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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Kill the Umpire / Safe at Home: Baseball Double Feature (1950, 1962)

"It's too bad there isn't a Baseball Anonymous to straighten you out."
- Betty Johnson (Una Merkel)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 09, 2007

Stars: William Bendix, Una Merkel, William Frawley, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bryan Russell
Other Stars: Ray Collins, Gloria Henry, Connie Marshall, Patricia Barry, Don Collier, Ralph Houk, Whitey Ford
Director: Lloyd Bacon, Walter Doniger

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (moderate ethnic stereotyping)
Run Time: 02h:42m:05s
Release Date: April 03, 2007
UPC: 043396168824
Genre: sports


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-A-C+ D-

DVD Review

If it's opening day, there must be baseball movies being released on DVD. Columbia Pictures/Sony Home Entertainment offers this oddball pair of lesser-known baseball movies that have their own charms, not least of which is that they're not the same old warhorses being released over and over.

Kill the Umpire
This is an engaging comedy that has quite a few laughs, not least because of Bendix comic timing and doughy earnestness. He throws himself into the role to the extremes demanded by the script (written by cartoon scribe Frank Tashlin). His bluster alternating with dense confusion combines to make for a fun character with a heart of gold that has plenty of appeal. There's a strong thread of moral fiber, as befits the game, without being overly preachy. This should have been required viewing for Pete Rose. Some of the highlights include Johnson's crude efforts to get himself thrown out of O'Brien's school, and a wild chase straight out of the Looney Tunes as a mob and mobsters pursue Johnson, being dragged by a speeding ambulance. There's an element of fantasy that keeps things light and fun even when serious matters are being addressed.

Less successful is the Yankees-supported film Safe at Home. Young Hutch Lawton (Bryan Russell), having been transplanted from New York to Florida by his dad (Don Collier), feels left out of his Little League compatriots' circle. In an effort to bolster the reputation of his father, who operates a fishing cruise boat and cannot attend Hutch's games, the boy lies to his friends about Pop being friends with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Soon the lies spiral out of control until Hutch has promised that he'll get the pair of sluggers to attend the boys' Little League banquet. Taking advantage of his father's absence, Hutch hitches a ride to Fort Lauderdale, where the Yankees are having spring training, with $1.87 in his pockets, and connives on how he can meet his heroes. What he doesn't count on is the interference of coach Bill Turner (Frawley again), who is determined to keep such pests away.

Where Kill the Umpire is moral without being preachy, Safe at Home feels compelled to make its point about lying over and over, and then having the cast sum it up again. Russell is pretty appealing as the lead, and it's a good thing that he's natural in front of the camera. On the other hand, the ballplayers, not surprisingly, are total stiffs. While it's interesting to see Maris and Mantle in 1962, just after the epochal 1961 season, they're no actors. Disappointingly, there's very little of them playing baseball onscreen either. Mostly they're just posing and lamely mouthing awkward lines. Where Frawley is in fine form in the first picture, he just looks tired and ill here. There is a modestly amusing subplot about the stink of dead fish on Hutch (he having ridden to Ft. Lauderdale on a fish truck), but otherwise there's not a lot to recommend this picture beyond the sight of these Yankees. Knowing now about the hard-drinking habits of Mantle, it's a little difficult to accept the notion that he and Maris amused themselves on spring training evenings with genteel games of Scrabble.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicnoyes


Image Transfer Review: Kill the Umpire looks terrific in its full-frame presentation, with plenty of detail and excellent greyscale. The print is virtually spotless. While there's modest grain, it looks relatively filmlike and is quite pleasing overall. Though Safe at Home has the benefit of anamorphic enhancement, its presentation is somewhat uneven. The first and last reels or so seem to be from a different source, since they're quite dupey and soft, lacking in greyscale gradations. However, the middle of the film looks perfectly fine, comparable to the companion movie. The grade reflects the good portions, and not the lower quality sections of Safe at Home. Both films are in glorious black and white.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Both movies feature mono tracks that have mild hiss and faint noise. For their age, they're both quite acceptable, though nothing special.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There are no extras beyond scene selection and subtitles. Annoyingly, once you've selected one film there's no obvious way to get to the other without opening the DVD tray and reinserting the disc. No-frills is one thing...

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

A pair of less common baseball pictures, one a charming winner and the other a rather crude and leaden After School Special featuring Yankee stars. Kill the Umpire is worth the price of the set, though.

 


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