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Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Paramount Home Video presents
I Love Lucy: The Complete Seasons 7-9 (1957)

Fred: "I want to get a good gander at those gorgeous Grable gams."
Ethel: "Oh, for heaven's sake, Fred, legs are legs!"
Fred: "Betty Grable's legs are legs. Your legs are something else again."

- William Frawley, Vivian Vance

Review By: Ross Johnson   
Published: March 14, 2007

Stars: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley
Other Stars: Milton Berle, Fred MacMurray, Ann Sothern
Director: Ralph Levy, Jerry Thorpe

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 11h:09m:00s
Release Date: March 13, 2007
UPC: 097368513440
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+B+A- B+

DVD Review

Looking to move away from the weekly grind and also make time for other projects and their production company Desilu, Lucy and Desi changed the format of the show. In the place of the half-hour episodes of I Love Lucy that had run for six seasons, these hour-long episodes would be aired about once a month during the television season as part of a rotation with other hour-long dramas and specials produced by Desilu. It ran for three seasons and a total of thirteen episodes (all of which are included here) as the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz Show, later called the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour for syndication. These are the final Lucys ever aired, and the final on-screen collaborations between Lucy and Desi. It's impossible to know how long the show might have continued had circumstances been rosier, but, as it was, the very last episodes overlapped with the final days of the Arnaz's marriage. Indeed, the final episode, Lucy Meets the Moustache aired just days before the finalization of the divorce. Watching the episode knowing that, it's hard not to notice the strain in certain scenes. Nevertheless, the sad events occurring behind the scenes have precious little impact on these episodes. This isn't the best of Lucy, but it's still for the most part breezy fun.

The first hour (Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana) arrives for the first time uncut, which must delight true Lucy fans. On its first airing, the episode ran for fifteen minutes longer than the standard hour-long format. Subsequent showings cut the episode back to an hour, and the cut bits haven't been available since. While I'm certainly happy that the episode is available in full, this flashback to the first meeting of Lucy McGillicuddy and Ricky feels a bit bloated. The gags aren't particularly memorable, and it's tough to buy Lucy as a fresh-faced girl almost twenty years younger. The first meeting of Lucy and Ricky pretty much falls flat, and it points to a problem with the hour-format. It creates breathing room that doesn't best suit Lucy's brand of comedy. The best episodes of Lucy have a Rube Goldberg quality: from the moment Lucy gets that "wacky scheme" look in her eyes, calamities pile on top of each other in an elaborate fashion until everything comes crashing down in the final act. That breathlessness is rare in these final episodes, where there's simply too much room and time for things to let up. That gap is often filled by over-the-top wackiness (such as when Lucy dresses like a man to become a jockey in Lucy Wins a Racehorse or musical numbers. That having been said, there are happy exceptions. That same Racehorse episode includes several hilarious bits, including a brilliant Desi double-take when he comes home from work exhausted, walking right past Lucy, Fred, Ethel, and a full-size horse on the inside stairs, all acting so nonchalantly that they (almost) convince Ricky that there's nothing odd going on. The very second episode, The Celebrity Next Door is a delight. A war between neighbors proceeds at just the right pace; Lucy's attempt to impress the wealthy actress Tallulah Bankhead goes (of course) disastrously wrong, and a series of mini-gags build to an appropriately zany climax onstage at a PTA talent show. Bankhead's studied haughtiness and willingness to be made fun of make her an all-time great guest foil, and this one of the last truly great Lucys. Other episodes have great set-pieces, including a bullfight, a Geisha disguise, and a rather impressive car race between the Mertzes, the Ricardos, and obligatory celebrity guest-star Fred MacMurray in Lucy Hunts Uranium (pronounce it "Ooh-rah-nee-um" for that Ricky Ricardo flavor). Guests (usually playing themselves) include Milton Bearle, Cesar Romero, Maurice Chevalier, Betty Grable, Ann Sothern, and Red Skelton. Ricky's showbiz job provides cover, but I had no idea that so many Hollywood stars hung out in Connecticut (the Ricardo's home since the previous season). In fact, for a woman who encounters so many celebrities on such a regular basis, it's downright amazing that Lucy can be bothered to become starstruck every single time.

