Thursday, June 25, 2020


Fans of slapstick comedies need no introduction to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Prior to emerging as a team, both actors had well-established film careers. Laurel had appeared in over 50 films as an actor (while also working as a writer and director), while Hardy had been in more than 250 productions. The two comedians had previously worked together as cast members on the film "The Lucky Dog" in 1921. However, they were not a comedy team at that time and it was not until 1926 that they appeared in a short movie together, when both separately signed contracts with the Hal Roach film studio. From that day forward, the two comedians performed magic on the silver screen.

Over the years they worked as a team in 107 films, starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, and 23 full-length feature films. They also made 12 guest or cameo appearances, including the "Galaxy of Stars" promotional film of 1936, promotional film shorts and a number of radio and television appearances. It seems over the past decade there has been no shortage of archival discoveries regarding their career and Randy Skretvedt wrote what has become the Bible for all things Laurel and Hardy. (Click here for a review of his book.) Their films have been released (and re-released) under many labels on VHS and DVD, and on many occasions repetition was justified with improved print transfers. As a result, any die-hard of the comedians can easily spend hundreds of dollars and own at least one copy of every existing film short and motion-picture they boys appeared in. But now we have something awesome to look forward to.

Earlier this month the LAUREL & HARDY: THE DEFINITIVE RESTORATIONS was released on DVD and Bluray, with full restorations in 2K and 4K of two feature films and 17 film shorts. Stan and Ollie never looked or sounded better. Restoration projects from UCLA and the Library of Congress are included, from 35mm archival prints.

Among the highlights are more than 2,500 rare photographs, posters and scans of archival studio files. Commentaries from Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bannister's are included. Over eight hours of bonus extras, film and archival audio interviews with those who worked with Laurel and Hardy, isolated music tracks, alternate soundtracks, movie trailers and -- get this -- for the first time ever the video debut of the nearly complete "Battle of the Century," which was available on home video only as a three-minute excerpt. It is this film short that highlights this DVD/Bluray set and after watching the film it became apparent that the legendary pie-fight sequence was not three minutes in length, but five. I knew that pie fight sequence by heart and discovered that Robert Youngson trimmed a few seconds here and there to speed up the action of that pie fight. 

This review will not go into detail regarding comparison of the picture and sound quality to prior DVD releases. (There is no point.) The picture and sound in this set is far superior to prior releases and the term "definitive restorations" is understated. "Hog Wild," for example, was taken from a full-aperture source and provides less cropping and more screen image area than any prior release. "The Music Box," that classic film short with Laurel and Hardy attempting to deliver a piano up a lengthy flight of steps, was taken from first-generation "pre-mix" elements and the detail level is amazing.  "The Chimp" was almost in disrepair and for a while it appeared we would all have to live with an inferior print transfer from prior releases but a surprise discovery of a fine-grain master positive now provides a superior rendition.

"Sons of the Desert" was released at least a half dozen times but each release contained a slightly inferior rendition from severely cropped to added music and fade-ins/fade-outs for commercial breaks for a TV print. This new release is far superior. Not only is the classic full frame but there are extended scenes never seen since 1933. 

As with the best of DVD releases, there will always be critics. Some nit-pickers might even count the grains from the film reels and question whether this new release is worth the price.  With a film short not available anywhere else, superior quality not available in other DVD/Bluray releases and tons of extras, take my word for it. Buy this set. Your support will also cast a vote and send a message: we need a volume two. While fans might debate over the top ten Laurel and Hardy film shorts and movies, I would like to state that the best of their films are contained and they never looked better. If you do not have any Laurel and Hardy DVDs in your collection, this is the one you want to start with. 

You can purchased your copy direct here:

Friday, June 19, 2020

Gone With the Wind Returns to HBO Max

After a brief furlough, executives for HBO Max, the new streaming service designed to compete against the new Disney Plus streaming service, have announced that Gone with the Wind is returning to the lineup. More than a week ago an announcement was made that the 1939 blockbuster (considered one of the 100 greatest movies ever made) was under scrutiny by folks who felt the film was promoting the benefits of slavery. Sadly, social media blew up with comments from both sides (tho, to be fair, more than 90 percent of the comments were in defense of the movie) and what I was shocked about more than anything was the misinformation that was circulating like wildfire. 

