Playboy's 50th Anniversary Celebration
Playboy // Unrated // $14.98 // November 30, 2004
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted December 30, 2004
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Graphical Version

The Program

In the current socio-political climate, is it even safe to say that Playboy, as an entity, is a safe and generally tame endeavor? Especially in an American society so deathly afraid of anything remotely sexual that the sight of a single areola sends Red-State Soccer Moms and Nascar Dads into screaming fits of dizzying hysteria, the likes of which would make Jonathan Edwards (the fire-and-brimstone preacher, not that other nutsucker) seem cool and rational in comparison? What's that?... What are you supposed to tell your children? Maybe that it's a boob?! Heavens forbid.

So it's the fiftieth anniversary of Hugh Hefner's creation. Fifty years of young boys stacking them underneath their beds. Fifty years of young boys sneaking them into the boy's bathroom in junior high schools, oohing and aahing at the sight of gloriously air-brushed beauties in various stages of undress. And why not? At a time of rampant conservatism, so-called moral righteousness and massive sexual repression, Hef sunk every penny he had into a risky endeavor: a magazine that would balance features on art, music, politics, humor, entertainment, sports, and other endeavors with pages and pages of the most beautiful naked women he could find. Taboo? Of course! This was the mid-1950s. But the magazine was a smash, and became an intrinsic weave in the fabric of popular culture.

So, given the salacious and titillating history of the magazine, why is the
Playboy's 50th Anniversary Celebration
DVD so dreadfully dull? The special, which clocks in at around 90 minutes or so, is the type of program which is hugely celebratory without being excessively insightful. There have been a plethora of great documentaries about Hugh Hefner and the history (and development) of Playboy Magazine, each of which are more worthwhile than this program. The feature centers around the 50th Anniversary party held at the Playboy Mansion, with guest appearances by Drew Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, Chicago, Adam Corolla, Paul Rodriguez, and the like. Witness Jenny McCarthy give us an allegedly silly and wacky tour around the mansion! See Carrey, Rodriguez, and other comedians/comedic actors not being all that funny! And look! There's Ryan Seacrest! And Joey Fatone! And endless footage of celebrities dancing! *snore*

That's not to say that the disc doesn't have its worthwhile elements. Yes, there are plenty of gorgeous women in various stages of undress. The archival footage is always a hoot, and the program does spend some time talking about the magazine's history and its impact on society. Given that the history of the magazine is infinitely more interesting than all of the goings-on at the party, one could only hope that a complete, exhaustive documentary of the magazine's history would have been produced instead.

The DVD

Video:

Playboy's 50th Anniversary Celebration is presented in a fullframe aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The presentation is mix of archival footage combined with recently-taped material, and the end result is satisfactory if not excessively impressive. One can easily accept the older, archival footage for what it is. Several of these clips go back to the 1950s, and one sincerely cannot expect them to be any sharper than they are. Colors are generally acceptable, sharpness levels are moderate, and there is little to nothing in terms of compression noise, haloing, or edge-enhancement. The transfer looks good enough, end of story.

Audio:

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, and the soundtrack is generally acceptable. Dialog levels come across satisfactorily with some decent if not highly impressive range to many of the musical numbers (Chicago, Blu Cantrell, etc.) Again, like the video it's decent enough but nothing exceptional.

Extras:

Included in this disc's extras are twelve-minutes of interviews featuring Jenny McCarthy and John DiResta as the interviewees. Here's a handy tip for everyone, everywhere: no one gives a shit about what Melissa Rivers has to say. About anything. Ever. Next up are Playboy's Part Jokes with comedian Jeffrey Ross and Playmate Stacy Fuson. This runs maybe two minutes long, and that's just enough time for a pee break. Rounding out the extras are a photo gallery and trailers for 50 Years of Playmates, Rita, 2005 Video Playmate Calendar, Video Centerfold: 2004 Playmate of the Year Carmella Decesare, and Video Centerfold: 50th Anniversary Playmate Colleen Shannon.

Final Thoughts:

Playboy's 50th Anniversary Celebration is really not worth your time, although the proud and the faithful definitely might want to give the feature a rental. Skip the party segments and go straight for the old footage; you'll be much better off. Oh, and Barbi Benton and Raquel Welch still look phenomenal. Hats off to ya, ladies.



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