Appellate Judge Tom Becker's putting all his clips of Roseanne into a collection that he's calling RoMania.
My hair looks great, my breath is fresh, and I've got VD!
Billy Idol once observed that he had no trouble becoming an idol; he merely changed his name. Johnny Legend (nee Martin Margulies) took a more ambitious path toward acquiring his name. A Renaissance man for people who have never heard of the Renaissance, Legend has left tracks all over the fringes of the entertainment world. He's been an actor, rockabilly musician, wrestling promoter/manager, director (notably My Breakfast With Blassie), and keeper of the flame of a mondo archive of filmic oddities, including early TV commercials and obscure programs, educational shorts, trailers, and low-budget and underground films. In the 1980s, he began compiling these snippets and releasing them on video, starting with Sleazemania, a collection of B-movie trailers. Legend is now releasing his compilations on DVD as Johnny Legend's Mania! Mania! Volume 1 contains TV Mania (a.k.a. TV Turkeys: The World's Worst Television Shows)/Commercial Mania and Volume 2 features Dope Mania/Sex Mania.
The programs on both these discs suffer from the same basic flaw: They are haphazardly put together. Other than fitting into the theme (drugs, sex, bad TV, and commercials), there isn't much flow to the material.
Volume 1 is Legend's "salute" to yesteryear television. TV Mania is hosted by Skip Young, who played Wally on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and apparently didn't do much else. He's pleasant enough, and he does explain some of what we see (though not everything). Still, many of the clips just go on too long. One clip is from a western called The Buckskin Kid, which has children playing the roles (and riding hobby horses), but their voices are dubbed by adults. It's either creepy or funny, depending on your view, but at over five minutes, the fuzzy clip overstays its welcome. This is followed by an equally long clip of a girl who appears to be around five or six doing what appears to be an audition using a scene from The Bad Seed. I only knew this because I am familiar with the play. We also get a scene from something called Suicide Theater in which DeForest Kelley (Star Trek) plays a down-on-his-luck guy who tries to kill himself, an unfunny pilot for a sitcom about stewardesses (before they were flight attendants), a long PSA about a man who has nightmares because he decides not to contribute to the United Fund, and a number of other not-very-interesting, raggedy-looking clips. We also get an alleged commercial made in the '30s that features an African American domestic talking about buying a mattress. A horrifyingly racist relic, it was filmed in color; I have no idea where a color commercial was going to be broadcast in the '30s.
I had higher hopes for Commercial Mania, described on the case as "the Citizen Kane of commercial collections." I've always enjoyed vintage commercials. It's interesting to see how products were marketed through the decades; they sometimes mark the first appearances of performers who went on to bigger things; I can still remember catchphrases and jingles from Saturday morning commercials I saw as a child ("Always after me Lucky Charms," for example); and there are the controversial, little-seen ones, such as the "girl picking flowers" anti-Goldwater ad or William Talman (Perry Mason), dying of lung cancer, making an anti-smoking commercial. Unfortunately, Legend gives us none of these. While there are a few fun standouts (an ad for Hai Karate cologne and another for Libby's Sloppy Joes are fun), most are '50s-era spots for shampoo, toothpaste, cars, and aspirin. It's all right, just not that interesting for an hour, and the picture quality is really too poor to make this work as a "party" DVD. We also have Web sites like YouTube, where you can access lots of commercials from bygone days, which brings down the novelty value of this collection.
For bonus materials on this disc, we get a blooper reel, with people like Rod Serling, James Coburn, and the cast of Gunsmoke flubbing lines and cursing.
Volume 2 fares a bit better if only because more of the clips are in color. Sex Mania opens with a new introduction from Mr. Legend, who advises us to leave on our cell phones, smoke, and talk as loud as we want, since we are not watching this in a theater. Sex Mania opens with a very old "nudie cutie." From there, it's a long stretch of VD films. You've seen one spirochete under the microscope, you've seen them all. Then it's a couple of trailers, a very long educational film on teen pregnancy, and a '60s era nudie called Rent a Girl.
Dope Mania is possibly the best bet. We get Sonny Bono, in a gold pajama outfit that looks like he borrowed it from Cher, narrating a film that urges us to make up our own minds about marijuana. Of course, the deck is stacked, but it's a hoot watching Sonny in that outfit trying to keep us straight. We also get the usual (trailer for Marihuana featuring plump '30s-era chicks skinny dipping), more quick trips from doobie to needle, film clips of a drug movie Legend made in the 70s, trailers, and some recent clips of Legend performing with his band. This disc is called "the ultimate party DVD," but only if your party doesn't involve sex, drugs, alcohol, or rock and roll. Bonuses include trailers for films such as Five Minutes to Love starring Rue McLanahan, Hallucination Generation, and Mary Jane starring Fabian.
When Legend released his compilation tapes in the '80s, it was a much more open field. Trailers and shorts were rarely included on VHS releases, and there were far fewer compilation VHS tapes than there are DVDs. In addition, the technical expectations were much lower for VHS. It appears that Legend just took his old VHS compilations and transferred them to DVD. The picture quality is poor on both these discs, which is to be expected, to a degree; the source materials were not high quality, but a little cleaning up would have helped.
If you can find these as a rental, check them out. You might find them more entertaining than I did.
I think these discs should have been gone over and revised for their DVD release.
Guilty of neglect.
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