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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

'Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment' DVD: Spytacular '70s TV Movie of the Week

Delphi Bureau
The recent Warner Archive DVD release of the 1972 Made-for-TV Movie "The Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment" is the third of three pilot films from this era and genre that is among those that Archive has released and that Unreal TV has covered.

The first post is on "Probe," which is the pilot for the reviewed uber-awesome spyfi (thanks again Archive for coining that phrase) series "SEARCH." The second is the reviewed "Search for the Gods," starring a dreamy Kurt Russell in the period following his run as college student Dexter Riley in a series of terrific live-action Disney films.

Like "Probe," the non-barefoot network executives surprisingly concluded that the fun and exciting "Delphi" warranted a series. It ran from 1972-73 on ABC. One can only hope that history additionally repeats itself in having Archive release a complete series set of "Delphi."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of an early scene from "Delphi" offers a taste of the action and intrigue that it serves.

The premise of "Delphi" is that agent Glenn Garth Gregory, played by Laurence "Mr. Lucie Arnaz" Luckinbill, uses his photographic memory and enhanced observational abilities to investigate nefarious doings under the guise of being a researcher. Bringing the bad guys to justice requires a more fists-on approach.

Part of the intrigue regarding the lore of "Delphi" is that professional D.C. hostess Sybill Van Loween, played by Celeste Holm, is the handler of Gregory and his only contact regarding the titular Bureau. He (and the audience) does not even know the location of any Bureau headquarters that exists.

Having the Bureau reportable only to the President of the United States further contributes to the sense of high-level dealing in the pilot and subsequent series.

The assignment, which Gregory does choose to accept, in "Merchant" is determining the location and fate of fighter jets that are stolen from a military base. A large farm that a former arms dealer, a.k.a. merchant of death, owns and operates quickly becomes a focus of inquiry.

After using his beautiful mind to obtain the necessary background knowledge, Gregory travels to the farm under the pretense of evaluating the methods that it uses. Following up on the leads that Gregory discovers there requires snooping that ultimately leads to one of the sloppiest and most hilarious frame-ups in the entire history of television.

Other unintentional humor relates to Gregory playing right into the hands of his enemies on arriving in the small community in which the farm is located. This relates to sending in a researcher to do the job of a  super-spy.

Other fun relates to the stunt casting that extends beyond the participation of Luckinbill and Holm. Bob Crane of the classic '60s sitcom "Hogan's Heroes" plays Charlie Taggart, who is a colleague of Gregory and has responsibility regarding the missing planes. Lucille Benson of the '80s sitcom "Bosom Buddies" has a more minor role as the owner of a boarding house.

Further, former Bond girl Joanna Pettet plays probable femme fatale April Thompson. Uncertainty regarding the role of Thompson in any criminal goings-on help keep "Merchant" interesting.

The very strong overall early '70s feel of "Merchant" is terrific, and the fast-pace and numerous twists in the last 30 minutes of the film validate the decision that it is series worthy.

The final debriefing is that "Merchant" does its homework regarding the necessary elements for 90-minutes of escapist fun. The attractive and charming man-child, damsel-in-distress or not, Bond-style super-villain, and threat to national or international peace are all there.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Merchant" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

'Buttwhistle' VOD and DVD: Quirky Post Coming-of-Age Dramedy

The strong quirky/indie vibe of the film "Buttwhistle," which is being released on Video-on-Demand on April 29, 2014 and on DVD a month later, fits in well with its fellow Breaking Glass Pictures titles. It has talented relatively young lesser-known actors presenting a tale of angst in an artistically low-budget manner.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Buttwhistle" clearly shows that this film is not your typical mega-plex theater fare.

Indie chick Beth offering the titular character an orgasm in response to his thwarting the suicide attempt in which she is engaged when they meet has an oddly true ring. This observation is based on personal experience with a new acquaintance come calling with a rejected offer for sex as a reward for programming a universal remote control; one can only imagine what setting up a VCR would have inspired.

This incident in the film, and the resulting destructive relationship are only one aspect of the life of the wonderfully quirky community college student who is known by a couple of identities in addition to one that refers to flatulence. His given name is Ogden, but he follows in the footsteps of the artist formerly known as Prince in recently asking to have the blast of an air horn identify him. This development is the center of a hilarious classroom scene.

Former child actor Trevor Morgan does a great job portraying Ogden as a very likable but slightly damaged laid-back 20-something who has good cause for not being like the other boys. Good deeds of this nice young man include being extremely kind to his grandmother and helping neighbors fix up their home.

The greatest hits of Ogden extend beyond his name change to include a logical cross-dressing incident, repeatedly conversing with a bar of soap, and giving his awesome parents the cutest ever anniversary card and gift.

This wonderful and caring nature further inspires Ogden to "adopt" Beth in the same manner as he would take in a stray dog or cat. The problem is that, like a rarely malicious canine, Beth takes advantage of the good nature of Ogden for her own enjoyment. Purposefully antagonizing a local tough with the objective of having him pummel her savior is only the tip of Iceberg Beth.

Beth additionally overtly and covertly does her best to ensure that Ogden has a bleak future and that the relationships that he treasures are ruined or at least undermined. This climaxes in a predictable ending that still has great entertainment value. Poor Ogden looks like a befuddled puppy being taken to the pound.

Additional great humor comes in the form of hilariously deadpan and incompetent cops whom Ogden outwardly treats with respect while pointing out their stupidity. A scene that involves an investigation into missing dogs is must-see.

The fact that the "actor" who plays the parrot of  Ogden's grandmother gets two listings on the IMDb page for "Buttwhistle" further demonstrates the wonderfully alternative mindset of writer/director Tenney Fairchild.

More notable casting includes having the star of the uber-camp classic "The Bad Seed" Patty McCormack play the grandmother. We additionally get former "Dallas" OS star Charlene Tilton in a bit part.

Anyone with thoughts or questions regarding "Buttwhistle" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

'Permanent Record' DVD: Bill and Ted's Excellent Afterschool Special

Permanent Record (1988) - Paramount
Buying the Warner Archive DVD release of the 1988 Keanu Reeves film "Permanent Record" is a no-brainer for fans of Reeves' virtually brain dead Ted "Theodore" Logan in the 1989 teen comedy classic "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." Reeves' Chris Townsend adds nice layers of insecurity and teen angst to the wonderfully goofy Valley Boy person of Ted.

Having both Chris and Ted being aspiring garage band musicians greatly contributes to this fun. WYLD STALLYNS RULE!!

A link to real-world rock music comes in the form of having The Clash front-man Joe Strummer compose the music for "Record."

As an aside, the 1988 Reeves movie "The Prince of Pennsylvania" is similar to "Record" and another great "before they were stars" role for Reeves.

The opening scenes establish the awesome bromance between Chris and his class/bandmate and generally model teen David. He is a teacher's dream, many girls (and some boys) want to date him, his is a perfect son and big brother, and every guy wants to be him.

The fact that the future of David is so bright that he has to wear shades does not immunize him from the same feeling of many of us mere mortals that the senior year of high school is three months too long. This unease relates to anxiety regarding the good or bad things that await us the following September, stress regarding fulfilling the expectations associated with our final months at the place where we are molded during our formative years, and generally just trying to hold it together for what can seem to be a very long 12 weeks.

David ultimately taking a leap of lack of faith triggers an existential crisis for the already-not-so stable Chris. He wants to understand both how the arguably most stable and supportive person in his life could kill himself and how to deal with the challenges regarding his own existence.

The quest of Chris for inner peace includes working with classmates to plan a service for David that reflects the life of that individual more than the standard funeral that is conducted. Snags in planning the event trigger some conflict.

