Wow, this is one of those weeks with just a ton of new spy DVDs! That's why it's taken me an extra day to compile this post. As always, please consider supporting this site by buying these titles from the Amazon links here if they catch your fancy.
On a huge day for spy releases, USA's summer hit Covert Affairs (which made my own list of the best new spy TV shows of 2010) is probably the biggest domestic release. Covert Affairs (review here) stars Piper Perabo as freshman CIA officer Annie Walker. While there are a few of the soap opera elements that have haunted the genre since Alias, Covert Affairs is mainly a spy show as workplace dramady. I've always been a fan of the "desk" side of the spy drama, and I think Covert Affairs handles the office politics better than any other US spy series I can think of. (Certainly better than the melodramatic histrionics of CTU!) Of course, this is still a USA show, which means it's got its share of in-the-field excitement as well. It's a solid, fairly believable, character-driven espionage series that should appeal to all fans of the genre. If you missed it on TV, give it a try on DVD. Extras include commentaries on three episodes featuring stars Piper Perabo and Christopher Gorham, executive producers Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and David Bartis and show creators Matt Corman and Chris Ord, deleted scenes, a gag reel, an exclusive tour of the Covert Affairs set, featurettes ("Welcome to The Farm," "Blind Insight") and a descriptive narration of the visual elements of the series for visually impaired viewers. Covert Affairs: Season One, a 3-disc set, retails for $59.98, but can currently be ordered from Amazon for nearly half that.
From Acorn comes another obscure British spy series—this one from the Nineties. Circles of Deceit stars ITV mainstay Dennis Waterman (The Sweeny, Minder) and consists of four TV movies made in 1995 and '96: Circle of Deceit, Dark Secret, Kalon and Sleeping Dogs. Waterman plays a former special-forces operative who remains on call for MI5. His assignments find him taking on Irish terrorists, tracking down professional assassins, and pitting his wits against ruthless drug dealers. But, true to the genre, some of his deadliest adversaries are his devious bosses who keep him on a need-to-know basis, forcing him to rely on his instincts and his training in a world of betrayal, danger, and deceit. Guest stars include Derek Jacobi, John Hannah, Peter Vaughan and Leo McKern (The Prisoner). Retail for the 2-disc set is $49.99, but naturally Amazon's got it for substantially less.
Four years ago it was rumored to be part of a Warner Paul Newman Collection on DVD, but that never materialized. Two years ago, Warner reps said it was still in the works. But it still didn't appear. Now, The Prize is finally available... but on MOD instead of DVD, from The Warner Archive. It's still fully remastered though. Writer Ernest Lehman shamelessly rips off his own script for North By Northwest in this lightweight Stockholm-set thriller starring Paul Newman, Elke Sommer and Edward G. Robinson. Instead of a biplane, Paul Newman outruns a... truck. (Um, yeah. Not quite as exciting.) Instead of rudely interrupting an auction to evade the baddies by getting himself arrested, he rudely interrupts a nudist meeting for the same reason. It’s not a great movie like Hitchcock's, but it's a damn good imitation and it's seriously entertaining. And, best of all, it’s got Elke... and that’s all that really matters. A day with another Elke Sommer spy movie on DVD is a good day.
Universal follows up last fall's release of Season 1 of the cult classic 70s show with The Bionic Woman: Season 2. Lindsay Wagner stars as Jamie Sommers, bionic agent of the super-secret OSI (Office of Scientific Investigations) who undertakes increasingly dangerous covert missions at the behest of her boss, Oscar Goldman. Unlike the truncated first season, the second season includes a full 24 episodes. Better still, it also includes two crossover episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man so you've got the complete package! Retail is $39.98; Amazon's got it now for $26.99.
Last week saw the UK release of Optimum's The Complete Avengers: 50th Anniversary Edition. This is the big one. This set assembles all five sets (Seasons 2-6 as well as the few surviving first season episodes) of special features-laden, remastered Avengers DVDs that Optimum put out over the past two years. The picture on these discs looks better than you've ever seen it before, but the individual releases were plagued with technical issues. Fortunately, this complete set contains fixed versions of all the discs, minus all the flaws. So if you've been holding out, well, then you're in luck. Buy now. If you've been buying all the individual releases, well, the bad news isn't over yet. You see, the best feature of this massive, 39-disc set is an exclusive bonus DVD containing the Holy Grail(s) of Avengers curiosities (well, my own Holy Grails, at least, ever since I learned of their existence 13 years ago): the 8mm short films Diana Rigg made following her color series, Das Diadem (The Golden Schlusse) and Mini Killers. For reasons known only to her, Rigg agreed to star as a very Emma Peel-like character in these silent fan films made by wealthy German and Spanish amateur auteurs. By all accounts, they're weird and not worth thirteen years of pursuit. But I still need to see them, and they're still wonderful extra bonus features. And they're still available only with this set, along with a featurette on the show's locations, some archival trailers and a few more first season episode reconstructions. And besides that new stuff, of course you also get all the amazing value-added content from the individual releases. The only thing you don't get is The New Avengers. I'm not sure why Optimum didn't just go all the way and include that too, but it's available on its own (and at quite a bargain price right now on Amazon.co.uk). The Complete Avengers: 50th Anniversary Edition, a must-own spy title if ever there was one, sells for a prohibitive £143.99 on Amazon.co.uk.
Finally, though it's not a spy series, another new DVD from last week worth noting is the BFS release of The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders starring Doctor Who's Alex Kingston and, more relevantly, co-starring Daniel Craig and Diana Rigg. But the combination of James Bond and Emma Peel together isn't even why I'm mentioning this. I'm mentioning it because of Craig's hair, which definitely counts in the "misfortunes" category of the title. In fact, all three of those words in that tagline on the cover refer to the hair: "Notorious. Scandalous. Unforgettable!" As a document of the current 007's worst hair ever, this DVD earns a mention here.