DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: ON WINGS OF EAGLES (Timeless Media Group)
Before the events dramatized in the Oscar-winning Argo (2012), there was another, similar incident in Iran as the Shah’s empire crumbled in the late 1970s, recalled in a nonfiction best-seller by Ken Follett and adapted into this 1986 NBC mini-series directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.
When two executives from the Texas-based corporation EDS (Electrionic Data Systems) are arrested in Tehran, official channels of negotiation prove so problematic that another option is funded by EDS founder, one H. Ross Perot (Richard Crenna) – to plan a daring escape under the direction of retired Army colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons (Burt Lancaster).
Unabashedly flag-waving but undeniably absorbing, On Wings of Eagles was a ratings smash – not surprisingly, during the Reagan-era Cold War — and earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Mini-Series.
“THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW”:THE LOST EPISODES (Time Life) A six-DVD collection ($59.95 retail) of 16 episodes from the first five seasons of the long-running (1967-’78), award-winning CBS variety series, with guest stars Bing Crosby, Bob Newhart, Burt Reynolds, Flip Wilson, Don Rickles and others. Time Life also releases a single-disc “Lost Episodes” DVD ($12.95 retail) featuring three episodes.
“CSI: CYBER”: THE FIRST SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Fresh from her Oscar win for Boyhood, Patricia Arquette returns to network television in the latest, award-winning spin-off of the popular CBS crime franchise. This four-DVD collection ($46.99 retail) includes all 13 episodes from the inaugural 2015 season, plus bonus features.
“DETECTORISTS” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): With metal detectors in hand, Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook seek treasure through the English countryside, in all six episodes from the 2014 BBC mini-series that won the BAFTA Award for Best Comedy Series, available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
“DON MATTEO” (MHz Networks): Terence Hill (AKA Mario Girotti) returns as the compassionate, kind-hearted Catholic priest in a peaceful mountain village with a knack for solving crime, in the long-running (15 years!), award-winning mystery series. In Italian with English subtitles. “Set 11” includes episodes 105-166, “Set 12” episodes 117-128. Each four-DVD collection retails for $39.95.
DOWNTOWN 81 (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): A 30th-anniversary, digitally remastered, “Submarine Deluxe” two-DVD special edition ($29.95 retail) of the 1981 cult classic – wouldn’t that make it the 34 th anniversary? – with Jean-Michel Basquiat in a pseudo-autobiographical role as a street artist, and an eclectic collection of notable New York underground stars including Deborah Harry, Amos Poe and James Chance.
THE D TRAIN (Paramount): The breezy directorial debut of screenwriters Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel finds producer Jack Black in prime form as a small-town businessman whose desperation to entice popular high-school classmate-turnedactor James Marsden to their reunion goes off into unexpected, sometimes uncomfortable, frequently hilarious directions. Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, fellow producer Mike White and young Russell Posner provide enthusiastic support. The DVD retails for $29.99, the Blu-ray for $39.99. Rated R.
EL ALAMEIN (Alpha Home Entertainment): Routine 1953 World War II programmer pitting an Allied tank crew (including Scott Brady, Michael Pate and Robin Hughes) against Rommel’s forces in North Africa, augmented by stock footage. Young Rita Moreno plays an Arab girl nicknamed “Dirty-face” by the soldiers!
“ELEMENTARY”: THE THIRD SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are back on the case as the latter-day Holmes and Watson, in all 24 episodes from the 2014-’15 season of the award-winning CBS mystery series inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters, now available on DVD ($55.99 retail), replete with special features.
“FAMILIES OF THE WORLD” (Arden Media): A collection of 28 documentary specials, originally broadcast by PBS, exploring the people and culture of other lands, including England, France, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, the United States, etc. – each DVD available for $9.99 retail or $275 retail for the entire collection, available through www.familiesoftheworld.com.
GLEN CAMPBELL: I’LL BE ME (Virgil Films): It’s hard not to be moved by this compassionate documentary following the music superstar as he embarks on his 2011 tour across North America while contending with the rapid onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. The song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” earned an Oscar nomination. Rated PG-13.
“HARRY” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Oscar Kightley plays the title role of a disillusioned detective grieving his wife’s suicide while toiling for Auckland’s Major Crimes Unit under the watchful eye of supervisor Sam Neill, in all six episodes from the inaugural 2013 season of the award-winning New Zealand crime series, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $39.99 retail).
“THE HEE HAW COLLECTION” (Time Life): A self-explanatory three-DVD selection ($39.95 retail) of five full-length episodes never available before, featuring co-hosts Roy Clark and Buck Owens and guest appearances by Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Hank Williams Jr., and others.
INVISIBLE ENEMY (Alpha Home Entertainment): Entertaining 1938 programmer with playboy Alan Marshal recruited by the British government to woo old flame Tala Birell, now married to sinister industrialist C. Henry Gordon. Also on hand: Marshal’s reallife father Leonard Willey as a politician, Dwight Frye as Gordon’s gun-toting henchmen, and scene-stealer Herbert Mundin as Marshal’s faithful valet.
IRIS (Magnolia Home Entertainment): The late Albert Maysles’ penultimate documentary is an affectionate, enjoyable and award-winning portrait of the legendary fashion icon Iris Apfel, available on DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail). Rated PG-13.
KIDS FOR CASH (Alive Mind Cinema/ Kino Lorber): Producer/director Robert May’s hard-hitting and thorough documentary looks at the scandal that rocked Luzerne County in Pennsylvania in which two judges were accused of accepting financial kickbacks for sentencing juveniles to a privately owned, for-profit facility. Rated PG-13.
“THE KNICK”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO): New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital is the setting for this awardwinning Cinemax drama series about early-20 th century medicine, with executive producer Clive Owen as a crusading but troubled chief surgeon. Steven Soderbergh (also an executive producer) helmed all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2014 season and earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. The DVD collection retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray collection for $39.98 – both with special features.
PRISONER OF JAPAN (Alpha Home Entertainment): Edgar G. Ulmer penned the story (and reportedly directed some second unit) of this low-budget 1942 wartime programmer with Alan Baxter as a bourbon-soaked expatriate American astronomer in the Pacific Islands whose experimental technology is used by Japanese forces against the US Navy. In his screen debut, Ernest Dorian plays the enemy agent. Born Ernst Deutsch in Germany, he’s playing Japanese with a pronounced German accent (!).
“ROSAMUNDE PICLHER’S SHADES OF LOVE” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A four-DVD collection ($59.99 retail) of the four-part 2011 mini-series detailing the lavish but turbulent lives of a rich and powerful British family, based on the works of the popular romance novelist, featuring a starstudded cast including Charles Dance, Eileen Atkins, Harriet Walter, Eleanor Weisgerber, Rebecca Night and Michael Brandon.
SO BRIGHT IS THE VIEW (IndiePix Films): Sibling writer/directors Michael and Joel Florescu’s debut feature stars Bianca Valea as an expectant mother in presentday Bucharest torn between career and family. In Romanian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($14.95 retail).
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.