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Ghost Canyon

'Top Banana'
(Rose Marie, Phil Silvers, et al / DVD / NR / 2011 / MGM)

Overview: Phil Silvers stars as "the funniest man on television," a top comedian who meddles once too often and gets outsmarted by himself in this hilarious adaptation of the smash Broadway production.

DVD Verdict: This is the only movie of a Broadway musical filmed as an audience would view it from a seat in the theatre. Indeed, this new-to-DVD release is considerably shorter than the original show which ran about two and a half hours.

The movie was made in Hollywood, though there is a shot of a real audience in a real theatre. It was filmed at the end of the national tour of the Broadway company. The original sets and props were used to create the stage exactly as it looked had you seen the show at the Winter Garden in NYC.

The show is all about Jerry Biffle and depends entirely on Phil Silvers' roaring, inflated and even touching performance. For those who only remember Silvers in his Sergeant Bilko role or as the comic relief in such films as Cover Girl and Summer Stock, his performance here might cause a re-evaluation. He was a classic low comedian who could be overpowering.

And so, what's left out? Well, this new-to-DVD version leaves out "Flash Hogan," the singing dog and other acts that were part of the TV show within the show. The full length Broadway show made the storyline a little more clear.

Actually, the earliest film was complete but was cut when it played on TV. I recommend this to Phil Silvers buffs and to musical theatre history teachers as well as those who enjoy looking back at the way things were. Also, most people say that the film was never meant to be released in 3-D format. Though, as the film was released after CinemaScope and had won over Hollywood, it's a shame. Reportedly the 3-D elements are likely lost forever, though a few 3-D clips survive [FYI: This product is manufactured on demand using DVD-R recordable media] [SH] This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.