Screen Reviews
Dick Van Dyke – In Rare Form

Dick Van Dyke – In Rare Form

Dick Van Dyke – In Rare Form

starring Dick Van Dyke, Pat Boone, Shirley Jones

MPI Medium

Dick Van Dyke - In Rare Form

In retrospect, some of the Golden Age of Television was more like a cheap Gold Tone Age. Dick Van Dyke’s early appearances on “Pat Boone’s Chevy Show Room” are nice examples of both the good and the bad. It’s 1957 and the pair look like high school kids with taps on their shoes. Dick comes from a vaudeville song and dance background, and he and Pat did a few songs right off the old Orpheum Circuit. Pat Boone claims to have discovered Dick Van Dyke, but Van Dyke ultimately made his name in “Bye Bye Birdie”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” His material here ranges from brilliant to passable, with the bonus material even more uneven.

The one thing that comes across well is Van Dyke’s pantomime work. Don’t confuse this with Marcel Marceau “pulling a rope against the wind” and “climbing a ladder in a small room”. Rather, Van Dyke creates place, character, and story on a bare set with motion, few words, and the occasional heavy handed sound effect. His best segment, “Sneaking In”, repeats twice: once on the main program, and again in the bonus features. Other fun pieces are a duet with Boone of “You Gotta Have Heart” and “Mention My Name in Sheboygan”, a trio with Boone and Shirley Jones. Sliding down the quality roster is his portrayal of a house cat, and a rip-off of a Laurel and Hardy routine done with Carl Reiner. It’s not as good as the original, and not one of Carl’s shining moments either. The bottom rung lurks in the bonus material with the deservedly obscure TV show “Laugh Line”. Here a panel of B-list celebs pretend to improvise punch lines for a live tableau of a Roman patrician, his wife and an impossibly attractive slave. It’s bad enough to make you stab Van Dyke before you turn the knife on Julius Caesar. Flip though this to the segment at the very end – “The Invisible Dog”. Dick and a beautiful starlet have a brief exchange over the exact location of Dick’s invisible dog. Its fast, snappy, and a great visual gag.

This slice of old time television is more useful as a cultural reference or study piece than as anything you’d watch over and over. You could make your bratty nephew watch it as punishment, but I found myself drifting off more and more as it plodded along. Dick was a funny funny man, but this was the early days of television, and if it moved and had a laugh track, people lapped it up. Lick carefully…

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