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Vitaphone Varieties: Volume Two

35 scintillating shorts from the dawn of the sound era and the height of the Jazz Age.



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Vitaphone Varieties: Volume Two
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by PowerReviews
Vitaphone Varieties: Volume Two
 
4.7

(based on 3 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (2)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Entertaining (3)

Cons

    Best Uses

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      (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

       
      5.0

      MTV Before There was an MTV

      By mls

      from San Diego, CA

      About Me Audiophile, Avid Reader, Collector, Movie Buff

      Verified Reviewer

      Pros

      • Entertaining
      • Funny

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Entertainment
        • Everyone

        Comments about Vitaphone Varieties: Volume Two:

        This 2nd installment of the Vitaphone varieties shorts is representative of the entertainment you would have seen if you went to a vaudeville show or nightclub between 1927 to 1931. The acts are so much fun and very entertaining, definitely well worth the price of admission. You'll watch them again and again. They certainly don't make 'em like that anymore! I can't wait until the next installment.

        • Was this a gift?:
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        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Vitaphone Varieties shorts Volume 2

        By John N.

        from Wilmington, DE

        About Me Audiophile, Avid Reader, Collector, Movie Buff

        Verified Reviewer

        Pros

        • Classic
        • Entertaining

        Cons

        • Uneven

        Best Uses

        • Entertainment

        Comments about Vitaphone Varieties: Volume Two:

        This is a wonderful collection of early sound shorts featuring broadway and vaudeville stars (and some lesser lights) as well as dance/jazz band performances and the like. Signifcantly superior to Volume 1 in this series, Volume 2 contains early film appearances by many who later transitioned to other phases of the show business. Any fan or follower of vaudeville or 1920's-30's entertainment should find this volume "a must".

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        (6 of 6 customers found this review helpful)

         
        4.0

        For the fans of vaudeville and Vitaphone

        By JLewis

        from Sanford, FL

        About Me Movie Buff

        Verified Reviewer

        Pros

        • Classic
        • Entertaining
        • Funny
        • Great Picture Quality

        Cons

        • Limited Appeal
        • Uneven

        Best Uses

        • Education
        • Everyone

        Comments about Vitaphone Varieties: Volume Two:

        "Technically" all of the Warner Archive's compilation DVDs of short subjects reeeeaaaalllly deserve a five star rating, simply because this company is practically the only one (apart from Kino, Sony and a few others) actually taking the extra time and effort dusting off these great one and two reelers, many never shown on TV. (Again, as with the past Vitaphone sets, a special thanks should be given to UCLA and the Library of Congress.) The only reason I refrain myself with just a four star rating here is so I don't fool any readers into thinking every title here is a mini-"Citizen Kane". And they are not. In fact, a cluster (particularly on disc #1) may likely bore some viewers to tears. The entertainers are usually first rate, but the camera often shoots them head on with little razzle-dazzle to maintain your interest. On the plus side, all of these films ARE short… so you don't have time to be completely bored. Restoration-wise, they all look good and every effort is made to show them complete even if occasional title cards indicating "lost footage" must be posted.

        The obvious standouts that peak most curiosities here are the Edgar Bergen and "dummy" Charlie McCarthy shorts, equally entertaining today as they were in 1929-30 when filmed as THE OPERATION and OFFICE SCANDAL. It is surprising that the Archive didn't just release a DVD of all their shorts like they did with the Bobby Jones golf reels. Granted, they made fewer of them… at a rate of two or so per year up through 1937, when Chase and Sanborn got a hold of them for NBC radio.

        Equally good are the two comedies featuring two Wizard Of Oz actors without their costumes. "Cowardly Lion" Bert Lahr, in FAINT HEART, tries to impress his girl by becoming a cop nabbing hoods bigger than him. For 1929, it resembles a "film noir" comedy, if you can imagine such a thing. SUCCESS (1931) is one of a cluster Vitaphone-Warner put out with Jack Haley (a.k.a. Tin Man and also seen in VITAPHONE COMEDY COLLECTION VOL. 1 with Shemp Howard). Again, he is trying to impress a dame and her hyper-critical parents by playing baseball, despite being more near-sighted than Mister Magoo and not seeing where the ball is coming from. This particular title includes a certain Fred Allen as a writing credit. Allen, as all old time radio buffs know, was the great feuding nemesis of Jack Benny. He is also shown in front of the camera in 1929's FRED ALLEN'S PRIZE PLAYLETS. Although not a household name today, folks like Johnny Carson, Jimmy Kimmel and Jay Leno would not have made it today had he not pioneered the ad-libbing and media-commenting radio host persona.

        A couple one-shots are worth repeated viewings and make up for any "also rans" in this compilation. HARLEM-MANIA boasts an over-the-top drum performance by Freddie Crump that would make many rock stars today envious. He literally rolls around on the floor and hops up between stick-bashings. To see this happening in 1929 (even though black artists tended to be more free spirited in jazzy situations than, let's say, Fred Waring) is still quite a novelty.

        That and DON'T GET NERVOUS from the same year are my personal favorites. This latter comedy is about the making of a Vitaphone short with an uncooperative Georgie Price, who reminds me a bit of George Jessel in personality. As usual he demands more money and gets a blank stare from his director and crew. Alas… like so many vaudeville stars, he was forced to make a change of careers soon since "talkies" were wiping out a former entertainment industry built on performers repeating a perfected routine in different towns across the country. Now one movie could do that with multiple prints shown the same week.

        On the VITAPHONE CAVALCADE OF MUSICAL COMEDY SHORTS DVD set, there is an omnibus "Vaudeville No. 3" short dated from 1934 featuring Chaz Chase the "human garbage disposal". Apparently he was consuming lit cigarettes, harmonicas, violins and was ready to tackle a horse six years earlier in 1928. This is a typical "you had to be there" novelty.

        Heck, half the titles here fit that description. Modern viewers will scratch their heads in disbelief, but this kind of entertainment is what brought down the house back then. Shaw and Lee do some weird body contortions that are still funny in GOING PLACES, a 1930 short that only suffers from a too abrupt ending. Helen Morgan's THE GIGOLO RACKET is like your silliest Elvis Presley/Esther Williams musical (girl seeks boy for a publicity stunt, boy falls for girl and has to prove himself), but her crooning two songs are what count… as well as the concept of an older woman romancing a younger man being no big deal. Gregory Ratoff appears as the salesman who can't accept "no" in FOR SALE; like some of the stand-up comedians featured here, he talks so fast you have to "re-reel" to catch all of the lines. Pat O'Brien often played a priest with hood James Cagney in features, but he has two girlfriends and lands in jail in CRIMES SQUARE, which is a bit less interesting as a film than as a concept.

        Remember also that four titles here, including the authentic Hawaiian band performance and Joe E. Brown's TWINKLE TWINKLE were released to theaters BEFORE Al Jolson quipped "You ain't heard nothing yet" in THE JAZZ SINGER. Just seeing people talk on screen without a theater orchestra providing the sound was a novelty in itself. For this reason alone, this set has plenty of historical value.

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