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Honeymooners Valentine Special, The (DVD Review)

10 May, 2010 By: Mike Clark

$14.98 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, Jane Kean.

The first two things you notice — unless you’ve never seen that famed minimalist Kramden apartment set rendered in color before — is that a) Jackie Gleason is thinner than he was in his heyday; and b) sports a Miami tan that no bus driver could ever amass unless he had a sunlamp on the dashboard. The eyes also have a bloodshot look to suggest that Ralph-ie boy had better be careful not to pick up a DWI rap.

No matter. This 1978 special and a new companion volume (1976’s Second Honeymoon) are funnier than expected, though they must have seemed beyond retro at the time, when “Saturday Night Live” was still a fresh rage. Beyond that, it’s not easy to avoid a double-take when you hear Gleason’s Kramden and Art Carney’s Ed Norton Norton alluding to Jaws or, in the Valentine show, Anita Bryant’s career-killing crusade against gays.

Of the two, Honeymoon is more noteworthy because it manages to get Ralph and Ed into drag as part of a sleuthing mission to determine why Audrey Meadows’ Alice wants — Ralph thinks — to murder him. Such a thought has poisoned Ralph’s mind due to his chance discovery of a list containing Alice’s strange phone calls — a work tally, it turns out, from the secret job she’s taken at the phone company to buy him a new suit for that 14th day of February. Whenever she tries to take his measurements (the script covers Gleason’s real-life weight loss by explaining that Ralph is now thinner), he assumes she’s measuring him for a coffin.

When Ralph and Ed don women’s clothing to entrap Alice’s supposed lover, Gleason sports the biggest pair of breasts anyone has ever seen this side of Fellini’s Amarcord.  It is a sight to behold, especially since he also has to don a veil to cover his mustache (another cosmetic change compared to the old days). In one scene, Carney almost loses his skirt. He also has slightly better legs than expected, but this is a subjective opinion that is probably not worth pressing.

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