9/8/10 Edition Twitter: THEAISLESEATCOM
13th Anniversary Edition
A High-Definition Trip to THE TWILIGHT ZONE
For many of us who grew up post-1959 -- whether it was back in the 60s during its initial run, or in the 70s and 80s via reruns -- "The Twilight Zone" was a place that was always worth visiting. Rod Serling's classic television anthology was a show that embraced sci-fi, fantasy, horror, satire, a bit of whimsy and many times the political paranoia of its era – and remains one of the all-time classic series to grace the television airwaves. Whether the show scared you, unsettled you, made you think, or simply entertained, chances are good that even the most average episode of Serling's show (which ran on CBS from 1959 to 1965) was scripted and produced by an abundance of talented writers, actors and directors, far more capable of delivering its intended message than nearly anything we see on TV now.

Image Entertainment celebrated Serling’s legendary series in the final week of 2004 by issuing the "Definitive Edition" First Season of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (****, 1959-60) on DVD -- a marvelous package that has now been surpassed by an outstanding, all-encompassing Blu-Ray edition reprieving many of the same extras along with a wealth of new supplements (including additional isolated score tracks) and gorgeous 1080p transfers. The results are an absolutely essential purchase for any BD owner.

The original "Zone" has been released in a variety of flavors on video, laserdisc, and DVD previously, but there's no doubt Image's new set is clearly the way to go for high-def enthusiasts. All the episodes look even more detailed than their prior 2004 remastered transfers, which were crisp and gorgeously rendered, while the original monophonic soundtracks (here presented as uncompressed PCM audio tracks) are also in satisfactory condition.

Offering all 36 first season stories (quite a single-season number by today's standards) including classics like "Time Enough At Last," "The Lonely," "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" and "A Stop at Willoughby," the five-disc "Twilight Zone: Definitive Edition" BD is packed with extras, including interviews with writers, directors and cast members, whether it’s interviews with stars Rod Taylor and Anne Francis and writers Richard Matheson and Buck Houghton, or full isolated score tracks.

As any film music fan knows, the original "Twilight Zone" provided a golden opportunity for talented composers, both established artists like Franz Waxman and Bernard Herrmann, and then-fledgling newcomers like Jerry Goldsmith. Image has included a bulk of isolated, original scores in this release (previously issued on DVD) including: "Where Is Everybody?" (Bernard Herrmann), "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" (Franz Waxman), "Walking Distance" (Herrmann), "The Lonely" (Herrmann), "A Stop at Willoughby" (Nathan Scott), "The Chaser," "A Passage For Trumpet" (Lyn Murray), "Perchance to Dream" (Van Cleave), "And When the Sky Was Opened" (Leonard Rosenman), "What You Need" (Cleave), "The Four Of Us Are Dying" (Goldsmith), "Third From the Sun," "A World of Difference" (Cleave), "The Big Tall Wish" (Goldsmith), "A Nice Place to Visit," "Nightmare as a Child" (Goldsmith), "The Hitch- Hiker," "The Purple Testament" (Lucien Moraweck), "Elegy" (Cleave), "Mirror Image," and "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" (Rene Garriguenc). Additional isolated score tracks exclusive to the BD include the library-tracked “One For the Angels,” “Mr. Denton on Doomsday,” “Escape Clause,” “I Shot an Arrow in the Air,” The Fever,” “The Last Flight,” “Long Live Walter Jameson,” “Execution,” “Mr. Bevis,” “The After Hours,” “The Mighty Casey,” and “A World of His Own.”

More supplemental audio tracks include classroom lecture tapes with Professor Serling at work and even several contemporary “Twilight Zone" radio dramas, one of the latter being a remake of "The After Hours" with Kim Fields and narrator Stacey Keach (talk about an oddball pairing!).

