video vault

by Mark Burger


At long last, one of the best and most influential TV anthologies comes to DVD in a boxed set ($39.97 retail) containing all 21 episodes from the premiere 1973-’74 season of the critically acclaimed prime-time NBC police drama, which scored an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Drama Series in its first year.

Created and overseen by Joseph Wambaugh, this series set the standard for many others (“Hill Street Blues,” “NYPD Blue” even “Miami Vice,” etc.) by going beyond the badge and delving into the nitty-gritty of police work and the personal lives of those in law enforcement.

The slang and fashions may be dated, but the themes are as current as today’s headlines: Racism, sexism, corruption, personal guilt, marital strife… and, of course, the obligatory car chases and shoot-outs. All told, the episodes — both individually and collectively — hold up well.

The star-studded lineup of guest stars is an absolute delight: Vic Morrow, Edward Asner, Martin Balsam, Darren McGavin, James Farentino, Tony Lo Bianco, Fred Williamson, Stuart Whitman, Don Murray, John Forsythe, Edmond O’Brien, Kurt Russell, Dean Stockwell, Angie Dickinson (in the episode that spun off “Police Woman”), and even Smokey Robinson and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few. Then and now, “Police Story” hits the bull’s-eye.


AIRWOLF: THE MOVIE (Shout! Factory): TV’s answer to Blue Thunder was launched by CBS in this 1984 pilot film from writer/director/ executive producer Donald P. Bellisario, in which a super-powered helicopter is stolen — by its inventor (David Hemmings), no less — and spirited to Libya. Series regulars Jan- Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine are sent in to retrieve it. Released to theaters overseas, with swearing added to the dialogue track. Alex Cord, Belinda Bauer and Philip Bruns round out the cast. Untaxing nostalgia for ‘80s junkies.

“THE ANGRY BEAVERS”: SEASON ONE & TWO (Shout! Factory): The irreverent, awardwinning animated Nickelodeon comedy series about trouble-making beaver brothers makes its DVD debut, with all 26 episodes from the 1997-’98 and ’98-’99 seasons available in a fourdisc boxed set that retails for $29.93.

BOOGIE WOOGIE (IFC Films/MPI Media Group): This cheeky but uneven satire of fine art, which marks Duncan Ward’s directorial debut and was adapted by Danny Moynihan from his novel, sees a group of avaricious collectors and ciphers vying to get their hands on the title painting, an abstract work noted for its insipidness. A great cast helps: Danny Huston (especially funny), Amanda Seyfried, Gillian Anderson, Joanna Lumley, Stellan Skarsgard, Heather Graham, Alan Cumming, Charlotte Rampling, Simon McBurney, Jaime Winstone and the inimitable Christopher Lee, Rated R.

“FRINGE”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Warner Home Video): The mysteries of the universe continue to unfold, in all 22 episodes from the 2010-’11 season of the award-winning prime-time Fox Network sci-fi series, featuring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick and Blair Brown. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.97.

“THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR”: SEASON SIX (MPI Home Video): A two-DVD boxed set ($24.98 retail) featuring all 10 episodes from the 2009 season of the popular E! Entertainment reality series focusing on the hijinks of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his lovely ladies.

HANNA (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Saoirse Ronan, doing enough running and jumping to qualify for the next Olympic Games, toplines director Joe Wright’s comic-book action extravaganza as a teenager with remarkable, relentless killing skills — taught her by her father (Eric Bana) — which come in handy when intelligence operative Cate Blanchett (sporting a great American accent) comes gunning for her. Sleek, quirky and ultimately repetitious, with a great Chemical Brothers score. Rated PG-13.

“HOUSE”: SEASON SEVEN (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The doctor (Hugh Laurie) is in — dispensing medicine and wisdom in his inimitable fashion — in all 23 episodes from the 2010-’11 season of the award-winning prime-time Fox Network drama series. Amber Tamblyn joins the regular cast, which includes Omar Epps, Robert Season Leonard and Olivia Wilde. Two Emmy nominations including one for Laurie as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $74.98.

INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN (IFC Films/ MPI Media Group): Actor John Krasinski adapted and directed this collection of short stories by the late David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), with Julianne Nicholson as a doctoral student who interviews men about their relationships with the fairer sex — and gains a new, not altogether positive, insight. This takes a while to find its rhythm — and never quite sustains it — but Krasinski, who also executive-produced and co-stars, earns points for tackling something as offbeat as this. Also on hand: Timothy Hutton, Dominic Cooper, Frankie Faison, Will Arnett, Bobby Cannavale, Chris Messina and a very funny Christopher Meloni.

NICE GUY JOHNNY (FilmBuff/MPI Media Group): Writer/director Edward Burns delivers one of his best films (and on a reported $25,000 budget!) with this award-winning comedy starring Matt Bush in the title role, a part-time disc-jockey whose impending wedding to a demanding fiancee (Anna Wood) is thrown into uncertainty when he meets an easy-going tennis instructor (Kerry Bishe). A little glib (a Burns trademark) but likably played by all, including Jay Patterson and Burns himself as Bush’s randy uncle.

SAVAGE COUNTY (FilmBuff/MPI Media Group): Dumb teens trespass on the wrong family’s property in the Tennessee backwoods and, naturally, (don’t) live to regret it. Nothing new here.

SWORD AND SORCERY COLLECTION (Shout! Factory): A self-explanatory fourfilm collection ($24.97 retail) of low-budget adventures produced by the inimitable Roger Corman: Rick Hill supplies the brawn and Barbi Benton the beauty in Deathstalker (1983); John Terlesky and Monique Gabrielle do likewise in Deathstalker II (1987); Lana Clarkson (the woman shot dead by record producer Phil Spector) plays the title role in 1985’s Barbarian Queen; and David Carradine wages war in 1984’s The Warrior and the Sorceress. All of these films are rated R (no surprise there!).

THE TENANT (Indican Pictures): There’s trouble in store for a group of motorists whose car breaks down — a flat tire and out of gas! — near an old asylum that’s not as abandoned as they think. The opening flashback sequences, which set up the story (featuring Bill Cobbs, Michael Berryman and Randy Molnar), aren’t bad. The rest unfortunately is, although the effects are appropriately gruesome and Jose Zambrano Cassello’s cinematography is noteworthy. Not to be confused (ever!) with Roman Polanski’s 1976 thriller of the same name.

“TWO AND A HALF MEN”: THE COMPLETE EIGHTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): A two-DVD boxed set ($44.98 retail) containing all 16 episodes from the 2010-’11 season of the top-rated, award-winning CBS situation comedy. Of course, this marked Charlie Sheen’s final stint on the series, although Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones will carry forth with Ashton Kutcher. Two Emmy nominations including one for Cryer as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger