BERLIN - There’s a comical joy when Me-TV and Antenna TV announce their upcoming Fall season’s schedules and viewers freak out. The two channels run shows from the ’50s to the ’80s so they really aren’t offering anything new. These two channels have done a fine job of attracting the audience that TVLand has ignored. They’re shuffling the deck of classics with a few semi-forgotten titles that deserve a larger audience. Even when they drop a show, odds are that it will return in a few years.
However viewers freak out with every change. Thanks to social media, all the ‘”how dare you mess with my show” complaints are easily accessible. Each tease about a “new” show coming to either channel (and Cozi-TV) are greeted with a mad battle between viewers. It’s a mini-”Save Star Trek” movement when Adam-12 vanishes from the dial (although it’s going to another digital substation). People freak out when their show disappears from Netflix streaming, Hulu or other services as if any of these outlets will contain the same shows until the day you check out of the hospice.
Rarely does anyone chime in with “Guess I’ll have to buy the complete series on DVD.” Which ought to be the proper response to anyone who care enough about the show to whine directly to the station. A lot of times the complete series on DVD isn’t that expensive. All five seasons of Charlie’s Angels currently can be nabbed for $25. If you need your Farrah fix, it’s all ready to be enjoyed without 20 commercials for medical supplies and cheap insurance. Or are you addicted to reverse home mortgages?
It’s understandable that people would be upset at the removal of shows that haven’t been released on DVD. And it’s hard to fault people for not recording all the episodes since the DVR has made that impossible. The replacement for the video recorder won’t record 100 episodes of the same show. Even if it did, they hard drive would crash and everything vanishes at once. You’re stuck staring at a blank screen. It’s painful. I’ve had it happen. All those episodes that have yet to see the light of a shiny disc. But the number of shows that aren’t on DVD will be getting incredibly small in the coming months. A lot of wish list items are pre-order realities before Christmas.
CBS DVD is packaging together a bunch of shows for complete series boxsets including Charmed, Family Ties, Beauty and the Beast, The Tudors, Reno 911! and Taxi are due out before the Christmas rush. Those boxsets alone give you a wider variety of programming than 95% of all cable channels that seem to exist with reruns of their top show.
Batman The Complete Series Limited Edition Blu-ray (Nov 11) is an answer to my prayers since they started putting out Blu-rays. A few people are grousing online that the boxset is priced too high. We’re talking about a chance to see Julie Newmar in high definition. I’m already crying at her impending beauty in a 1080p resolution. Those curves in her Catwoman suit are going to slice apart my TV screen. Don’t call my house when this arrives in the mail. I will be ignoring the world as I worship the feline goddess.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series (Oct. 21) brings the most insane Saturday morning show to blu-ray. This is the only kid show where I’ve been told by a puppeteer that they were doing drugs while making it. Why doesn’t this get rerun on normal TV channels? The answer is simple: It’s not normal. The Blu-ray promises to bring out all the color insanity and details that couldn’t be exposed on the DVDs.
WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series (Oct. 28) is another set that was screwed up and abandoned after only the first of its four seasons came out a few years back. But now it’s back and Shout! Factory has been doing it’s hardest to clear the various songs that played on the series. The original season one DVDs were chopped up to the point of pure pain. There’s excitement in getting to see the full Dr. Johnny Fever epic. Not to mention the joy that is Loni Anderson in her prime.
Sgt. Bilko - The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series (Nov. 4) promises to let my DVR do less work since it’ll no longer have to record Bilko in the wee hours on Me-TV. Bilko was given a compilation and single season release before being backburnered. What a tease for one of the great military comedies. Now all four years will be in a single box. No more waiting to see if the next season will be released.
The Jeffersons: The Complete Series (Dec. 9) gives us all the love of George and Weezie in their deluxe apartment in the sky. This promises to be a heavy box since the show lasted 11 seasons. No news if there will be a bonus feature dealing with Sherman Hemsley’s love of prog rock bands.
Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete Series is already out so you can get your complete Sweathogs fix. This was also a show that originally had the first season released in 2007 and then was abandoned. Fans were rather upset at the absence of the three remaining seasons. Shout! Factory has stepped in to give it a complete boxset. But cease the whining and bitterness. Welcome Back, Kotter takes us back to a time when Brooklyn was not run by douchebag trust fund kids wearing tiny hats and worshipping Lena Dunham. The Brooklyn of 1975 was a rough affair. Mr. Kotter (Gabe Kaplan) was an aspiring teacher who had his worst nightmare happen by being assigned to James Buchanan High School. This was the same school that he had terrorized as a student. Even after all these years, his old gang the Sweathogs still has memorable members. Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta) was the handsome goofball in charge of them. Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo) was the class clown with a laugh only Fran Drescher could love. Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington (Lawrence HIlton-Jacobs) was the suave athletic member. Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes) was the neighborhood threat with a note from his mother for all excuses. It’s funny to think that TV stations and concerned viewers feared this quartet would glorify gangs in school. These guys were lovable lunkheads instead of violent, drug dealing hoodlums. The show became an immediate sensation since they were a little more edgy than the gang on Happy Days.
The boxset has all 95 episodes that were made over it’s four year run. The first three were the glory days. They’d open with Gabe telling a family related joke to his wife Julie (Marcia Strassman). The catchy theme song by John Sebastian would give the flavor of Brooklyn life. Gabe would show up at school and get the business from the Sweathogs and Vice Principal Mr. Woodman (John Sylvester White). Gabe would do his best to inspire the Sweathogs. Eventually something would stick on them to make them better people. It was an entertaining formula.
The fourth season is a portrait on how everything can go wrong to a successful show and kill a shot at the prized fifth season. The first thing that happened was John Travolta becoming a major movie star. He dominated theaters with Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Unlike Michael J. Fox, Travolta wasn’t going to waste a hot year playing Vinnie. He only made it to 8 episodes. Kaplan got into a nasty contract fight with executive producer James Komack which also limited his appearances. For some reason they decided to make Julie work at the school. They also brought on the New Orleans relocated Beau De LaBarre (Stephen Shortridge) to take up Barbarino’s desk space. This was not a good move since Shortridge looked older than Mr. Woodman. Making matters even worse, Komack replaced the entire writing staff. The show was moved from its timeslot to make space for Mork and Mindy. The season was such a disaster that Nick at Nite held back on these episodes when they reran Kotter. But it’s a good thing to watch the episodes since they’re such glorious disasters. It’s easier to watch them on DVD since you don’t have to sit through all the commercials to get to the Brooklyn messes. Unlike earlier boxsets from Shout!, there are few bonus features. Hegyes and Palillo died in 2012 so they weren’t around for commentary tracks. Kaplan was probably busy playing Poker. The two bonus features are from the original season one release. A short documentary interviews most of the cast about the show. There are also the screen tests for the Sweathogs. Delving through the boxset, it’s easy to feel welcomed back.
The Legend of Hell House is an impressive haunted mansion flick from 1973. A rich old man wants to know if there’s life after death. He pays scientist Lionel Burnett (Clive Revill) a fortune to spend a week in the “Mount Everest of haunted houses.” Lionel brings along two psychics. Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) is a spiritual psychic who is new to the game. Ben Fischer (Planet of the Apes‘ Roddy McDowall) is a physical medium who was the only one to escape a previous visit to Belasco House. Burnett’s wife also joins him since she loves him. Turns out that Emeric Belasco was a rich hedonist who had no limits to what he enjoyed in his mansion. He doesn’t want to merely scare the ladies in his house. He wants to ghostly seduce them. This is an erotic possession. The script was written by Richard Matheson based on his book. He gets away with quite a bit of naughtiness for a PG rated film. This isn’t for teens. The film has a great Hammer Horror feel with the fog wrapped around the mansion and the proper amount of cobwebs. The bonus features include an interview with director John Hough and audio of Pamela Franklin talking about being seduced by a ghost. Legend is legendary.
