Jun 8, 2010

New Spy DVDs Out This Week

Pierre Morel's latest neo-Eurospy movie, From Paris With Love, is out today on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate.  And it boasts plenty of extras tailor-made for spy fans! Besides a commentary with Morel (whose previous neo-Eurospy effort was Taken) and a making-of featurettes ("The Making-of From Paris With Love"), we also get the intriguing "Spooks, Spies and Special Ops: Life Under Cover" and "Secrets of Spy Craft: Inside the International Spy Museum." Those both sound pretty cool! A look at "Charlie Wax's Gun Locker," the theatrical trailer and a trivia game called "Friend or Foe" (Huh? From Paris With Love trivia?  Really?) round out the special features. Oh, and the Blu-ray also includes that idiotic but ubiquitous digital copy of the film, for those of you who care about that. (Anyone? Really?) From Paris With Love isn't as good as Taken or the Transporter movies (previous neo-Eurospy efforts from producer Luc Besson), but it's pretty fun nonetheless.  From the trailers, I thought I was going to hate Travolta and his Charlie Wax persona, and for the first twenty minutes I did.  But then suddenly I went from cringing at his bad one-liners and miles-over-the-top delivery to laughing at them.  And in the end, he kind of made the movie rather than ruining it!

From Charlie Wax to Charlie Chan...  Fox and MGM have both had their turns with the classic Earl Derr Biggers' Chinese-American detective; now Warner Home Video releases three of the remaining Sidney Toler Charlie Chan movies made for Monogram in the 1940s, as well as the first of the Roland Winters Chan films, in the boxed set TCM Spotlight: Charlie Chan Collection.  The Forties Chan movies featured even more espionage plots than the Thirties ones, and this set is no exception.  Dangerous Money (1946) is the most obvious spy film in the collection, as Chan investigates the death of an American agent who was searching for money and artwork stolen during World War II on a South Seas cruise to Samoa.  Charlie (Toler) and his well intentioned but bumbling assistants, Number Two Son Jimmy (Victor Sen Young) and chauffeur Chattanooga Brown (Willie Best, stepping in for Mantan Moreland) even use spy gadgets in their investigation of a boatload of suspects.  Other titles in the set include Dark Alibi, The Trap and Winters' debut The Chinese Ring. TCM Spotlight: Charlie Chan Collection, a 4-disc set, retails for $39.98; naturally it's available for pre-order much cheaper on Amazon.  Furthermore, since Deep Discount is in the midst of its annual summer sale, the set can actually be had for just $22 there using the coupon code 25MORE.

Finally, on the other side of the pond, we have the DVD debut of Saracen: The Complete Series from that champion of spy series, Network. Saracen was a 1989 British action show, touted at the time as an updated take on The ProfessionalsSaracen follows the exploits of former SAS and Delta Force commandos, respectively, David Barber (Christian Burgess) and Tom Duffy (Jimmy Clarke), now serving as the top operatives for the global private security firm Saracen Systems, whose clients include governments, industry and individual contractors worldwide.  According to Network's blurb, "under Saracen’s founder and director, retired army officer Colonel Patrick Ansell, the agents take on high-risk tasks too sensitive or unpredictable for other agencies to handle."  Saracen: The Complete Series, a Region 2 PAL release, includes the 1988 pilot The Zero Option (with different lead actors) and all thirteen episodes of the 1989 series. The fan buzz about this show was pretty bad, but while it's clearly no masterpiece, I'm enjoying it so far.  It's set against the backdrop of the very real geopolitics of the late Eighties, which is interesting, and it combines the exciting action of the James Bond side of the spy genre with the moral ambiguity and lack of tidy endings of the Callan school.  The retails for £29.99, but is currently available on Network's website for just £16.99.

Fun trivia: According to a thread on the Commander Bond.net forums, Christian Burgess was once considered as a possible 007 for one of Kevin McClory's many attempts to make another rogue Bond movie in the 1990s.

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