Feb 16, 2012

New Spy DVDs Out This Week

I never expected to see a Region 1 release of the 1989-90 ITV series Frederick Forsyth Presents, but thanks to Timeless Media Group, here it is! That awkwardly Photoshopped cover isn't representative of the six classy TV movies contained on 3 discs within. These movies are mostly based on novellas contained in Forsyth's book The Deceiver. Alan Howard (best known as the voice of the Ring in the Lord of the Rings movies) plays unorthodox spymaster Sam McCready, Forsyth's answer to George Smiley. McCready generally takes a backseat, however, to the people he's manipulating in each story. This formula enabled the producers to bring in big guest stars for each film, including Elizabeth Hurley, Lauren Bacall, Brian Dennehy, Beau Bridges, Chris Cooper, Phillip Michael Thomas, David Threlfall and Peter Egan. The ones I've seen are solid productions, and I'm not sure why this series isn't better known. It deserves a place beside other solid Forsyth adaptations like The Day of the Jackal (indeed, one of these stories concerns Carlos, the international terrorist the media dubbed "the Jackal" after Forsyth's book!), and especially the Pierce Brosnan and Michael Caine starrer The Fourth Protocol. (Fans of that film should definitely give this release a try.) This budget release, priced at just $14.98 (and even less on Amazon) will no doubt prove to be one of those nice little cheap gems for spy fans eager for more serious espionage dramas in the serious vein of le Carre. Since it's Valentine's Day, why not pick it up today for your spy-loving sweetheart?

You've probably seen, or at least heard of, last year's John Madden-directed, English-language version of The Debt starring Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain. Maybe you've even picked up the recent Blu-ray. But have you seen the original Israeli film on which that one was based? If not, now's your chance. American spy fans can now see the 2007 version (originally titled Ha-Hov) of this spy thriller about Mossad agents on the trail of a Nazi war criminal in Cold War Berlin, and the present-day ramifications of their mission, on DVD thanks to MPI. This version is in German and Hebrew with English subtitles. I wasn't crazy about the remake, but I've heard good things about the original and I'm curious to see how the compare. Retail is $24.98, but it's only $14.49 on Amazon right now.

Additionally, the Warner Archive unleashed a wave of MOD spy fare this week.

British Agent is Michael Curtiz's epic 1934 spy romance set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. Leslie Howard is the titular British agent, and Kay Francis is a dedicated Communist who happens to love him... yet has orders to gather evidence against him that will surely lead to his death. Though this airs from time to time on TCM, I've never seen it. That cover, though, is pretty awesome, and makes me want to. British Agent is already available directly from the Warner Archive for $19.95, and available to pre-order from Amazon.

Forgotten funnymen Wheeler and Woolsey get up to 1930s-style antics in Diplomaniacs. The studio copy gives you some idea of exactly what those antics entail: "Whisked away by the oil-rich Oopadoop Indians, the pair are offered a million dollars by the chief of the tribe to represent them at the Geneva peace talks. What ensues is madcap hilarity on a steamship that goes in endless circles due to a drunken captain. The pair dodges assassination attempts and is spied on by the team of Schmerzenpuppen, Puppenschmerzen, Schmerzenschmerzen and Puppenpuppen!" If that sounds up your alley, Diplomaniacs is available today from Warner Archive and for pre-order from Amazon.

Straight-edge Efram Zimblast, Jr. leads the chase in the deadly serious 1960s Quinn Martin show The FBI, and The Second Season is available this week from the Warner Archive, split into Part One and Part Two, available this week from Warner Archive and to pre-order from Amazon. Part One features Mission: Impossible star Peter Graves as a guest star, along with Octopussy villain Louis Jourdan, On Her Majesty's Secret Service villain Telly Savalas and Archer's mom, Jessica Walter. A fact-based series, The FBI drew story ideas directly from the Bureau's actual casefiles, and J. Edgar Hoover himself served as a creative consultant up until his death in 1972. Like Dragnet, it's all a bit dry, but unlike Dragnet, the show frequently deals with espionage, since that falls within the Bureau's purview. You can actually watch one of those espionage-themed episodes, "The Courrier," guest starring a young Gene Hackman, for free right now. Warner Archive is streaming the episode here through February 17th.

1 comment:

Kees said...

Thanks again Tanner!

I had never seen or heard of this Frederick Forsyth boxset. Very enjoyable 80ies stuff!