4 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
8/10
Bela the Gangster
11 June 2007
Pleasant surprises can come in the most unusual of packages. Such is the case with this 1942 Monogram quickie starring the legendary Bela Lugosi, not as a vampire or a mad doctor, but a jewel thief kingpin hiding under two (count 'em, two) secret identities. With a setup like that, you can't very well lose.

Lugosi, as usual, pulls out an engaging performance; this guy is just plain fun to watch in any role. He doesn't get much help from his co-stars (with the possible exception of Lew Kelly, who steals a few scenes as a schizophrenic doctor), but nobody is exceptionally irritating at least. Plot holes abound and at times things get pretty confusing, but if you can overlook the blemishes and try not to take the production values too seriously, it's a nice little picture overall. And at just over an hour long, it won't bog you down. Watch it for Lugosi's performance if nothing else.

Also, keep an eye out for a poster of another of Lugosi's Monogram films, "The Corpse Vanishes," which appears in the background of one of the scenes.
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Wishbone (1995–1998)
So, What's the Story?
17 September 2005
Filled with wit, wisdom and a great showcase of classic literature, "Wishbone" is one of those shows that just will not be repeated. It will not be topped, in any form or fashion. It was a highlight of my childhood, and I hope that someday it will be a joy for my own children.

It was the 1990s, an era when children's programming was beginning to wisen up and realize that kids needed to learn more than just numbers, letters and how to play fair. "Lamb Chop's Play-Along" was teaching kids origami and magic tricks; "Magic School Bus" and "Bill Nye the Science Guy" were enlightening us to the wonderful worlds of science and nature; and "Wishbone" was covering a previously-unharvested part of the learning landscape, literature.

In a world where the average child would've been far more content to play Nintendo than crack open Charles Dickens, the clever Jack Russell terrier, Wishbone, was sharing classic stories in a fresh and exciting manner, and instilling a fascination for books into the new generation. But what made "Wishbone" work so well was that it was not only educational, it was INTERESTING. It grabbed your attention with an exciting story that didn't necessarily seem like school stuff. It was a charming, endearing program that has certainly--in my opinion--lasted the test of time.

I'm a young woman now, and for a lark I went and popped in my old "Wishbone" VHS. It made me interested in classic literature all over again. I suppose that ought to indicate SOMETHING. Now let's give a big cheer for the little dog who taught us all how to love reading. WHOOCHA!
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Lamb Chop's Play-Along (1992–1997)
Live by the rule that sad is bad and happy is COOL!
27 May 2005
I know it's only natural for someone to say that modern shows aren't as good as the shows he/she grew up with. It's the nostalgia factor that keeps our childhood shows sacred in our hearts. But nostalgia aside, Lamb Chop's Play-Along was still awesome. Shari Lewis and her personality-packed puppet gang were head-and-shoulders above their contemporaries like Mr. Rogers and Barney, because they went places and did things that other shows never thought to.

While most other shows were (and still are) pounding things like spelling and counting into children's brains, Shari taught her viewers magic tricks, riddles, Mother Goose parodies, drawing, boredom-busters and more. Today, the average five-year-old is wiggling around with the Teletubbies. When I was five, I was making jumping origami rabbits out of business cards. Somebody really needs to put this show back on the air. It's hard to stomach the idea that a generation will grow up without Shari, Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse and Hush Puppy.

Oh, yeah, and they also taught kids how to annoy the heck out of their parents: "This is the song that doesn't end, yes it goes on and on my friend....." ;)
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Love Happy (1949)
9/10
Sullen Groucho Fans Are Smearing a Funny Film
25 December 2004
I've been a die-hard Marxist for several years now. After I watched their first seven films to the point where my tapes were in tatters, I sought out their later films, the lesser productions Room Service thru Night in Casablanca. After that, I still wanted more, so I finally gave in and watched the one film that I KNEW would be painful: Love Happy. Virtually every review has smeared this film and ripped into it with full claws, so I braced myself and bought the DVD.

Now let me tell you something: this movie is great. Of course it's not in the ballpark of the Paramounts, but it fits nicely with their later films, and is a real delight. So why the negative rap? Well, this movie was originally intended as a solo vehicle for Harpo Marx. Chico joined on when he needed money to get out of debt. Groucho was never supposed to be in this film, but the sponsors said that they wouldn't release it unless he was, so that they could bill it as a "Marx Brothers" picture. So footage of Groucho narrating parts of the story were shoehorned into the finished product. The result? Chico and Harpo are just as enchanting as ever, and Groucho--despite being displayed prominently on the movie posters--is relegated to a commentator. Since most Marx fans are Groucho fans first, Chico/Harpo fans second, this setup comes as a slap in the face, and the film gets trashed.

As such, if you watch the Marxes mainly to see Groucho's witty quips, this movie will bore you stiff. However, if you--like me--love the others just as much as Groucho (for me, Chico will ALWAYS be the funniest Marx Brother!) you'll be surprised at how good Love Happy really is. I'd go into the plot, but with a Marx movie, who really cares about the plot? It's our boys we're after. Chico plays an uproarious piano/violin duet, lusts after Ilona Massey, has some "tootsy-frootsy ice cream" and does some flawed mind-reading; Harpo tumbles through a washing machine, turns his fingers into candles, pulls a dog out of his coat and lusts after Ilona Massey. And Groucho narrates, searches, quips, ponders the situation, and...lusts after Ilona Massey. Oh!--and did I mention this film started the career of a young Marilyn Monroe?

In short, to a Chico/Harpo fan, this movie is as good as (and often better than) At the Circus or A Night in Casablanca. To a Groucho fan...well, that's why we have remote-controls.
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