Although the excessive footage of Chris driving around to aid his cognitive process are cliched and silly, scenes revolving around the preparations for and performance of a typically bad student production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "H.M.S. Pinafore" provide good intentional humor.

The final analysis of this nicely written and decently portrayed look at realistic teen angst is that those of us who have experienced the feeling of the characters can relate to their story, and it hopefully provides younger folks who have yet to reach the final semester of their senior of high school some perspective.

Friday, April 25, 2014

'Perfect Parents' DVD: Christopher Eccleston's Dramatic Hail Mary

Perfect Parents DVD
The BFS Entertainment DVD release of the 2006 Christopher Eccleston made-for-TV movie "Perfect Parents" shows that British superiority in most television and film genres extends to this class of fare. Ecclseston and fellow "Doctor  Who" veteran Susannah Harker star as married couple Stuart and Alison, who go to great lengths to get their daughter accepted at a Catholic school and put in additional effort to ensure that she remains enrolled there.

Like any good drama, the action in "Parents" begins relatively benign and ramps up to an appropriately tense level. A violent incident at daughter Lucy's then-current school prompts Stuart to rapidly pull her out of that institution. A search for a school that offers the desired quality without charging a tuition beyond the means of the family leads to the quest for admission to St. Mary of the Veil.

The related dual challenges are that admission to St. Mary's is very competitive, and this seller's market results in the school only admitting Catholic children.

In the grand tradition of "I know a guy who knows a guy," Stuart obtains both forged documentation that shows that his family is Catholic and meets a priest who is willing (for a price) to provide a reference and verify that the family is active in his church. Very prolific actor David Warner, who is also a "Who" veteran, plays said priest.

An escalating threat to Lucy's continuing her studies at St. Mary's requires an escalating response by Stuart. That leads to blackmail, which puts a further strain on the lives of our "perfect parents."

Throwing in discussions regarding things such as the stance of the Catholic church regarding women and homosexuality adds nice depth to this film. Other topics relate to the sorry state of the general school system on both sides of the pond and the equally universal issue regarding the fairness of having your child take a spot in a desirable school at the expense of an arguably more deserving applicant.

On a less grand level, "Parents" is a good example of a drama in which one event leads to a series of incidents that transport an "ordinary bloke" from his everyday existence to a nightmare of varying intensity. Having the angst invade your life in such a manner can be truly terrifying.

The end result regarding all this is that "Parents" greatly outshines a typical American made-for-TV-movie in terms of story, cast, and overall production values.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Parents" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

'The Last of Mrs. Cheyney' DVD: Joan Crawford Steals Jewels and Hearts

Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The (1937)
The wonderfully droll Noel Coward feel of the 1937 Joan Crawford film "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney," which Warner Archive released on DVD several weeks ago, distinguishes this movie from the spectacular company that it keeps in the Archive library. As an aside, the 1929 Norma Shearer version of this film is near the top of the Unreal TV to-watch pile and will be the subject of a May 2014 review.

This delightful all-star farce starts with a rather risque "The Love Boat" style maneuver by the titular Cheyney, played by Crawford, during a New York to London ocean voyage. This ruse is the first step of her plan to pull a heist in England that clearly is not her first rodeo.

On arriving in London, Cheyney has her gang pose as household servants to facilitate the nefarious scheme. William Powell of the "The Thin Man" films and numerous other classics and near-classics of the era is perfectly cast as her suave but tough butler/lieutenant/intimate.

An early scene involves a lavish charity event with a clever twist that provides Cheyney suitor Lord Arthur, played by Powell rival in terms of suaveness and toughness Robert Montgomery, a wonderful opportunity for passive-aggressive behavior.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, from the aforementioned charity event provides both a good sense of this film and a preview of the Joan Crawford that fans of "Mommie Dearest" know and love.

Watching Powell and Montgomery square off are some of the best scenes in this exceptional film. As mentioned above, they are well matched in intelligence, determination, and just general testosterone. 

Frank Morgan, who plays the titular character in the uber-classic "The Wizard of Oz," is the "mature" Lord Kelton who believes that he is Arthur's romantic rival but initially is only in the picture (no pun intended) to facilitate the nefarious scheme of Cheyney.

The weekend party at a country estate that provides the setting for the climax of "Cheney" (again, no pun intended) is particularly pure Coward. As a painful (but hilarious) series of reveals demonstrates, the assembled group represents every stereotype of the British upper class and the fact that their respectability is merely a facade.

A terrific scene before the equivalent of a drawing-room confrontation in a British murder mystery has the hostess for the evening make her guests play a hilarious "proper" form of truth-or-dare. This game requires that the person to whom a very personal question is directed either truthfully respond or perform an act known as a "forfeit."

An element of the game that is known by the initials "BS" requires performing the forfeit if it is determined that the provided answer is untrue. The funniest penalty requires that a woman recite the story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree to everyone she encounters the remainder of the evening.

The goodwill and warmth that Cheyney experiences during that weekend prompts second, third, and fourth thoughts regarding proceeding with the theft. Her impact on the revelers prompts an equally notable (and fall-on-the-floor funny) response by them.

The bottom line regarding all this is that "Cheney" offers amply comedy, drama, romance, and '30s stars to satisfy anyone with even a modicum of interest in films from this era.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Cheyney" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

'Search for the Gods' DVD: Two Guys, A Girl, and an Alien Artifact

Search For The Gods (1975)
The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1975 TV Movie of the Week "Search for the Gods" is one of the latest in a continuing series of Archive releases of these nostalgic gems. Unreal TV recently ran a review of the uber-awesome 1972 production "Probe" and plans to offer thoughts on "The Delphi Bureau" from the same era within the next few weeks.

Having Kurt Russell play the lead role of Shan Mullins during his transition from more boyish roles such as the dreamy college student Dexter Riley in a wonderfully goofy group of Disney films to more serious and mature roles is terrific fun. Mullins essentially is Riley in his post-graduate "On the Road" phase and long before Russell plays Col. Jack O'Neill (the O'Neil with one "l" does not have a sense of humor) in the theatrical "Stargate" movie.

A series of events leads to Mullins joining hilariously named Bostonian Willie Longfellow (no, that is not the porn name of that character) and Native American Genara on the titular search. The specific objective is to learn more about the origins and importance of the piece of a mysterious medallion that Longfellow is asked to give to Genara.

Both legend and scientific evidence support the theory that the medallion is of extra-terrestrial origin and has great significance for us mere mortals.

The primary obstacle to holding onto the artifact and learning more about it is a sinister foe who seeks to obtain it for the proverbial any price. Stating that he is willing to get Kurt regarding this quest is very apt.

"Search" additionally has fun elements of other shows; the most obvious one is "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated," which has America's favorite team of animated sleuths on an extended quest to locate and acquire the very important Planispheric Disc.

The second related series is the unfairly maligned 1986-87 "Starman," based on the film of the same series. This one has the titular alien, who is going by the name Paul Forrester, teaming up with his teenage son to find the boy's mother.

On a general level, "Search" does a good job initially establishing its lore and then kicking into a higher gear; the roughly last 30 minutes of the movie are particularly action packed and end with a scene that nicely lays the groundwork for an unrealized series about a search to learn more about the brothers from another planet who apparently interacted with Native Americans in the truly olden days.

The search for more information regarding this movie will end with the thought that the lore, southwest scenery, and Kurt Russell appearance make it worth checking out.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Search" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'The Public Defender' DVD: Awesome Adventures of a Depression Era Millionaire Playboy Vigilante

Product Details
The titular character in Warner Archive's recent DVD release of "The Public Defender" from 1931 is a wonderful mash-up between The Shadow and Batman.

