THE DVD SHELF: "Anonymous," "Shakespeare in Love," "A Star Is Born," "Nothing Sacred," "Tall Story"

By Steven Suskin
12 Feb 2012

Cover art for "The Bed Sitting Room"

The latest set of manufactured-on-demand titles from the MGM Limited Edition Collection — all first-time-on-DVD — includes two quirky items which might be worth a second look. Or a first look, most probably.

The Bed-Sitting Room is an absurdist view of life in London set four years after the end of World War III. One character fears he will turn into a bed-sitting room, which he does; another fellow turns into a parrot. This strange view of things came from director Richard Lester, who had displayed a distinctive style in the Beatles films "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) and "Help!" (1965) and the non-Beatles film "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1966).

The 1969 "Bed-Sitting Room" did not match the success of the 1963 play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus upon which it was based, but it certainly makes interesting viewing. The cast — and by the way, the opening credits list the "cast in order of height" — features Dudley Moore near the top of the list and Peter Cook at the bottom. Along with Rita Tushingham, Harry Secombe, Michael Hordern and Ralph Richardson.

Cover art for "What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?"



Allen Funt's What Do You Say to a Naked Lady was seen to be titillating (sorry!) when it was first released in 1970, so much so that it was emblazoned with the newly-formulated X-rating by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). It was later edited to an R-rated version. (The new DVD bears an R rating, so it is presumably the later version.)

The name Allen Funt might throw you; wasn't he the "Candid Camera" guy? Yes, he was; and that's the whole point of "What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?" The elevator door opens and an innocent stranger is confronted by — yes — a naked lady. Smile, you're on "Candid Camera," as the tagline goes; except this footage wasn't suitable for the airwaves. The film was originally marketed as something naughty, given the censorable non-attire of the candid actresses and actors (which nudity is extremely mild by today's standards). It does not all add up to much, alas; and the film is marred by especially cheesy songs written to fit the action. Even so, Funt's hidden camera illuminates human behavior. Which was always the point of "Candid Camera." In "What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?" though, he says it with a naked lady.

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Cover art for "Tall Story"

The Warner Archive, meanwhile, gives us Josh Logan's Tall Story, one of those girl-goes-after-boy tales using college basketball as a backdrop. But this is not the college basketball of today; it's 1960, or rather a big-screen Hollywood's-eye version of 1960. "Tall Story" is "tall" because they're basketball players; Anthony Perkins is the head of the team. (Also on the bench, as it were, is a newcomer called Redford.) Starring in her first film, as a coed who determinedly pursues Tony, is young Jane Fonda.

"Tall Story" was based on the 1959 play of the same title, a three-month flop by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. (They were already at work on their next effort, a musical comedy about a singing nun commissioned by Mary Martin.) Also on hand was another Pulitzer-winning playwright, Marc Connelly of The Green Pastures fame; Connelly was here as an actor, snagging a Tony nomination for his portrayal of a professor. He repeats his role on screen, but he is all but eclipsed by Ray Walston. The results are old-fashioned and amusing, especially if you are amused by the notion of Jane Fonda in cheerleader garb eagerly pursuing Tony Perkins in basketball shorts.

(Steven Suskin is author of the recently released Updated and Expanded Fourth Edition of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble" and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and On the Record columns. He can be reached at ssuskin@aol.com.)

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