Monday, March 03, 2008

101 DALAMTIONS (1961) (Two-Disc Platinum Edition)

Written by Senora Bicho

101 Dalmatians is narrated by Pongo, an adult male Dalmatian, and starts cleverly with him introducing us to his human pet, Roger. Both are bachelors and Pongo is trying to find them suitable mates. He spots a lovely female Dalmatian, Perdita, and her pet, Anita, walking in the park. He manages to orchestrate a meeting and both couples are married soon after. Fast-forward several months and Perdita is now about to give birth to puppies. This brings Cruella De Vil, a long-time friend of Anita’s, into the picture. One of the great classic Disney songs, “Cruella De Vil” is introduced at this point. Roger is a songwriter with a new melody but no words and her visit inspires him. Cruella wants to buy the puppies for top dollar but Roger and Anita are unwilling to sell. Perdita is scared of her and knows she is nothing but trouble. The birth scene of the puppies is really cute as the housekeeper counts up to 15 in the new litter.

After the birth, when Cruella is unable to convince Anita and Roger to sell her the puppies, she uses her henchmen to kidnap them. Once Pongo learns that the puppies are gone, he utilizes the “twilight bark” to issue an all dog alert. This stretches all over the city and even makes it out to the country where the puppies are discovered by some farm animals along with 84 other Dalmatian puppies. Once news of their location gets back to Pongo and Perdita, they are off to the rescue and the rest of the movie is action-packed.

According to the information in the DVD collection, a restoration team found the original Technicolor “dye transfer” of the film. They were able to confirm the color palette approved by Walt Disney and the artists, so that they could enhance the lines and proper shading of the puppies. Their work doesn’t go unnoticed. The newly enhanced picture is fantastic. The colors are vibrant and the animation brings the characters more to life. The dreary look of London also creates a great backdrop for the story. The detail on the puppies is amazing and really adds to the enjoyment of watching the film. The restored soundtrack is very well done as well. It is crisp and clear.

The 2-disc DVD set is jam-packed with bonus features. “Pop-up Trivia Facts” offers information that pops up throughout the film. There are two levels, one for the family and one for the fan. The information is interesting but the pop-up format is rather distracting and takes up a lot of room on the screen. There is also a new “hip” version of “Cruella De Vil” performed by Selena Gomez, star of the Disney Channel Original Series Wizards of Waverly Place, and the set includes the corresponding music video. I had no idea who this was nor did I enjoy the new version of the song but it will probably appeal to teens.

“Backstage Disney” includes the featurette “Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians”. The interviews, with many noteworthy people, and information provided here are really interesting. 101 Dalmatians was a new form of animation for Disney and the details behind this change are fascinating given the state of animation today. “Cruella De Vil: Drawn To Be Bad” continues the interviews and more in-depth specifics on how Cruella came to be. Walt Disney began correspondence with Dodie Smith, the author of the novel the film was based on, prior to the release of the movie that then continued for years. “Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney” offers a dramatic re-creation of that correspondence. “Trailers, Radio and TV Spots” is exactly what the title implies. “Art Galleries” showcases the art behind the animation.

“Music & More” features deleted, abandoned, extended, and alternative versions of the songs from the film. “Games & Activities” gives children the opportunity to adopt a Dalmatian puppy to play with either on the computer or on TV. It also includes a questionnaire to help match up the viewer with the right breed of dog. I have a feeling this was done to help encourage parents to buy the right kind of pet for their kids and to not rush out and buy them a Dalmatian. There is some fun with language games for younger viewers too.

101 Dalmatians is Disney at its best. The storyline serves as a solid foundation for the movie to build from. The puppies with their different personalities are adorable. You come to care about them and their safety and the farm animals introduced during the rescue are delightful supporting characters. Cruella, voiced fabulously by Betty Lou Gerson, is also the perfect villain that you love to hate. All of these elements together make for an amusing and entertaining film.


Written by Fantasma el Rey

If you expected some sort of porno, as many people did when I mentioned my latest assignment, then look elsewhere. If it’s high-flying, Kung-Fu humor you’re after, then Royal Tramp and Royal Tramp II are what you seek. Putting the spoof on Kung-Fu epics of earlier years, “The Royal Tramp Collection” pokes fun at them all, turning a humorous glance on the visions of past masters. The plots aren’t so great, but the high jinks and mis-adventures of a kung-fu con man are what keep folks watching.

Royal Tramp stars Stephen Chow, (Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer) in the early days of his fame as Wei Siu Bo, a brothel entertainer (complete with goofy-looking tiger cap) with no real kung-fu skill, who is suddenly thrust into a plot against the Empress of the Ming Dynasty. He must use his con-man skills to survive and maneuver through the imperial palace. In the process of botching his assignment Bo becomes the servant of the Emperor and actually winds up saving him from an assassination attempt that reveals the Empress is actually an imposter and a leader of a rebel sect, thus setting the stage for…

Royal Tramp II, filmed at the same time as the first film, finds the plot thickening and the pace quickening as our boy Bo finds himself between a rock and a kung-fu hard place. The imposter Empress, Lone-er, is back and seeks revenge against Bo, who outted her as a sham. She is sent to protect the Emperor from a known threat. A problem arises now that Bo is not only a royal official but also a friend and kinsman to the Emperor. The story gets a bit twisted here, but the fun and wire-flying stunts are ceaseless. Bo is the Emperor’s right-hand man, and eventually Lone-er gives in to his con, allowing Bo to receives 80% of her kung-fu power (that’s right, 80%) and he is then able to truly help in the fight to save the Emperor’s life.

The big kick here and major jab at kung-fu films is the fact that it takes a movie and a half for the main character to use, in this case gain, his kung-fu fighting skill. Up to that point, Bo is simply a con who uses his wit and “powers” of seduction to get by. Yet the action and swordplay in these two films is fantastic and innovative, Tramp II even more so. Where Tramp I is filled with high-flying wire scenes set to mimic the stunning visual work of legendary kung-fu films, Tramp II has more originality and ups the spoof level like when Bo must fight against deadly hula-hoop-ring-throwing human puppets and must defend against a one-armed nun, which is a play on the one-armed swordsman movies, sent to take out the Emperor. The finish fights of both films have their moments of glory. Tramp I has its kung-fu magic and tree-trunk accordion while Tramp II has its sunset swordfight and burial-chamber standoff.

Again, both films are an eye-catching good time, especially as kung-fu film expert Bey Logan provides his encyclopedia-like knowledge on commentary tracks for both films. Logan is non-stop with his kung-fu-movie facts and knows just about all there is to know on the majority of the film’s cast and the meanings of the jokes and gags that the average fan may not realize. His brain set against the visuals is outstanding, and I’m sure true kung-fu fans will adore this two-disc set even more than I did. There is also a ten-minute interview with writer/ co-director Wong Jing where he tells of the film’s origins and explains the importance of class struggles in his lowbrow, humor-filled comedies.