From Leslie Nielsen to Ken Burns: The Best in DVDs From Leslie Nielsen to Ken Burns, there's something for everyone in John Ridley's DVD selections. Cozy up this weekend with a film noir classic, a classic documentary or a slapstick comedy so funny that it became a cult-classic.
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From Leslie Nielsen to Ken Burns: The Best in DVDs

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From Leslie Nielsen to Ken Burns: The Best in DVDs

From Leslie Nielsen to Ken Burns: The Best in DVDs

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Just in case you're not up for going out to the movies this weekend, we're going to mention a few DVDs worth picking up. They are the choices of John Ridley. The multitalented Mr. Ridley is a writer and director and MORNING EDITION commentator. He's at NPR West. Good morning.

JOHN RIDLEY: Good morning, Steve. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: You're going highbrow with your first DVD selection, I understand.

RIDLEY: Yeah, I want to do something that is very esoteric and, you know, is going to appeal to, you know, 2 percent of the uber-intellectuals out there.

INSKEEP: The Complete Series" that ran in 1982.

INSKEEP: A television program.

RIDLEY: A television program. And this was done by Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker, and those are the guys who brought us the "Airplane" movie way back in 1980. And that sort of - it set the standard for the absurdist, rapid-fire comedy, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of comedy.

Surely, you must be kidding. I'm not kidding and don't call me Shirley.


INSKEEP: And "Police Squad" was an attempt to put the same thing on to television.

RIDLEY: Yeah, it was taking Leslie Nielsen, who up to that point had been a dramatic actor and is quite a good actor, but making him this absurdist comedian and really taking him on a whole new career path. He's Lieutenant Frank Drebin and he is in charge of the police squad.


M: (As Frank Drebin) I felt we had to talk with Ralph Twice's widow to see how much she knew.


U: Please go away. Please go away. I don't want to answer any more of your questions.

M: (As Frank Drebin) We're sorry to bother you at a time like this, Mrs. Twice. We would have come earlier, but your husband wasn't dead then.

RIDLEY: Of course, out of that, they did the "Naked Gun" series of films. I believe there were three of them. Very, very funny films. So it became very much a cult classic. But this is the first time that you can get it on DVD, complete series. I mean there are only six episodes. But it does have some extras and some audio commentary and all those nice things that you want to get when you're paying this kind of money for a DVD package. Well worth it and really one of the smartest television series, in my opinion, ever made.

INSKEEP: And, John, as I look at your list, the next thing here. I assume that you were checking out "Playboy After Dark" because of the great articles.


RIDLEY: You know what? I have to tell you, this is one of the most incredible TV shows that I have ever seen in my entire life. It started in 1959. First episode, or the first episode on the DVD, you've got Hugh Hefner; you've got Lenny Bruce talking about integration and its effects on society - 1959 on television! I mean, how incredible is that? And even as I watch it, I get a little nervous and wonder what the TV executives and what the audience must have been thinking when they're in there watching this.


M: And I'll go to Little Rock, and I'll say that Little Rock has solved the situation. They've done it through legislation. If the colored people can pass the literacy test, they get their vote. And it's very fair.

Well, let's see now, line all the colored people up here and if they pass the test, they can get to vote here. It's very easy. Just sign your name. Here's this ballpoint pen and this piece of wax paper and just...


RIDLEY: Then you go to the performances and you have people like Ella Fitzgerald. You've got Sammy Davis Jr. dropping by, which, by the way, having black folks in 1959 at the house party, to me that was incredibly provocative.

INSKEEP: Because it was on television, I assume no one was actually naked?

RIDLEY: No one is actually naked. But I'll tell you something; there are things that are just as provocative, you know, in some of the later episodes when you have black/white couples touching each other, hanging out with each other. It really is about being on the cutting edge of social and political change. This series blew me away. It's fantastic.

INSKEEP: You have also added to your list "Seven Days in May."

RIDLEY: "Seven Days in May," a terrific political thriller from 1964 directed by John Frankenheimer, written from source material by Rod Serling of "Twilight Zone" fame.

This is about a president in the 1960s who's faced with a missile crisis with the Soviet Union who decides peace is better than, you know, chasing a missile gap. And the generals at the time feel like this is going to make America weak, and they decide that they are going to have a military coup in the United States of America.

What makes this film so interesting is that almost nothing happens on screen. There's almost no action, yet it's an edge-of-your-seat thriller every step of the way. It's a must-see film.

INSKEEP: Mr. Ridley, thanks for coming by.

RIDLEY: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: John Ridley, screenwriter, director, novelist, commentator for MORNING EDITION. He's at NPR West.


INSKEEP: And you can get more DVD picks from John Ridley at Five For Friday, which is your online guide to fun stuff for the weekend. It's at

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

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