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|Featured CED VideoDisc No. 41 - Summer 2006|
With the untimely death of Richard Pryor last December, I've been looking to do a Featured CED on one of his movies, as he was among the most prolific artists represented on the CED format with sixteen distinct titles to his credit. This title seemed like the natural choice, as I'm writing this the weekend prior to July 4, 2006, the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Bicentennial, which although never mentioned, is shown prominently in the background of this 1976 movie. People too young to remember or have lived through the Bicentennial may not realize what a big deal it was. In my case I was living in a state representing one of the thirteen original colonies and still recall the school project of going out and painting all the fire hydrants in our town red, white, and blue. Some locomotives were even painted red, white, and blue, and a modest Bicentennial motif can be seen on the Silver Streak locomotive in this movie. See the screen shots further down this page representing some Bicentennial moments from Silver Streak.
Some interesting trivia concerning Silver Streak is that although the movie is set in the United States, actual filming was done in Canada, as the U.S. train company Amtrak didn't want to cooperate in the production of a movie involving a train crash. The Canada setting is most notable at 15:31 into Side 2 of the CED when the skyline of Calgary, Alberta is passed off for that of Kansas City, Missouri.
This movie also has some interesting tie-ins to other CED titles. At the very beginning of Side 2, George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) encounters Sheriff Oliver Chauncey (Clifton James) who played an almost identical sheriff role in the early 1970's James Bond movies Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun. At 25:21 into Side 1 of the disc, George Caldwell is thrown off the train by metal-mouthed 7' 2" henchman Reace (Richard Kiel) who played the same role as "Jaws" in the late 1970's Bond movies The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. And compare the dining car scene (Side 1, 08:08) between George and Hilly Burns (Jill Clayburgh) to a similar dining car scene in the CED title North by Northwest (Side 2, 00:55 RCA release, 01:08 MGM release) between Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) and Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). In many ways Silver Streak in a comedic retelling of that Alfred Hitchcock classic.
So what was going on with the RCA VideoDisc System during the Summer of 1976? In those days the system was still under development and nowhere near market introduction, although readers of tech publications like Popular Electronics might have thought otherwise. At that time, RCA CED and the MCA DiscoVision LaserDisc product were being pitted against one another by the technology press, and both companies were overly optimistic concerning market introduction. RCA was still experimenting with loose, metallized discs, which would have been a disaster had they actually been marketed. And CED research at RCA was about to take a hit with the September 13, 1976 ouster of Anthony Conrad as head of RCA, and his replacement with Edgar Griffiths, then an opponent of the VideoDisc system.
One Richard Pryor movie that regrettably was never released on CED is Bustin' Loose from 1981, the year the CED system was finally introduced. Although the CED system is not seen in this movie, there is a scene in a video retail store that shows a twirling DiscoVision LaserDisc stand. And Richard steals the screen from a front projection television, getting the store clerks to unwittingly carry out the base unit for him. In 1981 front-projection televisions were the ultimate in large-screen, although within a couple years they were eclipsed by rear-projection TV's. See the screen shots below for some from the video store scene in Bustin' Loose, captured from the actual DiscoVision release of the movie. This is one of those cool instances where DiscoVision technology can actually be seen in a movie released on DiscoVision. I've compiled a web page to document similar occurrences on CED, only one of which is known to date.
Bicentennial conventioneers getting ready to board the Silver Streak train.
The Silver Streak locomotive engine with a red, white, and slightly blue coloring scheme.
The skyline of Calgary, Alberta being portrayed as that of Kansas City, Missouri. The Calgary Tower can be seen at the right side of the picture.
A police car with a red, white, and blue Bicentennial paint job.
Railway patron wearing Bicentennial earings.
A prize car on a Bicentennial-themed display stand.
A scene from Bustin' Loose where Richard Pryor admires a front projection TV while entering a video store. The rotating DiscoVision stand can be seen on the left.
A closer view of the DiscoVision stand. The top title in the stand is a TV special by Olivia Newton-John.
Richard Pryor picking up the screen for the front projection television. Unlike the RCA PRF100, the screen for this unit is free-standing rather than being attached to the base unit.
Table of Richard Pryor CED Titles
|Blazing Saddles||Screenplay only|
|California Suite [PAL]||PAL/UK format|
|Lady Sings the Blues (2)|
|Muppet Movie, The|
|Muppet Movie, The [PAL]||PAL/UK format|
|Richard Pryor: Here and Now|
|Richard Pryor: Live and Smokin'|
|Richard Pryor: Live In Concert|
|Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip|
|Saturday Night Live, Vol. 2: Richard Pryor/Steve Martin|
|Some Kind of Hero|
|Superman III (2)**|
|Wholly Moses! [PAL]||PAL/UK format|