May 11, 2010

New Spy DVDs Out This Week

The only major spy release this week in the United States (on DVD and Blu-ray) is Casino Royale director Martin Campbell's Edge of Darkness, the 2010 film remake of his own brilliant 1985 miniseries.  While the spy angle has diminished since the Cold War setting of the original, it is certainly still present in the new version.  Mel Gibson plays a Boston cop investigating the murder of his only daughter.  His investigation leads him into murky waters as he encounters private security operatives, agents of nebulous government intelligence branches, shady congressmen and CEOs of massive, seemingly evil corporations—the 21st Century's most ubiquitous villains.  While the story is neither as complex nor as weird as that of the original British miniseries, Campbell delivers a very effective thriller nonetheless, punctuated with moments of brutal action.  Par for the course for Warner Home Video, the DVD doesn't appear to contain any bonus features.  The Blu-ray/DVD Combo, however, includes additional and alternate scenes and featurettes on Gibson, Campbell, "Boston as a Character" and "Revisiting the Edge of Darkness Miniseries."

Meanwhile, in England, Region 2 spy fans get the remainder of one of the best spy television shows of all time with Callan: The Colour Years from Network.  This set, which follows Callan: The Monochrome Years (containing the surviving episodes from the first two seasons), includes all twenty-two colour episodes from the Thames Television-produced seasons (or "series," as they say in Britain) three and four.  Callan stars Edward Woodward as the titular agent of "The Section," the branch of British Intelligence that gets all the dirtiest assignments.  It's grim and gritty (very much the anti-Bond) but certainly never boring!  In fact, Callan features far more action than other "serious" Seventies spy shows like The Sandbaggers or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and the color seasons lay it on even thicker than the monochrome ones. In keeping with the show’s spirit, though, the action is messy, brutal and often surprisingly grisly for Seventies television. Does the extra gunplay in the color years taint the show's trademark realism? Perhaps, ever so slightly, though certainly not in its occurrence but in its frequency. But does it make the show more exciting? Undoubtedly. This is a serious spy show that depresses and entertains in equal measure, and the latter cancels out the former. Callan is a series that can satisfy both serious-minded and escapist spy tastes. Hardcore realists who scoff at James Bond can nod along at the extistentialism of it all and secretly enjoy action they might otherwise disparage in acceptable doses. And escapists who prefer 007 to Smiley can enjoy that action while at the same time being exposed to the realistic tradecraft, backstabbing politics and masterful manipulations that Le Carré fans are so familiar with. It’s a win/win scenario. Callan is compelling, terrific spy television for every taste. Callan: The Colour Years, a six-disc set, retails for £79.99, but can currently be had for just £51.99 from Network's website or for £56.99 from

Read my review of the US release of the first color season here.
Read my review of the US release of the second color season here.
Read my review of Network's UK release of Callan: The Monochrome Years here.


Delmo said...

Any word on whether the Network version is uncut or not?

Radu Prisacaru said...

How long do you spend writing on your blog per month?

Tanner said...

Delmo--I believe so (and they believe so), but I'm still not 100% positive yet.

Radu--WAY too much time! I've never quantified it--and I have a feeling it would be depressing to do so--but definitely a lot. Of course, it ebbs and flows depending on what else I'm working on. I wish I could maintain this pace all the time...