Saturday, November 12, 2011

Digital Digest: Crime Story - The Complete Series: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD Review; Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 2 DVD Review

It's hard to believe that winter is on the way and the year is beginning to wind down, but before that happens, we've still got plenty more Digital Digest for you, for the rest of 2011 and beyond! We have suddenly reentered a "busy period" this week with our news, and we've even got two feature reviews this week with Crime Story - The Complete Series: 25th Anniversary Edition and Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 2. Let's just get going!


DIGITAL NEWS

We have seen a heavy load of news this week from just one studio (one that seems to have sudden bursts of great news every few months), Shout! Factory. The studio has three releases from Sony coming up in February alone, starting with Police Woman - The Complete Second Season on February 7. Onto February 21, we get a sitcom release with Hazel - The Complete Second Season. Finally, on February 28, we have Here Come the Brides - The Complete Second Season. Sounds like a busy February!

But that is far from all when it comes to Shout! Factory. The studio announced this week that they have acquired the rights to distribute both on DVD and in online streaming formats the series Route 66 from Infinity Entertainment. Infinity has released the first three (of four) seasons of the series on DVD, but the sets have been in and out of print many times since their release, making obtaining them a difficult task. Hopefully Shout! will put together sets that are nicer than what Infinity released (even though Infinity did put together very nice bonus features and did an excellent job remastering most of the episodes).

Just this week, Warner Archive brought in a new "surprise" DVD set (as they often do, as Warner Archive typically does not announce what is coming in advance and just make the products available as soon as it is announced) with The Jetsons - Season 2, Volume 2. The three disc set contains 20 more episodes of the 80s version of the series on a three disc set.

We conclude our news this week with an announcement from MPI. They are releasing a very rare 1960s series starring Julie Newmar that has been rumored to be released for years, with My Living Doll - Volume 1. Slated for February 28, the two disc set will contain eleven episodes of the series. The series contained 26 episodes total, but there have been rumors that some of the episodes were not properly preserved, meaning that we may not see some of them. But to see a majority of them would be better than nothing, for sure.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (November 15) is somewhat a "gloom and doom" day for new releases, with no new sitcoms announced, but there are two great releases for those who love crime dramas. The first one (and biggest one) is eOne Entertainment's release of It Takes a Thief - The Complete Series. We just received a review copy of this set earlier this week, and it is an excellent set that you won't want to miss. We will have a review of it next week in Digital Digest (but we can promise you now that this is probably one of the nicest DVD sets that we've seen in a long time!). The other crime series is sort of a re-release of something already released, and it is the 80s series that Michael Mann is somewhat less known for (compared to Miami Vice), Crime Story - The Complete Series: 25th Anniversary Edition. We have a review of this set today in Digital Digest.


Blog DVD Review - Crime Story - The Complete Series: 25th Anniversary Edition (Image, $29.98)

Anybody who knows anything about TV from the 1980s knows all-too-well of Michael Mann, who created one of the most innovative action dramas of the era, Miami Vice. But following in the success of Miami Vice, NBC wanted more from Michael Mann, basically giving him the freedom to create another series. So Mann, along with others, created the series Crime Story, a series set in 1963, which follows (in a serialized format) Chicago Police Lieutenant Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) and his obsessive pursuit of slick and ruthless gangster Ray Luca (Anthony Dennison). The series was released several years ago by Anchor Bay, but as they have been slowly dissolving their entire TV-on-DVD business, Image Entertainment has picked up the series for a low-priced re-release of the entire series.

It is hard to really describe individual episodes of the series, as the series follows a serialized format, but we'll give a few highlights along the way here. The double-length "Pilot" sets up the series, and the beginning of Torello's pursuit of Ray Luca. In "The St. Louis Book of Blues," Luca has plenty of support for his gambling ring. Luca is the target of an assassination attempt in "Strange Bedfellows." In "Fatal Crossroads," Luca orders Torello to be killed. The action leaves Chicago and heads to Vegas in "The Kingdom of Money." A season-ending cliffhanger leaves everybody wondering "what is next" after an explosion in "Ground Zero."

The cliffhanger is resolved in the second season premiere, "The Senator, the Movie Star, and the Mob." "Atomic Fallout" leads Torello to Mexico, where yet again, he'll fall into one of Luca's traps in an arms-for-drugs operation. A Chinese agent tricks Tortello while she tries to sneak plutonium out of the country in "Femme Fatale." Torello deals with corrupt law men in the desert in "Roadrunner." In "The Hearings," Luca is finally being brought to trial... but it is all interrupted by events occurring in Vietnam. The series ends on a three-part cliffhanger involving chasing Luca through Mexico, a cliffahanger that will unfortunately never be resolved in "Pursuit," "Escape," and "Going Home."

