Category Archives: Television

DVD Review: Dan August – The Complete Collection (1970-71).

Before getting this set, I don’t think I’d ever seen an episode of Dan August all the way through. I thought of it pretty much the way most folks do: either it was this TV thing Burt Reynolds did before Deliverance (1972) made him a big deal, or it was just another 70s cop show — take your pick. Either way you look at it, you’re selling it short.

The set Dan August – The Complete Collection kicks off with the 1970 TV movie House On Greenapple Road that introduces the Dan August character, played by Christopher George. Like the series that would come after it, it’s got a terrific cast — Janet Leigh (who’s really good), Keenan Wynn, Julie Harris, Walter Pigeon, Ed Asner, Paul Fix and Barry Sullivan. Whether they saw it as a pilot or just a TV movie at the time, it’s really good.

Dan August is a homicide detective in the fictional Southern California town of Santa Luisa. It doesn’t seem to be a very big place, but people sure do turn up dead a lot. And that’s were August comes in. Christopher George played him as the typical late 60s TV detective, and he’s very good. But when the series came along, George turned it down and recommended his friend Burt Reynolds for the part. It took some time to sell Quinn Martin (and Burt) on the idea, but it all came together.

Reynold’s Dan August is younger and more physical, which brings in more topical subject matter (drugs, hippies, homosexuals, protests, etc.) and a lot more action. Burt does all his owns stunts — leaping over fences and cars, fighting one crook after another, and always running. He must’ve been a bruised-up, exhausted mess when he got home each day. Of course, it adds a lot of authenticity to the show. His self-deprecating sense of humor isn’t on display here, and the series is better off without it. 

The principal cast was reimagined with Burt in the lead. His partner’s Norman Fell (taking over from the movie’s Keenan Wynn), and Richard Anderson replaced Barry Sullivan as the Chief Of Police. Ned Romero and Ena Hartman were kept from the TV movie.

The shows are well-written and sharply, stylishly directed. And the casting from episode to episode is fabulous, bringing in folks like Ricardo Montalban, Vera Miles (above), Harrison Ford, Dabney Coleman, Larry Hagman, Diana Muldaur, Julie Adams, Carolyn Jones, Bradford Dillman, Donna Mills, Victor French, Richard Basehart, Lee Meriweather, Don Stroud, Sal Mineo, Ellen Corby, Billy Dee Williams and Mickey Rooney. It’s a lot of fun watching for who’ll pop up in the next one.

Even though Burt was nominated for a Golden Globe, Dan August only lasted one season (on ABC). It was an expensive show to make, and it was up against some heavy competition. Burt would quickly move on, and after he was a major star, Dan August would be rerun by CBS both late at night and in primetime.

Now, thanks to the DVD set Dan August – The Complete Collection from VEI, it runs whenever you want it to run. The shows are complete and look really good. The pilot movie, House On Greenapple Road, looks terrific, bright with rich color. The set is highly recommended.

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Filed under 1970, 1971, Barry Sullivan, Burt Reynolds, Carolyn Jones, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Julie Adams, Mickey Rooney, Richard Basehart, Television, Vera Miles

Blu-Ray News #243: Ultra Q And Ultraman.

Mill Creek Entertainment will release on Blu-ray Ultra Q: The Complete Series  and Ultraman: The Complete Series (both 1966-67). These are the first two entries in Japan’s Ultra Series, and they’ll be out in October in regular packaging and some of those steelbook things (like their Mothra comes in).

Eiji Tsuburaya, the genius behind all the Toho monster effects, developed Ultra Q as an Outer Limits/X Files sort of thing — each week, a team of investigators would tackle a different mysterious phenomenon. Well, when the realized how nuts kids were about giant monsters like Godzilla and Gamera, the weekly stories were jam-packed with monsters, sometimes using suits from the Toho movies (even Godzilla did double duty in an episode).

Ultra Q paved the way for the next series, Ultraman. You see, the Science Patrol keeps the world safe from giant monsters and aliens. When they’re out of their league, which seems to happen quite often, one of their members, Hayata, secretly transforms into the 150-foot-tall Ultraman to duke it out with whatever it is that’s threatening the earth that week. This time, they went with color (Ultra Q is in glorious black and white.)

The Ultra series ran through the 80s and remains incredibly popular to this day, raking in millions in toy sales. To see these things on Blu-Ray, in their original Japanese versions, will be quite a treat. I’m ultra-stoked about these things.