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind

It was apparent (from one perspective) that most of the complaints on social media from people complaining against the film never even saw it. Hattie McDaniel, a talented African American who played the role of "Mammy," ultimately became the first African-American to be nominated for, and win, an Academy Award. But, according to one comment on Facebook, "Hattie McDaniel was just interviewed last week and said she would like to fling the Oscar back," unaware that McDaniel passed away in 1952. Another comment on Facebook remarked: "Gone with the Wind features negative cartoon stereotypes that are insulting to black people, especially Brer Bear and Brer Fox." (Someone should have told that person that Gone with the Wind  has no cartoons and that Brer Bear and Brer Fox are animated characters of another motion-picture.)

I also found it alarming that most of the news reports got the facts incorrect. The majority headlined that Gone With the Wind was banned from HBO Max permanently, or that the movie was banned altogether from broadcasting. sold out of Gone With the Wind, in all formats, within 24 hours as if customers feared they would never have a copy to watch ever again.

First of all: Nobody "banned" the 1939 Hollywood landmark movie. You can still watch the movie on DVD and Bluray, it will continue to air annually on Turner Classic Movies, and continue to be screened over Google Play, Vudu, iTunes and Amazon Prime.

Second, what HBO Max clearly stated (and such factoid was overlooked) was that the company was temporarily removing it from streaming and would bring it back with a special filmed introduction explaining the film's historical significance. "These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible," a spokesperson said. "It will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions." This is not uncommon as many motion-pictures and vintage cartoons contain an on-screen disclaimer, or a disclaimer on the DVD packaging, reminding people that there might be some material offensive to others but for historical reasons the films remain intact and unaltered.

Jacqueline Stewart of Turner Classic Movies

So, for the record, the film was never banned on any permanent level. It was removed temporarily so that Jacqueline Stewart of the University of Chicago Turner Classic Movies could film a special introduction. Let us be honest: many of today's movies and TV shows have far worse material than Gone With the Wind, and frankly, anyone can find a reason to ban any movie (made yesterday or today) if it does not meet up to the Ozzie and Harriet standards. So if you meet someone who says that Gone With the Wind was banned altogether from all platforms, you can correct them and help stop the spread of misinformation.

Friday, June 12, 2020


Rod Serling, award winning playwright and creator of The Twilight Zone, called Binghamton his hometown. Even after he and his family had relocated to California, he would return to Binghamton every summer to see the places of his youth - his boyhood home on Bennett Ave, his high school on Main Street, and his beloved Recreation Park. It was here that he turned for inspiration for one of the most beloved Twilight Zone episodes, "Walking Distance," about a middle-aged man who wants nothing more than to return to the parks and carousels of his youth. 

By signing this petition, we declare that Rod Serling's love for his hometown - and particularly for Recreation Park, be officially recognized by changing the park's name to Rod Serling's Recreation Park. They are attempting to get 1,000 signatures and with a little help from the fans, that can become a reality.

Link below.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Retro Fan Magazine is Available Now

Looking for something cool to read during this downtime? Look no further than Retro Fan magazine.

And boy do we have a surprise at the bottom of this blog entry for you!

In an era where digital newsletters and Internet websites have dominated the newsfeeds, there is cause to cheer with the report of a new print magazine available for fans of vintage pop culture. In June of 2018, TwoMorrows Publishing released the first issue of a new quarterly magazine titled Retro Fan. Its tagline — “The Crazy, Cool Stuff We Grew Up With” — defines its subject matter, but to fine-tune that into a more specific demographic, with primary focus to pop culture of the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties.