Without Warning dares to show what happens when four groovy teens take their van up to the lake and encounter an invasion of character actors. David Caruso, Lynn Theel, Tarah Nutter and Christopher S. Nelson refuse to listen to Jack Palance (Ripley’s Believe It or Not). They have no idea that Cameron Mitchell and his kid have been attacked by living alien throwing stars. They should have known that Larry Storch (F Troop) and a pack of Cub Scouts were taken over by the alien. The teens just want to have a little fun in the water. But very quickly they learn that sometimes you need to listen to over the top actors. Besides the alien lurking in the woods, the kids have to deal with Martin Landau (Mission: Impossible). He’s in full losing it Vietnam Vet mode. When him and Palance go at it, this is the second coming of King Kong vs. Godzilla. They made Neville Brand (The Untouchables) look like a minimalist performer. The film is great in a cheesy ’80s kids in trouble with aliens mode. What’s amazing is that Palance and Landau would both win Oscars years after their thrilling face off. The film looks fine thanks to the cinematography talent of Dean Cundey. He went on to shoot Back to the Future, Jurassic Park and Roger Rabbit. What’s interesting is that this is the first time Without Warning has been legally released on home video. How can a horror/sci-fi film from 1980 had missed out on Beta, VHS and laserdisc? This is a movie whose cult is based on odd HBO screenings and a lot of passed around hometapes. The film does need a major warning that your HDTV might be damaged by the extremely pasty skin of David Caruso.
Pumpkinhead: Collector’ Edition is what happened when special effects wizard Stan Winston was finally given a chance to direct his own creation. Winston was on a hot streak in the ’80s with his creature creations for Aliens, Terminator and Predator. So people were eager to see his own horrific vision. He brought along Lance Hendriksen (Aliens) to give his vision a good start. Lance is a simple guy living out in the boonies running a gas station with his son in the middle of nowhere. Naturally a bunch of loser kids from the city come out to go nuts on their motorcycles. Something goes wrong and Lance is furious. He wants revenge against the yuppie scum. He goes to a witchy woman to conjure a beast that will do his will. Lance discovers that while Pumpkinhead can do his bidding, there’s a harsh price. Pumpkinhead has a good old time tracking down the kids. The bonus features help elevate the movie. “Pumpkinhead Unearthed” is an hour long documentary about what went into letting Stan finally direct. “A Tribute to Stan Winston” lets his associates remember how he made them part of his team. Stan passed away back in 2008. The screenwriter and members of the effects team contribute the audio commentary. Pumpkinhead has run as part of Cinema Overdrive and was a great crowd pleaser.
Motel Hell: Collector’s Edition is a film about quaint hotels and artisan food. The film has built a great cult following over the years simply because of the amazing title. Who wouldn’t appreciate that spin on the videostore shelf? The film combines the joys of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Psycho which makes sense since both movies are about Ed Gein. The Motel Hello is run by Farmer Vincent (Mr. Burn’s favorite star Rory Calhoun) and his sister (Porky’s Nancy Parson). Beside offering a sweet place to rest your head, Farmer Vincent has the best smoked meats around. What’s his secret? John Ratzenberger (Cliff on Cheers) learns the hard way. The Farmer harvests weary travelers on the road. He just doesn’t go all Cannibal Holocaust on the people. He has his way of getting things just right. Farmer Vincent has trouble when takes a liking to one of his victims (Nina Axelrod) . He nurses her back to health, but this might be the death of the Farmer if she uncovers his secret operation in the barn. Rory is great as the cannibal bed and breakfast links guy. Wolfman Jack does a supernatural job as a tv preacher in a white suit. Director Kevin Connor does the audio commentary to discuss the tone of the film. He also talks on camera for interviews that include the writers, producers and cinematographer. A piece pays tribute to Ida Smith. There’s also chats with actors remembering their time in the barn. The transfer looks so much better than the Midnite Movie Double Feature DVD. Also includes a Blu-ray.
Phantom of the Paradise: Collector’s Edition is the ultimate way to enjoy an amazing musical that deserves its cult following. Brian de Palma and Paul Williams (Smokey and the Bandit) teamed up for a tale of the evils of the rock and roll industry. Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a serious singer songwriter whose musical based on Faust catches the ear of recording wiz kid Swan (Paul Williams). But their partnership ends quick when Swan steals the songs and gets Winslow stuck in prison. Winslow escapes and attempts to stop the pressing of his music. This goes wrong and the disfigured Winslow ends up haunting Swan’s Paradise theater. The only thing he desires is for Phoenix (Jessica Harper) to sing his songs. Swan wants the overpowering Beef (Gerrit Graham) to belt them out. Like all creative differences, this won’t end nice. The Blu-ray gives more bonus feature than a hardcore Winnipeg fanatic would desire. A French documentary covers the film with the key cast and crew. There’s new interviews with de Palma and Williams. There’s an additional interview with Williams done by Guillermo Del Toro. They have alternate takes. They show the original Swan Song footage that had to be covered up after Led Zeppelin’s Peter Grant disapproved. This is a must buy for fans and people who are intrigued by the trailer.
Drive In Collection: In Search of Bigfoot & Cry Wilderness delves into the ’70s fixation with sasquatch that ended up with him being a regular on The Six Million Dollar Man. And the creature is back with people on cable channels looking for him. This double feature shows where he’d been originally tracked. In Search of Bigfoot is a documentary about Bob Morgan’s three month expedition in the Washington woods looking for footprints, clumps of fur and feces. He talks with people that claim they’ve encountered the hairy creature. But it doesn’t seem like he’ll have a spotting. Cry Wilderness is a fictional account of people meeting Bigfoot. This is a weird film about Bigfoot spiritually linking with a kid. Somehow the creature knows when the kid’s dad is in trouble. The film is weird which makes sense when you realize it’s from the same people who gave you Night Train to Terror. Both films are safe for family viewing if you have bigfoot fanatics in the house.
Peekarama: The Ultimate Pleasure & I Am Always Ready is a double feature from director Carlos Tobalina. The movie has a plot about a couple having relationship issues. She’s rather cold. He gets hot when a guy dies in his cab and leaves behind a suitcase full of cash. He eventually uses it to get them treatment. This therapy mainly consists of her taking a drug and getting freaky with the staff. Who can’t see that sort of care working out for all involved? Paul Thomas (Jesus Christ Superstar) has a role. This film has the strangest moment when the “AIDS Ambulance Service” arrives to pick up a guy in San Francisco in 1977. Talk about a company that needed a new name in a few months. I Am Always Ready sounds like the motto most of the actors on this film told the director to get the part. A rich woman decides to make her own adult movie and top it off with her hooking up with John Holmes. The real highlight of the film is when the Gong Show’s Unknown Comic pitches in. The woman sounds like Rona Barrett.
Peekarama: Gail Palmer’s Tropic of Desire & Fantasy World brings us back to the question: Did Gail Palmer really make these films? Seems that Bob Chinn was the man behind the woman. Tropic of Desire has amazing sets that appear to have been repurposed from Chinn’s Sadie (also available from Vinegar Syndrome). There’s no real issue with them reusing the sets since they looked good the first time around. Now they’re used to create a brothel on a tropical island. The sailors arrive for a good time. The plot doesn’t overburden the action. There’s intimate scenes with the couples hooking up to swing music. It’s rather sophisticated feel. Fantasy World uses some of the sailors set up to take us on a liberty break in San Francisco. Fantasy World is a dirty theater that lures guests onto the stage to live their fantasies. Paul Thomas sings the theme song. This double feature shows Chinn and his crew cared about making things look good on the screen. The bonus features are trailers for both films.