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Filed under 1966, 1967, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eiji Tsuburaya, Kaiju Movies, Mill Creek, Television, Toho

DVD/Blu-Ray News #96-A: The Blue Knight (1973).

Directed by Robert Butler
Starring William Holden, Lee Remick, Joe Santos, Sam Elliott, Anne Archer, Eileen Brennan, Vic Tayback, Jamie Farr

William Holden gave some of the finest performances I’ve ever seen — and one of his best has to be Bumper Morgan in The Blue Knight (1973). The mini-series won a few Emmys (including a well-deserved one for Holden), played theaters overseas in a feature-length cut, and spawned the series starring George Kennedy.

Warner Archive has been promising this one for a while, and it looks like it’ll be here before the end of the year.

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Filed under 1973, DVD/Blu-ray News, Television, Warner Archive, William Holden

Screening: Piranha (1978) On Shout TV.

Directed by Joe Dante
Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller

I love Piranha (1978), Joe Dante’s Jaws ripoff — produced by Roger Corman and written by John Sayles. I’ve seen it countless times.

Shout TV has a special event planned to celebrate the movie’s 40th anniversary — August 3 on Shout TV’s Twitch channel. To me, this is certainly a movie worth celebrating.

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Filed under 1978, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, Joe Dante, Kevin McCarthy, New World, Roger Corman, Screenings, Television, William Schallert

Blu-Ray News #182: Jonny Quest: The Complete Series (1964-65).

In a certain segment of the world’s populace, there is a great deal of rejoicing going on. Warner Archive has announced that they’re prepping the complete Jonny Quest series for Blu-Ray. No date or anything yet — there’s plenty of work to be done.

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Filed under 1964, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hanna-Barbera, Television, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: The Rockford Files – The Complete Series (1974-80).

We should get this out of the way right up front — it’s absolutely impossible for me to be objective about The Rockford Files. My mom and I used to watch it on a little TV in the kitchen, and those remain some of my favorite times we spent together. And when you have an emotional attachment like that to something, does it really matter if it’s any good?

Well, luckily, The Rockford Files is very good indeed. It’s pretty easy to say it’s one of the greatest television shows ever. At its best, a TV series reflects the personality of its star — or what we perceive is that personality. Think of The Andy Griffith Show or The Mary Tyler Moore Show. You feel you really get to know those people. I think the same goes for James Garner and The Rockford Files. Jim Rockford fits Garner like a glove.

Another thing Andy, Mary and Rockford have in common is that the star serves as a hub, with some wonderful characters spinning around that hub from episode to episode. Sometimes those characters are regulars, sometimes they’re only in a single episode. With Rockford/Garner, a lot of the joy comes from his reactions to folks like Angel (Stuart Margolin), Rocky (Noah Beery, Jr.) and Gandy Fitch (Isaac Hayes). Oftentimes, the plot or case seems to serve mainly as a way to connect Rockford to those characters.

Of course, a character-driven show like this puts a lot of pressure on the writers, casting people, directors and actors. And with The Rockford Files, in all these departments, what you get here is about as good as it gets.

It’s all pretty simple. Jim Rockford is an ex-con (wrongfully convicted and pardoned) private detective living in a trailer on the beach in Malibu. He’s close to his dad, Rocky, a retired truck driver. And he’s got a couple friends who often get involved with his cases: Becker (Joe Santos), a sergeant in the LAPD, and Angel, a con man Rockford met in prison. In the earlier seasons, there’s Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett), an attorney Jim’s sweet on.

And, of course, there’s the Firebird. And Rocky’s truck. Garner was a car guy, and he made sure the vehicles were cast as well as the actors. The trailer (up top) is also perfectly propped out to reflect Rockford’s status and personality (he keeps his pistol in a cookie jar). The Firebird and trailer suffer all sorts of abuse of the course of the series.

Mill Creek has released The Rockford Files, all six seasons, in a Blu-Ray set that I’ve been returning to time and time again. It gives me an all new reason (not that I need one) to revisit these 122 episodes yet again.

The Rockford Files has the typical 70s cop show look, maybe a bit seedier than usual. LA locations seem to have been chosen for how glitzy or grungy they are, fitting the big wigs and lowlives Garner locks horns with from week to week.

