DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: “THE TWILIGHT ZONE” (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment)
For five seasons (1959-’64) and 156 episodes, Rod Serling’s peerless science-fiction anthology ran on CBS, earning two Emmy Awards (both for Serling’s writing) and amassing a worldwide following. The series, steeped in irony and allegory that remains relevant (sometimes acutely so), was both a sci-fi and television milestone. Even at its worst, “The Twilight Zone” was still pretty great.To commemorate the 55 th anniversary of the series’ premiere, “The Twilight Zone: Essential Episodes” boasts 17 of the most popular episodes from the original series, including Walking Distance (1959) with Gig Young and young Ron Howard, Burgess Meredith in Time Enough at Last (also ‘59), William Shatner in Nick of Time (1960), Burgess Meredith and Fritz Weaver in The Obsolete Man (1961), To Serve Man (1962) with Lloyd Bochner, William Shatner (unforgettable) in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963), and — a personal favorite — Agnes Moorehead in The Invaders (1961). The two-DVD collection retails for $29.98.The enduring legacy of the series, which became a syndication staple, resulted in a 1983 feature film and a full series revival that ran on CBS for two seasons (1985-’87), then in syndication for a third (‘88-’89). RLJ/Image has released the self-explanatory “The Twilight Zone: The Complete ‘80s Series,” a DVD collection ($59.98 retail) of all 65 episodes.
ADVENTURE PLANET (Arc Entertainment): This PG-rated animated feature (originally titled Echo Jew Gong Lok) sees young siblings with preternatural abilities on an adventure to save the world. The voice-over cast includes Bailee Madison, Brooke Shields, Jane Lynch, Drake Bell and J.K. Simmons. The DVD retails for $20.99.
“ADVENTURE TIME: PRINCESS DAY” (Cartoon Network/Warner Home Video): A DVD compilation ($19.82 retail) of 16 episodes episodes from the award-winning Cartoon Network animated fantasy series created by Pendleton Ward, set in the mythical Land of Ooo, following the adventures of Finn (voiced by Jeremy Shada) and his talking dog Jake (voiced by John DiMaggio).
AT WAR WITH THE ARMY (Film Chest): This 1950 service comedy, long in the public domain but now digitally restored, was the first film to headline the comedy duo of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and was based on a James B Allardice play, as well as marking the screen debuts of Mike Kellin (whose last film was Sleepaway Camp!) and Polly Bergen. Devotees of Dean and Jerry will not be disappointed.
“BABAR AND THE ADVENTURES OF BADOU: GONE WILD” (Entertainment One): A DVD compilation ($12.98 retail) of eight episodes from the awardwinning, animated series (currently airing on Disney Junior) based on Jean de Brunhoff’s beloved stories about Babar the Elephant and his grandson Badou.
THE BELSTONE FOX (VCI Entertainment): Pleasant, live-action 1973 family film adapted from David Rook’s bestselling novel The Ballad of the Belstone Fox by screenwriter/director James Hill (of Born Free fame) about the unlikely friendship that develops between an orphaned fox cub and a hunting dog. The human cast includes Eric Porter, Rachel Roberts, Born Free veteran Bill Travers, Jeremy Kemp, Dennis Waterman and Heather Wright. The story later became the basis for Disney’s animated The Fox and the Hound (1981). The fox-hunt scenes may be rather intense for smaller children. Rated PG.
“DAVID SUCHET: IN THE FOOT- STEPS OF ST. PAUL” (RLJ Entertainment/Athena): Noted actor and Christian convert David Suchet explores the life and retraces the steps of St. Paul in this two-part documentary ($29.99 retail) written, produced and directed by Martin Kemp.
“DORA THE EXPLORER” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): The latest DVD selections of episodes from the longrunning, award-winning Nickelodeon animated children’s series, each retailing for $14.99: Dora and Boots: Best Friends Forever (eight episodes) and Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Magical Sleepover (three episodes).
FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH (VCI Entertainment): On title date, six Londoners embark on a fateful bus ride – at which point flashbacks detail their individual lives. Unusual 1933 comedy/drama, definitely not related to the ‘80s slasher franchise, is enlivened by a fine ensemble cast including Ralph Richardson, Emilyn Williams (also credited with dialogue), Edmund Gwenn, Martita Hunt, Donald Calthrop, Sonnie Hall (as the conductor) and his real-life wife Jessie Matthews.
“GERONIMO STILTON: GOING DOWN TO CHINATOWN” (Entertainment One): A DVD selection ($12.98 retail) of four episodes from the animated children’s series about a rodent reporter (voiced by Brian Dummond) with a nose for crime. THE JUNIOR SPY AGENCY (Inception Media Group): Pint-sized sleuths Katherine McNamara and Jacob Hays vie with master thief Kevin Sorbo for stolen treasure in writer/director Tom Whitus’ kids’ comedy, originally titled as Sam Steele and the Crystal Chalice (Steele being Hays’ character) and the sequel to Sam Steele and the Junior Detective Agency (2009). The DVD retails for $19.98.
JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOR (Arc Entertainment): Chivalry and heroism dominate this award-winning, PG-rated animated fantasy following an aspiring knight (voiced by Freddie Highmore) and his quest to become a legendary Knight of Valor. A star-studded voice-over cast includes Antonio Banderas (also a producer), Alfred Molina, Saoirse Ronan, Rupert Everett, Julie Walters, Barry Humphries, Mark Strong, Olivia Williams and Charles Dance. The DVD retails for $20.99, the Blu-ray for $24.99.
“LEGENDS OF CHIMA: CHI, TRIBES, AND BETRAYALS” (LEGO/ Warner Home Video): A two-DVD collection ($19.97 retail) of 10 episodes from the LEGO fantasy series (airing on the Cartoon Network) set in the mystical land of CHIMA, where heroic animals battle evil. For LEGO lovers, LEGO/Warner Home Video has also released the “Ninjago: Rebooted – Battle for New Ninjago City, Season Three Part One,” a DVD compilation ($14.97 retail) of four episodes from the popular Cartoon Network series.
MUMFIE’S QUEST: THE MOVIE (LionsGate): Britt Allcroft, creator of “Thomas & Friends” and “Shining Time Station,” also created this G-rated 1994 animated feature ($9.98 retail) about a little elephant (that would be “Mumfie”) who embarks with his friends in search of adventure – and finds it!
“PEPPA PIG: THE BALLOON RIDE” (Entertainment One): A DVD collection ($14.98 retail) of 12 episodes from the popular, award-winning animated children’s series, which airs on Nick Jr., following the title character (voiced by Lily Snowden-Fine) on a series of misadventures with her friends and family. John Sparkes serves as narrator.
THE PIRATE FAIRY (Disney): This G- rated animated feature is spun off from Peter Pan and boasts the voice talents of Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman, Tom Hiddleston, Lucy Liu and Anjelica Huston. The DVD retails for $29.99, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $36.99.
“RUGRATS” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A selection of episodes from the long-running, Emmy-winning animated Nickelodeon children’s series: Rugrats: Reptar Returns! (three episodes) and Rugrats: Outdoor Shenanigans! (five episodes). Nickelodeon/Paramount has also released Nickelodeon: Robot Invasion and Nickelodeon: Heroes in Action!, featuring episodes from Spongebob Squarepants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sanjay and Craig. Each DVD retails for $9.99.
“SURVIVAL!”: TV SERIES, VOL. 1 (VCI Entertainment): A DVD collection ($19.99 retail) of 10 episodes from the 1964-’65 (and only) season of the syndicated documentary series hosted by James Whitmore, detailing famous catastrophes throughout history. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.