Peekarama: Purely Physical & Cathouse Fever explores the early ’80s output of Chris Warfield. Purely Physical tells of a young woman who gets a job as the night clerk at a motel. Turns out most of the people checking in aren’t using the beds for sleeping. Fans of the classics will enjoy the scene with Aunt Peg. She does a solo scene after night clerk refuses to join in the fun. Eventually she decides to take advantage of her employee discount. Cathouse Fever is a disease that needs a telethon to help pay for tab at the Bunny Ranch. An update secretary (Becky Savage) quits her job and moves to Nevada to live the dream of being a legal hooker. It doesn’t really look like they left Los Angeles to make the film. There’s some fun with sound effects in a few scenes to pump up the comic moments. The joy in the film is how they rip off Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” in the trailer. The spoof improves the song.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the post-Avengers outing for the military superhero. This movie quickly has become one of my favorites of the recent Marvel outings. Captain America (Chris Evans) is having a bit of an identity crisis. He’s getting frustrated with his work with S.H.I.E.L.D. He doesn’t like how Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) doesn’t give a full picture of their missions. Agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johnansson) always has her own orders. Before he can get too frustrated at the organization, someone does an ambush on Fury in the middle of D.C. traffic. A hitman known as the Winter Soldier is in town and means business. He kills Fury and Robert Redford takes control of the agency. It’s a conspiracy film where Redford might be the puppet master instead of the exposing agent as he did in All the President’s Men and Three Days of the Condor. The action is extremely over the top which is great. Captain gets a fighting pal in Sam Wilson. Anthony Mackie). The man knows how to work a wingpack. Eventually he becomes the Falcon. Mackie was at NCSA when I was there. It’s good to see an alumni getting to soar on the big screen. The film is a complete thrill ride with Captain America at the helm. It’s been a good year for Evans between this and Snow Piercer.
Rosemary’s Baby stars Zoe Saldana is the 3 hour miniseries that ran on NBC. This is a good version to watch if you don’t want to explain Roman Polanski to your children. The miniseries changes things around so that Rosemary (Zoe) and her husband (Patrick J. Adams) are now living in Paris instead of New York City. They’re still a young couple eager to make it in an expensive city. They quickly fall in with a rich and powerful couple that are eager to help them in various ways. Of course little does Rosemary know what’s expected in return. She’s excited to finally be pregnant, but gets anxious that their new friends want the baby. Saldana does a fine job stepping into Mia Farrow’s iconic role. The Blu-ray comes with a Digital HD Ultraviolet access so you can watch it from a hospital’s maternity ward.
The Quiet Ones is another spooker from the revived Hammer films. The story takes us back to 1974 when Hammer was still making flicks with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. In place of them we get Jared Harris (Mad Men) as a professor leading a group of students on an experiment. They want to find out if a young girl is possessed, evil or just stuck with an unknown disease. They break out the cutting edge media recording devices of ‘74 to capture this on film. It’s got quite a few jolts as the girl gets to unleash on her observers. This is supposedly based on a real event. Director John Pogue gives a commentary track. There’s also a documentary about making the film and the opening. There’s a digital HD ultraviolet stream and download in case you need a fright away from home.
