New Spy DVDs Out This Week
After a bit of a drought, there are finally some big spy releases again this week.
First and foremost, on the big-budget studio front, there's Knight and Day, available as a single-disc DVD, a 3-Disc DVD/Blu-ray Combo Pack with Digital Copy, and a "limited time Holiday Gift Set," which seems to be the same as the Combo Pack, but without the stupid digital copy. (That one also works out to be the cheapest.) Special features on all three versions include the featurettes "Wilder Knights and Crazier Days," "Boston Days and Spanish Nights," "Story," "Scope" and "Knight and 'Someday': Featuring the Black Eyed Peas and Tom Cruise" (which may actually be the worst special feature ever on a DVD!), the viral videos "Soccer" and "Kick" and the theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray configurations will include all that plus the BD-Live Extras "What’s New, "Live LookUp," "Exclusive: Not Your Regular Spy" and "Highlight: Excerpt from Wilder Knights and Crazier Days." (No, I'm not quite sure what the advantage is of having an excerpt from a featurette also included in its entirety, but there you have it.) SRP is $39.99 for the 3-disc Combo Pack (though it's half that right now on Amazon), $34.98 for the limited Holiday Gift Set (also cheaper, of course) and $29.98 for the DVD (ditto). I wish they'd had the courage to stick with the film's really cool theatrical poster design for the cover, but given its poor box office reception it was probably a good idea to switch to a more traditional show-the-stars'-faces look. And as far as star face DVD covers go, this one's actually not bad. This movie got a bad rap because the press wanted Tom Cruise to fail, but I found it to be a lot of fun. (Read my review here.)
Whodunnit? is a Callan reunion of sorts. Whodunnit? is a unique panel gameshow from the Seventies hosted by Callan himself, Edward Woodward, on which Russell Hunter (Lonely on Callan) is one of the guests. The show challenged celebrity contestants to solve a fictional murder mystery. I'm not familiar with it myself, but it sounds kind of awesome! According to Network's description, Whodunnit? "presented short dramas laden with clues to be pieced together by the panellists, who would then question the characters involved and finally point the finger at the most likely suspect; lively repartee was the order of the day." Other guests appearing on the first season (which is what you get, along with the pilot, on this 2-disc set) include James Bond author Kingsley Amis and real-life private eye Anne Summer. The PAL Region 2 DVD retails for £19.99, but can be ordered from Network's website for just £11.99.
Scorpion Tales, an anthology series of six one-hour plays "each linked by the scorpion-like twist in its denouement," according to Network's publicity. Of most interest to spy fans will be the Prisoner-like sixth episode, "Truth or Consequence" by Brian Phelan, which follows a jet pilot who sets out for a training course at a remote secret service base. En route, he finds his car has been sabotaged, and on arriving, he is subjected to physical and mental abuse and accused of passing on intelligence documents. Terrifyingly, both his wife and father seem to be in collusion with the military authorities. He doesn't know what to believe, or to whom can he turn for help. Scorpion Tales, a 2-disc PAL Region 2 release, retails for £19.99. It can currently be ordered from Network's website, though, for just £14.99. (And there's a sale going on on web exclusives that makes it even cheaper still: £10.49!)
Who? from Scorpion Releasing (speaking of scorpions), and BBC released Sherlock the week before. As previously reported, Who? is a 1974 Cold War spy-fi movie starring Elliott Gould and Trevor Howard, based on the novel by Algis Budrys (thanks, Tex). The plot mixes espionage and robots–but in a very gritty, serious, Seventies way, not a Sixties Casino Royale/Some Girls Do Way. Scorpion's DVD will contain a plethora of bonus features, including separate audio commentaries with director Jack Gold and star Elliott Gould, an interview with co-star Edward Grover and a brand new 16x9 (1.78:1) widescreen transfer. Retail is $19.95, but of course it's cheaper on Amazon.
Lucifer Box creator Mark Gatiss and current Doctor Who (speaking of Who?) producer Steven Moffat. Benedict Cumberbatch (the upcoming Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and The Office's Martin Freeman (soon to be Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit) star as Holmes and Watson, respectively. (Sorry; "Sherlock" and "John" as they're now referred to.) As with many of the best Holmes adaptations, it uses the character of Sherlock's brother Mycroft Holmes to inject a healthy dose of espionage into the proceedings. Mycroft (played by an actor who should probably be recognizable to fans of the material covered on this blog) pops up in two of the three feature-length episodes, and the final one, "The Great Game," is partially an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's very best spy tale, "The Bruce Partington Plans." Beyond the spy angle, though, this is hands-down the best adaptation of Sherlock Holmes in years, and just so much fun. Bond composer David Arnold provides the soundtrack. Sherlock: Season One is available on DVD (SRP $29.99, but obviously available cheaper if you look in the right places) and Blu-ray ($39.99, but currently discounted enough on Amazon that it's actually cheaper than the DVD). To make up for the fact that the "season" contains only three episodes (only in England!), there are lots of bonus features, including commentaries by Gatiss, Moffat and others, a making-of featurette and--best of all--the unaired, original, hour-long version of the pilot, which was totally reshot.