Aisle Seat March Mania Edition


A few quick news items to start off this abbreviated edition of The Aisle Seat:

*It seems Paul Schrader’s discarded version of EXORCIST IV will be released after all. The Australian DVD of “Exorcist: The Beginning” even has a trailer for the film, which has hit the net along with various stills from Schrader’s version of the prequel, which was tossed out in favor of Renny Harlin’s reshot version (reviewed in last week’s column). Head on over to the Aisle Seat Message Boards and we’ll get you set up with links to the trailer and stills, which look pretty creepy! No word on who has scored Schrader’s version, though Christopher Young and Michael Kamen had both been attached to the project at various points (Young with Schrader before the director was released, Kamen with Harlin before the composer passed away).

*Fox is planning on 2-disc DVD Special Editions of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and I, ROBOT for release this May. Both films have already been released in Special Edition packaging overseas, and the U.S. discs are expected to reprise the contents of the international releases, including commentary tracks, numerous Making Of featurettes, and even an isolated score on “I, Robot” with accompanying comments from composer Marco Beltrami. Fox also has Special Edition double-disc packages of the box-office flop ELEKTRA (complete with Ben Affleck’s discarded Daredevil cameo) in early April and a deluxe MAN ON FIRE this May.

*The recent news about Miramax’s “reorganization” has meant the apparent release of numerous projects that have been sitting on the studio shelves for some time. Renny Harlin’s MINDHUNTERS is supposed to finally be released in North America this May, while a slew of sequels will be heading straight to DVD: THE CROW - WICKED PRAYER (with David “Angel” Boreanaz, Edward Furlong and Tara Reid, due out mid July); DRACULA 3 - LEGACY (also mid July); PROPHECY - UPRISING (June) and PROPHECY - FORSAKEN (Fall); plus not one but two HELLRAISER direct-to-video efforts, one for summer and another for later in the year. Meanwhile, there have also been rumors that Danny Boyle’s long-shelved ALIEN LOVE TRIANGLE (originally supposed to be one portion of an anthology film with “Imposter,” which was later unsuccessfully extended into its own feature film) will also be released sometime in 2005.

Aisle Seat DVD Picks of the Week

THE BRADY BUNCH: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (1969-70, apprx. 11 hours, Paramount). DVD FEATURES: Select commentary tracks; Featurette, “The Brady Bunch: Coming Together Under One Roof”; Full-Screen, Dolby Digital mono sound.

HOGAN’S HEROES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (1965-66, aprx. 14 hours, Paramount). DVD FEATURES: Full-screen, Dolby Digital mono sound.

These days it truly does seem as if every show known to mankind is being released on DVD. On the small screen, meanwhile, reunion specials are all the rage – a recent “Happy Days Reunion” chalked up big-time ratings, while last week, you might have noticed CBS paying tribute to (of all things) “One Day at a Time” (what’s next? A reunion special for “Manimal”?).

With so many series hitting video for the first time, it’s amazing to see THE BRADY BUNCH – of the most fondly-remembered sitcoms of all time – just now being released on DVD.

Sherwood Schwartz’s series about a pair of widowers each with three kids of their own (Mike Brady with three boys and wife Carol with her three girls, all of equal age) combining to create the singular grooviest family on the tube in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was a success during its initial run on the ABC airwaves. The kids found themselves as recording stars, hounded in malls and in appearances all around the country, while TV parent Florence Henderson soon pushed Wesson Oil and Robert Reed grew tired of “The Brady Bunch” as his lasting legacy.

Over the years, “The Brady Bunch” endured in spite of its polyester threads, hep tunes and cameo appearances by the likes of Dezi Arnaz, Jr., and appealed to a whole new generation of a different era. Those of us who grew up years after its cancellation (yours truly included) might have thought the clothing was a bit odd, but the themes of “The Brady Bunch” were – and still are -- as meaningful and timeless as ever. Lose your diary? Don’t worry, Mom and Dad will search every used book store combing the ends of the Earth for it. Lose your voice at Christmas? No sweat, Mom will regain that ability just in time for Midnight Mass. Running up the phone bill? Be careful, or else Dad will install a pay phone in the living room.

Paramount’s long-awaited DVD box set of the Bradys’ first season is out this week and offers splendid, colorful transfers of the series’ first season, which aired in the fall of ‘69 and the winter months of 1970. The initial 25 episodes are, if you want to get serious for a moment, likely the best the show had to offer, with the plots and performances being more grounded than the wackier, more slapstick (though arguably more fun) later seasons. Even the theme song, performed by the “Peppermint Trolley Factory,” isn’t as rambunctious as the Brady kids’ better-known rendition from subsequent years.

As I’ve written before many times, being able to see a series you’re familiar with from re-runs in its original, uncut broadcast form on DVD is a revelation. If you grew up watching “The Brady Bunch” only in syndication re-runs, you’ll be seeing several minutes of previously excised footage in each and every episode, making each episode flow better in the process.

Paramount has also thrown in a few bonus features for good measure: “The Brady Bunch: Coming Together Under One Roof” is a pleasant, 17-minute featurette sporting interviews with Sherwood Schwartz and several of the Brady kids (no Marcia, however), touching upon various anecdotes about the show’s production. As many times as you may hear it, the fact that Gene Hackman (!) was a step or two away from being cast as Mike Brady is still a fun tale to recall. There are also commentaries on three episodes: “The Hero” and “A-Camping We Will Go” include comments from Barry “Greg” Williams, Christopher “Peter” Knight and Susan “Cindy” Olsen, while Schwartz fondly recalls filming the pilot, “The Honeymoon.”

Retail is under $30 for this four-disc set, splendidly packaged with a 3-D cover. Obviously a must for any self-respecting Brady fan!

Also out from Paramount this week is the Complete First Season of HOGAN’S HEROES, which starred Bob Crane as Col. Hogan, who lead a motley assortment of POWs in the world’s most luxurious Nazi internment camp. Among his charges were Copls. Robert Clary and Richard Dawson, Ivan Dixon’s Sgt. Kinchloe, and Larry Hovis’ Sgt. Carter. All helped Hogan evade the slapstick rule of Werner Klemperer’s Col. Klink, who, along with his next-in-command Sgt. Schultz (John Banner), somehow managed to let the Allied prisoners come and go as they please, assist other POWs, and basically live like they were at a posh German resort.

Over the years, “Hogan’s Heroes” has been pegged as an increasingly controversial show, particularly in these Politically Correct times. Of course, the CBS show was nothing but a slapstick, silly comedy, but I recall the constant battles stations that aired the show would face, even back in the ‘80s. One local station around these parts, WSBK-TV 38 in Boston, aired “Hogan’s Heroes” nightly while I was growing up, and yet their “Ask The Manager” program was always filled with an on-going debate between viewers who found the show in bad taste, and others who loved it.

Either way you go, “Hogan’s Heroes” is nothing but a ridiculous sitcom with a terrific cast and comedy writing that you’re likely to find either amusing or terribly dated in a ‘60s sitcomish way. Paramount’s five-disc DVD set includes all 32 episodes from the series’ first season (including the original pilot), which aired on CBS on Friday nights at 8:30pm during 1965 and the early months of ‘66. The transfers show their age a bit but are consistently good for the most part, and again, the episodes have been uncut, transferred from their full-length broadcast versions and seen here for the first time since their original network run.

NEXT WEEK: A veritable Pre-Spring Festival With Tons of Reviews and More News, including STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT. Don't forget to say Aloha on the Message Boards, direct any emails to the link above and we'll catch you then. Cheers!