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Hail Sid Caesar! (2002) – DVD Review


Written and Directed by: Peter Jaysen and Rich Tackenberg
Narrated by: Rob Reiner


  1. Bonus Sketches: “Emergency” and “The Gypsies”
  2. Deleted Scene with Drew Carey
  3. Sid Caesar’s Home Movies
  4. “Sid and Imogene Say Goodbye”
  5. Trailer

Released by: Goldhil
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent it.

When television first came out, a lot of people weren’t sure what to do with it. It was kinda like radio, it was kinda like the movies, and it was kinda like the stage. But it was its own unique creature. While others went with what they’d done before, Sid Caesar and a group of talented actors and writers created something new. Your Show of Shows (later to be Caesar’s Hour) created the playbook that many shows based themselves on. Its history and impact on entertainment is detailed in Hail Sid Caesar!

[ad#longpost]Until I watched this documentary, I hadn’t realized how big, in terms of popularity and creative talent, that Your Show of Shows was. The original sponsor, Admiral Televisions, received such a boost to their sales from Caesar and his cohorts that they had to stop sponsoring the show to meet the new demand. NBC kept the show going without a sponsor for weeks. Broadway theaters asked NBC to move the show to a new night because people were staying home watching Sid instead of going out and buying theater tickets. The writers involved–Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, among others–all cut their teeth writing skits for the hour and a half show thirty-nine weeks out of the year. And these men, along with the talents of Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca, Howard Morris, and Nanette Fabray–with Sid of course–molded comedy on stage and screen for the next half-century.

Now this docu isn’t all a love letter to Sid. It talks about his famous temper and how the stress of constantly putting out Class A material led him to burden himself with alcohol and pills. He still had enough discipline not to use during writer’s meetings or during a performance and he even got clean on his own. Frankly, it makes the people involved with Saturday Night Live seems like wimps, if you ask me.

The extras give us a taste of what Sid Caesar brought to the screen. The skits, a takeoff of medical dramas and another involving singing gypsies still made me laugh even though the performances are fifty years old. We also get some home movies of Sid Caesar goofing around and I wonder if he felt he had to play to the camera, even if his wife was holding it. There’s also the parting of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, truly one of the great pairings in comedy. A cut bit from an interview with modern funny man, Drew Carey, discussing Sid Caesar could have stayed cut. The extras as well as the documentary whet your appetite to find this comedy powerhouse on video or DVD, so do it and Hail Sid Caesar as well.

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