After an eternity of hemming, hawing and just plain making excuses to not buy any titles from the WB Archive, yours truly finally happened upon a title that broke my self-styled, John Garfield,-anti-hero will.
The Robert Benchley Miniatures Collection, a 3-disc set of the master humorist's short films made for MGM spanning 1935-1944 became available as of Oct 2009! Cost was $30.00 and coupled with shipping and tax, came to $36.97. Considering that most Archive titles run $19.95 per disc, getting three at $30.00 was a steal, a factor instrumental in the decision to buy. Eventually, the Archive will have a title so irresistible that even the skinflintiest, cheapskatiest classic film fan will yield. Besides, this is probably the "way of the future, way of the future, way of the future, way of the future..." ;)
Benchley's a legend in the Haven household, and since we lacked a DVD recorder, the only way to snag the odd Benchley short was on a Warners DVD. It was a tedious and expensive process which netted just four shorts. This set completes our MGM Benchley in one fell swoop, with thirty films filling out this collection.
Quality: Another big concern to fans was the varying sound and picture quality. This doesn't play a factor with seventy-year-old short films, but may with, say, a 1960s Sci-Fi film shot in widescreen Technicolor. With the Benchley set, quality is on par with how these shorts look and sound on "regular" Warner Bros. DVDs. No remastering, but all dialogue is completely intelligible, and the picture is fine, considering the time frame and absence of any restoration. I don't think short subjects receive any special treatment on standard-issue DVDs. Packaging is a regular case with "flipper" pages to hold the discs. No cellophane wrapping or gooey stickers, so that's a plus; anything that reduces plastic can't be all that bad. Shipping was lightning fast, with the order placed on Feb 17 and received on the 22nd.
I'm pleasantly surprised when films of this vintage are in immaculate condition--these aren't anywhere near the level, of say, Columbia's Three Stooges Collections, but the Benchley Collection is well worth the price paid. I have absolutely no qualms about this release.
Oh, I see they have the Joe McDoakes short films, too!