Cramming 50 years of the longest-running game show onto four DVDs is impossible. Freemantle Media didn't even try. They didn't even attempt compiling the 26 best Price is Right shows, such as the infamous telecast where the poor housewife summoned to "come on down" was in the ladies room. Or the time some mousy blonde absentmindedly peeked under the coconut and ruined Bob Barker's shell game. Or the countless bloopers by showmodels, like when Janice drove the prize car into a wall or when Holly, the most accident-prone prize lady, fell off a revolving showcase. And where are Johnny Olsen's costumed cameos? Not behind a malfunctioning moving wall, that's for sure.
Instead you get an extremely selective historical overview, starting with four episodes from the late '50s and early '60s when Bill Cullen was host, the audience was subdued, the contestants were selected beforehand and the set had all the warmth of a firing squad. Then we zip to Bob Barker's first week as host of "The NEW Price is Right," omitting the all-important first show because animal rights activist Barker wouldn't let them include any show where the prize was a fur coat. C'mon Bob, you could've included a disclaimer and one last reminder to spay and neuter your Manx ... ahhhhh, never mind. There are 17 shows total here from the early '72-'75 period and Bob's entire last week in 2007, but nothing from the '80s or '90s. Barker was taken to court a lot in those years by showmodels claiming sexual harassment or wrongful termination, so maybe he doesn't want them seeing a thin dime in residuals. While you don't want to believe the genial host was ever a monster underneath the polyester, there is a mildly sexist comment during the "Grocery Game" where Bob exclaims at Janice's cash register operating abilities —"You see, she's not just another pretty face. This child has a mind!" With hindsight it's hard not to hear that as, "If it wasn't for me, you could be working at Krogers!"
That's a lot of complaints, but what a thrill to time-travel back to when cars were cheaper than the gas that went in them, a microwave oven elicited "oohs" from a studio audience as did most of the wretched furniture and obsolete cameras you could buy now for a pittance at any Salvation Army, miniskirts were micro and bored housewives wore psychedelic muumuus like they were a broken promise from the summer of love. Too bad the intended audiencefor this DVD can't afford a tin of Kal Can let alone this "luxury item" during our current recession, where the entire middle class is readying to "come on down" to below the poverty line. —Serene Dominic
Perry Mason: 50th Anniversary Edition
Paramount Home Entertainment
For many, the image of Raymond Burr as the hulking, stoic, unflappable Perry Mason is the epitome of a TV lawyer. The show — one of the longest-running lawyer series in tube history — appeared initially from 1957 to 1966 (from whence the 12 episodes on this two-disc set were culled), then again in '73-'74, with a whopping 25 made-for-TV movies.
Fans of modern-day Law and Order-type fare be forewarned; the show's a product of its times. No blood or gore or graphic sex crimes play out in the sterile environment of classic Mason. There is, however, lots of dialogue; shots are mostly on sets, and the camera doesn't shake.
So what's the attraction? Drama, pure and simple, based on strong, involved, clean writing. Episodes are titled by case, as in "The Case of the Envious Editor," "The Shoplifter's Shoe," or "The Treacherous Toupee." But, after you adjust to the low-key pace and the earnest acting, the shows are quite a treat. Speaking of acting, the collection boasts a great array of guest stars, many in pre-fame days: Burt Reynolds, Leonard Nimoy (as a fast-talking, pre-Spock punk!), Ryan O'Neal, and a great turn by, yes, Dick Clark.
The set includes an entire disc of indispensable extras. Screen tests, classic Burr interviews, and a wonderful feature on Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner, whose books sold more than 135 million copies, among other highlights. —Peter Gilstrap
A Documentary like Pakistan Zindabad may seem, to anyone with more than a passing interest in the politics of the Indian subcontinent, a bit superficial. Covering more than 60 years of Pakistani history in less than two hours, the film breezes through the notable episodes in the country's brief life with the speed and apparent depth of a Wikipedia entry. However, the sources utilized by director Pascale Lamche and writer Amelie Blom provide illumination, perspective and context that make Pakistan Zindabad a surprisingly rich and informative film. In addition to professorial talking heads, a large number of people with deep understanding of the country's politics — U.S. ambassadors, former Pakistani government officials — tell their own stories in a way that makes the history come alive. A substantial focus is given to the first Bhutto regime, which is appropriate, since during his rule during the '70s, Pakistan's identity — and relationship to the rest of the world — went through a major shift. Bhutto's dictatorial and authoritarian streak wound up pushing back against him, resulting in his execution and a strong Muslim-oriented military rule that, to this day — despite the secular, democratic attempts of Bhutto's daughter in the '80s — deeply informs the country's politics. Revelations like this are self-evident to many Pakistan observers, but by humanizing the evolution of the country, the makers of Pakistan Zindabad make them apparent to Western viewers who may not have the vaguest understanding of the country beyond its utility to America's military aims. —Jason Ferguson
F**k The Disabled
Picture This Entertainment
Who out there remembers Geri Jewell? For '80s TV geeks this is a no-brainer. Others may need a gentle reminder that Jewell played the disabled cousin of the bitchy Blair Warner on Facts of Life. The show's most iconic/moronic episode sees Blair overcome her embarrassment of having a cousin with cerebral palsy. But you'd think that political correctness and sensitivity training would make the Blair Warners of the world extinct. Fortunately for stand-up comedian Greg Walloch — who's gay and has cerebral palsy — they aren't. Run-ins with insensitive fellow comics and clueless friends make great fodder for his comedic talent. They're also some of the best moments in the cinematic mash-up F**k The Disabled, which is part doc, part concert and part sketch comedy. The concert footage from Walloch's one-man show "White Disabled Talent" highlights his undeniably unique perspective; to say he's a comedian would be selling him short. His great storytelling ability's laced with subversive humor and genuinely touching moments. Too bad that the sketch comedy bits tossed in here — featuring Stephen Baldwin, Michael Musto and Anne Meara — aren't nearly as funny. The doc bit is a letdown too; while sporadically insightful, it doesn't dig deep into Walloch's personal life. Really, how can you come up with a title like F**k The Disabled and not even broach the subject of what it's like for a disabled gay guy to find a date, or, for that matter, get laid?
Noriko's Dinner Table
Conceived as an accompaniment to Sion Sono's devastating and intense 2002 film Suicide Club, Noriko's Dinner Table is far less brain-rattling than its predecessor, but also far more emotionally intense. "It's a very long movie, but I'm sure it will keep your eyes glued to the screen until the end," says director Sono in a brief introduction. (At nearly three hours long, Noriko's is most definitely "very long.") However, lacking many of the shocking visual flourishes of Suicide Club, it doesn't exactly keep one's eyes glued to the screen. Also, by taking the unusual step of making the follow-up less of a sequel and more of an appendix (the movie tells the tale of but one of the 54 schoolgirls who met their demise in the first film, and takes place before, during and after the events in Suicide Club), Sono indulges in copious amounts of languid, narration-driven exposition. Such an approach typically yields middling results, but the movie is bolstered by the sheer strangeness of the world that young Noriko finds herself in as a member of a "fake family" that rents themselves out to different people. Plus, the deep sense of foreboding given that the viewer knows how things will ultimately end up makes it surprisingly riveting. By focusing on the failures of family and the isolation of the digital age — rather than just on the horror of 54 teenagers hurling themselves in front of an express train — Noriko's Dinner Table is as satisfying on its own as it is as part of the bigger story Sono aims to tell. —Jason Ferguson