This alter ego known as The Reckoner of man-child about town Pike Winslow uses dark corners, ominous calling cards, and similar devices to strike fear in the hearts of Depression Era wrongdoers. Richard Dix is fresh off his Oscar-nominated role in "Cimarron" when he plays Winslow.

On a broader level, this self-contained film has a wonderful feel of the exciting serials that gave birth to the phrase cliff-hanger in this era.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, from "Defender" provides an excellent sense of this film.

"Defender" occurs in the wake of The Reckoner commencing his crusade to bring men of power who misuse their influence to the detriment of the masses to justice. This alone creates some anxiety among a group of unscrupulous men who comprise the leadership team of a recently not-too-big-to-fail bank.

The Reckoner having a calling card served up to a member of this cabal intensifies their level of concern, which only increases as it becomes apparent that they are all targets of that vigilante.

Another element of this terrific plot is that this time it is personal; these financiers do not bank (of course, pun intended) on the daughter of the man whom they frame for their malfeasance being the  object of Winslow's affection resulting in putting The Reckoner on their trail.
Much of the fun of "Defender" relates to watching the seemingly dopey and harmless Winslow (ala Clark Kent) socialize with the nefarious bankers at the country club to which they belong and in the homes of that group. This entertainment includes seeing Winslow using those interactions to facilitate the plans of The Reckoner.

It further is fun to see a pre "Frankenstein" Boris Karloff play "The Professor," who is both an aide of The Reckoner and one of the few people who knows his true identity. Associated fun relates to this team merely using heavy drapes across an alcove in the den (not even lair) of Winslow to conceal the incriminating evidence that The Reckoner collects and that would show that he is Winslow.

"Defender" also borrows from the awesome drawing room murder mystery genre by having a climatic scene that involves plunging a room into darkness to further the current quest of The Reckoner. The outcome is largely predictable but is entertaining and has fun surprises.

The solution to the mystery of whether "Defender" is worth adding to your DVD collection is that it ranks high among the rarities that Archive releases.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Defender" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

'Junction' DVD: Home-Grown Terror

This review of the uber-intense 2012 thriller "Junction," which terrific indie film distributor  Grand Entertainment Group is releasing on DVD on April 22, 2014, resumes the relationship between Grand and Unreal TV following a rave review for the hilarious horror comedy "Chastity Bites" a few months ago.

Reviews of other titles will follow in the next few weeks, and an exciting possibility exists regarding Grand releasing S9 of the exceptional Syfy series "Ghost Hunters" in June 2014. Suffice it to say that your (sometimes) humble reviewer may need to download the specter detector app, which owes its name to the uber-awesome '70s cartoon "Goober and the Ghostchasers."

In the case of "Junction," the primary beings are both malevolent and fully flesh-and-blood. Further, they are much more frightening than a dot of light floating down a hallway.

"Junction" writer/director Tony Glazer directly takes a page from the Hitchcock playbook in setting the terror in an upscale residential neighborhood. The well-proven theory is that something is much scarier if you can realistically imagine the same thing happening to you.

The seemingly simple premise of "Junction" is that a quartet of exceptionally well-cast meth-heads quasi-randomly select a house in their quest to fulfill a mission to steal a television. Of course, the movie would have been far shorter and much less interesting if they had just grabbed the set and driven off without incident.

Initial leader David, played by dreamy soap actor Tom Pelphrey, instigates the mayhem by inadvertently discovering rock-solid proof of an ongoing series of creepy crimes by the homeowner. The nature of the offense triggers a strong reaction by fellow addict David, who ultimately holds the nuclear family hostage and brutally tortures the father in front of his wife and daughter.

David taking things to the next level additionally causes dissension among his own group.

The fact that the local police are recovering from a scandal associated with mishandling a prior hostage situation further complicates the already intense situation in the house. This law-enforcement group wanting to avoid more negative scrutiny results in treating David like the time bomb that he is despite this approach enhancing the level of peril in the residence.

The fact that "Junction" throws the dark themes discussed above into the mix sets it well above the average home invasion gone terribly awry flick. David has a truly noble mission; his history and (most likely) related meth addiction simply cause him to pursue it though less-than-ideal means.

Additionally, each actor plays his or her part very well. These thespians avoiding the unduly deadpan style of many modern actors without going all Brando is refreshing. You truly feel that you are watching the characters, rather than the real-life people who portray them.

It further is nice to see a film rely more on dialog than action. There is plenty of chaos to satisfy the bloodlust of any teen-boy gamer, but there is nary a semi-automatic or grenade launcher in site. Additionally, no sequence goes on unduly long or produces disproportionate injury.

The DVD bonus is a "making of " featurette that is most likely as interesting as the subject on which it is based.

The final word regarding all this is that "Junction" succeeds where so many others have failed. Merely mixing desperate dirt bags and a seemingly typical modern American family does not make for a great film.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Junction" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

'Scream Park' DVD: 'Saved By The Bell' Meets Michael Myers

Product Details
Cary Hill's "Scream Park," which Wild Eye Releasing is introducing on DVD and VOD on April 22, 2014, has everything that fans of '70s and '80s slasher flicks and afficionados of more modern horror films can hope for in a film of this type. This theme extends to having established and upcoming horror actors in the cast.

The following spoiler-laden clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Park" shows how Hill gets it right.

This trailer specifically provides a sense of the talent of Hill in his roles of writer, director, and producer. Whether he also manages craft services and provides the wardrobe from his own closet is uncertain.

The terrifically uber-cheesy premise of "Park" is that the stereotypical high school students who work at the rapidly failing Fright Land amusement park convince their manager, who is a 30 year-old version of Mr. Belding, to allow a party with drinking in the park after it closes for the evening.

Watching said manager be an ineffective authoritarian, failed playa, outsider, and heavy contributes great humor to the film.

Hill spends roughly 30 minutes establishing which characters are the tough girl, the good girl, the slut, the jock, the dweeb, the burn out, and the average guy. He then follows the masters of the horror genre in building the horror/suspense.

Early ominous indications of the inevitable mayhem include the black security guard (whose fate is obvious to anyone who has seen any horror film made since the '70s) watching a scary movie on his television and a creepy panel van being parked in the lot.

Seeing the creepy shadowy figure in the distance, ultimately coming face-to-mask with an uninvited guest, and seeing the killer suddenly appear outside a dark window are all terrific expected fun for folks familiar with the genre and will threaten any pre-existing cleanliness of the underoos worn by the pre-teen boys who choose this film as the means for losing their horror virginity.

Other expertly provided tried-and-true classic scenes include the villain walking comically glacially and a probable victim crawling just as amusingly slowly. Hill further keeps things interesting by blatantly breaking other rules of this genre.

Additionally, the motive for this roller-coaster of a massacre is a perfect commentary on our modern era. It relates to the particularly destructive form of fame that originated in the '90s with Bob Saget using the prospect of a $10K prize to entice fathers to encourage their toddlers to use their 'nads as a softball (of course, pun intended.)

The autopsy regarding all this is that Cary may well become "King of the Hill" in the horror world. He combines the best from the past 40 years of this genre and adds enough originality to make it fresh. This talent allows him to attract folks to theaters or their couches/futons without drenching the screen in blood.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Park" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

'Justice' CS DVD: Ideal Subject for Easter Sunday

Justice DVD
The two-disc five-episode BFS Entertainment DVD release of the 2011 BBC drama "Justice" provides an excellent chance for American audiences to discover a nicely low-key drama about a very human savior who takes on the resurrection of his hometown for a sin with a fairly significant ripple effect.

