Apr 8, 2007

Jason King Coming To DVD In USA

The 1971 cult British TV series Jason King is coming to Region 1 DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment on May 1, 2007. The great Peter Wyngarde stars as the titular hero, spun off from the best of ITC's Avengers clones, Department S. Jason King is a big-haired fop who traverses Europe romancing beautiful women and sporting incredibly scary facial hair. He also gets roped into plenty of espionage adventures, though he tries his best to avoid them, preferring to focus on writing his trashy "Mark Caine" thrillers.

James Chapman aptly describes Jason King in his essential Saints & Avengers as "the most parodic of all the British adventure series, surpassing even The Avengers" and correctly calls the title character "the most absurdly camp hero in the history of television detectives." He goes on to observe that "although all popular culture is a product of and for its times, this truism is especially so in the case of Jason King. The excessively dandyish playboy hero belongs to that moment in the early 1970s when the cultural changes of the previous decade had reached their fullest expression, especially in respect of fashion and permissive sexuality." It would be impossible to separate Jason King from that frilly Seventies fashion, and Image is latching onto it, comparing King to Austin Powers in their copy.

I'm really floored by the news that Jason King is coming out in America, not only because it's relatively unknown here, but also because I would have expected its predessor, Department S, first. I can't believe we're getting Jason King before the Brits! Unfortunately, Image's DVD set is unlikely to contain the many extras found on Umbrella's Australian release.


David said...

Last year, a friend and I made a pact, that if I bought Department S, he would buy Jason King. So we did just that. I am sure I got the better part of the bargain. Department S is great entertainment, and as the series progresses, Wyngarde's character (Jason King) begins to feature more and more.

In fact, when Peter Wyngarde toured Australia in the early 70's, he was greeted with mass hysteria, which hadn't been seen since The Beatles. (Apparently in the city, Melbourne where I live, he laid his hands in cement - somewhere. I'll have to track it down and make a pilgrimage).

But then I started on The Jason King series. It is weird and I have struggled to get through many episodes. For me, the problem is that fact and fiction blur to readily. Maybe the series improves?

But if it was me, I be wanting Department S ahead of Jason King.

Tanner said...

I'd read about Peter Wyngarde's cult status in Australia, but it's good to hear a confirmation. That's hilarious!

Yeah, based on the two episodes I've seen of Jason King I'd say you definitely got the better end of the pact. Department S is a GREAT show. The pilot of Jason King had exactly the problem you mention, confusingly blurring "reality" and fiction. The other episode on the dvd (about Intelligence operatives basing their wall-crossings on Len Deighton) didn't do that at all (and was quite enjoyable) so I had hoped it was just the pilot. Guess not. Still, based on Department S and that episode I'm looking forward to seeing Jason King and hoping for the best...

Anonymous said...

I was so excited to get my DVD set of Jason King. You see, my name is Jason King and I was born the day before the tv series premiered (why couldn't I have waited an extra day to be born). When I first learned about the tv series, it suddenly made sense to me why sometimes Brits on usenet (mainly back in the 80s) would ask me if I was the "REAL" Jason King.

I haven't watched the whole series but have really enjoyed what I've seen so far. It's a pity the show wasn't shot on better film stock but other than that, it's been fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

You're all dead right about the first episode of Jason King. It's baffling why exactly it was chosen to air as the first episode, seeing how it doesn't really set up the basic concept of the show or feature any of the recurring characters beyond King. Sure, it's clever and witty, but would it make sense to start The Prisoner with 'The Girl Who Was Death'? No, it would not. The second episode would have made a better first episode, and the first episode would have made a better odd late-series diversion.

I've enjoyed most of what I've watched of the other episodes (except for the dreary two-parter), though, especially the one with Nigel Green as one of a pair of crooks who base their crimes around the ones in King's Mark Caine books. But I'll pretty much watch anything with Nigel Green in it. Pit him against Wyngarde, and it's like they were making TV just for me.