For other supplements, Image has included a full slate of special features exclusive to the Blu-Ray set. These include the unofficial pilot episode, “The Time Element,” an episode of the “Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse,” presented in HD (amusingly introduced by Arnaz with a guest appearance by Lucy in the concluding host segment), along with 19 all-new audio commentaries, many including TZ expert Marc Scott Zicree, music historians Steven C. Smith and John Morgan, director Ted Post and many others. The original version of the first Zone episode, "Where Is Everybody?," is carried over from the prior DVD set, sporting alternate Serling narration, commentary from producer William Self, plus a 1975 Sherwood Oaks College lecture. There are also Emmy Award clips, Part 1 of Zicree’s 1978 interview with TZ cinematographer George T. Clemens, the “Tales of Tomorrow” episode “What You Need,” and a couple of 1977 syndication promos.

About the only place the Blu-Ray box-set falls short of the DVD is in its exterior presentation: just a brief episode synopsis is included in the booklet, whereas the DVD edition included a copy of Zicree’s indispensable “Twilight Zone Companion.”

Otherwise, Image and CBS have hit a home-run with this release, and fans won’t have to wait long for Season 2, which is already lined up for release in time for Thanksgiving.

Warner Catalog Titles on Blu-Ray

Warner Home Video has a number of Blu-Ray “catalog” titles headed our way, several of the sci-fi/fantasy variety with a number of special features attached.

FORBIDDEN PLANET (***½, 98 mins., 1956) is, of course, one of the quintessential science-fiction films, a rich MGM production that still sends a chill up the spine through its vivid Cinemascope framing and the electronic music of Louis and Bebe Barron.

Previously issued on HD-DVD, Warner’s “Forbidden Planet” Blu-Ray has been long overdue and basically recycles the content of that edition: deleted scenes, lost footage, the terrific TCM documentary “Watch the Skies!”, a pair of featurettes, trailers, vintage excerpts from the “MGM Parade” TV series, and two Robby the Robot follow-up features (“The Invisible Boy” and a “Thin Man” TV series episode “Robot Client”) round out the package. The VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer seems identical to the HD-DVD release, though the disc receives an audio upgrade (relatively speaking) in the form of a DTS Master Audio soundtrack.

George Lucas’ THX-1138 (***, 88 mins., 1971, R; Warner) received one of those patented Lucas “Director’s Cut” alterations with new and recut footage and the addition of enhanced special effects. Though purists objected to the changes, I found that they (for the most part) spiced up Lucas’ sometimes monotonous debut feature, which nevertheless has its moments of power, memorable sound design by Walter Murch, compelling performances from the likes of Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance, and an effective Lalo Schifrin score.

Warner’s Blu-Ray release of “THX-1138" (the film was never released on HD-DVD) serves up a HD presentation of the picture (nicely rendered VC-1 encoded transfer, DTS Master Audio soundtrack) with all the extras from its prior 2-disc DVD edition: commentary from Lucas and Walter Murch, an isolated sound effects track, a Making Of retrospective, documentary on the early years of American Zoetrope (undercut, unfortunately, with incessant music), the original “THX 1138 4EB” short film, trailers, a vintage promo reel, and salute to Murch’s impressive sound design.

One of director Tim Burton’s box-office disappointments, MARS ATTACKS! (***, 106 mins., 1996, PG-13; Warner) has, at least, grown in stature as one of the filmmaker’s bigger cult films over the years.

A colorful salute to Hollywood’s alien invasion films of the ‘50s and ‘60s, done with tongue firmly in cheek and an off-kilter sense of humor that seemed to go over the heads of most viewers, “Mars Attacks!” boasts Jack Nicholson in two different roles, an all-star supporting cast (Pierce Brosnan, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Martin Short, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker), a pair of young leads (Natalie Portman, Lukas Haas), a noteworthy contribution by Tom Jones and some particularly memorable aliens as animated by ILM. Oh, and a terrific Danny Elfman score as well.

Issued on DVD during the format’s earliest days, Warner’s Blu-Ray presentation of “Mars Attacks!” looks great: the VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer and DTS Master Audio soundtrack are appreciable upgrades on its prior, ages-old DVD edition, though the isolated score track from that standard-definition release (just like the recent BD of “Witches of Eastwick”) has, regrettably, not been retained.