Robert Pugh, whose 112 credits include "Game of Thrones" and "Doctor Who," plays Judge Patrick Coburn. The 50-words-or-less version of the back story of Coburn is that he returns to oversee a controversial Public Justice Centre in his hometown of Liverpool 40 years after a midnight skip in response to an event that remains a mystery through part of the series.

Opposition to the Centre relates to the sense that it is established to punish, rather than support, the lower-income folks who commit acts that result in bringing them before Colburn. Conversely, Colburn sees his role as one that helps those folks, focuses more on dispensing justice than on enforcing the law, and more generally improves living conditions that have deteriorated in his absence.

On the other side of the coin, Her Majesty's government is considering closing the Centre based on economic considerations.

The court proceedings in the pilot episode demonstrate the Colburn style of adjudication; the sentence for a charge of soliciting a prostitute is a revocation of a driver's license. The logic is that an inability to drive precludes using a car to "hook" up.

The response of a woman who engages in the oldest profession in the world that the ruling merely forces her and her colleagues to ply their trade in a more dangerous area shows that Colburn can do little right in the eyes of his community.

This episode further establishes the mutual animosity between Colburn and not-so-subtle local crime boss Jake Little, who particularly preys on teens and 20-somethings. Having a crusader in the area is a threat that Little openly opposes.

An episode in which Colburn and Little compete for the body and soul of a young enforcer particularly brings these two men head-to-head. It also demonstrates the extent of the ability of Little to make friends and his much strong power to influence people.

Colburn assigning the young thug and a much-older former thug as the community service projects for each other is another example of his style of justice. For his part, the retired thug provides a good lesson about the cost of wasting potential.

Colburn additionally faces a foe in the form of local Lois Lane style crusading reporter Louise Scanlon, played by Liverpool native Gillian Kearney. An assignment to interview Colburn triggers a campaign by Scanlon to determine the truth behind his sudden departure 40 years earlier. Her success in revealing this secret has the desired result but leads to her own form of atonement in the exceptional season finale.

This finale has a terrific feel of a classic American western in that an outrageously blatant act of Little results in facing Colburn in court. Obtaining a conviction for that offense requires that at least one local who Little has been bullying testifies about the crime.

This one nicely ties into the rest of the series by having past offenders and those close to them appear regarding the effort to achieve justice. Further, a central figure dies for the sins of others.

The identity of the individual who ultimately steps forward is moderately surprising but ties nicely into the theme of redemption in the series. It is equally notable that things are not necessarily all rainbows and lollipops for the folks in this rough community at the end.

The final scene is also moderately surprising but offers a couple of nice messages for realistic degrees of hope. Whether Thomas Wolfe correctly concludes that you cannot go home again remains undetermined.

The final verdict regarding "Justice" is that it is a series to which many of us can relate. Most of us regret something from our past but lack the courage of Colburn to both do something about it and not back down when publicly confronted with the consequences of it.

Real life also has plenty of criminal and non-criminal versions of Little, who abuse their positions at the expense of "innocents." We additionally fantasize about a court system that dispenses justice, rather than simply enforces the law.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Justice" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

'Ain't Misbehavin' DVD: Brilliant Robson and Jerome Wartime British Comedy

Ain't Misbehavin' DVD
The hilarious 1997 three-episode British mini-series "Ain't Misbehabvin'," which BFS Entertainment has released on DVD, has more than one could hope for from a buddy comedy. This one goes further by providing catchy big band music and a well-done World War II setting that is reminiscent of the uber-awesome long-running classic Britcom "Goodnight Sweetheart."

The well-executed sparring buddies element adds a nice touch of "randall and hopkirk."

"Ain't," which is set in 1940, opens with RAF pilot Eddie Wallis moving from Scotland to London; his running into draft dodger (but very talented singer) Eric Trapp triggers events that result in the two making beautiful music together in a band but achieving less harmony as reluctant friends/roommates.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, AIN'T from "Ain't" but is of stars Robson Green and Jerome Flynn in a performance under the singing duo Robson and Jerome that they formed. It shows both their chemistry and their overall enjoyment of each other.

Flynn of "Ripper Street" and "Game of Thrones" does a great job portraying Wallis as a heroic boy scout who must learn to adapt to his new reality. Green of numerous British series does even better as the charming Eric who always seems to be just one step ahead of a jealous husband, a landlady to whom he owes back rent, the local gangster, etc.

Said gangster plays a major role regarding the hilarity in which our heroes become ensnared. His name is Maxie Morrell, and he happily is spending his days engaged in black market operations until a bigger dog informs him that he is taking over Maxie's operation.

The response of Max involves duping Eric into obtaining incriminating information on the interloper. Anyone who has ever seen a buddy comedy knows that that soon leads to Eric bringing Eddie into the fray.

Subplots include a couple of air raids and Eddie falling in love with a woman, wonderfully played by Julia Sawalha of "Absolutely Fabulous" and "Jonathnn Creek,"who is in tolerate with another man.

Highlights of the series include Eric belting out a song in the first episode, the pair crashing a party for RAF officers, and Eric doing his best Sam Spade impression while reading a hilariously titled novel.

All of this amounts to "Ain't" being a great choice for anyone who misses good old-fashioned buddy films.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Ain't" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

'Green Lantern: The Animated Series' BD: Makes Lesser Shows Emerald With Envy

Green Lantern Animated Series S1
The recently released Warner Archive Blu-ray set of the complete series of "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" is perfect companion to the Blu-ray set of fellow Cartoon Network series "Beware the Batman" that is the subject of a March 2014 Unreal TV review.

This "Lantern" release also provides a good opportunity to comment on the current phrase "binge watching." The continuing story lines and cliffhangers make it a perfect candidate for watching multiple episodes in one sitting. Referring to such MARATHONS as binges creates images of shoving junk down your Twinkie hole (no euphemisms intended) at warp speed, rather than enjoying a feast of well-prepared treats.

Having fanboy god voice actor Josh Keaton, who uber-shines as the voice of Peter Parker in the magnificent "The Spectacular Spider-Man" animated series, star as the voice of Hal Jordan alone makes "Lantern" a must-own for super herophiles of all ages; spectacular graphics that look incredible in Blu-ray, clever dialog, and well-written multi-multi-multi episode story arcs spectacularly show that the set provides hours of awesome entertainment.

For the benefit of folks unfamiliar with "Lantern" lore, an incredibly bare bones recap of this background is that Oa-dwelling Guardians of the Universe create the multi-species Green Lantern corps to battle evil and generally maintain peace across said universe. The corps members are selected based on having the virtues that fulfilling their mission requires.

The Lanterns derive their power through a ring that grants them the power to fly and that allows them to form a protective shield around themselves. The rings additionally allow these heroes to form objects, known as constructs, to aid them. A very early scene in the "Lantern" pilot establishes that Jordan literally is additionally faster than a speeding locomotive.

Common constructs include fists and other blunt objects to pummel the bad guys, vises to grab malfeasors, and barricade-style shields to fend off laser blasts and other threats to bodily integrity. Jordan's former trainer and current evil-fighting partner Kilowog (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson of virtually every Fox "Animation Domination" series) is especially fond of creating a Thor-like hammer to bat evil aliens around space.

A primary limit on the ability of a Green Lantern is that their ring only holds a finite charge and must use a lantern to restore its power; this ritual also requires uttering a chant that is well known to every Lantern fan.

Additionally, the element of a kryptonite equivalent that prevents the rings from functioning is introduced early in the series.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is a good representation of the overall quality and themes of "Lantern." It also recaps the events that set the series in motion.

