Monday, January 25, 2010

To everything (turn turn turn) there’s a split-season (turn turn turn)

TVShowsOnDVD.com has a few classic television-on-disc announcements up, the first being that CBS-Paramount in soldiering on with Season 5 of the venerable legal drama Perry Mason (David Lambert describes it as “the back-end of the nine-season run”) in one of the company’s exquisite and oh-so-lovely split-season sets (*sigh*). The street date for this collection is April 20th. According to the specs, Perry Mason: Season Five, Volume 1 will contain 12 hours and 44 minutes an episode…which rounds out to about sixteen episodes (and this is admittedly confusing; the show featured thirty episodes that season so my hunch is that it’s probably closer to fifteen). If they continue at this lightning-quick speed, Mason fans should have all 271 episodes…by 2015.

Back in October 2007, CBS-Paramount decided to reward those loyal customers who collected the season-by-season releases of I Love Lucy by bringing out a 34-disc “heart-shaped” collection entitled I Love Lucy: The Complete Series. The set contained all 194 episodes (the studio’s count, which also included The Luci-Desi Hour) and a fistful of bonus extras designed to induce those individuals who had already purchased all the damn sets in the first place. Now, CBS-Paramount yanks out another rug with an April 27th release entitled I Love Lucy: The Movie and Other Great Rarities, which—yes, you guessed it—are the bonus extras from The Complete Series collection.

A title like I Love Lucy: The Movie would seem to suggest that some Hollywood studio ran amuck and put together a film based on the classic sitcom because they convinced themselves that no one remembers the TV show (and with its overexposure on TVLand, that’s not too bloody likely) and they saw an opportunity to make a fast buck by casting today’s big stars (Nicole Kidman as Lucy! Antonio Banderas as Ricky!) in what would almost certainly be a major-league train wreck. No, this happened over fifty years ago; they assembled three Lucy episodes—“The Benefit,” “Breaking the Lease” and “The Ballet”—shot some footage to connect the segments, and premiered the film at a small theater in Bakersfield in 1953. M-G-M, who had at this point just signed the Arnazes to film The Long, Long Trailer, insisted the studio shelve the film to insure there’d be no competition…and that was that. The movie was found in a mislabeled film can squirreled away in a Paramount studio vault by Dann Cahn in 2001.

The set will also contain must-haves like a colorized version of “Lucy Goes to Scotland”—and I’d love to meet the brain trust that thought that one up. (“Hey! Lucy’s hair is red in this one!”) If you’re a die-hard ILL fan, here’s your chance to snap up these extras…assuming you decided (like I did) that it wasn’t worth all the hoopla to sell your old Lucy sets on eBay in order to get the new one. (For those of you who did, you have my sympathies and reassurance that these people are just plain weasels.)

From the folks down at the Shout! Factory comes word that they have inked a deal that will allow them to release the first four seasons of Marcus Welby. MD—the classic dramatic series starring Robert Young as the titular medico, James Brolin as Dr. Steven Kiley, the young doc who shared his practice and Elena “Meet Millie” Verdugo as Nurse Consuelo Lopez. The first season will be released on May 4th in a seven-disc set that will include not only the first twenty-six episodes of Welby’s freshman year but the 1969 telefilm A Matter of Humanities (1969), which served as the TV’s pilot. (Confession time: I’d be a bit more ecstatic if this were Medical Center being released; Marcus Welby, MD is shown weekday afternoons on our RTV affiliate WSB-TV DT in Atlanta and it’s just as bland and white-bread as I remembered it.)

TSOD (as well as TDOY) reported some time ago that the Timeless Media Group releases of The Virginian: Season One, Volume One and The Virginian: Season One, Volume Two were scheduled for a street date of March 9th…but it would now appear that TMG has walked that back, now admitting that they’re not sure when the collections will be available for general release. Those of you who frequent Sam’s Club or Costco, however, will be thrilled to learn that Timeless will make the two Virginian collections available as exclusives to the two club stores “around” the March 9 date. (I saw what these two sets were priced at over at Amazon.com, and now I’m certain I can wait on these.)

In Britcom news, BBC/Warner Home Video will release the fifth and final series of Waiting For God on a two-disc set containing eight episodes of the popular comedy about an elderly couple (Graham Crowden, Stephanie Cole) and their misadventures in a retirement home run by an unscrupulous manager (Daniel Hill) and his loyal lackey (Janine Duvitski), who’s carrying a torch for her boss. BBC/Warner will also release Waiting For God: The Complete Series on that same date (May 25th), which will compile all of the episodes presented over five series—including the 1992 and 1993 Christmas specials. This comedy is a big favorite of my father’s (who normally avoids sitcoms like bubonic plague) and it’s a shame that GPTV has yanked it off the schedule (though they replaced with it another showing of As Time Goes By, another one of his favorites) because it’s one of the few programs he watches that doesn’t feature the boys in blue responding to domestic violence calls. Oddly enough, it’s one of my least favorite Britcoms—I prefer the surrealism of One Foot in the Grave (which also featured Duvitski) and the eccentric charms of Last of the Summer Wine.

Finally, I’d thought I’d address this since I’ve the seen the subject come up on a few classic film blogs (notably KC’s Classic Movies); Universal has teamed up with Amazon.com to create a MOD service similar to that of the Warner Archive (while at the same releasing titles through TCM’s Vault Collection). A list of their offerings can be found here, and I was intrigued to see the 1954 film version of Dragnet among the DVDs, which kinda sorta ties this to the whole TV thing. (David Lambert also singles out The Brass Bottle [1964], saying that it served as the inspiration for I Dream of Jeannie—but I’ve always questioned as to whether that information was accurate.) I’ve got a DVD-R copy of Dragnet here at Rancho Yesteryear, and I bought The List of Adrian Messenger (1963) and Blue Collar (1978) on Region 2 sometime back…but if I ever see the old financial coffers looking rosy again I could be persuaded to invest in a copy of Resurrection (1980), a lovely and quite underrated film starring Ellen Burstyn.

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