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Case Number 06990: Small Claims Court

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NFL Greatest Follies: Complete Collection

Warner Bros. // 1968 // 212 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Ryan (Retired) // June 13th, 2005

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Dave Ryan throws the tightest Nerf football spiral you'll ever see.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of NFL Greatest Follies: Volume 3 (published September 20th, 2007) and NFL Greatest Follies: Volume 4 (published June 2nd, 2009) are also available.

The Charge

"The most hard-hitting sport in the world is now the funniest game in town."

The Case

From humble beginnings, NFL Films has grown into one of the better documentary film houses in the world, albeit a very specialized one. The application of their trademark style—lots of slow-motion action footage, crisp editing, killer music cues, the soothing tones of legendary narrator (and Philly's own) John Facenda, and occasionally poetic commentary ("the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field")—can make even a ho-hum 42-3 blowout look like the most dramatic game in the history of organized sports. Led for most of its history by the father-son team of Ed and Steve Sabol, NFL Films has gathered a stunning amount of archival footage over the years, most of which has gone unseen and unused.

Well, the NFL has recently taken steps to correct that, teaming with Warner Bros. on a series of NFL Films-produced DVD releases. Many of these releases, e.g. the "Complete Histories" of the Giants, Eagles, and Raiders, or the elaborate Super Bowl packages, dig deep into the NFL Films vault for their material, unearthing things that fans have never seen before. They're all unprecedented in the world of sports video, given their scope and quality.

This isn't one of those packages, though. This collection is a DVD repackaging of six titles previously released on video. But don't let that lead you to believe that this is just a money grab by Warner Bros. and the NFL—because these are six of the NFL's popular "Follies" films; collections of bloopers, bad plays, silly fans, and nutty players that have been entertaining fans since 1968. Even though there's nothing new here, there is still a lot of content on this two-disc set, and at an attractive price to boot. Assuming you don't have these on VHS already, the package is definitely a good buy for football fans.

As mentioned, six of the Follies are compiled on this two-disc collection:

Disc One

• The Football Follies
This little 20-minute film, assembled in 1968, is the granddaddy of all sports blooper reels. Up until that point, strange and silly plays would occasionally appear in newsreels, or, later, on TV sports reports, but they had never been assembled into a short feature-length package like this. It's narrated as if it were a "documentary" look at football, which is both its strength and its weakness. It's a good choice, because it gives the piece coherence and continuity. But it's also bad, because none of the players involved are identified by name. Even die-hard football fans will be hard-pressed to recognize often obscure players from the mid-'60s.

• The Son of Football Follies
Football Follies proved so popular that a "sequel" was made in 1976. Unlike "dad," Son of Football Follies is more a series of clips than an integrated whole. But this one definitely tops its predecessor. First, the immortal John Facenda—the former Philadelphia radio and television newsman who was voice of NFL Films until his death in 1984—did a good deal of narration, and actually appeared on-camera. But best of all, the immortal Mel Blanc did the rest of the narration, using his full complement of cartoon voices. Is it silly? Yes. Is it occasionally dumb? Yes. But is it still funny? Absolutely.

• NFL Follies Go Hollywood
After Son, the Follies series was fairly dormant until the advent of home video. Go Hollywood, made in 1983, was a video release from the get-go (the previous two Follies had been meant for theatrical viewing), and, like the original Follies, has a conceit and structure. This time, the program is set up like a moviegoing experience: there are "trailers," a "Keystone Korterbacks" comedy short, faux newsreels, and so forth. It's actually rather clever.

Disc Two

• NFL's 100 Greatest Follies
Well, the title just about explains it all. A good deal of the material in this program was seen in the previous three Follies—but this time, the players involved are clearly identified, so it doesn't feel as repetitive as it could be. This one dates to 1994.

• Talkin' Follies
Football meets MST3K in this 1997 Follies entry. Talkin' Follies is mainly little "skits" where voiceover artists provide the "real" dialogue for otherwise silent clips of players talking to coaches, coaches talking to officials, and so forth. There's also a good deal of actual player/coach/official commentary, too—by this point, NFL Films had started to have some players and coaches wear wireless microphones during games. (Although most of the profanity has been bleeped out, there is enough left such that you probably wouldn't want younger children watching.) This is probably the silliest of the Follies features, but it isn't nearly as bad as you might expect. Some of it is actually quite clever, to be honest.

• 21st Century Follies
The sixth and final Follies feature included, made in 2000, is the slickest and most professional of the bunch. It combines the traditional on-field bloopers with additional "wired" player/coach/official audio moments and—new for this feature—outtakes from formal interviews conducted by NFL Films. As with the other Follies, it's all cut together very well, and has occasional moments of true cleverness. (Once again, though, the language is a bit rough for younger children.)

The first three Follies features run about 25 minutes each; the second trio are roughly 45 minutes long each. Each Folly, with the exception of the first, seems structured for possible TV broadcasting, which would explain those choices of run time. (They'd fit perfectly in half-hour or hour slots, with commercials.) Picture quality on the set varies with the source material, but there's no significant reason to complain about the full screen transfer here. Audio is a serviceable stereo mix. There are no extras.

But for the slightly strong language in the last two Follies, this would be a perfect all-ages package for football fans. As is, it's still a good package for adult fans, and most kids should like it as well. It's not the absolute height of comedy in the universe; it's just good football-themed fun.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 212 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Classic
• Comedy
• Sports

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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