"Lantern" gets rolling with Jordan going to Oa in response to evidence that Green Lanterns stationed in the outlying area known as Frontier Space are being killed off; in typical super hero fashion, Jordan hijacks the experimental state-of-the-art spacecraft known as the Interceptor so that he can quickly come to the aid of his comrades.

The next several episodes revolve around battles with Red Lanterns, led by the aptly named Atrocitus, who are waging the war against the Green Lanterns. The former obtain their powers through rage-fueled rings.

Depth in these episodes partially come in the former of former Red Lantern Razer, who joins Team Jordan early in the series, struggling to suppress the rage that he still feels regarding the death of his highly significant other.

Related substance comes in the form of a revelation that shows that the indignation of the Red Lanterns regarding the Guardians is somewhat righteous; this development is only a portion of the evidence that the alleged good guys, who increasingly engage in political battles, are not as omnipotent as they would like the universe to believe.

Having the Interceptor's artificial intelligence system take a large evolutionary step forward also contributes to the weight of this exceptional Saturday morning cartoon; this development additionally plays a major role in the series finale.

The Red Lantern threat evolves into another daunting challenge for Jordan and his crew; this conflict leads to an even larger conflict that jeopardizes the literal existence of our universe.

The good news for kids and the adults who love them is that keeping things at a fairly basic level and providing recaps at the start of each episode keeps "Lantern" digestible for kids from 8 to 80.

Additionally, the scenes that are set in space are particularly well animated; a sequence that literally involves expanding our universe truly is worthy of an award.

Also, the writers mix plenty of light-hearted humor in with the action and peril. Watching Jordan battle a squirrel-like Green Lantern is hilarious, and having Jordan team up with  uber-arrogant Lantern  Guy Gardner who takes over defending earth in the absence of our hero is equally amusing. This further involves a few awesome moments of Zen.

The final thoughts to share before the figurative charge that is powering this review runs out of power is that "Lantern" achieves the near impossible of being a show that truly has something for everyone.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Lantern" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

'Detonator' DVD: Saga of Retired Punk Rock Prince is Da Bomb

The wonderfully modern noir drama "Detonator," which was released theatrically and online in early April 2014, is a tailor-made addition to the library of awesome Philadelphia-based indie studio Breaking Glass Pictures.

This film, which is based and shot in the City of Brotherly Love, fully validates the previously expressed opinion of Unreal TV that Glass is the proper heir to the throne of former top Philadelphia-based art-house film company TLA Entertainment.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer of "Detonator" offers a sample of how this film aptly follows the similarly low-budget and raw look of similar films from the '80s when the punk movement was taking off.

This pervasively very gritty look of this film is also perfect both for the seedy side of Philly that it depicts and this tale of former punk rocker Sully (rather than Sheena) getting caught up in the dangerous scheme of former Detonator bandmate/friend Mick.

The opening scene graphically establishes the lengths to which Sully is going to leave his days as the front man for his local Philadelphia  punk rock band behind and be a good father to his five-year old son and reliable/loving partner to the mother of the boy.

Conflict soon develops in the form of the arrival of Mick, who has spiraled downward since Detonator fizzled out. His problems extend beyond his impending 30-day jail sentence.

In typical indie-film fashion, Mick soon persuades/coerces Sully into joining him on a nocturnal walk on the wild side. Much of this quest relates to obtaining a potentially valuable tape of their former band.

The start of this rapidly increasingly perilous adventure will prompt thoughts of "Warriors, come out and plaaay" in the minds of fans of classic low-budget films of this genre. However, this aptly literally dark and red-tinted hellish journey is more psychological than physical along the lines of a baseball bat wielding gang member threatening to transform you into a human popsicle.

Suffice it to say, Mick recklessly ticks off the wrong psychopath. This ultimately leads to Sully's Choice in the form of either delivering his buddy up to this gentleman who does not play well with others or having his son discover where his father falls along the "my father can beat up your father" scale.

Further, the filmmakers expertly (awesomely simply is not a very punk term) job integrating the Philly punk rock theme into the film. The settings seem authentic and Joe Jack Talcum of The Dead Milkman (rather than the Dead Kennedys) provides the score, which includes a catchy ode to teen angst/rejection of middle-class values.

Further, the perfect casting draws you into the story. Lawrence Michael Levine, who plays Sully, is an up-and-coming indie film star who most likely will show up in a Coen Brothers or Sophia Coppola flick one of these days. He has a perfect handle on his former punk/current suburban dad character. This past give him the courage to not run when he hears scat, and any fear that he feels does not lead to involuntary scat in the other sense of that word.

Ben Fine does equally well as Mick; suburban types who have never lived on the wild side would avoid him on the street and would never invite him into their home.

The first final note regarding this future indie classic is that, in the immortal words of the horribly sadly not immortal Merritt Butrick (who also plays Kirk's son in two "Star Trek" films) as Johnny Slash in the '80s sitcom "Square Pegs," punk is a "totally different head" than new wave "totally."

The second final note regarding this future indie classic is that it serves up a sympathetic character in a setting that is a nice place to visit via the safety of a theater or living room but that most of us would not to make our residence.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Detonator" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

'Show Boat' DVD: Classic Musical Done Perfectly

Show Boat (1936)
Like Indiana Jones when faced with identifying the Holy Grail in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Warner Archive chose wisely in selecting the 1936 version of "Show Boat" as the DVD release to kick off the year-long celebration of its fifth birthday. Although the status of "Boat" being one of the most-requested titles for release largely prompted the honored release, the uber-awesomeness of it more than validates this decision.

On the surface (pun intended), "Boat" is the story of the romance between ingenue turned leading lady Magnolia and dashing cad/professional gambler Gaylord Ravenal. Finding more depth in this wonderful tale penned by Edna Ferber and adapted for film, set to music by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, and directed by James Whale of the classic "Frankenstein" films requires minimal effort.
Magnolia, played by Irene Dunne of "My Favorite Wife" and numerous other all-time favorites, is mostly staying in the background of the productions presented on the titular river-going vessel owned and operated by her father/director/producer Cap'n Andy Hawks when two events change her world and set spectacular entertainment in motion.

The first momentous development is a very dramatic (but far from melodramatic) confrontation between leading lady Julie and the local sheriff that is well known to theater buffs and sociologists alike. This scene also ends with the rapid departure of Julie and her husband/leading man from the show boat. This departure necessitates Magnolia stepping into the spotlight in a manner that is very far from how the equally famous character Eve Harrington travels the 20 feet required to achieve stardom.

Anyone whose heart does not ache for Julie, does not completely change his or her opinion regarding her husband, and does not cringe regarding the law after watching this scene simply lacks a soul.

Helen Morgan deserves special notice for this perfect portrayal of Julie in this scene and in the rest of her performance. Her rendition of "Can't Help Lovin' that Man" comes a close second to Paul Robeson, who plays the very laid back Joe, putting his Mariana Trench deep baritone to good use in "Old Man River" as the best musical number in the film.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, allows judging the performance of Robeson for yourself.

Cook Queenie Smith commenting that Julie is the only white woman who Queenie ever heard sing "Man" ultimately adds a great deal of power to Morgan's diva moment. It is difficult to imagine any high school girl even wanting to attempt the role of Jule in her drama club production of "Boat" after seeing Morgan in that part.

Ravenal meeting Magnolia while strolling by is the second event that rocks the world of the latter. It is a classic good girl meets (and quasi-reforms) bad boy story. Their courtship, marriage, and subsequent highs and lows relate to Ravenal not always knowing when to hold 'em, fold 'em, not walk away, and definitely not when to run. His worst betrayals earn him the title "Coward of the County."

