DVD REVIEWS: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore

Beyond the Fringe Acorn
Show ••• Picture/Sound •• Extras ••
Not Only But Always Acorn
Movie •••½ Picture/Sound ••• Extras •••
Look up "droll" in the dictionary and you might find a picture of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The satirical British duo first broke through with Beyond the Fringe, a four-man theatrical show with writer/actor Alan Bennett and writer/director Jonathan Miller. Their collection of skits took London's West End by storm in the early 1960s - and this DVD of their final performance (from 1964) is the only film of the group's collaboration. It's a little long-winded and may be somewhat obscure for today's audiences, but the best bits push this long-lost show far beyond "historical document" status. For enhanced enjoyment, start with Not Only but Always, a remarkably well-made British TV movie of Cook and Moore's stormy personal and show-biz lives. Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) is positively brilliant as the mercurial Cook. Neither disc will light up your home theater, however. Fringe has blurry black-and-white images and poor mono sound. Always is fairly sharp but can't transcend its made-for-TV look (or its flat two-channel sound). Always comes with a commentary by writer/director Terry Johnson. Fringe: [NR] English, Dolby Digital 2-channel mono; full frame (1.33:1); dual layer. Always: [NR] English, Dolby Digital stereo; letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.