ERNIE KOVACS: THE CENTENNIAL EDITION – A DVD Review by John Strange

 
ERNIE KOVACS: THE CENTENNIAL EDITION – A DVD Review by John Strange
 
Ernie Kovacs was a comedic genius who was lost way too early.  In January of 1962, just 10 days short of his 43rd birthday, Ernie was killed when he lost control during a turn on a rain-slick road and crashed his car into a power pole.
 
His death was a blow to the people who loved him.  From Hollywood to the loving rooms of our country, people had come to be entranced by his sense of humor and whimsy.  He had a talent for creating visual comedy that amazed everyone who watched his various shows and specials.  His repertoire of characters was wide ranging.  When added to the abilities of his beautiful wife Edie Adams, they were very nearly a full company of players with no assistance. 
 
But they did have assistance from a pool of very talented friends and performers who quickly joined the inner circle of friends.  Possibly the most famous, at least to me, was Jack Lemmon.  He had a place in one of my favorite skits, 'The Nairobi Trio'.  Along with Mr. Lemmon and Ernie, the female gorilla (blond playing the piano) was Edie Adams and who later was replaced by Jolene Brand (Ms. Adams was working on other shows).
 
The Ernie Kovacs: The Centennial Edition is a combination of two collections of the best of Ernie Kovacs work, The Ernie Kovacs Collection (6 DVDs) and The Ernie Kovacs Collection, Volume 2 (3 DVDs).  Together they contain about 22 HOURS of TV shows, interviews, panels, movie trailers, and commercials.  With the exception of the panel  and the ATAS HOF Induction (filmed after Mr. Kovacs death) and the interviews, nearly everything shown on these disks are written by Ernie Kovacs himself.
 
We are given a wonderful selection of the various TV series he had.  Most were mostly variety shows but one was a game show.  These shows made a strong impression on many of the comedians who came after him.  George Schlatter went on to be the producer and director of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In where Ernie's influence was obvious.
 
All of these shows are in black and white since they were shot before color came into use in television.  The skits were as varied as Kovacs' imagination could make them.  From sight gags to plays on words, using props and techniques that he and his folks had to develop on the spur of the moment with little or no budget.  They did things that today's shows would be hard pressed to match, much less exceed.
 
I am sad that all of the amazing music from his shows, with only a couple of exceptions, was cut out due to budget constraints (and to make it fit on the disks).  At the beginning of most of the disks was this statement: "The sheer number of musical performances in the NBC shows would have required cost-prohibiting music clearances.  As such, and regrettably, many of them were edited out to make this collection possible.  Every effort was made to make the transitions as seamless as possible."  I wish I had been given the chance to see the musical numbers but I understand that the costs to clear the musical numbers would have raised the cost of the final product. 
 
I spent a few days watching this collection.  It is a massive collection that allowed me to learn more of this icon whose name I first learned when at an early age I would catch reruns on TV (yea, I am THAT old).  My first real immersion in the man's humor and style came when I watched him in the film Wake Me When It's Over.  The theatrical trailer for the film as well as Five Golden Hours are included on the last disk of the collection.
 
Ernie, I learned was not hot to be on the screen.  He obviously wasn't against it but by his own statements in a CBC interview in the collection, it wasn't what he really looked forward to doing.  He was a perfectionist who made each skit and bit work to his timetable, each done in one take.  If it wasn't perfect, it had to be reshot.  Unlike today, the music was played during the shooting not added in afterwards in post.  In fact, very little was done in post in those days.
 
My list favorite bits in the collection was way too long to add here so I will give you my top five:
  • Remembering Ernie With George Schlatter And Jolene Brand (I learned a lot)
  • "The Mysterious Knockwurst" (an amazing silent film, scored by Ben Model)
  • Dutch Masters Commercials (he not only wrote and starred in these but shot them DURING the show!)
  • Percy Dovetonsils: "Ode To Electricity" (actually any and all of these skits)
  • "A Pony For Chris" – His Rare TV Pilot For Medicine Man Co-Starring Buster Keaton (shot in three days, completed right before his death)
 
Having watched this collection, I would love to see acting schools do at LEAST a semester watching this collection and examining how he did what he managed to do with his micro-budget.  I think that the men and women who complete this course would go on to amaze us all.
 
 
Cast:
 
  • Ernie Kovacs, Edie Adams, Jack Lemmon, Buster Keaton, George Schlatter, Jolene Brand, and more…
 
Featuring:
 
  • Episodes From His Local And National Morning Shows
  • Episodes From His NBC Prime-Time Show
  • Kovacs On Music
  • Five ABC TV Specials
  • The Color Version of His Legendary Silent Show, "Eugene"
  • His Award-Winning Commercials For Dutch Masters Cigars
  • Short Films, Tributes, Rarities
  • 18 Bonus Sketches Featuring Many Of His Most Beloved Characters
  • 3 Complete Episodes Of His Offbeat Game Show Take A Good Look
  • "A Pony For Chris" – His Rare TV Pilot For Medicine Man Co-Starring Buster Keaton
  • The Lively Arts Featuring The Only Existing Filmed Solo Interview With Ernie Kovacs
  • 2011 American Cinematheque Panel
 
