Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Back from hiatus

Gosh, it seems like weeks have passed since I updated the ol’ blog…and as it turns out, it has been—two, to be precise. I apologize for being so negligent, but it’s been a veritable hive of activity around here.

To start off, the house has now been officially listed as up for sale. (The curious can see Rancho Yesteryear in all its inside and outside glory here—see if you can locate the wall clock, Pam!) Notice that there are no snaps of my bedroom (the Hazmat people still haven’t given the real estate agent the okay, ha ha) but if you look at picture #4 you’ll see the sun room and a large stack of clutter that I’ll only be too happy to claim as my own. This Saturday (March 29) we’re holding a Moving Day sale, so if anyone who regularly reads my scribbling is in the vicinity, feel free to stop by and say hidy.

During my hiatus, two notables from the world of show business went to their rich rewards—the first being Ivan Dixon, recognizable to us Hogan’s Heroes fans as the actor who played Sgt. James “Kinch” Kinchloe on the long-running sitcom from 1965-70. (He left the show in its fifth year, and was replaced by Kenneth Washington as Sgt. Richard Baker for the final season.) While Dixon—according to this obituary—never had a problem with being recognized for his work on Heroes, he felt the need to break ties with the series in order to concentrate on directing…which he did on shows like The Waltons, The Rockford Files and In the Heat of the Night. (He also did a pair of theatrical films: 1972’s Trouble Man and The Spook Who Sat By the Door, released in 1973.) Dixon passed away at the age of 76, and if you’re only familiar with his work on Heroes, you owe it to yourself to check out some of his other performances. I highly recommend his role in 1964’s Nothing But a Man and a great Twilight Zone episode, “The Big Tall Wish.” Rest in peace, Mr. Dixon…you will be missed.

Actor Paul Scofield—an Oscar winner for Best Actor in A Man For All Seasons (1966)—has also shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 86. Scofield’s film career wasn’t really all that prolific—which is why some people question why he won the Best Actor trophy in the first place—but it’s sort of hard to argue that he wasn’t sensational in every film role he did undertake. My personal preference is Scofield’s turn as Mark Van Doren, father to Ralph Fiennes’ Charles Van Doren in Robert Redford’s Quiz Show (1994), a drama based on the TV quiz show scandals in the late 1950s. I watched a documentary on the subject and when they showed a picture of the real Mark Van Doren, I couldn’t believe how much Scofield resembled him, it was positively uncanny. (Scofield received a Best Supporting Actor nom for his performance, by the way.) Scofield did some marvelous work in films: the erudite (and ruthless) Col. Von Waldheim in John Frankenheimer’s The Train (1964) and the sinister Judge Thomas Danforth of The Crucible (1996) are the two that instantly come to mind. R.I.P. to an incredible actor.

There’s some encouraging news coming from the TV-on-DVD front: CBS-Paramount will be finish out the sophomore season of the classic crime drama The Untouchables with a Season 2: Volume 2 set to be released August 26th, and the first half of the second season of The Streets of San Francisco will also see disc action on July 1. But what really has me pumped is the news that William Conrad’s classic detective drama Cannon is coming to DVD July 8th…though, sadly, it will be with still another split season set. (Conrad’s other TV hit, Jake and the Fatman, will also be released via split season on the same day.) also has a strong rumor about the release of one of my favorite sitcoms, Dave’s World, whose debut season comes to disc August 12th.

Infinity Entertainment is announcing that the second season (perhaps I should say second split season) of the cult classic series Route 66 will hit the road (pardon the pun) May 20th, and on that very same day they’ll combine the first two split seasons of Year 1 to re-sell as Route 66: The Complete First Season. I purchased Season 1, Volume 1 of Route when it came out even though there was a tremendous outcry from the Vintage TV section of the Home Theater Forum about how crappy it looked (apparently the source material came from 16mm prints) but when I learned that Volume 2 had been completely f**ked up because some doofus lopped off heads and chins in “remastering” the episodes for widescreen TVs, I gave up on any further purchases until Infinity gets its collective shit together. (I went ahead and bought the entire series run from a “root pegger” for about 20 bucks, and I can be happy with that until Infinity learns to do Route 66 properly.) I suppose there’s an explanation for the unevenness of Infinity’s releases (I think their Suspense sets and their Man With a Camera set were extremely well-done, for example) and I welcome anybody who can offer one.

