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Image Entertainment presents
The Red Skelton Collection (Image) (1981-1984)

"I was arrested once for fragrance."
- Freddy the Freeloader (Red Skelton)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 10, 2005

Stars: Red Skelton
Other Stars: Vincent Price, Imogene Coca, Jack Duffy, Marcel Marceau
Director: Ken Griffin, John Trent, J. Edward Shaw, John Blanchard

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 03h:11m:02s
Release Date: July 26, 2005
UPC: 014381038224
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-C+C- D

DVD Review

Comedian Red Skelton had a lengthy and varied career, with successful radio and television programs running over three decades, as well as numerous films. After the abrupt cancellation of his long-running television show, Skelton took to concert performances. During the early 1980s, the fledgling Home Box Office contracted with Skelton for a series of specials, including some of these concert performances. This DVD collects four of these programs from 1981 to 1984.

Three of these programs are concert performances. The first, which being from 1984 actually is the last chronologically, is a Royal Command Performance in London. The other two concert performances are from 1983 in Canada. These three programs include fine examples of Skelton's tendency to laugh at his own jokes; he's obviously having a great time entertaining and visibly loves what he's doing. The result is infectiously funny. Never mind that they're jokes that were old when Skelton first told them in the 1930s. Although he apparently has a script of some kind, he keeps ad-libbing wildly and wandering off the subject, though he always manages to meander back to it eventually. Many of his classic characters are touched on, such as the seagulls Gertrude and Heathcliffe, Clem Kadiddlehopper and Freddy the Freeloader (though no Mean Widdle Kid, which I found a little disappointing, since that was always one of my favorite Skelton characters). He also does his classic "Guzzler's Gin" sketch. Unfortunately a couple gags are repeated across shows but they're few enough to overlook.

One area where Skelton always excelled was in pantomime, and these performances are liberally larded with such exemplars as a fisherman with a young boy, and an old man teaching his grandson to play baseball. He's joined on one of the programs, Red Skelton's Funny Faces (though the case and menu say that it's Red Skelton's More Funny Faces), by Marcel Marceau and another mime troupe, which unfortunately tends to crowd the program a little bit. But watching Skelton work with Marceau and play off each other is really something special.

The fourth and least of the programs is a Christmas special, Red Skelton's Christmas Dinner, a full-length Freddy the Freeloader adventure that finds him celebrating the holidays with his underclass friends such as pickpocket Molly (Imogene Coca) and vagrant Professor Humperdoo (Vincent Price). Maybe it's just a result of reviewing this in July while the temperature is over 100, but this felt forced, overly sentimental and downright mawkish, especially in some of the songs penned by Skelton that are meant to be heart-warming but just come off as leaden and calculating. The same goes for a visit to the pediatric ward of a hospital, where Freddy is mistaken for a clown booked to entertain the children. It also has a stagebound feeling that is lacking in creativity and a stupefying bad job of looping, not to mention a laugh track. Other than a couple pantomime routines that are highlights, it's eminently skippable.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full frame programs were apparently shot on videotape, with all the issues that that suggests of soft picture, aliasing and inaccurate color. Skelton's black tux frequently vanishes into the black backdrop, indicating a lack of sensitivity to black levels. Oddly, the last concert occasionally goes to widescreen for a couple brief moments, with the timecodes visible at the top of the screen. The color is better on the Christmas special than in the concert performances, not surprisingly, but it's still not anything approaching filmlike. The transfer seems to be an adequate rendition of problematic materials, however, which is to say it probably couldn't look much better than this.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono has plenty of hiss and noise to go with its harsh and tinny sound. As mentioned above, the Christmas special is poorly looped, and the differences between the looped sections and the laugh track are quite blatant and annoying. At least pantomime doesn't require good sound to be enjoyable.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 42 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There are no extras other than biography in the enclosed booklet, though the programs are generously chaptered with a stop every four minutes or so.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Three concert appearances of Skelton are the main value here; those with a taste for the saccharine may enjoy the Christmas special too. The transfer is limited by the source material, and extras are scant.


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