Warner also brings Stephen Hopkins and writer Akiva Goldsman’s ill-conceived 1998 remake of LOST IN SPACE (*½, 130 mins., PG-13) to Blu-Ray this month as well.

Fresh off the disaster of “Batman & Robin,” Goldsman’s script manages to flush everything that made the original series so successful down the nearest toilet, from its humor to human relationships, in one has to be one of the most insipid screenplays of its era. Characters speak to each other in the most unbelievable, unfunny, ridiculous gibberish (“I love you wife”), and often preach to one another in '90s "sensitive" psychobabble--particularly when it comes to Goldsman and director Hopkins's oh-so-dysfunctional portrait of the Robinson family. Naturally, this being the late ‘90s, dad (William Hurt) doesn't have time for his kids. Daughter Judy (Heather Graham) is a nerdy scientist like her father, younger Penny (Lacey Chabert) is an angst-ridden teen obsessed with her hair, and little Will (Jack Johnson) is a misunderstood genius who's having trouble at school. That leaves Mom (Mimi Rogers) to pick up the pieces of her unhappy domestic life and pack to the planets above to accompany her family on a mission that will save planet Earth, since our fossil feuls have been exhausted.

Anyhow, if that wasn't bad enough, this “Lost in Space” truly gets even more lost when the Robinsons end up in an alternate galaxy – or something – after mad scientist Dr.Zachary Smith (Gary Oldman) sabotages the mission. One completely unexciting episodic adventure after another follows, not the least of which involves “Aliens”-styled computer-generated spiders (except they're not scary) and a time portal...or something...where the Robinsons meet a gloomy possible future. Oh, and there's also a cute chameleon-like critter with no significance to the story at all. And then Oldman's "evil twin" mutates into a spider-creature before excreting a sac of eggs with baby arachnids that end up eating him.

Yes, it’s no surprise why “Lost in Space” failed to relaunch as a cinematic franchise, but viewers who enjoyed the picture will certainly appreciate Warner’s Blu-Ray release. Another early-format DVD, Warner’s BD brings back all of the special features from its prior edition (deleted scenes, two commentaries, two featurettes, the trailer, music video and interviews) while adding a terrific VC-1 encoded transfer and DTS Master soundtrack, the latter sporting an excellent Bruce Broughton score that’s (far) better than the film it was composed for.

On the Digibook front, David Fincher’s seminal serial-killer thriller SE7EN (***, 127 mins., 1995, R) arrives this week from Warner as well. Not a film I particularly “enjoy” watching, Fincher’s direction, the dense visuals and textured cinematography of Darius Khondji make this a highly stylized picture that’s hard to take your eyes off, even if Andrew Kevin Walker’s script is a bit pretentious -- and Brad Pitt’s performance marred by occasional stretches of overacting.

Aficionados of the film have looked forward to a proper high-def release of the picture, and Warner’s Blu-Ray transfer is a special treat: the VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer is a godsend for grain lovers, preserving all the crispness of the film’s original appearance and giving it an almost three-dimensional look. It’s marvelously detailed, while DTS Master Audio sound and all the extras from prior releases (four commentaries, deleted/extended scenes, multi-angle functions, the trailer, storyboards and more) are on-hand for supplements.

Finally, Warner has a deluxe edition of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (***½, 133 mins., 1975, R) en route.

Previously issued on Blu-Ray, this deluxe-packaged collection includes the premiere BD release of the uncut “Completely Cuckoo,” an 87-minute retrospective on the film which was presented in an edited form on the prior release, along with a new interview with producer Michael Douglas. Additional collectibles include a 52-page hardbound book, reproduction of the original press book, a 52-card deck of “cast-inspired” playing cards, four reproductions of original worldwide theatrical posters, and several additional cast/character photo cards.

Those who owned the previous Blu-Ray release may want to pass, though at least there’s some new content here that’s exclusive to this edition.