“I am also the editor-in-chief of TwoMorrows' long-running, award-nominated Back Issue magazine,” editor Michael Eury informed me, “which examines Bronze Age (1970s-1990s) comic-book history, and have written numerous books on comics and pop-culture history, the most recent being Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters, and Culture of the Swinging Sixties. Previously, I’ve been an editor at DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and the long-defunct Comico the Comic Company, and have written for a variety of publishers and clients including Marvel Comics, Nike, and Toys R Us.”

Retro Fan almost started back in 2012. Publisher John Morrow of TwoMorrows and Michael Eury were weighing options for a new project for in addition to Back Issue. “With Back IssueI was so enjoying exploring the behind-the-scenes aspects of the comic books from my youth that I realized another magazine that did the same type of thing for the other stuff I grew up with -- the cartoons, sitcoms, toys, fads, fashions, bubble gum pop music, monsters, trading cards, etc. -- would be a fun read that’s also historically significant.”

For the next few years, the "Retro Magazine" gnawed at the back of Eury’s head, especially when he was working on his Hero-A-Go-Go book and revisiting the camp craze of the Sixties (his elementary school years): Batmania, Bond, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Captain Niceand Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho the Element Man, the Cowsills, The Monkees, Dell Comics' superhero Frankensteinand Dracula, and so on. The book designer, Scott Saavedra, who also grew up with the same and Eury developed a working relationship.

Soon after Hero-A-Go-Gowas published in 2017, Michael Eury proposed to John Morrow that they dust off the "Retro Magazine" concept and he agreed.

One of the toughest challenges we had was settling on a title. “Retro” websites, conventions, T-shirt companies, video game magazines, you name it, had locked in “Retro Magazine” and other similar names. “Then one day John suggested to me, with a ‘You’re not going to like this’ disclaimer, the name Retro Fan. I loved it! And it nailed the tone of the magazine.”

Having read the first three issues of Retro Fan magazine I have to say the contents contain well-researched, professionally written and smartly designed articles. But at its heart is fandom — a passion for a TV show, action figure, junk food, or singing group that made our childhoods special.

Much of the content is provided by regular columnists who have a reader following and keen knowledge about their subjects, starting with Martin Pasko, no stranger to DC Comics fans and genre-TV viewers. “Marty was actually part of this magazine before it was even officially launched,” Eury explained to me. “A few years back at a comic-con he mentioned to John Morrow his interest in writing about superhero cinema and related pop culture. John never forgot and I invited Marty to the mag. John and I talked about a number of other possibilities for columnists, and cartoonist/comics historian Scott Shaw and Hollywood-hero expert Andy Mangels were both on our lists. John was interested in Pete Von Sholly as a monster-column contributor. When I reached out to Pete, he was unavailable… but recommended Ernest Farino. And I’m glad he did. Ernie has an impressive background Hollywood visual effects—and like the other columnists started as a fan, most notably of monster and sci-fi cinema. We brought in Hero-A-Go-Go’s Scott Saavedra as designer, and off we went. Soon I brought in our designer Saavedra, a really funny writer, as a columnist, as well as pulp master Will Murray as a columnist.”

Retro Fan magazine is being distributed to comic shops and sold through the company website (either or as you’d expect of a TwoMorrows publication, but it is also available at Barnes & Noble. This is a risky venture, but a valuable one in an effort to attract a broader commercial audience than currently exists within TwoMorrows’ World. Articles include the 1960s TV series The Green Hornet, interviews with Lou Ferrigno and Mark Hamill, and much more.

For those who insist on digital PDF issues, you can buy back issues for a discount price in digital format through the TwoMorrows website, so the print magazine has evolved into both markets – including one saturated by instant demand as a result of Kindle and other eBook readers. Issue #9 comes out in June.

On June 2, 2020, the editors of the magazine went public by announcing that they took a hit in the past few months. Quoting them "Our distributors, comics shops and bookstores all shut down. We were left with huge losses from unsellable copies that had to be destroyed, printing bills to pay, and no idea when we'll start receiving payments again." This is the result of the closures from the Covid-19 outbreak. So they are now offering subscriptions at HALF price. No joke. Link below. Check them out. A bargain price and this is a great magazine.