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New on Disc: 'It's in the Bag!' and more …

18 Feb, 2013 By: Mike Clark

It’s in the Bag!

Olive, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Don Ameche, Robert Benchley, Binnie Barnes, William Bendix.
This very loose take on the source Russian novel that also inspired Mel Brooks’ The Twelve Chairs messily detonates the fourth wall as part of its uncommonly modern-for-the-time approach to screen comedy. In what is arguably, by default, his signature movie role, onetime radio titan and future “What’s My Line?” panelist Fred Allen plays Fred, a flea circus proprietor who quickly dumps the chairs a murdered rich relative has bequeathed him. Then, almost immediately, he learns that one of them contains $300,000 — which, among many other things, will allow his daughter to wed the son of a secret wage slave (Robert Benchley, in one of a slew of films he made shortly before his death seven months after Bag! was released), who puts on airs. Bag! is too much of a kitchen-sink enterprise to rise above a certain level. I like the way Allen insults virtually everyone on the movie’s production staff while caustically reciting their names during the opening credits — also his mid-movie encounter with archrival Jack Benny (a mock feud from their radio days) when Fred discovers that the comic has come into possession of one of the chairs. When Fred goes to Benny’s apartment closet to hang up his coat, he’s greeted by a hat-check girl (and her fee). An independent production filmed on the cheap, Bag! doesn’t necessarily seem like a natural for Blu-ray treatment — though it’s a clean enough job. 

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Docurama, Documentary, B.O. $0.38 million, $29.95 DVD, NR.
It’s easy to imagine a documentary filmmaker fashioning a conventional lament filled full of talking-head economists and sociologists discussing Detroit’s tragedy — and, to be sure, we’d learn about Motown nuts and bolts that led to what one visiting foreign tourist here refers to as its “decay.” But the team of Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady have elected to make what at least one reviewer called a “tone poem” on the subject, and we do come out of it with a limited sense (vintage auto-industry promotional films help) of what was then and what is now. The Detroit we see here is understandably short on the likes of that posh, downtown, highest-tech office building we’re bizarrely treated to in Summit Entertainment’s recent home release of Alex Cross. Detropia does indeed convey decay — though in an unpredictably haunting manner by sometimes managing to turn the visuals into a thing of beauty. Emotionally dominated by older-folk interviewees who still remember when Detroit was an industry-driven city where someone without a formal education could land comfortably in the middle class — but also prominently featuring a female blogger barely into her third decade who couldn’t possibly have witnessed those glory days — this is a saga without many answers.
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Angels in the Outfield

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $18.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh, Keenan Wynn, Lewis Stone, Spring Byington, Marvin Kaplan, Ellen Corby, Donna Corcoran, Bruce Bennett.
Paul Douglas was superbly cast as Pirates manager “Guffy McGovern” — who was, in umpire terms, “toss-prone.” In this yarn, he is ultimately assisted by heavenly intervention the Pirates needed both on and off the screen. Later refashioned as an adequate 1994 kids pic for Disney, this earlier version has stronger casting.
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