The episodes on the set are somewhat unedited, but not completely. Why do I say that? Well, the series was music intensive, just like Miami Vice was, and while Miami Vice managed to get a release with all of the original music intact, Crime Story did NOT. However, it is important to note that the entire soundtrack wasn't obliterated. In fact, there are many songs that are still intact in the episodes, and the replacement wasn't as intensive as I had anticipated them to be. And of course, the classic theme song, Del Shannon's "Runaway," is intact, which I would say is a key song for the series. Also, the runtimes seemed to be all over the place, ranging from about 43 minutes up to 50 minutes per episode. I don't know what, if anything, is actually missing, but 43 minutes is awfully short. Runtimes for all of the episodes are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "Pilot" (1:35:55)
2. "Final Transmission" (46:54)
3. "Shadow Dancer" (48:06)
4. "St. Louis Book of Blues" (49:18)

Disc 2:
5. "The War" (44:50)
6. "Abrams for the Defense" (46:17)
7. "Pursuit of a Wanted Felon" (47:58)
8. "Old Friends, Dead Ends" (48:02)
9. "Justice Hits the Skids" (45:50)

Disc 3:
10. "For Love or Money" (47:27)
11. "Crime Pays" (49:08)
12. "Hide and Go Thief" (45:37)
13. "Strange Bedfellows" (45:46)
14. "Fatal Crossroads" (49:39)

Disc 4:
15. "Torello on Trial" (49:41)
16. "The Kingdom of Money" (48:55)
17. "The Battle of Las Vegas" (48:27)
18. "The Survivor" (47:18)
19. "The Pinnacle" (45:10)

Disc 5:
20. "Top of the World" (49:15)
21. "Ground Zero" (48:05)
22. "The Senator, the Movie Star, and the Mob" (48:30)
23. "Blast from the Past" (48:31)
24. "Atomic Fallout" (47:55)

Disc 6:
25. "Always a Blonde" (48:31)
26. "Shockwaves" (47:37)
27. "Armed Robbery" (43:26)
28. "Love Hurts" (48:34)
29. "Little Girl Lost" (47:41)

Disc 7:
30. "Mig 21" (48:36)
31. "Pauli Taglia's Dream" (47:39)
32. "Femme Fatale" (46:25)
33. "Moulin Rouge" (48:33)
34. "Seize the Time" (47:13)

Disc 8:
35. "Roadrunner" (47:44)
36. "Protected Witness" (48:43)
37. "Last Rites" (48:10)
38. "The Brothel Wars" (48:23)
39. "The Hearings" (48:43)

Disc 9:
40. "Byline" (47:21)
41. "Pursuit" (47:32)
42. "Escape" (46:45)
43. "Going Home" (47:46)

The packaging for the set is fairly basic (and a little bit of an older style, but it is good), with the the discs packaged in a digibook. On the cover of the digibook, there is a photo of Farina, with a series description and a list of guest stars on the back. The digibook comes inside of an outer slipcase that has the exact same artwork on it. Inside the digibook, you'll find the nine discs, which have no artwork aside from the series logo. Unfortunately, there are no episode booklets, lists, or anything to indicate which disc contains which episodes, but it isn't as if you can really just pick a disc and watch whatever episode you want to watch anyway, as this is a serialized drama where you really need to watch every episode in order.

The menus on the set are very basic, with the same artwork that is seen on the bottom of the cover, and a listing of all of the episodes on the disc. There is no Play All option. These are really some of the plainest menus that I've ever seen on a DVD set. However, they did include chapters in all of the appropriate places.

The video and audio quality on the set is not a disaster, but there are some issues regarding the transfer on this set, and it doesn't look anything like Miami Vice does on DVD (which was produced right at the same time, and was also a Michael Mann series). Of course, Miami Vice has been held by Universal over all of these years, and it is unclear who even owns this series--New World Entertainment was the original distributor, and it appears to be in the hands of some entity known as Lakeshore Entertainment now. Some of the episodes have grain and debris issues that are not quite what you would expect for a series from the 80s. Some of the episodes appear to almost be VHS quality transfers, which isn't good. The audio on the set seems fine, but it is presented in Dolby Digital Mono, and it seems like this should be in stereo. And unfortunately, there are no subtitles or closed-captioning on the set.

