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Barrie Maxwell presents... The British Beat!

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Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

TV DVD Reviews (Continued)

Finally, I've cast my eyes briefly over two megasets that A&E released this past autumn: Rumpole of the Bailey: The Complete Series and Benny Hill: The Thames Years 1969-1989 - The Complete Megaset.

Rumpole of the Bailey: The Complete Series (DVD)Benny Hill: The Thames Years 1969-1989 – The Complete Megaset (DVD)

The appearance of megasets usually signifies the completion of individual season or series releases of the program in question and sometimes an improved packaging with a more attractive price. Of the two new sets, only the Rumpole one offers either of the latter. There was a Rumpole Megaset from A&E in 2006 that listed for about $150 and contained the entire run of 42 episodes on 14 discs plus a number of extras that included the feature film Rumpole's Return. The only item missing was the series pilot show that has been released separately as Rumpole of the Bailey: The Lost Episode by Acorn Media. The new 2010 A&E Megaset has exactly the same content and same transfers as the 2006 one, the only differences being the slipcase packaging which now has a Union Jack background, 7 slimcases (2 discs each for a total of 14), and a nice price reduction to $100 list (and available at considerably lower prices on-line). If you haven't availed yourself of this superior British courtroom comedy/drama, there's no better time than now. Highly recommended. Benny Hill: The Complete Megaset is another matter. Benny Hill is an acquired taste, but those who like him, as they say, like him a lot. In 2007, A&E offered a megaset that included all 58 full-length episodes from the Thames TV period of 1969-1989 on 18 discs and included a number of nice extras scattered throughout. The 18 discs were packaged three each in six keepcases which in turn were housed in a sturdy slipcase. List price was $150. A&E's 2010 megaset offers exactly the same content and transfers, but packages them as six discs in each of three keepcases, all contained in a flimsy cardboard box with flaps on both sides that make it annoying to get at the discs. The list price remains at the same $150 as the previous megaset incarnation. If you're looking to acquire a complete run of the Benny Hill material, I'd stick with the 2007 set, which is still available and with some good discounts possible.

Current and Upcoming Releases

Jonathan Creek: The Specials. Master of illusion and lateral thinker Jonathan Creek lives in a windmill, is employed as the mastermind behind a cut-rate magician and has unusual relationships with women. So it's not surprising that his Christmases are anything but ordinary. Jonathan Creek: Specials includes all 4 of the holiday adventures, including the 2010 special The Judas Tree. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 2

Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files. The villages of Midsomer County seem as placid and pristine as any in England-but just below the surface lie deceit, blackmail and murder. This 16-disc set is packed with 16 sinister crimes tackled by Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby (John Nettles, Bergerac) along with brash Detective Sergeant Dan Scott (John Hopkins, Love in a Cold Climate) and, later, zealous Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes, This Life). From Acorn Media, Nov. 2

Wallander: Faceless Killers/The Man Who Smiled/The Fifth Woman [Blu-ray and DVD]. The award-winning drama returns as Kenneth Branagh resumes the role of Wallander in these three tales set in the beautiful landscape of southern Sweden! From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 2

Sherlock: Season One [Blu-ray and DVD]. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 9

Dr. Who: The Complete Fifth Series. [Blu-ray and DVD]. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 9

Doctor Who: Revenge of the Cybermen. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 2 (Delayed to Nov. 16)

Doctor Who: Silver Nemesis. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 2 (Delayed to Nov. 16)

The World at War. [Blu-ray]. From A&E, Nov. 16.

Wycliffe: Series Four. Three-disc set. From BFS Entertainment, Nov. 16

The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis's enchanting tale comes to life in this BBC adaptation from 1988. This set includes the following complete stories from the series: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 9 (Delayed to Nov. 23)

Lennon Naked. John Lennon is one of the most enduring figures in musical and cultural history. One quarter of 'The Fab Four', peace activist, visual artist and author, he was a man whose personal life was never short on drama, intrigue and eventually, conspiracy. Thirty years after his death, Christopher Eccleston stars as the enigmatic musician in a defining period of his life, as he moved from 'Beatle John' to an icon. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 23

Luther: Season 1. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Nov. 23

Naked Fury (1959, with Reed de Rouen)/Cover Girl Killer (1960, with Harry Corbett). From VCI, Nov. 30