Newhart: The Complete Fourth Season marks the first time the show didn’t have any major changes. The cast was set for the rest of its 8 season run. Bob Newhart turns Dick Loudon into a man who runs a rustic Stratford Inn, writes a book and hosts a talkshow on a local TV station. Even with so much to do his wife Joanna (Mary Frann) has time to make changes in their life. Handyman George (Tom Poston) keeps up his strange ways. Stephanie (Julia Duffy) keeps dodging her housekeeping duties. Michael (Peter Scolari) keeps up the trouble with his yuppie ways. Don’t forget frequent visits from Larry, Darryl and Darryl. “Pirate Pete” makes Bob a substitute for the kiddie show host. However Bob’s changes to the format screw things up at the station. “Candidate Larry” puts an unlikely candidate for mayor on the ballot. He promises a critter in every pot. “The Geezers in the Band” reminds Bob that he’s getting old when his wild jazz pals arrive for a timid time. “Write to Privacy” has Stephanie read Michael’s diary. “The Shape of Things” introduces America to Stephancizes. This episode has Mary Frann in spandex. This is another fine season for a sitcom that really does go up there with The Bob Newhart Show.
Martial Arts Movie Marathon 2 includes four more Hong Kong action films that will enhance your Chop Socky diet. The Fate of Lee Khan is the classic tale of fighters during a Civil War having a major throwdown. This is another installment in the Angela Mao Ying retrospective Shout! Factory has been doing. Shaolin Boxers is the classic tale of a school training fighters with the hopes of taking on the goons that are making villagers live in fear. James Tien of Fist of Fury and The Big Boss is the star. The Young Dragons marks the arrival of John Woo as a feature film director. If you forget his recent junky Hollywood pics, this is an exciting thing to see. He’s grasping his bullet ballets that made The Killer and Hard-Boiled amazing masterpieces. A gang terrorizes a small town and kills the cop. His daughter vows revenge on the goons. The Shaolin Plot is about a fighter who lies in order to get his hands on various guides to fighting. He might have gone too far when he arrives at the Shaolin Temple in disguise. Sammo Hung and Tien star in the film. This marathon is a great way to spend the time between weekend football games.
Perry Mason Movie Collection Volume 3 is another 6 episodes from Raymond Burr’s return as the greatest lawyer ever. Secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) and investigator Ken Malansky (William R. Moses) are his main support team. “The Case of the Poisoned Pen” exposes a bestselling author as a book thief. He’s so evil that even Cindy Williams (Laverne and Shirley) is considered a suspect. “The Case of the Desperate Deception” lets Perry Mason meet Ian McShane (Deadwood) in England. “The Case of the Silenced Singer” puts Rex Smith in a grave his widow as the prime suspect. Angela Bassett and Vanessa Williams get to share the screen. “The Case of the Defiant Daughter” teams up ’60s spy idols Robert Culp (I Spy) and Robert Vaughn (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). “The Case of the Ruthless Reporter” brings back Philip Michael Thomas (Miami Vice) as the sports anchor who might have killed someone at a TV station. “The Case of the Maligned Mobster” makes Perry prove a kingpin didn’t kill his wife. There’s still two more sets of Perry Mason movies to come. It’s nice to see Raymond Burr bringing the role into the ’90s.
Gunsmoke: The Tenth Season - Volume 1 & Volume 2 brings the show to it’s halfway point since it lasted two decades on the air. They still haven’t reached the time the show used color film. These are still hour long black and white episodes. The 36 episodes from 1964 focus on the major figures of Dodge City: Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness), Doc (Milburn Stone),Kitty (Amanda Blake), Quint Asper (Burt Reynolds) and Festus (Ken Curtis). “Blue Heaven” has Kurt Russell (Overboard) as a runaway kid coming into town. “Crooked Mile” has Quint bullwhipped by George Kennedy. Why? Cause George doesn’t want his daughter spending time with him. “Hung High” brings Robert Culp to an execution. “Jonah Hutchinson” features Richard Anderson (Bionic Woman) dealing with family issues. As mandated by the FDA, “Innocence” features Claude Akins (Sheriff Lobo). ‘Song for Dying” gives Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man) a chance at Dodge City greatness. Strange to think that there’s still another season of black and white episodes. CBS really didn’t like color televisions.
