ARTHUR HAILEY’S “THE MONEYCHANGERS”
For much of the 1970s and ’80s, before it became the purview of cable, the mini-series was a staple of network television. This absorbing, glossy 1976 adaptation of Hailey’s best-seller, originally broadcast in four parts on NBC, was produced by Ross Hunter, who specialized in big-screen gloss and high melodrama (Imitation of Life, Pillow Talk, Midnight Lace).
Kirk Douglas plays the idealistic, compassionate Alex Vandervoort and Christopher Plummer the ruthless, opportunistic Roscoe Heyward, each vying for the presidency of First Mercantile American Bank. There’s an unvarnished pleasure in watching these two acting titans square off. Indeed, Plummer won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series.
There’s requisite double-dealing, back-stabbing, treachery, sex and intrigue, and the depiction of the inner workings of a powerful financial institution remains topical, soap-opera trimmings and all.
Another irresistible component is the all-star cast: Lorne Greene, Patrick O’Neal, Timothy Bottoms, Ralph Bellamy, Anne Baxter, Joan Collins, Robert Loggia, Helen Hayes (who copped an Oscar for Hunter’s 1970 screen adaptation of Hailey’s Airport), Jean Peters, Marisa Pavan, James Shigeta, Hayden Rorke, Percy Rodrigues (one of his best roles) and Susan Flannery, who earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series. The Moneychangers was also nominated for Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design and Title Sequences, and Outstanding Cinematography. The DVD retails for $19.99.
“AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MARPLE”: SERIES 6 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Julia McKenzie reprises her role as Miss Jane Marple, the elderly British spinster and amateur sleuth in this DVD collection ($49.99 retail) of the final episodes (A Caribbean Mystery, Greenshaw’s Folly and Endless Night) from the award-winning, long-running (2004-’14) mystery series based on Agatha Christie’s classic stories.
AMERICA: IMAGINE THE WORLD WITHOUT HER (LionsGate): Co-writer/co-director Dinesh D’Souza examines the nation’s history and legacy in this PG-13-rated documentary based on his book of the same name. The DVD retails for $19.98; the Blu-ray for $24.98.
BEE PEOPLE (True Mind/TDC Entertainment): This feature documentary ($19.98 retail) is a pseudo-continuation of the 2009 documentary Vanishing of the Bees that follows bee-keepers and environmentalists’ work on behalf of those little insects.
“BEYOND BORDERS” (Film Movement): A DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of critically acclaimed films that offer pleas for tolerance and cultural acceptance: Thierry Binisti’s 2011 A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (Une bouteille a la mer), in French, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles; Diane Crespo and Sefan C. Schaefer’s award-winning 2007 romantic comedy Arranged, in Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish with English subtitles; and writer/director Ela Thier’s 2012 comedy/ drama Foreign Letters, in Hebrew and Vietnamese with English subtitles.
“DYNASTY”: THE FINAL SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): The saga of the Carrington oil family comes to a close in all 22 episodes of the 1988-89 season of the long-running, award-winning ABC prime-time soap opera starring John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Emma Samms, Stephanie Beacham and Heather Locklear. “Volume One” contains the first 11 episodes, “Volume 2″ the last 11. Each DVD volume retails for $42.99, the combined two-DVD pack for $69.98.
F FOR FAKE (The Criterion Collection): Orson Welles’ last completed film, this highly unusual, extremely selfindulgent, award-winning 1975 pseudodocumentary (originally titled Verites et mensonges) is a loosely constructed examination of Welles’ and the world’s fascination with deception and trickery, featuring interviews with art forger Elmyr de Hory, Howard Hughes “biographer” Clifford Irving, Welles himself and others. To some it is a masterwork, to others a cinematic ego trip. Neither assessment is inaccurate. Welles aficionados have a huge head start. The DVD and Blu-ray each retail for $39.95, both with audio commentary, introduction by Peter Bogdanovich, vintage interviews, and more. Rated PG.
“HAPPY DAYS”: THE FIFTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Richie (Ron Howard), Fonzie (Henry Winkler) and the gang are back in all 26 episodes from the 1977-78 season of the popular, awardwinning ABC situation comedy set in the Milwaukee suburbs during the 1950s. This is the season that Fonzie “jumped the shark” (it’s even on the DVD cover) and introduced Robin Williams as Mork (from Ork). Four Emmy nominations: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Winkler), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Tom Bosley), Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series (Jerry Paris) and a win for Outstanding Film Editing in a Comedy Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $42.99.
“HAWAII FIVE-O”: THE FOURTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): “Aloha” means action in all 22 episodes from the 2013-14 season of the award-winning CBS crime series updated (of course) from the Jack Lord series, with Alex O’Loughlin as the “new” Steve McGarrett and Scott Caan as “Danno” Williams, and with Chi McBride joining the cast as a new SWAT team commander. The six- DVD boxed set retails for $64.99.
HERCULES (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/ Paramount): A buff, tough Dwayne Johnson certainly looks (and grunts) the part of the fabled muscleman of Greek mythology, but director Brett Ratner’s silly, choppy would-be blockbuster stumbles early and never recovers, a victim of bloated bombast despite a supporting cast including Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, John Hurt and a comic-relief Ian McShane. The DVD retails for $29.99, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99, the 3-D combo for $49.99. Rated PG-13.
IVORY TOWER (Participant Media/ Paramount): Producer/director Andrewn Rossi’s award-winning, PG-13-rated CNN Films documentary examines the rising costs, and apparently diminishing dividends, of getting a college education in the United States. The DVD retails for $19.99, the Blu-ray for $29.99.
“JOHAN FALK: SEASON ONE (MHz Networks): Jakob Eklund reprises his big-screen role as the titular Swedish super-cop in all six feature-length episodes from the debut 2009 season of the popular crime series co-starring Joel Kinnaman as Falk’s undercover contact. In Swedish with English subtitles. The three-DVD collection retails for $39.95.
“THE MILLERS”: THE FIRST SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): A three-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) of all 23 episodes from the inaugural 2013-’14 season of the popular CBS sitcom about a dysfunctional family gone haywire when parents Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale split up. Will Arnett, Jayma Mays, Nelson Franklin and JB Smoove round out the regular cast.
“THE NEWSROOM”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO): Creator/executive producer Aaron Sorkin takes aim at television news in all nine episodes from the 2013 season of the award-winning HBO drama series, with a star-studded ensemble cast including Jeff Daniels (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series), Emily Mortimer, Sam Waterston, Alison Pill, Olivia Munn and Jane Fonda (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series). The DVD collection retails for $59.99, the Blu-ray collection for $79.98 – both boasting bonus features.
WHITE CHRISTMAS (Paramount): A “Diamond Anniversary” edition of director Michael Curtiz’ perennially popular 1954 musical comedy pairing Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye with Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, and boasting an Irving Berlin score. The title tune is, of course, among the most popular in history, and the film was the top-grossing hit of its year. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Song (“Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”). The DVD retails for $19.99, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $27.99. Both contain extensive special features. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.