DVD Review: Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials

The Christmas season used to mean pine tree lots, candy canes, toys that poked out eyes and another Bob Hope special from either the studio or a war zone on the television. Bob Hope was a more welcomed guest in the living room than that fruit cake Aunt Liz allegedly made. Hope brought his self deprecating wit, amazing old showbiz friends and new pals to the brighten up the holidays. He was a star of the stage, radio and movies. But while other stars desperately wanted a hit sitcom, drama or weekly variety show, Bob Hope stuck to TV specials for his broadcast legacy. Hope still had an active movie career in the ’50s and ’60s. While his shows did well in the ratings because they were specials, most of them faded from the tube. While a sitcom from the ’50s can remain in reruns even to today, not many stations are begging to rerun an hour long special from 1958. Thankfully 40 of his specials have been compiled for Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials boxset.

The boxset contains four dvd sets that touch on the various kinds of specials that Bob Hope hosted. “Entertaining the Troops” covers the specials that brought Bob and his famous pals into warzones. “The Comedy Hour” is from 1950 and while it’s mostly traditional, Bob does bring out Eleanor Roosevelt to read George Washington’s 1776 message to the country. Bob spends a lot of time in Vietnam and surround countries with US bases entertaining the troops with Jayne Mansfield, Jerry Colonna, Joey Heatherton, Phyllis Diller, Carroll Baker, Connie Stevens, Lola Falana, Johnny Bench. There’s even the special of his visit to the Middle East during the Kuwait war. Bob made these USO trips special for not only the stars, but the troops as he makes sure their messages home are seen on banners or heard via the microphone. The Middle East special is interesting since Bob has to leave the female performer behind on the boats as he arrives in Saudi Arabia.

“Thanks For The Memories: The Bob Hope Specials” contains a mix of normal specials with a few more USO trips to the warzones. The big moment is “Texaco Presents the Bob Hope All-Star Christmas Comedy Special” with Bob and Mark Hamill (Corvette Summer) swapping songs and jokes. What makes it extra special is a long sketch that seems to be the forefather of The Star Wars Holiday Special. Mark puts on his Luke Skywalker outfit and gets joined by Perry Como, Olivia Newton John as Princess Leia and Bob Hope as Darth Vader. This means that Bob was really Luke’s father! It’s rather funny and much more entertaining than the Holiday Special. “Joys (A Comedy Whodunit)” brings together nearly all of Hope’s friends for a detective case that has nearly everyone getting stabbed in a giallo thriller that Dario Argento should have directed. Among the all star floating corpses are Larry Storch, Abe Vigoda, Freddie Prinze, Marty Allen, Desi Arnaz, Charo, Phyllis Diller, Angie Dickinson, Jimmy Walker, Vincent Price and Phil Silvers. A major highlight is getting to see Steve Allen and Scatman Crothers (The Shining) jam musically. The revealing of the real killer is a hoot.

“Bob Hope: TV Legend” brings up even more USO tour specials which is great if you or a loved one have memories of getting to see Hope on base. What’s always amazing is how Les Brown and his band are always there to hit the road and sky with Bob to provide a little entertainment for the troops. He even gets Steve McQueen to join in on the fun. There’s a regular special that lets Bob yuck it up with Johnny Carson. There are even the studio Christmas specials that would air right before Bob would board a troop transport with his gang.

“Dean Martin Celebrity Roast” features the Halloween night in 1974 when the stars came together to spook Bob Hope. His star power was able to get major names including future president Ronald Reagan, Five Star General Omar Bradley, Rev. Billy Graham and First Man on the Moon Neil Armstrong. Hope also got the usual suspects in Phyllis Diller, Foster Brooks, Nipsey Russell and Flip Wilson. The odd part is seeing stars show up and not get to take to the podium to rib Hope which included Olympic legend Mark Spitz. There are quite a few great cracks including one about how as a small child Bob was quiet since his parents couldn’t afford comedy writers for him. Dean’s a great host as usual as he may or may not have been getting bombed on the dais.

Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials is the perfect way to understand and appreciate not only Hope’s television legacy, but the amazing work he did for the USO. He could have gone a few times to do his duty, but he touched down on bases for decades to give a laugh to the troops. Being able to watch a series of specials show how much he put into the shows at the bases over the years. This is history and hilarious at the same time. Bob Hope can still brighten up your Christmas viewing with these classic specials.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The quality of the transfers depends on the elements of the vintage specials. The USO elements appear to have been shot on 16mm. Everything looks fine so that you’re screen isn’t having a battle with pixels. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are right for Hope’s wisecracks especially during the Dean Martin Roast.

Shanks for the Memories is a special with Hope talking golf with his favorite swingers in 1994.

Time-Life presents Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials. Starring: Bob Hope. Boxset Content: 40 specials on 19 DVDs. Released: November 14, 2017.

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