Saturday, October 09, 2010
Welcome back to another edition of Digital Digest! The fall season is really starting to settle in now as we've already seen the cancellation of two new series (which, hopefully for the fans of those series, the unaired episodes might end up online for viewing). Also, as promised last week, we have many reviews posted on our main review page, and we are finally cleaning out our backlog of reviews. Since last week, we have posted seven new reviews, and we encourage you to check those out. We don't have anything particularly special or out of the ordinary for you this week (sorry, we do try though!), but we do have more news for you and a review of Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films' release of Tales of the Gold Monkey - The Complete Series. Let's get going!
Taking care of distant future business (again), there are yet even more amazon.com pre-order listings for a DVD sets of current series without release dates! This time, we have pre-order listings for Family Guy - Volume Nine and How I Met Your Mother - The Complete Season Six. Clearly, these pre-orders are getting earlier and earlier every year!
It was reported a long time ago that a DVD release of I'm Dickens, He's Fenster is being prepared, but few details have been available. Now, we know a little bit more, thanks to this article from TVShowsOnDVD.com. The entire series is set to be released as two volumes, each containing 16 episodes, complete with audio commentaries, interviews, and more! Of course, in the true spirit of Digital Digest (and because we're pretty sure that an overwhelming majority of our readers have never seen a single episode of the series), we encourage you to check out this full-length episode of the series on the official website for the to-be-released DVDs.
In case you haven't gotten through All in the Family - The Complete Seventh Season, you'd better hurry up and get on it, because All in the Family - The Complete Eighth Season will be here before you know it! It will be showing up on DVD on January 11 in a three disc set, at a $24.93 MSRP. This leaves only one season remaining to be released! Hopefully it will come along soon. Hopefully Shout! Factory could possibly look in to licensing and completing The Jeffersons and a few other related series at some point in the future as well.
A horse is a horse, of course, and Mister Ed - The Complete Fourth Season is on the way! This time, however, it will be released as a Shout! Select title, directly from Shout! Factory. It is slated for release on November 16. The price is not yet known.
We know a little bit more about the upcoming release of the classic 80s series Webster on DVD, but not exactly much. Webster - Season One is scheduled for release on January 25 at a $29.93 MSRP. So, no, there won't be a complete series release for this set (at least not initially), but fans will still be happy to see it on DVD, as it was believed to be a series that would never make it to DVD.
On a related note, we have been talking the past two weeks about a "secret" Shout! Factory complete series set that is coming up, and this week, that series was finally revealed. Unfortunately, it wasn't another sitcom, but it turned out to be the animated series ReBoot. Still, there are a lot of people out there who are guaranteed to be excited by the news of this long-anticipated release.
UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW
Tuesday (October 12) is Mill Creek's release date for the month of October, and they have quite a bit coming out... even though much if it has already been released elsewhere. The two complete series sets that they have coming, though, are new, including The Commish - The Complete Series and Renegade - The Complete Series. The other releases have already been released, including The Greatest American Hero - The Complete Second Season and two single disc "TV Flashbacks" releases of Blossom and Punky Brewster (both containing previously released episodes from Shout! Factory releases). The only other releases of note are Marcus Welby, M.D. - Season Two from Shout! Factory and Saturday Night Live Presents A Very Gilly Christmas from Universal.
We hope to have reviews of some of these titles in the upcoming weeks.
BLOG FEATURE REVIEW
In a backwater corner of the South Pacific a young American adventurer and his ragtag group of friends become involved in death-defying hi-jinx, transporting people-on-the-run in a well-worn Grumman Goose seaplane. Set in 1938, Tales of the Gold Monkey captures the ambiance and character of a mysterious romantic era. The 1982 series from ABC may have only lasted one season, but it remains a favorite of fans to this day. And now, it is available on DVD from Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films.
DVD Review: Tales of the Gold Monkey - The Complete Series
Tales of the Gold Monkey - The Complete Series (Shout! Factory, $49.97) is certainly one of the more unusual and bizarre series to have ever aired on American television, but it remains a cult-favorite to fans worldwide to this day. Airing during the 1982 season on ABC, the series was a massive success, somewhat capitalizing on the fame of the recently released film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Set in 1938, Stephen Collins stars as Jake Cutter, operator of an air cargo delivery service in the South Seas. He delivers just about everything imaginable in his cargo, including contraband, weapons, and even people, including American tourist and Nazi spies. It often leads to major criminal plots, but Jake and his friends know it, love it, and do whatever they can to stop it. The series was created by Donald Bellisario (who has also created series such as NCIS, Magnum, P.I., Quantum Leap, JAG, Airwolf, among other series) and was canceled after just 21 episodes, mostly because the cost of production for the series was incredibly expensive.
In the double-length pilot, "Tales of the Gold Monkey," Jake and his one-eyed dog Jack (who just had his false eye lost in one of Jake's poker's game, and Jack isn't about to forgive Jake, either) rescue Sarah Stickney White, an American singer, from her manager, and fights to keep his plane in the sky during a violent storm. Meanwhile, on land, a German Army intelligence officer is on the search for a legendary giant golden monkey, believed to be made of a heat-resistant alloy that would be invaluable in manufacturing weapons. Jake's mechanic, Corky, is kidnapped in "Shanghaied," and he would love to rescue him, except he suddenly has malaria.
