Sep 28, 2011

New Spy DVDs and Blu-rays Out This Week and Last

New Spy DVDs and Blu-rays Out This Week and Last

I still haven't seen the BBC period drama The Hour (which weaves spy elements into a journalism story), starring Romola Garai, Dominic West and Ben Wishaw, but I've got it on my DVR and am very much looking forward to checking it out eventually. If you didn't record it, though (or don't get BBC America), you too can now check it out, too, because it's out on DVD and Blu-ray this week! BBC describes The Hour as "a thrilling six-part drama set in 1950s London when the BBC is about to launch an entirely new way of presenting the news. The dynamic Bel (Garai) is chosen to produce the new program, to be called "The Hour," with handsome and well connected Hector (West) set to become the anchor, much to the annoyance of Freddie (Whishaw), a brilliant and outspoken journalist, whose passion continually lands him in trouble. Over the six episodes, the interplay of intense ambitions between our rising news team play out against the backdrop of a mysterious murder and Freddie's controversial and dangerous investigation." Extras on these 2-disc sets include a behind-the-scenes featurette and an "Era Special" about Fifties style. The DVD will run you $34.98; SRP for the Blu-ray is $39.98. Of course, both are available cheaper at various online retailers.

Also this week in the category of not-quite-spy but certainly spy-related, The Criterion Collection brings us DVD and Blu-ray editions of Olivier Assayas' 2010 epic Carlos. If you were annoyed that the Matt Damon films of Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne novels omitted the notorious real-life terrorist who served as Bourne's primary antagonist in the books, this 339-minute opus is sure to deliver all the Ilich Ramírez Sanchez action you could possibly desire. Carlos tracks the man better known as Carlos the Jackal (a nickname given by the press and inspired by another spy novel, Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal) in what Criterion's copy describes as "an intensely detailed account of the life of the infamous international terrorist."
One of the twentieth century’s most-wanted fugitives, Carlos was committed to violent left-wing activism throughout the seventies and eighties, orchestrating bombings, kidnappings, and hijackings in Europe and the Middle East. Assayas portrays him not as a criminal mastermind but as a symbol of seismic political shifts around the world, and the magnetic Édgar Ramírez [who, oddly, did appear as an antagonist in The Bourne Ultimatum, just not Carlos] brilliantly embodies him as a swaggering global gangster. Criterion presents the complete, uncut, director-approved, five-and-a-half-hour version of Carlos.
This release is the full 339-minute version that aired as a mini-series on European and American television (and is available to view on Netflix streaming), not the cut-down theatrical version released in some movie theaters. Besides Criterion's usual high-definition digital transfer (supervised by cinematographers Denis Lenoir and Yorick Le Saux), the DVD and Blu-ray editions include new video interviews with Assayas, Ramírez, and Lenoir, selected-scene commentary from Lenoir, the hour-long documentary on the terrorist's real-life career "Carlos: Terrorist Without Borders," an archival interview with Carlos associate Hans-Joachim Klein, a feature-length documentary on a Carlos bombing not included in the film called "Maison de France," a twenty-minute making-of documentary on the film’s OPEC raid scene, the original theatrical trailer and a booklet featuring essays by critics Colin MacCabe and Greil Marcus, as well as a timeline of Carlos’s life and biographies of selected figures portrayed in the film, written by Carlos’s historical adviser, Stephen Smith. That's a heck of a lot of extras! As always with Criterion, the price is a bit steep... but with all those extras, you'll get your money's worth! Both the 4-disc DVD and the 2-disc Blu-ray will un you $49.95 at SRP, but of course both can be found online at substantial discounts.

Last week I somehow overlooked the most exciting release of the week... Network's  40th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of The Persuaders!: The Complete Series! Not sure how I did that. (I guess it wasn't foremost in my mind because I don't own an all-region Blu-ray player. Can anyone recommend a cheap one?)  Like all of Network's Blu-ray releases, The Persuaders! is coded for Region B, limiting it primarily to European and Australian viewers and necessitating an all-region Blu-ray player for everyone else. The picture looks stunning (a vast improvement over any DVD version I've seen), as evidenced even in the promotional video we saw in July. In addition to that, Network has lived up to our high expectations of the company and provided a wealth of bonus material. Some of it was included on their previous DVD collection (which already boasted some pretty impressive extras), and some (most tantalizingly a new 156-page book by Andrew Pixley!) is new to this set. Here's the rundown:

• Digitally restored, High Definition transfers
• 156 page fully-bound book of viewing notes by Andrew Pixley
• Recently found, extensive textless material (including some behind the scenes) (HD)
• Previously unseen alternate title sequence (HD)
• Extensive HD image galleries of rare and previously unseen stills
• 1972 Sun TV Awards footage with Tony Curtis
• Contemporary French interview on location from 1971
• Moore and Curtis reunion on the Alan Titchmarsh Show from 2008
• Merchandise image gallery (HD)
The Morning After - Remembering The Persuaders! exclusive documentary
• Commentaries with Roger Moore, Tony Curtis and production staff
• AVROSkoop contemporary documentary from 1971
• Top of the Pops promotional video for John Barry's theme
• Promotional spots
• Trailers and archive newsreel footage
• Tony Curtis interviewed by Russell Harty
• French titles
• Commercial break bumpers
• Script PDFs
• International movie versions and trailers for London Conspiracy, Mission: Monte Carlo, Sporting Chance and The Switch
• and more

Those "international movie versions" were feature films created for the foreign market by editing together two episodes of the series. They were previously available on the company's DVD set, as were the documentary and commentaries. I'm glad that all of that stuff is presented again on this collection, making it truly a complete package. (Well... almost complete. I'm guessing Network probably haven't managed to license the alternate commentary tracks recorded for A&E's Region 1 DVD release.) All 24 episodes of the fantastic series (probably my favorite ITC show) have undergone an HD restoration this Blu-ray edition.

The 8-disc set retails for £79.99. However, it can currently be ordered directly from Network's website for just £53.10. There's also a new standard-def DVD edition with the same 40th Anniversary artwork running £51.05 (£34.72 from Network), but I can't tell from the product description if it includes the new special features (and the book) or if it's merely a repackaging of the old DVD version. Sadly, I suspect the latter.

1 comment:

Simes said...

I think I have solved the cookie problem which meant I had to post as 'anonymous'!

Anyhow, I've had The Persuaders! for about a week. Only viewed some episodes so far, but I think in general the picture - and sound is stunning. Compliments to the restoration team. It's a very nice package overall and Andrew Pixley's book is most informative and extremely well researched (and printed on very good quality paper...)

My only concern is that the packaging is rather flimsy, and unless care is taken it's going to dent and damage very easily, especially with the passage of time.

But yes - highly recommended!

- Simon