The set is completely devoid of special features. I would have really liked to have seen some sort of interview with Michael Mann or anybody for that matter to just talk about the series. I don't expect a whole lot out of the set, considering how the series is largely ignored these days, but something would still be nice.

I had not seen this series in years, and even then, there were a lot of episodes that I have simply never even seen, so it is certainly nice to have the entire run of this series in one convenient (and honestly low-priced, being under $30 for two seasons) set. It would have been nice to have had some special features, and of course to have ALL of the original music restored, but by and large, this is a decent low-priced set of episodes that is worth picking up even if you have never seen the series and think that you could possibly be interested. Of course, Dennis Farina has gone on to bigger and better things these days, and fans of his work will likely enjoy seeing this series. And in a sense, this series almost has a serial premium cable drama quality to it--I hesitate to say like The Sopranos, because I never liked that show too much, but it is almost along those lines.

(4/5 stars)

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BLOG DVD REVIEW: Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 2 (CBS DVD, $49.99)

Court is back in session yet again for Perry Mason with Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 2. The latest DVD set comes less than three months after the release of the first volume of the sixth season, and here we have the final fourteen episodes of the classic courtroom drama from the 1962-1963 season on a four disc set. In the fourteen episodes contained on the set, the usual formulaic style of episodes continue, with somebody being accused of a crime that they didn't commit (with strong evidence showing that they did indeed commit the crime) and the defendant turning to Perry Mason, who always manages to not only come up with a brilliant defense, but is even able of showing who actually did commit the crime.

A professor plays a prank on his students in "The Case of the Prankish Professor," but why did the professor end up actually dying? Paul Drake takes on a case while Perry is in the hospital in "The Case of the Libelous Locket." In "The Case of the Golden Oranges," Perry Mason's star witness in a case just happens to be a canine. In "The Case of the Lawful Lazarus," a man who has been legally declared dead is not quite dead, but when the executor of his dying wife's will is found dead, he becomes a murder suspect. A man tries to swindle his partner and frame his wife in "The Case of the Elusive Element," but in typical Perry Mason fashion, it all culminates in a murder. A jealous husband is murdered in "The Case of the Plotted Planter," and meanwhile, Perry is hired to defend one of his wife's suspected lovers. The season ends with "The Case of the Witless Witness," where a judge who had ruled against Perry in the past is charged with murder--yet turns to Perry for help now.

The episodes appear to be unedited, with runtimes as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "The Case of the Prankish Professor" (50:44)
2. "The Case of Constant Doyle" (50:39)
3. "The Case of the Libelous Locket" (50:43)
4. "The Case of the Two-Faced Turn-a-bout" (50:42)

Disc 2:
5. "The Case of the Surplus Suitor" (50:43)
6. "The Case of the Golden Oranges" (50:41)
7. "The Case of the Lawful Lazarus" (50:45)
8. "The Case of the Velvet Claws" (50:42)

Disc 3:
9. "The Case of the Lover's Leap" (50:45)
10. "The Case of the Elusive Element" (50:36)
11. "The Case of the Greek Goddess" (50:41)

Disc 4:
12. "The Case of the Skeleton's Closet" (50:36)
13. "The Case of the Potted Planter" (50:42)
14. "The Case of the Witless Witness" (50:42)

Just like the series itself, the DVD set becomes pretty formulaic from this point on, being exactly like all of the previous releases in just about every aspect. The packaging is again in the standard Viva case (which has been used on all of the Perry Mason sets except for the first two seasons), with a large color photo of Perry on the front and a photo of several cast members on the top of the case. On the back of the case, we have some more photos and a brief synopsis of the series, which doesn't really discuss anything about the season in particular. Inside, there are four discs, with no artwork aside from the series title on a gray background. Discs 1 and 2 contain four episodes each, while Discs 3 and 4 contain three episodes each.

The menus are the same plain menus that we've become accustomed to for these sets. The main menu has a photo of Perry, along with a listing of episodes, a Play All option, and a Set Up option. Set Up will allow you to turn on the English subtitles. There are chapters placed throughout each episode.

There is one thing that nobody has ever been able to complain about even in the slightest about these sets, and once again, there is no cause for complaint on the video and audio. It is just spectacular. I almost never see a series as old as this one look so great on DVD, and it is always refreshing to see an almost flawless picture (aside from very minor grain and debris). The mono audio is just fine as well. Each episode contains English subtitles.

If you are looking for special features, you won't find them--again. It is amazing how after twelve half season sets, we have seen absolutely zero special features (although a special 50th anniversary set DID have some). It would have been nice to see something along the lines of original promos or maybe even short interviews.

