'Saturday Night Live: The Best of John Belushi' **** 093005

The Work = ****
When I was growing my parents had a tape of 'The Best of John Belushi'. I used to watch that thing over and over again and must have watched it like a billion times. Yeah. Well, I watched it a lot, anyway. Now 'The Best of John Belushi' is back thanks to this DVD release. I don’t remember all the sketches that were on that old VHS tape but this DVD release would seem to be all of them as well as several additional ones. (****Except for one sketch with Belushi playing an annoying houseguest that won’t leave.)

Belushi was a true talent and probably would have gone on to a much wider range of work had he survived into old age. Here in the best of is a selection of his sketches. From the touching and somewhat haunting (considering the path his life took) sketch “Look Back in Anger” to the goofy and amusing “Olympia Restaurant” to his manic and crazy “Weekend Update” rant about the luck of the Irish, this DVD has a good smattering of Belushi’s SNL work. There’s even some of Belushi’s singing present on the disc.

My gripe comes in with what’s missing. Why not include more of Belushi’s Samurai sketches? Especially the one where he accidentally cut host Buck Henry with his sword or the one that had him facing off with Richard Pryor. Why not include Belushi’s admittedly one note but still funny Peckinpah sketch? What about the brief sketch where Belushi was offered for adoption for Christmas? Then there is the included sketch of Belushi singing as Joe Cocker but what about the one where he actually sings with Cocker or what about the one where he plays Roy Orbison? I could go on and on.

There was certainly more room on the DVD so why not put more stuff on? Part of my complaining goes back to a gripe I’ve got with Lorne Michaels. I’m not sure if he is the one totally responsible but I’m pretty sure he has the most leverage with the show’s distribution. My gripe is that 'SNL' is not being released by season. Why not release the first five seasons on DVD? They were groundbreaking television that took shape on the fly as the cast and crew honed their skills. Why not release the seasons so fans can see how the show developed? Maybe it is copyright issues but I have my doubts. I will probably have this rant in every review of the 'SNL' DVDs but it bugs me.

I really don’t have a problem with best of DVDs but I don’t like them in place of having the full seasons. Still this DVD has some great material and if you are a fan as I am of John Belushi than this will be a no brainier to pick up. I enjoyed it and am glad it is out but I would love to see the first five seasons on DVD. I say check it out. (**101606 See bottom of the review for update.)

DVD = ***

The Look
The show is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen and despite the antiquated look of the show the transfer is not too bad. This is probably as good as these old SNL eps’ can look so I really can’t complain.

The Sound
The sound is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 track that sounds pretty decent. Like the video there are certainly some quality issues but I believe those are due to the stat of the 'SNL' source materials.

The Bonus
Before I get into the bonus features I have to mention the menus on the DVD. While they look nice they are quite annoying because at least on my copy you can’t skip them. For features I was happy to see that there are a few features present on the DVD. First up is Belushi’s screen test which shows the man already comfortable at cracking up everyone around him. Next is a short interview with Belushi and Dan Akroyd from the ' Today Show'. Gene Shalit interviews them and frankly for about half the interview comes off like an ass. Saying that Belushi is going to “do something gross” when the guy is just trying to do an early interview to promote the movie 'Neighbors'. There are some moments worth seeing in the brief interview and I’m glad it is on the DVD.

*** Also included is a Rolling Stone interview with Belushi by Charles M. Young. Written before ‘Animal House’ was released in theaters but after it had been completed the article offers a brief look at Belushi as he transitioned from television to motion pictures. It is a great slice of history (and not just about Belushi.) Take a quote from Steven Spielberg in reference to ‘Animal House’: “I like it because everyone gets f***ed in every sense of the word.” When’s that last time you heard Spielberg say something non PG? There are some pokes at what made Belushi tick and a couple of good stories but as he often did, the man still remained a bit elusive to Young.

Next is a photo gallery that is just an extended version of the menus. Pretty weak. Last is 20 minute collection of interviews that look to have been done at the same time as 'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live'. (In fact a few of the comments are actually from the doc’.) The interviews are intercut with footage of 'SNL' (including some of the Peckinpah sketch I mentioned.) This is a good but too short featurette. Having some features on the best of DVDs is a good thing and they do add value to the release, but I wanted more!

All Together = ****
'Saturday Night Live: The Best of John Belushi' is a worthy purchase if you are a fan of the man. I still want the first 5 seasons but until that happens I will just have to find bootleg copies and buy up these best of collections. This is a good one with some great sketches and a nice but brief retrospective on Belushi. Reccomended.


** 101606 So, I am psyched to say the first season of SNL is coming to DVD, complete and uncut!! Here’s hoping the next 4 seasons will follow! Thank you Lorne Michaels and powers that be!!

*** 120506 Somehow I missed the article in writing my review, added this paragraph.

**** 120506 Remembered the one sketch on that old VHS tape that is not on this DVD.

'Saturday Night Live: The Best of John Belushi' Links:

Review of 'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live'


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