Sunday, June 28, 2015

On DVD: Fractured Flickers (1963)

After skewering pop culture for four years via Rocky & His Friends, aka The Bullwinkle Show, maverick producer Jay Ward turned his irreverent eye toward silent movies. Unfortunately, while Fractured Flickers is silly fun, it's considered blasphemy by fans of the silent films.

What probably hurt Flickers was that Ward was trying to do too much, parodying talk shows in the middle of the show with a short (thankfully) interview between host Hans Conreid and a studio guest, like, for example, Fabian or Rose Marie (The Dick Van Dyke Show). Otherwise, Conreid and most of Ward's repertory company (Paul Frees, Bill Scott, June Foray) added dialogue to the silent classics, mostly obscure or forgotten, save for a true classic, such as John Barrymore's version  of "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde", which was turned into a wacky comedy about seltzer water, with Scott, utilizing his Dudley Do-Right voice, as Dr. Seltzer (Jekyll). Conreid & Frees took turns as narrators.

While Conreid claimed to be in front of a studio audience, the laughter was definitely canned. Just the same, Conreid demonstrated some talent for stand-up comedy. Desilu handled distribution through its sales department. Don't ask. 

No complete episodes are available. On the other hand, looking at the animated intro, I suspect the outside animators Ward hired also created the intro for the syndicated run of What's My Line? a few years later.

Having seen a few silents in my time, I can understand why the fans of that era would have issues, but they don't get Ward's brand of subversive humor.

Come to think of it, that same kind of indignation applies today in another genre, with comics fans upset about how their favorites have been reinterpreted for recent films or rebooted entirely for a new generation that has been conditioned not to require learning about the rich history of those same characters.

Rating: B.

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