Cinemaphiles with a particular taste for diva films of the '30s and '40s will recognize elements of "Gone With the Wind," "Stella Dallas," and "Mildred Pierce" in the Magnolia/Ravenal storyline. All three ladies have serious man trouble and go well above and beyond regarding the love that they show their daughters.

A scene in which the audience of a Cap'n Andy production that Magnolia and Ravenal are performing really get into the story to the extent that one audience member acts out in a manner that literally leads to bringing down the curtain is one particularly terrific moment. This is a terrific reminder of this era in which the folks in the seats, up front and cheap alike, really get wrapped up in what is occurring on stage.

On a larger level, "Boat" is a delightful two-hour ride because it relies on talent over splash. No one bursts into song for no apparent reason, and even the larger numbers lack choruses of boys and girls who magically appear to sing and dance their scale-compensated hearts out.

The epilogue to these thoughts regarding this classic is that any film in which the pieces fit so perfectly as well as they do here should not be missed.

Anyone with questions regarding "Boat" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

'Young Riders' S1 DVD: How the West Was Studly

Product Details
TGG Direct releasing a new gift box set of the 24-episode 1989-1990 first season of the ABC action-adventure Western series "The Young Riders" provides a great chance for folks who jumped in with the second and third season gift box sets of this fun and exciting program to see how it all began. Prior reviews on Unreal TV share thoughts on the second season and opinions regarding the third one.

Another nice thing about the first season set is that it does not experience the clearance issues that result in the second and third-seasons sets excluding some episodes. It seems that the first-season set includes all 24 episodes from that year.

The basic premise of  the first season of "Riders" is that the group of studliest young bucks ever to populate a television series portray employees of the Pony Express mail delivery system in 1860s Kansas.

Stephen Baldwin leads the group as a younger and fictionalized version of Western showman Buffalo Bill Cody, who also was a Pony Express rider. Josh Brolin co-stars as "Jimmy" Hickok, whom an early "Riders" episode establishes (just like the real-life James Butler Hickok) as the inspiration for legendary gunman "Wild Bill" Hickock.

The pilot establishes how the less studly but much more adorable rider known throughout most of the series as "The Kid" comes to acquire his beloved horse Katy and join the moderately wild bunch that would somehow form a family.

The Kid also sets himself aside early on by being the first in the group to learn that rider "Lou" is really "Louise." This discovery leads to a courtship that plays a significant role in the wrapping up of "Riders" in its third season.

Half-breed Native American Buck is just as dreamy as his colleagues and facilitates numerous story lines regarding the challenges that Native Americans who live in the anglo world face during a period in which those two groups are actively battling for the same land and right to live their traditional way of life.

The first-season episode "The Home of the Brave" introduces the element of the inner turmoil with which Buck struggles. A series of raids by a group led by Buck's brother both tests his loyalty to his fellow riders and townspeople and intensifies the prejudice of the general population.

Being mute is the characteristic that distinguishes rider Ike in this awesome 19th century boy band. His quiet demeanor extends beyond his ability to speak, but he is relatively quick to anger when properly provoked.

Ike's most memorable first-season episode has him fall in love with a mail-order bride from Baltimore who finds herself stranded on arriving in Kansas. His facial expressions are particularly communicative in this one.

No "Riders" review would be complete without mentioning the trio who at least try to guide our boys (and girl) and (try to) keep them out of trouble.

Team supervisor Teaspoon Hunter is seemingly nothing more than a wild old coot but has more wisdom behind his perpetually unshaved face that one would expect. He is also the center of a particularly awesome episode that is an homage to the classic 1963 film "The List of Adrian Messenger." The "Riders" episode has Teaspoon seeking to protect his fellow survivors of the Alamo and to discover who is killing them.

Melissa Leo plays station caretaker/den mother Emma Shannon; although she can be strict with her boys, she regularly shows how much she sacrifices to keep them happy and free of bullet holes.

Dreamy Brett Cullen plays Marshal Sam Cain, whose efforts to keep the boys out of the line of fire often fails. He is also sweet on Emma, and their courtship becomes a major plot point in the series.

A "very special" two-part season finale addresses the issues of states' rights generally and the upcoming Civil War more specifically. This one has "Hawks' Raiders" creating mayhem both in support of the southern states to govern themselves as they see fit and to oppose the cavalry abusing its authority in frontier states.

The local Army officers commandeering supplies and horses do not help the effort of this group to get the locals to support their cause.

This episode additionally involves sending The Kid on an exciting and  dangerous undercover mission.

The final thought regarding the first 24 adventures of the easy-on-the-eyes rough riders are that this group does a great job putting on a wild west show that offers both gun fights and discussion-provoking social commentary. Further, many episodes end with a traditional ride into the sunset.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Riders" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"In the Name of" DVD: Awesome Portrayal of Crises of Faith and Love

IN THE NAME OF DVD & Online Streaming

Watching the sensitive and well-produced 2013 Polish film "In the Name of," which is being released on DVD on April 15, 2014, is one of two recent surprises from uber-uber-awesome Film Movement. The other relates to the 2011 film "Hitler's Children" from that provider of exceptional foreign films.

After watching "Name," accessing Tivo in search of sitcoms for light fare with which to finish Sunday night viewing led to discovering "Hitler" in the "Featured Programs" section. This title suggested that it was a potentially hilarious History Channel style special on people claiming to be the offspring of Adolph Hitler.

Seeing the Film Movement logo appear at the beginning of "Hitler" communicated both that the suggestion related to Tivoing numerous documentaries and that this show did not feature unintentionally comical "ordinary blokes" who claimed a famous lineage.

This German documentary featured children and grandchildren of Himmler and other top-ranked Nazi officials, The primary theme was the difficulty of dealing with having such horrendous individuals in your ancestry. Like all other Movement titles, this one is exceptional.

Returning to "Name," it is the latest entry in the superb "Film of  the Month Club" that Film Movement operates. Like "Hitler," it portrays a wonderfully unusual variation on a common film theme.

The honors for "Name" include the Teddy Award, which is issued to the best LGBT-themed film, at the Berlin Film Festival.

"Name" centers around Catholic priest Adam who struggles with his attraction to teen-aged boys, crudely admitting in one scene in which he is drunk that he would enjoy buggering each of the delinquents in the facility for such boys that he operates in a small Polish village. One difference between this film and virtually every other one that explores this theme is that Adam does not force himself on his charges or attempt to manipulate them.

Additionally, Adam is intensely sympathetic. He fully understands that the church does not allow homosexual activity but cannot stop having the feelings that cause such intense distress.The fact that this repression severely limits with whom Adam can confide only worsens his pain.

As the liner notes for the DVD note, the manners in which Adam vents his intense frustration add a great deal to this film.

The hooligans with whom Adam works only amplifies his pain and our sympathy for him. Like most adolescents, these boys wring every possible ounce of pleasure from any weakness that they sense regarding their guardian.

Seeing Adam interact with the particular object of his affection and having it returned is sweet, tender, and charming. Every element of the mean-spirited reprisal is less positive.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Name" does a particularly good job conveying the effective manner in which it communicates the multiple messages discussed above.

Film Movement additionally shows its equally excellent instincts regarding the bonus short film for this release; the Israeli production "Summer Vacation" is an entertaining and mildly campy tale of family guy Yuval,who experiences numerous mixed emotions on the arrival of the man with whom he had an extra-marital affair a few years earlier at the seaside resort where Yuval is vacationing with his nuclear family.

"Vacation" does particularly well portraying many issues related to the "complicated" relationship between Yuval and the other man. Repression and physical urges only scratch the surface.

