Today is a huge day for spy-related DVD releases!
First, and most directly spy-related, is Sony’s two-disc release of the Ridley Scott-produced TNT miniseries The Company, based on the book by Robert Littell. Chris O’Donnell stars as a young man caught up in the early days of the CIA; the great Alfred Molina plays his mentor, and Michael Keaton plays real-life spy hunter James Jesus Angleton. Angleton is, of course, the historical figure upon whom Matt Damon’s character was based in The Good Shepherd, and based on the special features (I haven’t had a chance to watch the miniseries itself yet), The Company looks to have a lot in common with that film. Not only does it cover many of the same actual events and feature the same characters (whom The Good Shepherd vaguely fictionalized), but it also looks very much the same, art direction-wise, and sounds the same, as Jeff Beal’s music is quite reminiscent of Bruce Fowler and Marcelo Zarvos’. Of course, my major complaint about The Good Shepherd was that, as long as it was, it was too short for the story it was trying to tell, so perhaps The Company fares better over three two-hour episodes. In one of the two making-of featurettes, producer Scott mentions some rival stories in production (The Good Shepherd and what else?), but he and John Calley proceeded undaunted, with a script by Black Hawk Down scribe Ken Nolan. Although relatively brief, both featurettes are worth watching, and fans of Littell’s books will be interested in Nolan’s comments on adapting one of them.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 1
Regular readers certainly know how excited I am about this release, as I’ve written quite a lot about it in the past. I think this show was probably my most anticipated DVD of 2007, and Volume 1 is finally here! Twelve discs of historical Indiana Jones adventure, and dozens of meticulously-produced documentaries on the subjects featured in the episodes. Volume 1 doesn’t actually get into the lengthy espionage stage of Young Indy’s career, but it lays the groundwork for it. Going in chronological order (rather than the order in which they originally aired), this set features five adventures of the 9-year-old Indiana Jones (played by Cory Carrier), and two of the teenage adventurer, played by Sean Patrick Flannery. Each “episode,” however, is really a new movie-length adventure, made up of two actual television episodes put together. The original series, then titled The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, ran as hour-long episodes on ABC from 1992-93, and featured wrap-around segments with an elderly Indiana Jones (George Hall) recalling his exploits. These segments are not featured on the DVDs. The movie length seems appropriate, though, since the big name directors and guest stars, exceptionally high production values, and breathtaking location photography (shot in thirty-five countries around the world!) gave the series a very filmic quality.
The Mario Bava Collection, Volume 2
There are no spy movies to be found in Anchor Bay’s second box set of Bava films (the director’s Danger: Diabolik is available as a Special Edition from Paramount, and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs has yet to see a DVD release, although I believe Fox/MGM own the rights), but plenty of other genres are represented, from giallo to gothic to Western to sex comedy. Best of all, this box sees the reissue of two-and-a-half long out-of-print ELKE SOMMER movies, Baron Blood and Lisa and the Devil! (The half is accounted for by House of Exorcism, an appalling version of Lisa re-cut by producer Alfredo Leone into an Exorcist knock-off.) Regular readers are no doubt familiar with my feelings on the sexy spy star Sommer, and her co-star in Lisa and the Devil (the Devil himself) is no less than the very best Blofeld, Telly Savalas. Her equally charming Deadlier Than the Male partner, Sylva Koscina, also appears. Ms. Sommer contributes a commentary track to House of Exorcism, and Tim Lucas does to four others.
Finally, Warner Bros. releases a catalog title today long in demand by fans of the Seventies conspiracy breed of spy movie: Executive Action, starring Burt Lancaster. Executive Action offers a believable, documentary-style account of a sinister plot behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
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