New Spy DVDs Out This Week
Wow, there is a deluge of new spy titles available this week! An embarrassment of riches sure to make spy fans poor... but satisfied. And a lot of it is really essential stuff, too.
MI-5: Volume 8
It feels like it's been forever since we had the last volume of MI-5 (known as Spooks in its native Britain), but I guess it's really only been a year. It always seems so long between these releases, but the next volume always arrives just in time to quench my thirst for this compelling, addictive and consistently solid UK spy series. (We actually won't have to wait so long for Volume 9, however; BBC has already announced that they'll release it this summer putting America somewhat more on track with the UK release schedule.) MI-5: Volume 8 sees the usual threats to British security and (I hear) the usual high fatality rate amongst the regulars. But it also sees the rare return of someone who left the show: Ruth Evershed. The 3-disc set is happily somewhat cheaper than previous volumes, with an SRP of $39.98, though it can currently be found on Amazon for just $27.99.
Man, any single one of these titles would make this a good week for spy releases! Acorn treats American spy fans to this ITC classic for the first time. The titular Man in a Suitcase, McGill (Richard Bradford) is a spy disavowed by American Intelligence after being set up, forced to take jobs as a freelancer operating out of London. (When you're burned, you're burned!) Man in a Suitcase has a reputation as being darker and grittier than other popular ITC series like The Saint and Danger Man, and it is... but it's still not as dark and certainly not as bleak as something like Callan. In fact, it strikes a happy medium likely to appeal in equal measure to fans of Callan and The Saint. Acorn's Set 1 (in a very attractive four-disc flipper case) contains the show's first fifteen episodes, amounting to half of its entire first season. It doesn't include any of the extras found on the Region 4 or Region 2 releases, but it does look amazing–better than I've ever seen it look before. The weird thing is the order that the episodes are presented in. I guess it must be the original broadcast order, though it's not production order. The upshot is that the first episode produced, "Man From the Dead," which serves wonderfully as a pilot and sets up the show's premise, doesn't come until Disc 2. Acorn's set instead begins with "Brainwash," which is certainly a flashier episode less bogged down by exposition, but not really a great one to start with. I'd recommend watching "Man From the Dead" first. Also among the fifteen episodes in this set are "Variation on a Million Bucks, Part 1" and "Variation on a Million Bucks, Part 2," notable because they were edited together into the feature film To Chase a Million for theatrical release in Europe, making this the first official Region 1 release of that Eurospy movie, albeit in two parts. Retail is $59.99, but Amazon's got it for $44.99.
Acorn alone is spoiling spy fans today. In addition to Man in a Suitcase, the company also releases Wish Me Luck: Series 2. While Series 1 of this fact-based, wartime espionage drama about the women who worked for Britain's Special Operations Executive and parachuted into occupied France to risk their lives for their country had seen a Region 1 release prior to Acorn's reissue, Series 2 has never before been available on DVD in the U.S. Spy favorite Julian Glover co-stars with Kate Buffery, Lynn Farleigh, Jane Snowden and Jane Asher. Retail is $39.99, but it's currently ten bucks cheaper on Amazon.
One of last year's most entertaining spy movies, RED, is out today from Summit Entertainment as a Special Edition DVD, a Special Edition Blu-ray and a movie-only Blu-ray. Some of the intriguing extras on the DVD include deleted and extended scenes and an audio commentary with Retired (but presumably not Extremely Dangerous) CIA field officer Robert Baer (the model for George Clooney's character in Syriana, who also recently contributed to a featurette on the From Paris With Love DVD). The Blu-ray contains all that as well as an "Access: RED" feature boasting "a variety of scene-specific features including interviews with cast members, animated documentary shorts on controversial CIA operations, and more." Sounds cool! RED stars Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Mary Louise Parker, Richard Dreyfuss and Brian Cox. Read my full review here.
Music Box Films releases the final Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's international phenomenon The Millennium Trilogy today on both DVD and Blu-ray. (Daniel Craig stars in an American take on the material filming now.) The series started as a very, very dark sort of Agatha Christie-type mystery with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, then ventured into Robert Ludlum territory in its second installment, The Girl Who Played With Fire and finally blossoms into a full-fledged spy thriller in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I've only seen the first movie so far (which was quite good), but I loved the books and I'm eager to see the others. If you haven't gotten any of them yet, though, and think you'll want them all, you might want to hold off for The Stieg Larsson Trilogy, which will collect all three films, along with an exclusive bonus disc, available on both DVD and Blu-ray next month.