style that will be familiar to Whose Line is it Anyway watchers. Each is a pantomime performed on a fairly empty set with a sound effect or dialogue track running along with the action. Van Dyke is amazing in the way that he can get you to see a vicious dog, a windy day, a cranky baby, or a houseful of crazy kids with nothing but his movements, his expressions, and some sound effects. He pulls you into every scene. You'll find yourself holding your breath as he tries to sneak into the house late at night or calm a crying baby.
One of the more unusual sketches features Van Dyke as a man who has decided to give up smoking. It â € šs a real joy to watch, since it's not something you would ever see on TV today given Hollywood's restrictions on cigarettes on TV. Another has Van Dyke and Chuck McCann performing a perfect Laurel and Hardy imitation in a sketch that was later reproduced for The Dick Van Dyke Show.
In addition to the comedy sketches, there are several musical numbers with Pat Boone and one with Shirley Jones. These left me wanting more! Ah, for the old days of the celebrity variety hour!
The special features on this disc include a full episode of a 1959 game show called Laugh Lines, which Van Dyke hosted. The show itself is plodding and horrible, but it's worth it to see Elaine May and Mike Nichols crafting satirical captions for strange tableaus—most of which go right over the audience â € šs heads.
Given the age of the material, this DVD is pretty clean. There are plenty of crackles and pops but it didn't detract from my enjoyment. I did have an issue with the contrast going from bright to light but I couldn't duplicate the problem on my other DVD player, so it may be an issue on my side and not with the DVD itself.
There's a little over an hour and a half of material on this DVD, but it goes by fast. Dick Van Dyke is so fascinating to watch that it was over before I knew it. Pantomime is surely a lost art and Van Dyke was a master.
This court finds Dick Van Dyke: In Rare Form. To tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, this is indeed a rare gem.
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