DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (Acorn)
Director Clive Donner’s lavish, made-for-TV 1982 rendition of the classic novels by the Baroness Orczy earned three Emmy nominations, including one for Outstanding Drama Special, with a (deserved) win for Outstanding Costume Design.Anthony Andrews is delightful as the witty fop Sir Percy Blakeney, whom no one would ever suspect of being the Scarlet Pimpernel, fearless rescuer of nobility during the French Revolution. The Pimpernel’s exploits earn the mounting enmity and obsession of the ruthless Paul Chavelin (Ian McKellen), while Sir Percy’s wooing — and winning –—of actress Marguerite St. Just (a ravishing Jane Seymour) infuriates him further.William Bast’s teleplay overcomes a lengthy running time with dashes of panache and sly humor throughout, smoothly enhanced by a cast including James Villiers, Eleanor David, Malcolm Jamieson and future Oscar winner (Gosford Park) and “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes.
AERIAL AMERICA: NEW ENGLAND COLLECTION (Smithsonian Channel/ Inception Media Group): A documentary tour of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as seen from above, available on Blu-ray ($19.98 retail).
ARTHUR C. CLARKE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Visual Entertainment Inc.): A three-DVD collection ($59.98 retail) of all 52 episodes from the trio of self-explanatory TV documentary series’ hosted by noted science-fiction writer and philosopher Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008): “Mysterious World” (1980), “World of Strange Powers” (1985) and “Mysterious Universe” (1995), all of which explored unexplained phenomena.
“COMBAT!”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Image Entertainment): This DVD collection ($39.98 retail) includes all 31 episodes from the 1965-’66 season of the ABC series still regarded as one of the most realistic TV depictions of World War II – as well as the longest-running. Vic Morrow (who directed a few episodes) and Rick Jason head the cast.
DEVIL’S CARGO (Alpha Home Entertainment): John Calvert assumes the role of debonair sleuth Michael Waring in this low-budget 1948 mystery, the 14 th installment of the long-running Falcon series. Calvert (a popular stage magician) works in a few tricks, but the franchise was running on fumes. Only two more were made, both with Calvert.
EVE OF DESTRUCTION (Sonar Entertainment/Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment): The title tells all in this award-winning sci-fi/disaster film about a black hole that threatens to swallow the Earth. Steven Webber, Christina Cox and Treat Williams struggle to save the day. The DVD retails for $19.97, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
FORGOTTEN FUNNYMEN: BOBBY VERNON (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD collection ($7.98 retail) of six comedy shorts showcasing silent-era funnyman Bobby Vernon (1897-1939), who retired from acting with the advent of sound and worked behind the scenes at Paramount until his untimely death at age 42.
“GEORGE GENTLY”: SERIES 5 (Acorn): Martin Shaw returns as the title sleuth in all four feature-length episodes from the 2012 season of the popular BBC mystery series (also known as “Inspector George Gently”), based on Alan Hunter’s bestselling novels and set in England during the 1960s. The DVD boxed set and the Blu-ray boxed set each retail for $59.99. Acorn is also releasing “George Gently Collection”: Series’ 1-4 on DVD and Blu-ray (each retailing for $99.99) and the Blu-ray bow of “George Gently”: Series 2 ($59.99 retail).
GIRL ON THE RUN (Alpha Home Entertainment): Reporter Richard Coogan and girlfriend Rosemary Petit hide out in a carnival after being implicated in a murder in this low-budget 1953 programmer, boosted by bad guys Harry Bannister and diminutive Charles Bollender, and a seedy carny atmosphere. Look fast for Steve Mc- Queen in his first screen appearance.
“THE HIGH FRUCTOSE ADVENTURES OF ANNOYING ORANGE”: THE COM- PLETE FIRST SEASON (The Collective/ Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment): A DVD collection ($29.93 retail) of all 30 episodes from the debut 2012 season of the Cartoon Network comedy series following the misadventures of the title character (voiced by Dane Boedigheimer) and his “fruity friends” as they travel through time and space. Also available: the 10-episode collection “The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange Vol. 2: Get Juiced!” ($14.93 retail).
“THE LEGEND OF KORRA — BOOK ONE: AIR” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): Janet Vorney voices the title character of the heroic Avatar in a mythical kingdom in the proverbial galaxy far, far away, in all 12 episodes from the inaugural 2011-’12 season of the award-winning animated Nickelodeon series. The DVD boxed set retails for $19.99, the Blu-ray boxed set for $34.99.
“LET’S LEARN: COLORS” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): The title tells all in this children’s educational DVD ($14.99 retail) featuring episodes from such popular animated series’ as “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer,” “Team Umizoomi,” “The Wonder Pets” and more.
A PARISIAN ROMANCE (Alpha Home Entertainment): Sluggish pacing hampers this 1932 melodrama based on Octave Feuillet’s play, with Lew Cody as a wealthy baron who woos a much much younger woman (Marian Shilling) to the consternation of her artist boyfriend (Gilbert Roland). Although set in the City of Lights, no one seems to have a French accent.
A PLACE AT THE TABLE (Magnolia Home Entertainment): The issue of hunger in the US is the crux of this well-meaning documentary featuring such high-profile advocates as actor Jeff Bridges and TV’s “Top Chef” Tom Colicchio (also an executive producer), with an original score by T Bone Burnett & the Civil Wars. Rated PG.
THE RING (VCI Entertainment): Irving Shulman offers a sympathetic portrayal of Mexican-Americans in adapting his own novel for this engrossing 1952 yarn with Lalo Rios as a teen trying to make a better life for himself as a boxer. Young Rita Moreno plays his girlfriend and top-billed Gerald Mohr his shrewd (but not unscrupulous) manager, with such familiar folk as Jack Elam, Robert Shayne and Peter Brocco in support. Fine use of Los Angeles locations by cinematographer Russell Harlan.
ROCKIN’ ROAD TRIP (VCI Entertainment): The title tells all in director William Olsen’s painless 1985 comedy (filmed as Summertime Blues), focusing on the hijinks that take place when the rock band Cherry Suicide goes on tour. An enthusiastic cast includes Margaret Currie (her only film role), Garth McLean, Katherine Harrison, Graham Smith and Steve Boles. Filmed in North Carolina and originally released by Troma. Rated PG-13.
THE WEDDING CHAPEL (Nasser Entertainment/Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment): Syrupy schmaltz with Shelley Long and Emmanuelle Vaugier as a mother and daughter who (inevitably) reconcile when they visit the former’s hometown and try to save the titular landmark, hampered further by an incessant soundtrack of generic songs.
WIENER DOG NATIONALS (Inception Media Group): Dachshund devotees should enjoy this G-rated family comedy about an annual canine competition, with Alicia Witt, Jason London, Bryan Batt, Morgan Fairchild and newcomer Julian Feder. The DVD retails for $26.98.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.