Episodes:
 
  1. It's Time For Ernie (March 7, 1951)
  2. It's Time For Ernie (June 1951)
  3. Ernie In Kovacsland (July 6, 1951)
  4. Ernie In Kovacsland (August 23, 1951)
  5. Kovacs On The Corner (January 1952)
  6. Kovacs Unlimited (May 28, 1952)
  7. The Ernie Kovacs Show (December 19, 1955)
  8. The Ernie Kovacs Show (February 20, 1956)
  9. The Ernie Kovacs Show (March 15, 1956)
  10. The Ernie Kovacs Show (April 12, 1956)
  11. The Ernie Kovacs Show (June 12, 1956)
  12. The Ernie Kovacs Show (July 2, 1956)
  13. The Ernie Kovacs Show (July 30, 1956)
  14. The Ernie Kovacs Show (September 3, 1956)
  15. Saturday Color Carnival: "The Ernie Kovacs Show" (January 19, 1957) (NBC)
  16. Kovacs On Music (May 22, 1959) (NBC)
  17. Take A Good Look (July 21, 1960) (ABC)
  18. Kovacs Special #4 (September 21, 1961)
  19. Kovacs Special #5 (October 28, 1961)
  20. Kovacs Special #6 (November 24, 1961)
  21. Kovacs Special #7 (December 12, 1961)
  22. Kovacs Special #8 (January 23, 1962)
  23. The NBC Morning Show
  24. The NBC Evening Show
  25. The Ernie Kovacs Show (January 6, 1956)
  26. The Ernie Kovacs Show (January 23, 1956)
  27. The Ernie Kovacs Show (January 30, 1956)
  28. The Ernie Kovacs Show (March 16, 1956)
  29. The Ernie Kovacs Show (January 26, 1956)
  30. The Ernie Kovacs Show (April 17, 1956)
  31. The Ernie Kovacs Show (May 17, 1956)
  32. The Ernie Kovacs Show (June 27, 1956)
  33. Take A Good Look (April 21, 1960)
  34. Take A Good Look (April 28, 1960)
  35. Take A Good Look (March 2, 1961)
 
Bonus Features:
 
  • 1987 ATAS Hall Of Fame Induction
  • Remembering Ernie With George Schlatter And Jolene Brand
  • "Baseball Film"
  • Making Of "Baseball Film"
  • "The Mysterious Knockwurst"
  • Andy McKay 8mm Home Movies
  • Percy Dovetonsils: "Ode To Stanley’s Pussycat"
  • Martin Krutch, Public Eye
  • Rock Mississippi In "Fingers Under Weskit"
  • Howard, The World's Strongest Ant
  • J. Burlington Gearshift
  • "Superclod" Test
  • "Take A Good Look" Clues
  • "Take A Good Look" Sales Film
  • "Silents Please"
  • "Our Man In Havana" Behind-The-Scenes Footage
  • Dutch Masters Commercials
  • Trailer For "Operation Mad Ball" – "It Happened To Ernie"
  • Muriel Cigars Commercials Featuring Edie Adams
  • Interview: Algernon Gerard, Archaeologist
  • Howard, The World's Strongest Ant: A Hot Date
  • Strangely Believe It: Writers To Blame
  • The Kapusta Kid In Outer Space Meets Olivia Scilloscope
  • Charlie Clod In Brazil
  • Ernie's Opening Monologue
  • Miklos Molnar's Glue
  • Percy Dovetonsils: "Ode To Electricity"
  • Interview: The World At Your Doorstep
  • Irving Wong: Tin Pan Alley Songwriter
  • Percy Dovetonsils : "Ode To A Housefly”
  • Introducing Coloratura Mimi Cosnowski
  • Howard, The World's Strongest Ant: Howard's Campground
  • Skodney Silsky, Hollywood Reporter
  • Ernie's Opening Monologue
  • Surprise Audience Member
  • Audio Lost
  • Matzoh Hepplewhite
  • Interview With Ernie Kovacs On The Lively Arts
  • "A Pony For Chris" – Pilot For Series Medicine Man
  • Ernie Kovacs Panel Discussion (August 27, 2011) At The American Cinematheque In Hollywood, CA
  • Home Movies: Golf With Edie And Ernie
  • Original Theatrical Trailers: "Wake Me When It's Over" And "Five Golden Hours"
 
Specifications:
 
Runtime:
 
  • Over 22 Hours
 
Studio:
 
  • Shout! Factory
 
Release Date:
 
  • 11/13/2018
 
Region:
 
  • A/1 (U.S. and Canada only)
 
Website:
 
 
MPAA Rating:
 
  • Various
 
Selig Rating:
 
  • BRAND NEW
 
Selig Rating Scale:
 
BRAND NEW: Should add to your DVD collection at any cost
SALE ITEM: Worth owning, but try to catch it a sale
SECOND HAND: Plan to get it, but wait to buy it used
RENTAL: Worth taking a look at, but not owning
COASTER: Pick it up at a garage sale and use it for drinks
PULL!: Makes a great Trap Shooting target