Renown Pictures Crime Thrillers Collection (Murder Can Be Deadly [1962]/The Marked One [1963]/Pit of Darkness [1961]). From VCI, Nov. 30

Tomorrow We Live (1943, with John Clements)/Inquest (1939, with Elizabeth Allan). From VCI, Nov. 30

Sarah Jane Adventures, The: Season 3. Investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith, one-time companion to that strange wanderer in time and space known as the Doctor, is back for more alien-busting adventures. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Jan. 4, 2011

Doctor Who, Story #111: Meglos. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Jan. 11

Doctor Who, Story # 44: The Dominators. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Jan. 11

Skins: Volume 4. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Jan. 11

Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1987. 12 episodes, and includes the 1986 New Year's Special "Uncle of the Bride". From BBC via Warner Home Video, Jan. 18

Merlin: The Complete Second Season. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Jan. 18

Waking the Dead: Season 5. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Jan. 18

Dirty Tricks. Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) is on the run from the law in this saucy British romp—part bedroom farce, part crime caper. He's manipulative, money-grubbing, and amoral, but is he a murderer? Winner of an International Emmy, based on the book by Michael Dibdin (the Aurelio Zen mysteries), this delightful black comedy was seen on BBC America. Approx. 146 min. on 1 DVD. From Acorn Media, Jan. 24.

Guilty, The. Michael Kitchen (Foyle's War) stars in a tense British drama where lives intertwine and everyone is guilty of something. London attorney Steven Vey (Kitchen) has a beautiful wife and a brilliant career. One night, a celebration with his pretty secretary goes too far. Meanwhile, a Birmingham punk fresh out of prison searches for his father and is lured into a conspiracy. Approx. 201 min. on 2 DVDs. From Acorn Media, Jan. 4.

Enemy at the Door: Series 2 - Finale of the gripping WWII drama series based on the harrowing true story of the long Nazi occupation of Britain's Channel Island. The 1978-1980 series stars Alfred Burke (Public Eye) and Robert Horsfall (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), with guest stars John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings), Kenneth Cranham (Rome), Stephanie Cole (Doc Martin), and David Hayman (Trial & Retribution). Intelligent writing, masterful acting and exacting historical detail distinguished the series on public television for years. A 4-disc set. From Acorn Media, Jan. 4

Agatha Christie Hour, The: Set Two. A 2-disc, 5-episode (from the 1980s) set from Acorn Media, Jan. 25.

Elizabeth R. Episodes: The Lion's Cub, The Marriage Game, Shadow of the Sun, Horrible Conspiracies, The Enterprise of England, Sweet England's Pride. This collection recounts the epic life and times of the remarkable Elizabeth I in a cycle of 6 plays. Won multiple Emmy Awards. 4 DVD set. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Jan. 25.

Man in a Suitcase: Set 1. An action-packed Cold War late 1960s drama series from ITV starring Richard Bradford and featuring a host of superb guest stars, including Donald Sutherland (Pride & Prejudice), James Grout (Inspector Morse), Anton Rodgers (Lillie), Nicola Pagett (Upstairs, Downstairs), Peter Vaughan (The Remains of the Day), Stuart Damon (General Hospital), and Judy Geeson (Mad About You). A 4-disc, 15-episode set from Acorn Media, Jan. 25.

Pie in the Sky: Series 4. Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe (Richard Griffiths, Harry Potter, The History Boys) divides his time between catching criminals and his true passion-cooking. The proprietor of Pie in the Sky, his dream restaurant, Crabbe had hoped to while away his retirement serving up his favorite dishes with his accountant wife, Margaret (Maggie Steed, Shine on Harvey Moon). But his boss, Assistant Chief Constable Freddy Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair, Casino Royale), is determined to keep his best detective on the payroll, tackling the cases that only Crabbe's deft touch can solve. A 2-disc set containing 6 episodes running approximately 296 minutes. From Acorn Media, Jan. 25.

Wish Me Luck: Series 2. Based on the real-life stories of women recruited by Britain's Special Operations Executive, Wish Me Luck features strong female characters, tension-filled plots, and historical authenticity. A 2-disc set running approx. 375 minutes for 7 episodes. From Acorn Media, Jan. 25.