The final word regarding both truly thought-provoking films is that they are perfect choices for the period leading up to Gay Pride season.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Name" or "Vacation" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

'Eight is Enough' S5 DVD: The Karate Kid Meets the Bradys

Eight is Enough: The Complete Fifth Season
Warner Archives' recent six-disc DVD release of the 1980-81 fifth and final season of the textbook family-hour show "Eight Is Enough" provides hope for releases of more seasons of similar Archive-adopted series. Fans are clamoring for the fifth season of "Alice" and the fourth season of "Growing Pains."

The basic premise of "Eight" is that family patriarch/newspaper columnist Tom Bradford, played by Dick Van Patten, struggles to provide the titular eight children with varying degrees of financial and emotional support while facing the same personal crises of many middle-aged folks. These include contending with a malicious hatchet job, facing the demise of the newspaper for which he works, and a shady contractor.

Second wife Abby, played by Betty Buckley, offers Tom wonderful support regarding all those efforts. Further, a talent show episode provides Buckley a chance to demonstrate the singing ability that makes her a Broadway star post "Eight."

The adage "its funny because its true" is particularly apt regarding "Eight," which is based on the experiences of real-life newspaper columnist Thomas Braden.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, from the fifth season of "Eight" does a surprising thorough job of conveying many of the themes of these episodes in just a few minutes.

ABC unfairly moving "Eight" to the 8:00 p.m. Saturday night slot for the final season may have prompted the numerous changes that ramped up the chaos in the Bradford home. The most notable being bringing in a pre- "Karate Kid" Ralph Macchio as Abby's troubled 15 year-old nephew Jeremy. Jeremy regularly referring to the Bradfords as the Bradys in an early episode adds to the "Cousin Oliver" vibe regarding this decision.

Abby's desire to add Jeremy to the Bradford household prompts one of two "second-wife syndrome" plots of the season. Tom's objections to this proposal triggers thoughts that not being a true Bradford deprives Abby of the right to the same consideration as other family members.

A visit from the parents of Tom's deceased wife (and the Bradford kids' biological mother) prompts related feelings that Abby is merely a poor substitute for the first Mrs. Bradford.

The writers additionally use babies as plot points to create drama. Daughter Susan, played by future alleged real-life kidnapping victim Susan Richardson, experiencing premature labor hours after another trauma gets the fifth season off to an exciting start and leads to a subsequent episode revolving around a strain on Susan's marriage to professional baseball player Merle "The Pearl" Stockwell.

These events further prompt moving Susan back into the Bradford home in an apparent attempt to amp up the sense of overcrowding.

Another pregnancy is at the center of a two-part episode titled "The Idolbreaker" near the end of the season. Aspiring 19 year-old musician and "kid precious kid" Tommy is on the brink of his big break in the form of his band "Tommy and the Action" being offered the job of warm-up act on a national tour of "The Pretenders" when a one-month stand tells him that he is her baby daddy.

The two major events in the life of young Mr. Bradford create a tough and unexpected dilemma regarding life versus career choices. One spoiler is that he does not "cry angry tears" regarding this crisis.

The following clip, also courtesy of YouTube, provides a sense of the Tommy Bradford sound that makes him at least a local heartthrob. 

Tommy is also at the center of an episode that has him starting as a fully-clothed musician at a male strip club but moving on to a more lucrative position at that establishment that may involve the "Eight" audience getting a chance to see the direction in which his willy aims. One spoiler is that Tommy definitely shows us his buddy lembeck in this one.

Tommy is also featured in a third episode with a familiar theme; discovering that a songwriter with whom he would like to make beautiful music has a young son requires that Tommy make tough choices.

Youngest son and fan favorite Nicholas, played by child star Adam Rich, dips his toes into the dating pool by working hard to make a gourmet meal for one crush and standing up to bully on behalf of another girl. The latter incident leads to Nicholas learning an alternate meaning of the expression "no glove, no love."

The romantic exploits of youngest daughter Elizabeth include guilt and subterfuge regarding moving in with her boyfriend and breaking out of the friend zone regarding a highly conceited BMOC.

Oldest Bradford sibling David continues his related struggles of keeping his construction business afloat and handling the different lifestyles and other conflicts related to his wife being a moderately powered attorney.

David also teams up with Jeremy in an episode that is memorable both for a bizarre double-dating plot and for being one of the few offerings that expands Jeremy's role beyond cracking wise while hanging with his cousins or trying to con and/or manipulate them for his own profit and/or amusement that includes promoting a shampoo that turns your hair green.

Unlike a true Cousin Oliver "Brady" episode that involves a similar hare dye, no bunnies are harmed in the filming of the aforementioned "Eight" offering.

Aside from the aforementioned "Brady Bunch" reference, this season of "Eight" has a couple of other nice homages to fellow classic family shows. The first is a revival of a tradition from "The Waltons."

The second tribute is more subtle in titling the final episode "Father Knows Best?" This relates to a statement by Billy Gray, who plays teen Bud Anderson in the classic '50s sitcom "Father Knows Best."

In an interview for another forum for which your (often) humble reviewer wrote before starting Unreal TV, Gray shared that "Father" star Robert Young lobbied to have the show titled "Father Knows Best?" to communicate that the head of a household did not always have the answers. This title is very apt regarding this final outing for the Bradfords.

All of this leads to the indisputable conclusion, which subsequent reunion specials support, that five seasons is not enough for this octet. They do not have a million stories but do have more than ABC allowed them to tell.

Anyone with questions regarding "Eight" or Susan Richardson's alleged Lifetime movie South Korean adventure is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

'The Big House' DVD: 'Caged' Men and the Women Who Love Them

The Big House Triple-Feature (English, Spanish, French)
Warner Archive goes international regarding the DVD release of the Best Picture and Best Actor nominated 1930 "life behind bars" classic "The Big House" in that this set includes the concurrently produced French and Spanish language versions of this tale of cons, screws, and the women who love them. The French version is particularly memorable in that it stars Charles Boyer.

The logic behind filming the international versions of these moivies is to facilitate distributing these films in overseas markets.

"House" is also notable for being an early example of a film that portrays a particularly rough life that no one relishes and that most of us never  experience. These depictions of beatings, betrayals, and banishment are guilty pleasures with subliminal messages regarding a need for prison reform.

Thanks to Archive, folks with an interest in this genre have a second chance to see the very recently re-released "broads behind bars" classic "Caged." Unreal TV reviewed the earlier release of this one in June 2013.

"House" begins with the "unfortunate incarceration" of Kent, played by matinee idol Robert Montgomery, who is facing hard time for manslaughter; overcrowding (and a presumed desire to show this new fish the realities of prison life) lead to putting Kent in a cell that is barely large enough for two with the savvy Morgan and vicious killer Butch.

A scene in which the warden and a veteran guard discuss this housing decision is one of the best in the film.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of Kent's arrival and processing gets this film off a great start that the Oscar-winning script keeps going to the end.
The great Wallace Beery, who has 239 acting credits, deserves mention for  a wonderful job portraying the viciousness of Butch. Examples include Butch quickly showing Kent who's boss and teaching him that snitches get stitches.

The scenes depicting Kent's orientation to his new life provide the audience typical scenes of guests of the state who take time from paying their debts to society to mentally and physically torment their fellow inmates. The psychological torture that Kent endures arguably is just as rough as the physical threats and harm. Acquiring false hope can be as tough as an especially rough hosing in the shower.

As advertised on the back cover of this two-disc set, "House" also depicts the "dark agony of the hole" in a penetrating look at Morgan getting swallowed up in a dark tight space.