Warner TV on DVD

CHUCK Season 3 Blu-Ray (817 mins., 2009-10; Warner): Zachary Levi’s engaging comedic turn as a “Nerd Herd” electronics-store employee turned top-secret spy has generated a solid fan base over the course of “Chuck”’s three seasons. While not massive in scope, it’s been vocal enough for the only moderately-related NBC series to get renewed for an upcoming fourth season, managing to dodge the cancellation bullet that befell other genre shows on the network (including “Heroes”) last year.

Season three for “Chuck” finds our hero becoming an actual, bona-fide spy, much to the chagrin of his lovely counterpart Yvonne Strahovski. Along the way Chuck finds out that he’s got a bona-fide bloodline in espionage, while Brandon Routh shows up as a rival for Stahovski’s affections.

Warner’s 19-episode, four-disc Blu-Ray edition of “Chuck: Season 3" boasts the episodes Chuck Vs... “The Pink Slip,” “The Three Words,” “Angel de la Muerte,” “Operation Awesome,” “First Class,” “The Nacho Sampler,” “The Mask,” “The Fake Name,” “The Beard,” “The Tic Tac,” “The Final Exam,” “The American Hero,” “The Other Guy,” “The Honeymooners,” “The Role Models,” “The Tooth,” “The Living Dead,” “The Subway,” and “The Ring Part II.”

Crisp, colorful VC-1 encoded transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks adorn the Blu-Ray release, which also comes with “Declassified (deleted) Scenes,” two featurettes, and a gag reel. It’s a fine package for “Chuck” fans, tiding them over until the 13-episode fifth season begins later this September on NBC.

SUPERNATURAL: Season 5 Blu-Ray (915 mins., 2009-10; Warner): The Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean, are back in the fifth season of the CW’s “Supernatural,” which hits Blu-Ray this week as well from Warner Home Video.

Originally slated to be the series’ final year, creator Eric Kripke’s last season as showrunner resulted in a resolution to his “Apocalypse” storyline, wherein Sam and Dean, along with Castiel (Misha Collins), battle Lucifer himself and have to deal with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in order to prevent hell from reaching Earth.

Once again backed by top-notch production values and more of a reliance on a season-long arc than the old “monster of the week” format “Supernatural” launched with, the series garnered robust ratings, leading to a surprise sixth season renewal.

Season 5 of “Supernatural” on Blu-Ray, hitting stores Tuesday, sports 22 episodes (“Sympathy for the Devil,” “Good God, Y’All,” “Free to Be You And Me,” “The End,” “Fallen Idols,” “I Believe the Children Are Our Future,” “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester,” “Changing Channels,” “The Real Ghostbusters,” “Abandon All Hope,” “Sam Interrupted,” “Swamp Meat,” “The Song Remains the Same,” “My Bloody Valentine,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” “99 Problems,” “Point of No Return,” “Hammer of the Gods,” “The Devil You Know,” “Two Minutes to Midnight,” and “Swan Song”) all in superior VC-1 encoded transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks.

Extra features include the web series “Ghostfacers,” an unaired scene from “Real Ghostbusters,” a gag reel, producer/writer commentary on “The End,” and “Bobby’s Exclusive Video Collection” of “Supernatural: Apocalypse Survival Guides.” Recommended!

FRINGE: Season 2 Blu-Ray (968 mins., 2009-10; Warner): J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s Fox series held up its end of the bargain in season 2 of “Fringe,” continuing to develop a strong sci-fi story that’s involved yet not as convoluted as what “The X-Files” became, while maintaining its appealing core cast of FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), formerly mad scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson).

Season two for the series finds the trio primarily involved with a parallel reality that threatens to destroy our very existence, meeting up with Leonard Nimoy’s Dr. William Bell and all kinds of beasts inbetween. The 22-episode second season, presented on four Blu-Ray discs, includes “A New Day in the Old Town,” “Night of Desirable Objects,” “Fracture,” “Momentum Deferred,” “Dream Logic,” “Earthling,” “Of Human Action,” “August,” “Snakehead,” “Grey Matters,” “Unearthed,” “Johari Window,” “What Lies Below,” “The Bishop Revival,” “Jacksonville,” “Peter,” “White Tulip,” “The Man From the Other Side,” “Brown Betty,” “Northwest Passage” and “Over There” Parts I and II.

