Two landmarks of TV hit DVD this week courtesy of Shout! Factory: Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection (reviewed here) and The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series (reviewed here). While it’s hard for any other releases to find sun in the long shadows cast by these major sets, here are a couple that deserve consideration.
The Pacific (HBO) – Winner of eight Emmy Awards (including Outstanding Miniseries), the epic portrait of the war in the Pacific in World War II comes from the producers of Band of Brothers as a companion piece to that series and a contrast to the warfare that faced American servicemen. The ten-hour production follows three soldiers—PFC Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale, now the star of AMC’s Rubison), PFC Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello) and medal of honor winner Sgt. John Basilone (Jon Seda)—from Pearl Harbor and the first battles on Guadalcanal across the Pacific (and back home for Bond drives) to Okinawa and V-J Day and finally homecoming, which is filled with just as much anxiety as some of the battles, though for very different reasons. We face shadowy soldiers storming out the cover of jungle with the darkness split by the flare of gunfire and grenades, endure the bombs raining on American camps and the tropical rains that bring sickness and rot and watch the horrors of jungle warfare and the crushing pressure of constant combat that wears men down as sure as gunfire and shrapnel.
Like its predecessor, it is a handsome and intelligent production that communicates by focusing on the individuals under fire. We are not witness to the major events of the war but learn about them the same way the men do—as a piece of news passed down through the ranks, incomplete and bereft of details. When the buzz about the bomb dropped on Hiroshima gets to the soldiers, our knowledge gives the moment a resonance the characters are unable to understand. As you work through their stories, their victories and their sacrifices, you may forget that these characters are in fact based on real-life Americans but the production doesn’t. In the final moments of the show, portraits of the actors dissolve into stills of the real soldiers and brief biographical notes about their lives after the war. In its own way, it is as moving as the dramatizations of their experience. The six-disc set features includes prologues narrated by Tom Hanks and documentaries on the production and the historical background. The Blu-ray features the exclusive “Enhanced Viewing” mode, a running audio/video picture-in-picture track with historical commentary and supplementary information.
Evening Primrose (Entertainment One) – Aspiring poet Charles Snell (Anthony Perkins) hides out in a New York City department store as it closes for the evening and breaks into song, only to discover there’s an entire secret society living there unknown to the world, with their own arcane social order and rigorous timetable overseen by the imperious Mrs. Monday (Dorothy Stickney). This sweetly offbeat original B&W TV musical, with a script by James Goldman and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, plays like a musical version of a Twilight Zone episode (you’ll know which one I’m talking about when you see it) and has been unavailable in any form since its 1966 debut on ABC Stage 67 until this DVD debut. Also features a new video interview with director Paul Bogart, a new audio interview with co-star Charmian Carr and original test footage of Perkins (in color), plus a booklet
Renegade: The Complete Series (Mill Creek) – “He was a cop and good at his job but he committed the ultimate sin and testified against other cops gone bad. Cops that tried to kill him but got the woman he loved instead. Framed for murder, now he prowls the badlands. An outlaw hunting outlaws, a bounty hunter, a renegade.” Lorenzo Lamas plays cop-turned-outlaw Reno Raines, a bounty hunter who teams up with Bobby Sixkiller (Branscombe Richmond) and his little sister Cheyenne Phillips (Kathleen Kinmont) to bring in the toughest criminals with the biggest bounties. Stephen J. Cannell created this show, kind of a low-budget riff of his earlier hit The A-Team (even the opening narration echoes the earlier show) with a pared down cast and more modest means, and kept it running for five seasons in first-run syndication. He even gave himself a role in the show: Lt. Donald “Dutch” Dickerson, Reno’s nemesis. Mill Creek no offers a bargain collection featuring all 110 episodes (including the DVD debut of the final two seasons) on 20 discs in a curious but effectively designed keep case that holds the discs in separate paper sleeves stacked in a snug holder.
Also new this week: In Treatment: The Complete Second Season (HBO) (it actually was released a couple of weeks ago but my copy arrived long after street date, too late to even begin wading through the dense show), Ocean Adventures with Jean Michel Cousteau (PBS), a collection of ten episode from the natural history series, the British miniseries Murderland (BFS) and Star Wars – The Clone Wars: The Complete Season Two (Warner).