In the meantime, Timeless Media Group has four releases scheduled for a May 6 release that the potential vintage TV-on-DVD buyer might want to scrutinize before plunking down any cash on the counter. Timeless is announcing a 2-DVD tin of The Jack Benny Show that will retail for $12.98 but in looking at the guest stars announced in this TVShowsOnDVD release, it would appear that the content of the set consists of the same public domain telecasts that you can find much cheaper elsewhere (the Mill Creek Entertainment set, The Best of Jack Benny, immediately springs to mind). They’ve also plans for a Sergeant Preston of the Yukon tin (again, with 2 DVDs) and one entitled Here’s...The Johnny Carson Show; the Carson compilation looks to be a repackaging of an earlier release and while the Sergeant Preston tin might be okay for someone just casually interested in the famous Mountie and his faithful husky dog King you can get all three seasons of the show at Deep in far better condition (provided, of course, you’re into the series). The last of this Timeless quartet are two 2-disc tins entitled Red Skelton: America’s Crown Prince and Red Skelton: America’s Crown Prince Returns. Timeless has released so many Skelton compilations (to their credit, the material comes from the late comedian's family) that it’s difficult to tell if this is new material or just recycled stuff.

As usual, I’ve saved the best for last. Resident HTF curmudgeon Hank Dearborn reports that two vintage television series are soon due to be released by Timeless: the 1959-63 western Laramie and one of the shows I put on my “I’d Buy That For a Dollar” wish list, the 1957-60 crime drama M Squad (starring Lee Marvin!). There’s been no official announcement (release date, specs, etc.) on these two shows but Hank knows people who know people and I’m inclined to trust his sources (particularly since he broke the news about the upcoming DVD release of Mannix). I have to admit, I was both surprised and pleased as punch to hear the news about Laramie and Squad; apparently it’s going to be the same type of deal as with other releases leased to TMG from NBC/Universal (Arrest and Trial, Checkmate, Laredo, etc.). I can’t wait!


Bobh said...

Hi Ivan,

Good to see you back! Regarding Mill Creek's Jack Benny collection, it can be had for a whopping $5 courtesy of Walmart's infamous dump bins, as well as MC's Bonanza/Wagon Train collection and Cisco Kid releases. They've also placed the brand new (March 18th release date) complete season 1 of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" in the bin. It's a hodgepodge collection of prints from various sources (some good, some not so good), but it's the first complete commercial DVD release in the US of season 1 which has 39 half-hour episodes.

Pam said...

I spy the clock!! The famous clock. You never told me it is a built-in.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Bob: Have you heard any positive feedback (cripes, I sound like I'm on eBay) regarding the Region 2 Network DVD release of Hood? I've bought many a disc manufactured by them, and have yet to be disappointed...I would think their Robin Hood transfers would be a bit superior.

Pam: A person of your vintage often has what we call "senior moments"...are you sure I didn't tell you it was a built-in clock?

Pam said...

A person of my vintage, eh? Remember when I kept forgetting to take the ginkgo biloba? Odd how I remember THAT.

Bobh said...


While I don't own them personally, the (British) folks over at "The Adventures of Robin Hood Appreciation Society" indicate that the Region 2 releases from Network are the best available, i.e, the definitive DVD releases of the series. I have just about every North American DVD release of this series and the best that I've seen here is the first 30 episodes of season 1 offered by Timeless Media which can be had from Amazon for about eight bucks. Looks like Timeless is also going to release some episodes from "William Tell" in June according to "Bob Gu" at the Home Theater Forum. For what it is (a collection of syndication prints) the Mill Creek set is fine (I've viewed all 13 episodes on disc 1), though there is the problem of wrong end credits on a number of the episodes, a problem that has also plagued the mostly good Alpha releases of this series.


Sam said...

I know how you feel as I nw finally have time to wrtie a full post on the ol' blog. Too bad I missed the sale on Saturday otherwise I would have come out and done me some shoppin'. I'll try to give you a buzz sometime this week as I have Spring Break off from classes. WOOT-WOOT!