In "Honor Thy Brother," Jake is followed by the brother of a Japanese pilot he shot down, while Jack finally finds his eye that was lost in the poker game earlier in the series. But in the meantime, Corky is trying to escape a marriage that he bought himself in to. Is Sarah dead? That is what is being reported in "The Late Sarah White," and in the middle of it all, Jake has to stop a civil war from breaking out. Jake and Sarah find a boy who has been living among the apes and raised by them in "Ape Boy." Louie may be facing the guillotine in "Last Chance Louie." Jake becomes a bodyguard to Princess Kogi (against his will) after an attempt on her life during a birthday celebration in "Mourning Becomes Matuka."
The episodes all appear to be unedited, with runtimes as follows:
Black Pearl (47:18)
Legends Are Forever (47:25)
Escape from Death Island (47:28)
Trunk from the Past (47:21)
Once a Tiger... (47:20)
Honor Thy Brother (46:29)
The Lady and the Tiger (47:22)
The Late Sarah White (47:24)
The Sultan of Swat (47:19)
Ape Boy (46:38)
God Save the Queen (47:25)
High Stakes Lady (46:54)
Force of Habit (47:26)
Cooked Goose (47:17)
Last Chance Louie (47:15)
Naka Jima Kill (46:46)
Boragora or Bust (46:45)
A Distant Shout of Thunder (47:12)
Mourning Becomes Matura (47:12)
The set is packaged in a nice six-disc collection in a double-thick Viva-style case. There is also an outer sleeve that has the same artwork as the case, with a picture of the main cast members above the series logo and a picture of the seaplane below the series logo. The back has a few snapshots from the series, a brief series description, and a listing of the special features. Inside, there is a listing of all of the episodes in the left-hand panel of the case, but there is also a VERY nice 24-page episode booklet included that gives a brief synopsis of each episode, along with a much lengthier (usually a few paragraphs) description for EVERY episode. It also has a snapshot from each episode, along with complete credits for the episodes. This is probably the nicest episode booklet that I have ever seen for ANY series. The discs themselves all have a picture of Jake and Jack (same one from the cover), and each disc contains four episodes, except for Disc 1, which contains three episodes (including the double-length pilot), and Disc 6, which contains only two episodes and most of the special features.
The menus are very nicely done, with the theme song playing and video from the episodes playing inside a circle on the main menu. Menu options are Play All, Episodes, Scenes, Extras (Disc 6 only), and Set Up (Discs 4, 5, and 6). Each option has a menu transition with very nice animation. Episodes takes you to a list of each episode, while Scenes takes you to to a menu where you can look at each episode one-by-one, with six scenes to select for each episode. You can also read an episode description by selecting the Synopsis option on the Scenes menu, although it is the same description as found in the booklet. Set Up allows you to turn on the commentaries for the episodes that have them. Chapters are placed appropriately throughout each episode. There is one minor flaw on the menus, although it doesn't affect the set negatively in anyway, just a little "oops" moment from Fabulous Films--the FBI warning for the United States is missing, and instead, we have a warning about UK copyright law. That is probably because this set was produced for the UK initially, and only minor modifications (specifically Region 1 encoding) were made for the release in the United States.
The video and audio quality of the set is about on-par with what would be expected, though perhaps a little better than expected. It is a pretty clear picture with audio that is loud and clear. Unfortunately, the episodes are not closed-captioned, nor are there English subtitles.
The set has quite a few special features, but only a few are really worth pointing out. First, there are commentaries from writer Tom Greene on the episodes "Force of Habit," "Last Chance Louie," "Naka Jima Kill," "Boragora or Bust," and "A Distant Shout of Thunder." As previously mentioned, these can be accessed through the Set Up option on the main menu.
"The Making of Tales of the Gold Monkey" (36:13) is probably the nicest feature on the set. It features interviews with several people involved in the series, including Stephen Collins, Caitlin O'Heaney, writer Tom Greene, and director Harvey Laidman. It is too bad that Donald Bellisario couldn't be included, but he is obviously busy with his own series that are currently airing on TV to look back at one of his earliest series.
The other special features are actually all text on the screen, but are very insightful about the series. They include Series Synopsis, Series Concept, Character Biographies, Personal Biographies, and Fact File. Additionally, there is a Stills Gallery of photos from the series.
Prior to reviewing this set, I had heard of this series, but knew nothing about it. I think it definitely qualifies as one of the most unusual series that I have ever seen, but it is also fun to watch, and it is great to see that it not only made it to DVD, but also made it to DVD in such a great package with great special features. Any fan of the series will be completely satisfied with this set, I believe, and fans of historical series relating to the era are sure to enjoy this series as well. But if you need money to buy the set, just make sure that you don't try to gamble away your dog's false eye in a poker game--he'll never forgive you.
-- Reviewed by skees53
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That wraps everything up for this week! Next week, we'll be back with more great stuff for you. This month, just in time for Halloween, we'll have a review for the Warner Archive release of the 1973 Hanna-Barbera version of animated series The Addams Family, among many other series. We will also take a look at Netflix online streaming video (yes, it is old news, but it is really starting to catch on and gotten better than ever lately) and some public domain releases that you probably missed, but may want to check out. Until next time, keep it digital!