Escape to Grizzly Mountain isn’t quite a Grizzly Adams movie, but it really is. It’s a time travelling tale about Jimmy (Miko Hughes) wanting to save a baby bear from a circus. He finds a time tunnel that can take the bear back to 1841. Trouble happens though when a woodsman named Jeremiah (Dan Haggerty) comes through to modern times and gets to experience a shopping mall. Remember that Dan Haggerty isn’t playing Grizzly Adams. He’s a whole different character who will appeal to fans of Grizzly Adams.
Home Is Where the Heart Is about two people with wounded dreams uniting down in Texas. A hometown girl returns after her Hollywood dreams don’t turn out. She arrives at her mother’s funeral and gets the shock of a half-sister. Even more traumatic is that she’s now the legal guardian. The only thing making her feel good is an ex-NFL player. The two seem to bond over their fates. They come up with a way to revitalize their town. Except the plan hits a snag when something really goes wrong. John C. McGinley has a supporting role. He still has his Scrubs charm. It’s a fine family drama about broken dreams and saving what means the most to you.
The Men From Shiloh Special Edition wasn’t a new Western series. This was the final season of The Virginian complete with The Virginian (James Drury) as part of the cast. This ninth season has a bit of change in that the Shiloh Ranch has a new owner in Colonel Alan MacKenzie (Stewart Granger). He’s an Englishman so there’s a bit of learning the ropes in his storylines. There’s also an immediate change in the opening titles to reflect the arrival of the Spaghetti Westerns. This show was a bit more able to deal with it since it ran in a 90 minute timeslot. They made 24 feature films for the final season. The producers were able to hire Ennio Morricone to compose a new theme song. Along with keeping The Virginian, Trampas (Doug McClure) was back. In a surprise, they brought on Lee Majors as Roy Tate. Majors had just wrapped up The Big Valley so he knew his way around a horse. He grew a mustache for the role so people wouldn’t confuse him for Heath Barkley. The show dealt with the four figures not quite working together. There were plenty of guest stars. Desi Arnaz appears in “The Best Man.” Janet Leigh arrives for Jenny. Anne Francis makes her mole felt in “Gun Quest.” James Gregory and Ricardo Montalban team up for “Last of the Comancheros.” The show did well in the ratings so there’s no slippage in script quality. The name change without the Virginian riding off made it an odd way to go out.
Locke is a driving film on all levels. Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) gets behind the wheel and his life completely changes. He plays Ivan Locke, a family man who is well respected in the concrete game. Except in barely 90 minutes, he abandons his job and family to do what he considers is right. He also thinks he can put everything else right. His solitary journey across England has him talking to his wife, boss, son, co-worker and the woman that’s changing everything for him. Hardy does a exceptional job in keeping up the energy in basically a one man show on wheels. This ought to be considered the prequel to Hardy’s upcoming turn in Mad Max: Fury Road. There’s a digital copy so you can watch this while driving the same roadways as Locke. Writer-director Steven Knight contributes a commentary.
The Marx Brothers TV Collection contains what the brothers did in the ’50s and ’60s on television. Groucho, Chico and Harpo weren’t content with just being faces on the late night movie with their classic comedies. They still had plenty to offer on various TV shows as guest actors and just being guests. “The General Electric Theater: The Incredible Jewel Robbery” is the last time the brothers appeared in one show. The special has Harpo and Chico on a confusing crime spree that pays off in the end. Also at the end is a visit from Groucho that blows away the quiet production. The 3 DVD collection has dozens of show that the brothers can turn upside down without much effort. They brothers end up on celebrity sports shows about golf, pool and Bridge. Jack Benny has an episode where he sneaks onto You Bet Your Life to take money from Groucho’s duck. Chico’s failed musical show that featured him owning a hang out next to a college features a young Andy Williams. They dig up the English version of You Bet Your Life. There’s so much here that is fantastical to watch after only reading hints about them in Marx Brothers biographies. If you own all the movie boxsets and the You Bet Your Life collections, this is a must buy.
