Release Date(s)1949-2006 (September 4, 2018)
Studio(s)NBC/Various (Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: C-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
To say that Sid Caesar was both an innovative and charismatic comedian is a great understatement. For over thirty years, he entertained and filled his audiences with non-stop laughter. His embodiment of work relied heavily on facial expressions and body language for his comedy routines, which was unique at the time. He was also the creator of two TV shows, Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour, where he would perform sketch comedies, satire, and parodies of pop-culture. These shows were incredibly popular and would be the inspiration for future shows like Saturday Night Live. Caesar was also part of a comedy team that frequently worked together, which consisted of Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris. Not only would they become legendary comedic entertainers in their own right, but many other guests and writers for the show would as well, including Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon.
For those looking for a must-have release of Sid Caesar’s material, look no further than Shout! Factory’s new DVD release of Sid Caesar: The Works. This DVD presentation is a magnanimous celebration of Sid Caesar and what he meant to comedy, ranging from his amazing work on TV to his many film appearances. It’s a 5-disc set that is about as complete as it gets with 14 hours’ worth of his funniest material. Everything, starting with the 1949 show The Admiral Broadway Review to Your Show of Shows from 1950-1951 and Caesar’s Hour from 1954-1957, is a part of this immensely entertaining package.
Here is a complete list of what this new DVD release includes:
- Ten from Your Show of Shows (a 1973 special including Breaking the News, At the Movies, Big Business, The Silent Machine: The Sewing Machine Girl, and From Here to Obscurity)
- Airplane Movies
- Boy at First Dance
- Sleep Sketch
- Bus Station
- A Streetcar Named???
- Continental Express
- Friars Club; Sid’s 50th Anniversary TV Special
- The Dick Cavett Show (3/15/71)
- Prison Walls
- The Last Angry Bull
- English Courthouse
- The Seven Dwarfs Bet
- The Beauty Contest
- Argument to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony
- Three Haircuts: Going Crazy
- Progress Hornsby
- Benny Goodman
- Nightcap (the 1983 tribute reunion special with Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, and Mel Brooks)
- The Small Apartment
- Break Your Brains (a game show parody with an audio commentary by Sid Caesar himself)
- Aggravation Boulevard
- The Bellini Cup
- Caesar’s Writers (a 1996 special)
- In the Beginning: The Caesar Years (a 2012 interview with Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner)
- The Dancing Towers
- The Chevy Show (11/2/1958) with Sid Caesar, Art Carney, and Shirley MacLaine
- The Chevy Show (12/7/1958) with Sid Caesar and Audrey Meadows
- The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special (1966)
- Bullets over Broadway
- NYU Master Class
- The Paley Center for Media’s Salute to Sid Caesar (7/16/2014, which is a great tribute with guests Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Billy Crystal)
Before viewing all of this content, Shout! Factory has posted a disclaimer, stating that the footage has been sourced from the best available materials with some of the musical content edited out due to clearance costs. The quality of the footage isn’t the greatest. The black and white TV segments, which take up the majority of the first 2 discs, are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Most of them, because of their age, are badly in need a complete restoration (which is likely impossible due to element issues). Problematic areas occur throughout such as worn, blurry, fuzzy images, vertical lines, and other forms of print damage. In some of the sketches, the characters even look horizontally-stretched.
As for the specials that were shot in color, the older material, such as The Dick Cavett Show, is subpar, with colors looking washed out and blurry. However, on the third disc, Caesar’s Writers and Mel Brooks: In The Beginning – The Caesar Years, looks good. The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris color special from Disc 4 is decent and watchable, but it appears to be sourced from a VHS tape. There’s also a faint red vertical line along the left side of the picture. Disc 5’s two color specials, NYU Master Class and The Paley Center Salute to Sid Caesar (the most recent supplements in this package), are far superior. Shot in widescreen, colors are bolder and richer by comparison.
The audio, which is included in English 2.0 mono Dolby Digital, comes in loud and clear throughout. With the older material, there’s some crackle here and there, but nothing that’s all that distracting. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles for this release. However, it is loaded with special features, including interviews and other extras scattered across the 5 discs, including The 2014 Center for Media Tribute, The Chevy Show, and Nightcap. A detailed booklet by Eddy Friedfeld is also included and is a great read.
Sid Caesar: The Works is, by far, the most complete DVD release to date of the historic comedian, chronicling his TV shows and his guest appearances throughout his career quite well. It could very well be the most golden of all of the releases featuring Sid Caesar on home video. If there was a release that was a fans’ dream come true, this new DVD set from Shout! Factory is definitely the one, even if the picture quality doesn’t measure up to current standards. Highly recommended!
- David Steigman