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Four Reviews from 1985


Our Town

B&W. 1940. William Holden, Martha Scott, Frank Craven, Fay Bainter; dir. Sam Wood. 89 min. Beta, VHS. $19.95. prism. Reproduction: C

Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning ode to small town America at the turn of the century may seem appealing to many viewers in this age of "traditional values. " However, the rest of us can only be numbed by the wealth of detail about mythical Grover's Corner, New Hampshire (how many folksy aphorisms can you stand in 89 minutes?). The movie lacks the play's novel bare stage setting and criminally tampers with the ending (although Wilder himself worked on the script). Its two main strengths are young Holden as the tongue-tied Gibbs and a rousing Score by Aaron Copland. The B& W print is washed out and loaded with splices, scratches, and dirt, making it hard to appreciate the wonderful production design by William Cameron Menzies.


Wally's Workshop:

Painting & Staining

Color. 1985. Wally & Natalie Bruner. 30 min. Beta, VHS. $9.95. Kartes. .

Ever wanted to give new life to old toys?  Match wood grain on different pieces of furniture? Paint a wall in one-tenth the time it normally takes? Then check out this no-nonsense look at painting and wood-staining – it could put the old-fashioned do-it-yourself manual out of business. Wally Bruner, former host of TV's What's My Line? is the crisp and efficient guide, hardly waiting for the camera to keep up with him as he paints rooms, sprays stools, and repaints children's toys on a revolving platform. Wife Natalie, knowledgeable but slightly befuddled, watches in awe as Wally demonstrates the basicsof spraying, roller-painting, and staining wood. VHS quality is as' fine-" grained' as the work onscreen.


The Men B&W. 19.50. Marlon Brando, Teresa  Wright, Everett Sloane, Jack Webb; dir. Fred Zinnemann. 85 min. Beta, VHS. $39.95. NTA. Reproduction: B +

"Paraplegics are people, too" is the message of-this Stanley Kramer production, written by Carl Foreman and directed by Zinnemann. It began Kramer's "social drama" series of the '50s and '60s dealing with real-life controversies (The Defiant Ones and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? were two other entries). The subject here is the paralyzed war vet (Brando in his first feature role), and the story shows how he overcomes his handicaps. Though well-intentioned, the movie is overly didactic (lots of details on the bowel movements of the paralyzed) and soap-operatic (“I'm not marrying a wheelchair! I'm marrying a man!”). Brando's fine, as is the crisp VHS transfer.


Let's Go to the Zoo Color. 1985. Bob Keeshan, Hugh Brannum, Cosmo Allegretti; dir. Jim Hirschfeld, Peter Birch. 58 min. Beta, VHS. $39.95. MaljacklMPI

Very young children are the target for Let's Go to the Zoo, another installment in Bob Keeshan's Captain Kangaroo Video Showcase series. As he has for over 20 years, Keeshan as the Captain mixes the educational with the silly, bringing a childlike sense of wonder to everything he does as he and his cohorts (most notably Hugh Brannum as Mr. Greenjeans and Cosmo Allegretti as a moronic sidekick named Dennis) feed and discuss zoo animals in New Jersey, California, and New York. They are aided by (at times a bit grainy) film footage of animals in their natural habitat and by didactic songs. Though adults might find the Captain's singsong delivery trying at times, kids will probably enjoy the show – and may even learn something too.