Decline of an Empire will best be remembered as the final film made by Peter O’Toole. This might also be the final film of Edward Fox (Edward and Mrs. Simpson). In a sense this is the end of empire since there will be no more times for O’Toole to be an ancient ruler. He’s not the lead here. The film follows Constantine (Jack Goddard) who joins the Roman Legion so he can travel the world and locate a missing friend. Turns out he’s good at being a soldier. He quickly rises up the ranks until he’s in control. He discovers his friend is being held hostage by a rival. He braces his army for an all out attack of West vs. East. This is the story of St. Katherine of Alexandria.
They Came Together is a romantic comedy from the director of Wet Hot American Summer. Paul Rudd (This Is 40) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) are a couple that aren’t supposed to fall in love. He works for a giant candy company. She runs a small candy store. He wants to smash and destroy her. But romance gets in the way. The film does its best mock the conventions of the cute meet. The movie has a lot of familiar faces in odd roles. How often does anyone say “romantic comedy co-starring Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)? Women should be warned that the movie dares combine the hunky talents of Christopher Meloni, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and John Stamos. Jack McBrayer might make your date lose interest in you. The bonus features include the table read from the San Francisco Sketchfest. Director David Wain and Michael Showalter laugh it up on the audio commentary.
Tarzan is a CGI and modernized retelling of the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale of the boy raised by apes. This version has the Greystone family visiting Africa in a helicopter. It crashes and only their young son survives. He thrives and becomes a beast in the wilderness. Years later, he meets Jane. She enjoys her new friend. The problem is other humans are also in the jungle. They’ve got major weapons and hard hearts. Tarzan must save his human and animal friends from these outsiders. The CGI looks good. The action isn’t too intense for an elementary school aged child. The bonus features include a piece on making the film and what actors did to play gorillas. There’s also a Digital Ultraviolet copy for streaming.
Mumfie’s Quest the Movie brings back the tale of a little elephant on an awfully big adventure. Mumfie hits the road for kicks, but finds a greater purpose when he meets Pinkey. Her mom is stranded on a rather depressing island. They take that direction to not only reconnect with her, but to bring a little joy to her location. It’s a big mission that’s only slightly smaller than Mumfie’s heart. The film originally came out in 1994 although odds are high that this was long before the target audience was born. This is old hand painted animation which is always fun to share with a little one.
Romance Classics contains 3 BBC-A&E mini-series that made people flock to the cable network. Pride and Prejudice was a major event when it aired back in the mid-90s. Jane Austen’s tale of Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) and Mr.Darcy (Colin Firth) was packed with restraint and passion. This was one of the first VHS sets that people rushed out to buy instead of merely wait to rent the various tapes. Ehle and Firth’s romance holds up after all these decades. Victoria & Albert about the love affair involving Queen Victoria. The production is well cast with Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones), Nigel Hawthorne and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil). Will she be wooed by Prince Albert? Strange to think his name would be linked to prank phone calls and private parts being pierced. Neither of these events are part of the film. Edward & Mrs. Simpson is about the American woman who was able to make King Edward give up the throne. Edward Fox and Cythina Harris bring the unexpected passion to small screen. This is a trio of British lust that will keep your TV set busy for a blustery weekend.
75 Years of WWII contains 4 of the History Channel’s specials about the war that changed the world.D-Day in HD gives a clear view of the day the Allied Forces attacked the French coast. They’ve gone back and found the best footage of this messy and chaotic day. The special gets descriptions from both sides of the battle line. Bloody Santa Cruz delves into to the Pacific theater when the USS Hornet went down. Enterprise Versus Japan focuses on the turning battle when the aircraft carrier took out a large chunk of the Japanese navy. Ultimate WWII Weapons dips into the technological advances created during the battles. It ends with the atomic bomb. This collection is a fine way to grasp an understanding of what went on during these monumental battles of WWII.
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