The VC-1 encoded 1080p transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks are all excellent; a nice array of special features includes the requisite gag reel, unaired scenes, four commentary tracks, six “sidebars” on a half-dozen key episodes, and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Also New on Blu-Ray

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME Blu-Ray/DVD (**, 116 mins., 2010, PG-13; Disney): It was a rough summer for producer Jerry Bruckheimer, whose “midas touch” failed to jumpstart a pair of would-be Disney franchises at the box-office: the dismal-looking “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” bombed (no surprise with Nic Cage subbing for Mickey Mouse), while the best one could say about “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” was that it became the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all-time (yes, it beat “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat”!).

All dressed up with nowhere interesting to go, “Prince of Persia” is a routine fantasy that failed spectacularly in establishing Jake Gyllenhaal as America’s next action hero. In fact, Gyllenhaal’s vacant performance as an outcast prince who teams up with a princess (the always-fetching Gemma Arterton) from a rival kingdom to prevent a mystical, time-altering dagger from falling into the hands of dastardly Ben Kingsley is one of the picture’s weakest elements. Unable to bring the needed panache that, say, Johnny Depp brought to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Gyllenhaal looks like a lost pretty boy in the trappings of a good-looking but standard-issue fantasy flick.

From Wolf Kroeger’s production design to John Seale’s cinematography, “Prince of Persia” looks the part, but the film is a soulless, by-the-numbers affair. The script, credited to Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard from a story by video game creator Jordan Mechner, fails to provide any level of dramatic tension, while one-dimensional characters quip predictable one-liners. It’s mostly all just an excuse for the film’s visual effects to play out, and director Mike Newell is unable to give us a reason to care while choreography and F/X are repeated from the “Prince of Persia” video games, which are all more entertaining than sitting through this tired affair.

Disney’s Blu-Ray/DVD/digital copy triple pack offers the expected crisp, sensational 1080p transfer with DTS Master Audio sound and a few extras (one deleted scene, a package-exclusive “CineExplore” feature enabling you to watch behind the scenes content from 40 different segments), along with a Making Of segment. The standard DVD and digital copy are contained on their own, respective platters.

JACOB’S LADDER Blu-Ray (***, 116 mins., 1990, R; Lionsgate): The second of two visually arresting, controversial psychological-horror films Carolco produced in the late ‘80s, “Jacob’s Ladder” is a terrifying, uneven but thought-provoking thriller from writer Bruce Joel Rubin and director Adrian Lyne. Like its earlier counterpart “Angel Heart,” it’s a movie that I have never found completely satisfying, yet it’s undeniably compelling and so well-made that it lends itself to repeat viewing in spite of its drawbacks.

Bruce Joel Rubin’s second script to make it to the screen in 1990 (though it had been written years before, languishing during the interim in development hell) is a decidedly more nightmarish take on the afterlife than his script for the year’s biggest box-office hit, “Ghost.” In this puzzle-box of a story directed by Lyne (making his first film since the massive success of “Fatal Attraction”), “Jacob’s Ladder” follows troubled Vietnam vet Tim Robbins as he experiences a series of hallucinations and terrifying visions – is it real? Imagined? Some kind of purgatory?

Rubin doesn’t provide all the answers on first viewing, and indeed, too much of my attention the first time around was drawn to the picture’s ending, which seemed like a perfunctory “Twilight Zone”-esque finish. It’s an easy mistake for a viewer to make though, since Lyne does get hung up on the film’s red herrings and didn’t make things easy on the audience by playing down some of the more overtly supernatural elements of Rubin’s screenplay – elements that enable subsequent watches to reveal more of the writer’s original intent. This is a carefully constructed story that doesn’t make for easy viewing – the picture is unsettling and consistently so, with particularly graphic imagery – yet it’s ultimately well worth the journey for horror fans (I should also note the presence of Elizabeth Pena, who’s incredibly sexy and disturbing here in easily her best role).

Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray edition of “Jacob’s Ladder” looks very strong. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is crisp and isn’t overly plagued by noise reduction, and the DTS Master Audio soundtrack offers a solid soundstage for Maurice Jarre’s score. Extras include three deleted scenes, Lyne’s revealing commentary, two effective trailers, and Charles Kiselyak’s enlightening documentary, which was produced for the 1998 laserdisc/DVD release and contains essential interviews with Rubin and Lyne, along with snippets of additional discarded sequences.

(UNTITLED) Blu-Ray (***, 96 mins., 2009, R; Screen Media): Amusing tale of a contemporary art gallerist (Marley Shelton) who falls in love with a modern music composer (Adam Goldberg) skewers the modern art scene in New York City. Director Jonathan Parker and his co-writer Catherine DiNapoli have constructed a fitfully funny satire on contemporary art and artists, with pitch-perfect performances from the cast (Goldberg, Shelton, Vinnie Jones, Eion Bailey, Lucy Punch among them). Screen Media’s Blu-Ray disc arrives later this month, offering a 1080p transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, the latter sporting music by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang.

THE LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND Blu-Ray (**½, 102 mins., 2010, PG-13; Screen Media): Utilizing an unproduced screenplay by Tennessee Williams written in the 1950s, “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond” is an intriguing curiosity item, though as a film, it’s limited by its lead performance. As an heiress cast off from her social circle because of her father’s scandalous behavior, Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t project the needed emotion inherent in Williams’ melodramatic period tale, yet there are enough other solid performances from vets like Ellen Burstyn and Will Patton to compensate for her shortcomings; Chris Evans, meanwhile, at fares better than his co-star as one of Howard’s employees whom she chooses to accompany her to Memphis parties. Screen Media’s Blu-Ray edition of “Teardrop Diamond” includes a 1080p transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, and extras including an interview with director Jodie Markell, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

New From Acorn Media

The highly acclaimed PBS series JOSEPH CAMPBELL AND THE POWER OF MYTH WITH BILL MOYERS (1988, 342 mins.) arrives on DVD this month from Acorn Media, ranking as one of the year’s most appealing “special interest” titles in the format.

This fascinating series offers Campbell and Moyers discussing a wide range of topics related to mythology and how myth dominates culture, religion and its shaping of the world around us; shot at Skywalker Ranch and the American Museum of History, this is  an engaging, thought-provoking series which Acorn brings to DVD this month in a superb double-disc release spotlighting a number of extras.

Excerpts from Moyers’ memorable interview with George Lucas are among the latter, along with a never-before-released conversation with Campbell from the “Bill Moyers’ Journal” program, plus a 12-page viewers guide and profiles of Campbell’s Influences, episode photo galleries, and extracts from the Campbell film “Sukhavati.”

David Starkey’s chronicle of England’s MONARCHY (2007, 776 mins.) is another of Acorn’s notable releases this month.

A 16-part chronicle of the British monarchy from the early days of Anglo-Saxon king Offa to the widely-told exploits of Henry VIII and the days of Victoria, “Monarchy” offers a broad, compelling overview of England’s rulers, with Starkey providing appropriately scholarly discussion and locations from the Tower of London to Bosworth Field utilized for good measure.

A 16-page booklet and biographies of 20th century monarchs, plus a Starkey bio and a gallery of royal places, round out the five-disc DVD set, which also boasts lovely 16:9 transfers and stereo soundtracks.

Finally, Acorn has the acclaimed 1982 AGATHA CHRISTIE HOUR lined up for release this month. These early ‘80s Thames Television productions, which aired on PBS’ “Mystery!” domestically, boast superb ensemble casts in adaptations of several lesser-known Christie mysteries.

Included in the two-disc set are five episodes: “The Case of the Middle-Aged Wife,” “In a Glass Darkly,” “The Girl in the Train,” “The Fourth Man,” and “The Case of the Discontented Soldier.” Full-screen transfers, 2.0 soundtracks, a Christie bio and a profile of Parker Pyne round out the set.

New From History/A&E/New Video

A number of new releases, including a pair of eagerly anticipated vintage TV on DVD titles, are lined up for release from New Video this month. Here’s a full rundown:

SECRET AGENT aka DANGER MAN: The Complete Collection DVD (1960-64, aprx. 57 hours, A&E/New Video): It was the era of James Bond, suave secret agents and Cold War thrillers. While 007 and Sean Connery’s classic portrayal of Ian Fleming’s spy became a worldwide phenomenon, Patrick McGoohan made a name for himself on the small-screen as John Drake, the secret agent who performed Bond-like heroics as he traveled the globe in pursuit of criminals, top-secret documents and shady politicians.

“Secret Agent” aired on CBS starting with its second season; in the UK, the series was more familiar to viewers as “Danger Man.” No matter what name you call it, A&E’s massive 18-disc DVD box-set offers every episode of the series, including its UK-only first season, as well as the 47 episodes that were broadcast worldwide (its two concluding episodes, shot in color, among them). With remastered transfers and soundtracks, this is an essential purchase for series fans, the DVD also including the original U.S. opening with Johnny Rivers’ classic theme song, plus a photo gallery and McGoohan bio. Recommended!

RICH MAN, POOR MAN DVD (aprx. 27 hours, 1976-77; A&E/New Video): Long-anticipated DVD box-set offers American network TV’s first-ever “mini-series” event, the sprawling adaptation of Irwin Shaw’s bestseller about the Jordasche brothers: prodigal son Rudy (Peter Strauss) and troubled sibling Tom (Nick Nolte), with strong support turned in by Ed Asner, Susan Blakely, Kay Lenz, Susan Sullivan, and Penny Peyser among the massive “Guest Star” cast. From Alex North’s scoring on down, this is ‘70s American television at its finest, a prototype for the now-vanished mini-series format on U.S. broadcast airwaves.

“Book I” is notably stronger than Book II, in terms of both production and narrative, but fans who’ve wanted to see the series on DVD at long last will be rewarded by A&E’s DVD set combining the complete production. Streeting on September 28th, the nine-disc set, produced under license from Universal, includes satisfying full-screen transfers and a commentary track from Peter Strauss and TV historian David Bianculli on the first episode. (Viewers will note one of those “music may differ from televised version” disclaimers on the back jacket, however).

AMERICA: THE STORY OF US Blu-Ray (aprx. 9 hours, 2010; A&E/New Video): 400 years of American history are chronicled in this (extremely) broad but well-produced chronicle, which almost feels like a “Best of the History Channel” sampler series as it pulls vignettes and sections from other, more in-depth material. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a series that “tells it all” and does so in a relatively manageable running time, “America: The Story of Us” is it, though I would’ve preferred more comments from historians instead of comments from “world-class individuals” (that’s what it says on the back cover!) Meryl Streep, Brian Williams and Michael Douglas. History’s Blu-Ray edition boasts 1080p transfers, DTS Master Audio soundtracks, plus additional scenes on the three-disc release.

BATTLE 360 Blu-Ray (aprx. 10 hours, 2008; A&E/New Video): CGI visualizations mark this 10-episode profile of the WWII aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and her battles in the Pacific. Crisp HD transfers, additional scenes and DTS Master Audio 2.0 stereo soundtracks adorn the three-disc set.

NOSTRADAMUS 2012 Blu-Ray (94 mins., 2008; A&E/New Video): Those readers still fearing the year 2012 will find plenty more to worry about in this 94-minute examination of Nostradamus’ prophecies. Will it be a meteor impact, political meltdown (is it possible for things to get worse than they are now?), environmental disaster – or perhaps a “Sex and the City” prequel? Nostradamus (kind of) has the answers in this feature-length production boasting a bonus documentary “The Lost Book of Nostradamus.”