While these episodes may not represent the very best Lucy, and the writing may have dulled a bit, this is certainly still classic television without any real stinkers. Not only is the cast still charming and funny, but there's at least one all-time great episode here and several others that are worthwhile and funny. The very last episode is particularly poignant in revolving around Ricky's career difficulties and the strain that it places upon his relationship with Lucy. That's only if you're really looking for subtext, though. In spite of what was going on backstage, the last episode is all in good fun. It's too bad that things didn't work out as well for Lucy and Desi, but Lucy and Ricky wrap up with a few laughs and a particularly charming kiss, just as it should be.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Simply put, these shows look as good as they ever have, but probably better. The black and white contrast is absolutely beautiful, with a great deal of depth. That's not to say that the transfers are flawless: occasionally the picture looks overly sharpened, with some obvious "digitization." Overall, it's pretty minor, but noticeable in spots. Nevertheless, I'd say that a great deal of care appears to have gone into presenting these shows in a manner worthy of their classic status. Many shows of the time were broadcast live and "taped" from kinescopes. Basically, a camera was pointed at a TV screen showing the episode. Lucy fans are luckier in that the shows were taped for the initial broadcast, and as a result the surviving elements are of much higher quality than those of, say, The Honeymooners. Even at around fifty years old, Lucy and the gang are still looking great.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio transfer here is solid and clear. On television broadcasts, Lucy's "waaah" and other high-pitched trademarks can come off as shrill and grating, and any degree of tinniness in that audio track could've exacerbated the problem. It's something I was really on the lookout (listen-out?) for, and I'm happy to say it's never an issue. For reasons I mention in my review of the image transfer, what survives of Lucy even after fifty years is of much better quality than what remains of many other shows of the time, and that includes this audio track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
10 TV Spots/Teasers
8 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: custom cardboard cover with sl
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: While I found the special features menus a little confusing, there's a ton of archival material here along with a couple of substantive extras. On each disc there are several sub-menus devoted to the episodes on that disc. These include episode flubs, extensive guest cast biographies, production notes, and a variety of supplemental footage. These episodes have been packaged in various ways throughout the years, with various opening and closing segments and introductions, many or most of which are included. Additionally, several of the episodes had small bits cut after the initial broadcasts that didn't survive in any presentable form. These scenes are included in whatever quality was available. It certainly seems that every effort was made to include as much surviving material as possible on the discs, and it's fun to browse through, even if only the most hardcore fans will want to watch everything.

The two major extras are pretty great. The first is the Desilu/Westinghouse Sponsor Presentation on disc 2. This was a presentation that Desilu put together for Westinghouse as a goodwill gesture in honor of their new sponsorship. Desi takes us on a tour of the studios with all of the I Love Lucy principals along for the ride. The running joke seems to be that none of them are terribly different from their onscreen personas, especially scheming Lucy who can't wait to get her hands on those brand-spanking-new Westinghouse appliances(!) One suspects that a powerful studio head and star of a top-rated TV show could go out and get a new vacuum cleaner without having to beg, but it's best not to think to much on that one. It's a fun "bonus episode" and also a neat piece of television history.

Included on the final disc is 1951 On-Set Color Footage. This footage was shot by a crafty audience member during I Love Lucy's first season, and survives as the only existing color film of Lucy and Ricky's apartment, as well as of the Tropicana set. It's not very long, and the angles aren't great, but it's a major trip to see Lucy's seal routine from a completely different perspective and in color. The footage at the apartment includes a post show bow from the main cast, and it's possible, if only for a moment, to imagine what it would have been like to have been sitting in the audience during the filming of a classic. These days, behind-the-scenes footage is ubiquitous for even unpopular shows, but this is an incredibly rare, if brief, opportunity to peek behind the curtain on Lucy.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Did I still love Lucy in these final thirteen, hour-long, episodes? Well, let's say that I still liked her a whole lot. Even Lucy with some of the shine worn off still makes for pretty great television, and the number of TV and movie guest stars pack a great deal of television history into this set. Each episode looks at least as good as ever, and probably better, while the archival extras are generous and eye-opening. Though I can't imagine that many people would want to start a Lucy collection with the final seasons, these shows are broadcast far more rarely than the earlier, half-hour counterparts, a fact which by itself may appeal to newcomers. Regardless, those who have been picking up Lucy DVDs all along have no reason to stop before completing a collection with these concluding shows.

 


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