Doesn’t exactly sound like the best use of the Blu-Ray format, does it? Well, not so fast. The DVD sets from Universal were terrific, but this high-def upswing really serves the series well. It’s a blast to find new details in episodes I’ve seen countless times. (Rockford’s beat up 1959 Nashua trailer is especially fun to study.) The color’s nice — and thankfully still looks like 1970s film stock. The sound’s a major improvement, with plenty of added depth in the music.

As with a lot of these TV sets, one episode might look better or worse than another, but overall Rockford in high definition is a revelation. And the package takes up a fraction of the shelf space the DVDs did (which around my place is a blessing). Highly recommended.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, James Garner, Mill Creek, Television

Screening: Dragnet (1954).

Directed by Jack Webb
Starring Jack Webb, Ben Alexander, Richard Boone, Ann Robinson, Stacy Harris, Virginia Gregg, Victor Perrin, Georgia Ellis, James Griffith, Dub Taylor

Noir City: Hollywood – The 20th Annual Los Angeles Festival Of Film Noir is presenting one of my all-time favorite films on the 18th, Jack Webb’s 1954 feature version of Dragnet. I can’t tell you how much I love this movie. The DVD is a rather ugly, full-frame mess, making the chance to see it on the big screen, on film, an even greater treat. And Ann Robinson, who plays a lady officer, will be there for a discussion after the movie.

Wednesday, April 18, 7:30pm
Egyptian Theatre
6712 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028

And if Dragnet wasn’t cool enough, the festival’s also got Armored Car Robbery (1950) in its lineup on the 16th. Another one of those times when I live on the wrong side of the country.

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Filed under 1954, Jack Webb, James H. Griffith, Screenings, Television, Warner Bros.

DVD/Blu-Ray News #155: The Night Stalker (1972) And The Night Strangler (1973).

Here’s a couple things I’ve been waiting for — the two Carl Kolchak TV movies coming to DVD and Blu-Ray from 4K scans!

The Night Stalker
Directed byJohn Llewellyn Moxey
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Charles McGraw, Elisha Cook Jr., Larry Linville

Both Kolchak films come for that Golden Age of TV movies, when ABC was offering up masterpieces like these, Spielberg’s Duel (1971) or The Legend Of Lizzie Borden (1974). But, really, when you have Darren McGavin spouting words from Richard Matheson, how could they be less than terrific? And look at the rest of these casts?

This Night Stalker (1972) — with newsman Carl Kolchak tracking down a vampire in Las Vegas while writing a story on a series of mysterious killings — scared me as a kid. Bad. But I loved every second of it.

The Night Strangler
Directed by Dan Curtis
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring Darren McGavin, Jo Ann Pflug, Simon Oakland, Scott Brady, Wally Cox, Margaret Hamilton, John Carradine, Al Lewis, Richard Anderson

For me, The Night Strangler (1973) — with a doctor killing to create another batch of his immortality elixir — was less scary, but more creepy. I loved it, too.

Next came the series, with the episode “The Zombie” being one of the scariest things I ever experienced growing up. Remember the zombie sleeping in the back of the hearse in the junkyard? And while the quality of the shows was pretty hit or miss, Darren McGavin is so perfect, he carries the show on his back every week without even trying. It was such a drag in my 11-year-old world when it wasn’t renewed.

The old twin-bill DVDs of these things, from Anchor Bay and MGM, were fine. But new 4K transfers, and stand-alone releases, are gonna be terrific. (Would love to have both the original broadcast (74 minutes each) and extended versions.) My porkpie hat, tape recorder and I cannot wait!

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Filed under 1972, 1973, Charles McGraw, Dan Curtis, Darren McGavin, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elisha Cook, Jr., John Carradine, Richard Matheson, Television

RIP, Jim Nabors.

Jim Thurston Nabors
(June 12, 1930 – November 30, 2017)

Here’s Jim Nabors behind the scenes on The Andy Griffith Show episode “Barney’s First Car” — the one where Barney Fife (Don Knotts) buys a clunker from Myrt “Hubcaps” Lesh (Ellen Corby). Of course, Nabors was Gomer Pyle.

Nabors passed away on the 30th at 87.

That’s Andy in the black sweater vest in front of the Mitchell camera. I had no idea Barney’s car was blue — the episode’s black and white.

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Filed under 1963, Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Television

Happy Halloween.

Here’s the great Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, from TV’s Batman, of course, wishing us all a Happy Halloween.

Halloween was a favorite time for me as a kid, since each of the local TV stations would run monster movies all night. All those movies, all that candy!

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Filed under 1966, Television, Yvonne Craig