PATTON 360: Season 1 Blu-Ray (aprx. 8 hours, 2009; History/New Video): Interesting History Channel series uses decent CGI animation to detail the heroic campaigns of Gen. George S. Patton in the North African and European theaters of WWII. Aided by archival footage and historian interviews, this is an insightful new take on well-discussed material, enhanced by the HD presentation on-hand in New Video’s two-disc BD set with DTS Master Audio 2.0 sound.

PARANORMAL STATE Season 4 DVD (aprx. 5 hours, 2009-2010; A&E/New Video): Ryan Buell and his team are back as they travel to mid-Atlantic states where more spirits haunt the living, including a three-year old girl with violent tantrums and a hotel where guests have had enough (wouldn’t you think paranormal activity would stir up business instead of driving it away?). Season 4 of “Paranormal State” is presented on two DVDs in widescreen transfers and stereo soundtracks, with additional footage on-tap for extras.

MoreTV on DVD

BOY MEETS WORLD Seasons 1,2,3 DVD (1993-96, 491 mins., Lionsgate)
LESS THAN PERFECT Season 1 DVD (2002-03, 464 mins., Lionsgate): A pair of ABC sitcoms come to DVD this month, one in a re-issued, lower-priced version, while the other marks its debut in the format.

The engaging “Boy Meets World” ran for the bulk of the 1990s, following precocious teen Ben Savage as he learns a succession of life lessons from his buddies, teacher Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) and girlfriend Topanga (Danielle Fishel).

The goofy, juvenile laughs of the show were always balanced by a sincere attempt at developing the interaction between amiable characters with genuine heart and soul, and it’s for this reason the series has managed to maintain its fanbase over the years.

Buena Vista previously issued Seasons 1-3 of the series on DVD, and now they’ve passed the torch over to Lionsgate, whose lower-priced DVDs offer similar presentations (full-screen transfers and stereo soundtracks, a few commentaries and trivia game).

Making its premiere on DVD this month is the wacky sitcom “Less than Perfect,” which starred cute Sara Rue as an ex-secretary who attempts to charm the cold-hearted cynics she works with at a TV news station. The supporting cast (Sherri Shepherd, Zachary Levi, Eric Roberts) is superb and the show enjoyable enough, with Lionsgate’s DVD sporting 1.78 widescreen transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks.

RED VS. BLUE THE RECOLLECTION Seasons 6-7-8 DVD (5 hrs., Flatiron/NewVideo)
RED VS. BLUE REVELATION Season 8 DVD (90 mins., Flatiron/NewVideo): A series of homemade videos intended to parody first-person shooter (FPS) video games and simultaneously pay tribute to Microsoft’s “Halo” surpassed its initial online cult status earlier this decade, with the “Red Vs. Blue” series continuing on for three additional “seasons” which New Video has compiled on DVD. (Season 8 is also available separately). Stereo soundtracks and numerous extras, including commentary from creator Burnie Burns, plus deleted scenes, outtakes, and cast interviews comprise the individual releases.

SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION DVD (82 mins., 2009; NewVideo): Historical footage, interviews and musical performances comprise this look at the civil rights struggle and, in particular, the music that defined its era. New performances from John Legend, Wyclef Jean, Richie Havens, Angie Stone, Joss Stone, The Roots and others are on-hand in this 82-minute documentary, which NewVideo brings to DVD late this month with extras including bonus musical performances, deleted scenes, interviews and more.

Also On DVD

STOMP THE YARD: HOMECOMING DVD (88 mins., 2010, PG-13; Sony): Direct-to-video sequel to the surprise theatrical hit “Stomp the Yard” follows new pledge Chance Harris (Collins Pennie) as he navigates through college, trying to balance school, work, romance, an unpaid debt to a street gang and, of course, the step team competition during Homecoming weekend on-campus. Sony’s DVD of this Stage 6 production offers deleted scenes, cast/crew commentary, and a behind-the-scenes choreography segment, plus a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

NEXT TIME: More of the latest reviews!
Until then, don't forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!


Copyright 1997-2010 All Reviews, Site and Design by Andre Dursin