Blue Murder: The Complete Collection. A 9-disc set that will include all 19 episodes from ITV's production from 2003-2009, plus bonus materials which consist of text interviews with stars Caroline Quentin and Ian Kelsey, a Behind-the-Scenes Documentary, and cast filmographies. From Acorn Media, February 1

Discovering Hamlet. Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi (Cadfael), two of Britain's greatest actors, stage Shakespeare's greatest tragedy. A behind-the-scenes look at Shakespearean theatre with more than three hours of bonus features, including a new, exclusive interview with Jacobi. In 1988, rising star Kenneth Branagh tackled the role of Shakespeare's prince of Denmark for the first time in his professional career under the guidance of celebrated actor Derek Jacobi, considered "the best Hamlet of his generation". The production also marked Jacobi's directorial debut. Narrated by Patrick Stewart. (2-Disc). From Acorn Media, February 1

The Flockton Flyer: Season One (1976-77). From VCI, February 1

Garrow's Law: Series 1. Courtroom drama set in 18th century England. The 2-disc set will include 4 episodes, plus a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, a photo gallery, cast filmographies and a biography of William Garrow. From Acorn Media, February 1

Single-Handed: Set 1. A lone cop fights crime and corruption in rural Ireland: murder and intrigue on Ireland's remote coast! The 3-disc set will include 3 episodes ("Natural Justice", "The Stolen Child" and "The Drowning Man"), plus a bonus text interview with the producer, and production notes. Running time is 278 minutes. From Acorn Media, February 1

Doctor Who: Episode 63 - The Mutants. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Feb.8

Doctor Who: The Movie - Special Edition. From BBC via Warner Home Video, Feb. 8

Murphy's Law: Series 3. BBC's hit undercover cop series starring James Nesbitt (Waking Ned Devine, Bloody Sunday, Match Point, and Peter Jackson's The Hobbit in 2012) as a maverick Irish cop taking on the London crime world. Murphy's Law ran for five seasons and aired on BBC America in the U.S. From Acorn Media, February 15

New Tricks: Season 3. Showcasing a superb ensemble cast and more mysteries tackled with typical wit and flair, the third season of the hit UK crime series makes its highly anticipated DVD debut. Featuring retired cops solving cold cases, this fresh and funny British crime drama has earned itself fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Broadcast on the BBC for seven seasons since 2003 with an eighth season in production, New Tricks also boasts ongoing public television broadcast exposure in North America. The series stars Amanda Redman (Sexy Beast), Dennis Waterman (The Sweeney), Alan Armstrong (Bleak House), and James Bolam (The Beiderbecke Affair). 3-disc set, 8 episodes plus 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Acorn Media, February 22

Fresh Fields: Set 1. Starring Julia McKenzie (Marple) and Anton Rodgers, the International Emmy-winning comedy seen on PBS makes home video debut. The lighthearted empty-nester comedy has broadcast continually on PBS since the 1980s. McKenzie and Rodgers play a happily married couple adjusting to middle age. The DVD 2-disc set includes the first two series of the affable Brit-com (12 episodes). From Acorn Media, February 22

Midsomer Murders: Set 17. Episodes available to U.S. audiences for the first time. Four new, contemporary, stand-alone mysteries from Acorn's top-selling series. Fan favorite John Nettles (Bergerac) returns as Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby in these engrossing mysteries set in the idyllic villages of England's deadliest county. The episodes in Set 17 are the first part of Series Twelve (2009), and have not been broadcast in the U.S. From Acorn Media, February 22

Murder Investigation Team: Series 1. The hit, realistic procedural crime drama in the vein of CSI reveals the gritty reality of police work. Broadcast on A&E in the U.S. and on ITV in the U.K. (2003), the suspenseful series follows a squad of elite detectives as they investigate horrific crimes in metropolitan London. Meticulously crafted to reflect real-life investigations, each episode brims with twists and tension. From the makers of popular, long-running series, The Bill, the series stars a strong ensemble cast. The DVD set has 3 discs; 8 episodes. From Acorn Media, March 1

Napoleon & Love. The romantic exploits of Napoleon Bonaparte (Ian Holm) as he conquers Europe's battlefields and bedrooms. Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings) leads an illustrious cast in a romantic drama about Napoleon's many loves. Broadcast on A&E and PBS, this sumptuous costume drama follows the. The DVD set has 3-discs with 9 episodes. From Acorn Media, March 1

