'Baseball Double Feature'
(William Bendix, Una Merkel, et al / DVD / NR / (1950/1962) 2007 / Sony Pictures)
Overview: In 'Kill the Umpire,' ex-baseball player Bill Johnson (William Bendix), failing at many jobs when his ball-playing days are over, reluctantly takes the advice of his father-in-law, Jonah Evans (Ray Collins), a retired umpire, and enters an umpire-training school. Assigned to the Texas League, he does fine until the championship play-offs when a riot develops over one of his calls. In 'Safe At Home,' when a young boy brags that he knows the Yankees, he gets himself in a tough situation of "prove it" with his Little League buddies. Then, his father must somehow come through to get the Yankees to meet the kids.
DVD Verdict: 'Kill the Umpire' is certainly in the top five of Baseball movies. The movie tells the story of former ballplayer Bill Johnson (William Bendix), a man who has a hard time holding down a job when baseball season rolls around. America's Pastime constantly beckons, and Bill frequently skips out of work to head down to the ball park. He's not the best behaved fan, either, as he repeatedly "corrects" the umpire's calls, often escalating to bellowing, "Kill the umpire!"
Bill's long-suffering wife Betty (Una Merkel) and daughters Suzie (Connie Marshall) and Lucy (Gloria Henry) have to deal with each firing, until Betty finally threatens to pack up and leave. Bill promises to never go to the ball park during work hours again. Of course, he discovers a loophole by watching the game on television at the local tavern near his new telephone repair job, while throwing back a few cold ones. This situation doesn't pan out so well for Bill, as his repairs splice in his drunken comments mid-conversation to telephone users, often with hilarious results!
The plot of this 1950 film is a one-trick pony, and lasts a brisk 78 minutes. At that length the premise doesn't wear out its welcome, although I think a couple of minutes could have been added to the ending to wrap things up more leisurely. It's in black-and-white and the transfer appears crisp. It's by no means a masterpiece, but is quite funny even when the slapstick doesn't always work.
'Safe At Home' is a very cute story about a little league baseball player who wants to be popular with the other youngsters on the team. He tells them that he knows Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and that they have agreed to come to their basball banquet. He doesn't know them and he is trapped in a lie.
To bail himself out, he runs away from home and ends up at the Yankee training camp in Florida in hopes of enlisting the help of the two super stars. They refuse him (they want him to fess up) and he is forced to tell the team the truth. Of course, the Mick and Rajah come to his rescue and invite the team to their camp. The nostalgia factor is high and never embarrassing; in fact, Roger and Mickey do a decent job in the acting department. Manager Ralph Houk is on hand but not in uniform. Wm. Fraley ('I Love Lucy') seems out of place, but the film is cute and now that Mick and Roger are gone, it's a way to have some footage of them. Both of these films are very enjoyable, and highly recommended now that the Baseball season has finally kicked off! This is a Full Screen presentation (1.33:1) and comes with no Special Features.