Morgan surviving his involuntary time in the hole only to have his impending release from prison delayed prompts a not-so-daring escape and subsequent prison-related romance on the outside. The ensuing events can be considered a real riot in a few senses.

Saying more would ruin the impact of this film, which sends a message that state and federal officials who oversee prison systems seem to not have learned in the almost 85 years since the making of this film.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "House" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

'Mayberry RFD' DVD: Taylor-Made 'The Andy Griffith Show' Spin-off

The 1968-69 first season of the rural sitcom "Mayberry RFD," which Warner Archive is releasing on DVD on February 27 2018, is perfect example of a spinoff that fulfills the mission of putting a fresh spin on the parent show. In this case, "Mayberry" is the second act of the uber-classic "The Andy Griffith Show."

The basic premise of "Griffith" is that sensible and compassionate widowed sheriff Andy Taylor tries keeping the peace and dispensing justice in both the  small town of Mayberry, North Carolina and the household that consists of Andy's son Opie and our hero's aunt/housekeeper Bea. Many of the sits relate to mayhem caused by the eccentric residents of Mayberry, who are the source of much of the com in this exceptional series.

"Mayberry" picks up right where "Griffith" leaves off; the highly rated pilot of the spinoff partially focuses on the wedding of Andy and long-time girlfriend Helen Crump. The other focus is on the transition regarding Aunt Bea moving from the Taylor household to that of "Griffith" regular and "Mayberry" central character widowed farmer/city council head Sam Jones and his young son Mike in a house that is very similar to the Taylor abode.

Sam portrayor Ken Berry undergoes his own transition; he takes on this role after starring in the also '60s classic sitcom "F Troop." Berry's subsequent role in the '80s sitcom "Mama's Family" can be considered the "Matlock" of his career. 

The "Mayberry" premise of Aunt Bea going from a home near the center of town to a farm on the outskirts of that burg is very reminiscent of the "Griffith" pilot. Things start very badly but work out well enough that that new girl in town stays a while.

Andy also stays around but does not make many appearances; the times that he shows up mostly relate to his role as sheriff. One episode has him co-ordinating Sam hiring ex-cons as field hands and another relates to a real-life civics lesson that includes having Mike be sheriff for a few hours.

One very odd scene in an episode has Andy and Bea interact as if they are casual friends, rather than close relatives who jointly raised Opie.

"Mayberry" additionally retains many "Griffith" mainstays as regulars and does not make changes in their lives. Using the "Griffith" sets for downtown Mayberry, which includes the business establishments of those individuals, contributes to this sense of continuity.

Man-child Goober Pyle still runs the local gas station, quasi-curmudgeon Emmett Clark spends much of his day holding court in his fixit shop in this era in which broken items are not automatically thrown out, and wimpy mama's boy Howard Sprague still is county clerk.

Perky bakery clerk Millie Swanson is the only one in this group who undergoes a major change between "Griffith" and "Mayberry." She transitions from almost marrying Howard to being the main squeeze of Sam. 

Other "Griffith" characters who pop up every so often include Bee's spinster friend Clara Edwards and Opie's BFF Arnold Bailey. Alas, Don Knotts' Barney Fife and Ron Howard's Opie show up even less often.

The homages that "Mayberry" pays to "Griffith" extends beyond the pilot and populating the main cast with "Griffith" veterans. The opening credits in which Sam and Mike toss a ball are similar to the classic "Griffith" opening credits and use background music from "Griffith" as a theme.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Mayberry" opening and closing credits provide a sense of the spirit described above. The versions on the DVD do not include the sponsorship announcements in this clip.

"Mayberry" further offers the same amusing and wholesome (but hardly boring) stories as its predecessor.

Additionally, "Mayberry" stories that seem similar to "Griffith" episodes put a fresh spin on them. An episode in which Aunt Bea takes a cruise has common elements of a "Griffith" episode in which she goes to Mexico but goes in a different direction in many senses.

Additionally, a story in which Mike inadvertently buys (and subsequently breaks) an expensive copier evokes thoughts of the "Griffith" episode "Opie's Drugstore Job" that has that boy inadvertently breaking a bottle of perfume. However, the circumstances and outcomes significantly differ.

An episode in which Sam and his gang take Mike and his buddy on a camping trip full of mishaps that include hilarious slapstick is one of the best of the season; another episode in which Howard undergoes a major personality shift during a short visit to New York City is another memorable one.

The season ends with a fun (and still timely) fable regarding Mayberry entering a sister city relationship with a city in Mexico. In true "Griffith" and "Mayberry" style, the characters and the audience learn a great deal about the proper means for developing international relationships.

Anyone with questions regarding "Mayberry" or "Griffith" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, April 7, 2014

'Being Ginger' DVD: Not a Tina Louise Memoir

Product Details
The documentary "Being Ginger," which Garden Thieves Pictures is releasing on Video On Demand on April 8, 2014 and on DVD a week later, is the story of the quest of a red-haired (a.k.a. Ginger) man to find the peace and love that he feels that this trait makes elusive. The topic is interesting, and producer/star Scott P. Harris has talent behind and in front of the camera. The not-so-great news is that many others have tackled similar projects more successfully.

The appeal of "Ginger" relates to the recently reviewed documentary "Unhung Hero" with comedian/actor Patrick Moote. The focus of that film is the dual quests of Moote, who kindly granted Unreal TV a very candid and witty interview, to determine whether he can increase the size of what is likely his "fantastic four" and whether that part of his anatomy does not measure up enough to allow finding true love.

Expectations for "Ginger" included substituting  flaming red hair for the form of Irish curse that seems to afflict Moote. Harris also deserve credit for calling attention to a prejudice that many people who either lack that characteristic or do not consider it when evaluating others do not know exist.

The aspect of calling attention to a little known condition is likely a primary reason that gingers have embraced this film.

"Ginger" simply lacks the wit and range of the "Unhung" and similar documentaries that include the wonderfully charming 2004 film "My Date With Drew" and "Don't You Forget About Me" from 2006. The respective quests in those films are an evening with actress Drew Barrymore and a chance to chat with '80s teen movie king John Hughes.

The fact that the reviewed online ratings for "Ginger" exceed those of the other films indicate that your (often) humble reviewer may be in a minority the size of red heads regarding not loving this one. This film in which Harris acknowledges that he appears 99 percent of the time merely does not seem as interesting or insightful as the ones with a wider range of narrative techniques and styles. Harris does earn kudos for a couple of artistic animated segments and for including his terrifically goofy buddy in a few scenes.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Ginger," offers a good sense of the range of emotions that Harris projects.

Even aside from "Unhung" including a hilarious relevant scene from "South Park," it seems odd that Harris does not include footage from a "Park" episode revolving around prejudice against Ginger kids.

All of this is not to say that "Ginger" lacks either entertaining or poignant moments. A woman bluntly telling Harris of the need to shave all his body hair is one of the more amusing scenes, and Harris discussing horrible teacher-sanctioned abuse that his hair prompts during his school years generates sympathy.

"Feel good" footage that also has an impact include scenes at an annual redhead festival that Harris attends in the Netherlands; a scene involving handing out sunscreen samples at that event is a highlight.

As Harris comments, the love and acceptance that flows during the gathering provides a vibe that is similar to the one at gay pride events. This includes stories of shiny happy people rocking out and having fun.

The final advice regarding "Ginger" is that the deleted scenes that run throughout the closing credits are worth watching; these culminate in announcing that Harris' project "An American Ginger in Paris" is coming soon.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Ginger" is welcome to email me; I would like to remind folks who feel the need to flame (no pun intended) in this regard of the rubber and glue rule. Everyone can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.