Once again, we have another set that remains very consistent on the quality front, but still lacking on special features. At this point, I don't expect to see any special features on any of the remaining sets (we should be down to six half seasons remaining now), but as long as there aren't any major problems with the episodes, it shouldn't be a huge deal. I am anxiously awaiting for an announcement on the seventh season (it only took a few months for the two sets for season six to be released), and hopefully, the pace will pick up enough on these sets to get the entire series out within the next year or two!

(4/5 stars)

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CLICK OF THE WEEK

Perry Mason TV Series Wiki (www.perrymasontvseries.com) - With the upcoming Perry Mason DVD release, we thought we'd bring you a link to a great site about the series, and Perry Mason TV Series Wiki is definitely one of the best out there. As the title suggests, this is a "wiki," meaning that it isn't just one webmaster creating a bunch of content, but anybody with appropriate knowledge about the series is capable of contributing information where applicable, and considering the large fanbase of the series, there has been a very appreciable amount of content accumulated on this website over the years, from all of the basics to the nitty gritty details that only the most devoted fan would take note of.

On the website, you'll find complete credits for episodes, statistics about the series (such as who played a judge most often), brief biographies, and a very detailed episode guide. But what really stands out about the site is the amount of trivia that is contributed for each and every episode about every single detail of the episodes. There are so many contributions here, and it makes for a very interesting read. Additionally, if you (for whatever reason) can't find what you are looking for, the site provides links to numerous other Perry Mason sites, and the best part is, those are all full of content as well. Clearly, Perry Mason has one of the most dedicated fan bases out there for any series!

That's all for this week. Until next time, keep it digital!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, December 5

The Simpsons - "The Star of the Backstage" (Fox, 7:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
A musical comes to life in Springfield as Marge stages a revival of her beloved high school show -- but her wonderful memories are threatened by the return of a rival from the past.

Bob's Burgers - "Driving Big Dummy" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Bob gets roped into a road trip with Teddy; Linda and the kids compete for the title of employee of the day.

The Simpsons - "A Springfield Summer Christmas for Christmas" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
A cable channel films a Christmas movie in Springfield, and Skinner falls in love.

The Great North - "Brace/Off Adventure" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Judy embarks on a journey after getting some unexpected news from the dentist.

Bob's Burgers - "Yachty or Nice" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When the Belchers get an unexpected invitation to cater the Glencrest Yacht Club's holiday boat parade, Bob wonders if there's a catch; Louise has her eye on the present-loaded Santa Schooner.

Family Guy - "The First No L" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When the family fails to help Lois with the Christmas shopping, she walks out on the family and the Griffins must try to save Christmas on their own.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 29)

Friday, December 3

  • Bill Burr (F Is for Family/Townies) - Watch Bill on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Dwayne Johnson (Young Rock) - Dwayne appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Maya Erskine (PEN15/Casual/Betas) and Anna Konkle (PEN15) - Maya and Anna are guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Leah Remini (Kevin Can Wait/The Exes/Family Tools/The King of Queens/Fired Up) - Leah guest co-hosts The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love/Love, Inc.) - Holly is a guest on The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm/Son of Zorn/Suburgatory) - Cheryl will be on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kal Penn (Sunnyside/Deadbeat/We Are Men) - Kal appears on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings. He talks about Comedy Central's Hot Mess Holiday on Access Daily, so check your local listings.
  • Michel Urie (Younger/Partners) - Michael is a guest on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • J. K. Simmons (Growing Up Fisher/Family Tools) - J. K. talks about Being the Ricardos on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family/Ed) - Julie talks about Mixtape on ABC's GMA 3: What You Need to Know at 1pm.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (October-December)

Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release) Mom - The Eighth and Final Season Punky Brewster (1984-88) - The Complete Series (2021 Release) I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

10/19 - Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
11/02 - The Honeymooners Specials - A Christmas Carol
11/02 - Mom - The Eighth and Final Season
11/02 - Punky Brewster - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
11/02 - Sex and the City - The Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
11/09 - Saved by the Bell (2020) - Season One
11/09 - Younger - The Complete Series
11/16 - Kevin Can F*** Himself - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
11/23 - Dead Pixels - Seasons One and Two
11/30 - I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) (2021 Release) (Blu-ray)
12/07 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
12/07 - Rick & Morty - Season 5 (Blu-ray) (Blu-ray Limited Edition Steelbook)
12/14 - The Abbott and Costello Show - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
12/14 - Letterkenny - Season 9
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