The Norman Conquests. Alan Ayckbourn's hilarious Emmy-nominated trilogy seen on plays by Alan Ayckbourn and broadcast in the late 1970s as part of PBS' Great Performance PBS. This uproarious study in family dysfunction is told from three angles. Based on the celebrated series, the release follows 2009's hit Broadway revival that garnered the adaptation Tony Award® recognition. The DVD 3-Disc Set features three full-length dramas with pitch-perfect performances by Richard Briers (Good Neighbors), Penelope Keith (To the Manor Born), Penelope Wilton (Match Point), David Troughton (Fingersmith), and Oscar nominee Tom Conti (Shirley Valentine) in a tale of love, lust, and confusion seen from three sides. From Acorn Media, March 1

Dahlziel and Pascoe: Season 3. Four 90-minute episodes on 2 discs: Under World, Child's Play, Bones and Silence, and The Wood Beyond. From BBC via Warner Home Video, March 8

Dr. Who: Episode #23 - The Ark. From BBC via Warner Home Video, March 8

Dr. Who: Episode #85 - Seeds of Doom. From BBC via Warner Home Video, March 8

Judge John Deed: Season Three. Four 90-minute episodes: Health Hazard, Judicial Review, Conspiracy, and Economic Imperative. From BBC via Warner Home Video, March 8

Candlelight in Algeria (1944, James Mason). From VCI, March 15

Child in the House (1956, Phyllis Calvert). From VCI, March 15

Renown British Mystery Double Feature (The 20 Questions Murder Mystery (1950, Robert Beatty)/Tread Softly (1952, Frances Day). From VCI, March 15

Thunder in the City (1937, Edward G. Robinson). From VCI, March 15

The Alan Bennett Collection featuring An Englishman Abroad. Alan Bennett (The History Boys, The Madness of King George) is one of Britain's most popular and prolific playwrights. Following his runaway success with Beyond the Fringe in the Sixties, he began writing for the stage, but soon found that his work transferred easily and effectively to the small screen. This collection, spanning over twenty years from 1972 to 1994, showcases Bennett's observant eye for the absurdities of modern life and his sharp ear for dialogue. The BAFTA-winning An Englishman Abroad was inspired by Coral Browne's real-life encounter with an eccentric Englishman in Moscow. None other than the notorious spy Guy Burgess (Alan Bates), he sends the actress on a rather counterrevolutionary mission. Also includes: The Insurance Man (with Daniel Day Lewis as Franz Kafka), A Question of Attribution (with Prunella Scales as Queen Elizabeth II and James Fox as Sir Anthony Blunt), 102 Boulevard Haussman (with Alan Bates and Janet McTeer) plus early plays A Day Out and Sunset Across the Bay (directed by Stephan Frears) and Our Winnie. Patricia Routledge (Keeping Up Appearances) stars in A Visit from Miss Prothero and A Woman of No Importance. Two film essays, Dinner at Noon and Portrait or Bust, reveal Alan Bennett's unique onscreen presence. Four discs. From BBC via Warner Home Video, March 29

Upstairs Downstairs Complete Series: 40th Anniversary Edition. Featuring more than 25 hours of never-before-seen extras and collectible packaging, the 21-disc collection arrives on DVD two weeks before the PBS premiere of the new BBC revival of the series. From Acorn Media, March 29

Lark Rise to Candleford - The Complete Collection. A 14-DVD set with a running time of 1892 minutes. From BBC via Warner Home Video, April 5.

Lark Rise to Candleford: The Complete Season 4. A 2-DVD set. From BBC via Warner Home Video, April 5

Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1988 and 1989. A 2-DVD package. From BBC via Warner Home Video, April 12

Kes (1969, directed by Ken Loach). Supplements will include: Making Kes - a new documentary featuring Loach, Menges, producer Tony Garnett, and actor David Bradley; The Southbank Show: Ken Loach (1993), a profile of the filmmaker, featuring Loach, Garnett, directors Stephen Frears and Alan Parker, and other Loach collaborators; Cathy Come Home (1967), a feature directed by Loach and produced by Garnett, with an introduction by film writer Graham Fuller; the original theatrical trailer; and a booklet featuring an essay by Fuller. From Criterion, on either DVD or Blu-ray, April 19

Barrie Maxwell

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