About This Item

Preview Image for retro-ACTION! Volume 2
retro-ACTION! Volume 2 (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000139973
Added by: Stuart McLean
Added on: 26/2/2011 21:40
View Changes

Other Reviews, etc
  • Log in to Add Reviews, Videos, Etc
  • Places to Buy

    Searching for products...

    Other Images

    Review for retro-ACTION! Volume 2

    10 / 10

    Wow!! And I mean.WOW!!!

    Many retro-tv lovers like myself were slow adopters of Blu-ray. After all, why splash out for a technology which really only offered high-defintion on new releases? Besides, so many old shows were filmed on blurry video-tape or, at best, grainy 16mm. And even if they weren't , like the many ITC shows filmed on 35mm, surely the market wouldn't justify the updgrade? And even if they did - it would be a rush job and probably not much better than the DVD sets already available.

    Network's splendid work on 'The Prisoner' and the first series of Gerry Anderson's 'Space 1999' and episodes of 'Fireball XL5' have already put pay to that theory.

    And now three wonderful preview sets, hopefully giving an indication of what's to come, each offering a couple of evening's entertainment in the shape of some classic episodes of some classic ITC series, which, if Volume 2 is anything to go by, are simply breath-taking in their quality.

    Who would have thought, for example, that we'd ever see such detail in an episode of 'Gideon's Way' that we could count the specs of dandruff on poor old John Gregson's shoulders? Or such beautifully intense colour and detail on a 'The Saint' episode that it would almost feel like 3D?

    No one, regardless of who they are or where they worked, will have ever seen these shows in such vivid detail. I have the full series DVD sets of all the series featured in Volume 2 (The Saint / Danger Man / The Prisoner / Gideon's Way / Man in a Suitcase) and was looking for a marginal improvement. It takes a lot to encourage me to double-dip. What I wasn't expecting was the quality leap to be so huge. I had never imagined that the source material would look so good, unless serious expense has gone into restoration.

    Of course, this may well account for the seemingly random selection of episodes here. It may not just have been a case of selecting the best episode, but rather the episodes in best condition. That said, it's a fine selection, and I agree with the choices for 'The Prisoner' ('Arrival was the obvious choice) and 'Man in Suitcase' which is one of my all-time favourite episodes.

    But before I start reviewing the specifics of Volume 2 (the set sent by Network) it's worth reminding you of what's on offer across all three volumes as I expect the quality will be equally superb on other editions (with the exception of Jason King which was shot on 16mm).

    The first volume contains episodes from The Champions, Department S , Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, Strange Report and The Persuaders! (1971). Volume 3 contains The Adventures of Robin Hood, Shirley's World, The Invisible Man, The Baron, Return of the Saint, The Zoo Gang, and Danger Man.

    So here's what you get on Volume 2 - and it's an absolute corker!


    Whilst in Monte Carlo the Saint saves the life of Fallouda, the ex-king of Fedyra. Fallouda tells him he aims to return to power by raising money by selling the jewellery of his wife, Queen Adana. The Saint and Adana set out to collect the jewels, worth a cool $6 million - which was a lot of dough back then! The journey starts off a little frostily as the queen is the daughter of a London bus driver and feels Simon Templar should give her more respect. Having warded off one attack the couple obtain the jewels but on the way back to meet Fallouda, their car breaks down. They are offered a lift by a sweet old lady who invites them in for tea - tea which she has drugged because she too is after the queen's jewels. And so it goes, with non-stop action inter-laced with non-stop smarm, delivered as only Roger Moore can!


    International extortionist Gregori Benares marries a lovely young Englishwoman and takes her to Rome; they stay in a villa where the butler is none other than John Drake (Patrick McGoohan). An ally of the shy wife and implacable enemy of the sadistic Benares, Drake exposes the man's kidnapping plot. McGoohan masterfully exploits the dramatic ambiguities in this role, which will also interest observers of The Prisoner's butler. Though some of the links between the two series were arguably literal, there are many other parallels to be drawn.


    After handing in his resignation, the Prisoner (Patrick McGoohan) heads off to his London home to pack for a holiday. He begins to feel faint and ends up unconscious.
    He awakens not in his house but in a strange village. He starts to explore but soon realises that in "The Village" all things such as phone calls, maps and taxis are "only local".
    He is shown around the Village by Number Two, who explains that the information in his head is priceless, and that he wants to know why he resigned.

    If this episode doesn't lure you into buying the whole series then you're a hopeless cause.


    This was an especially interesting watch for me as I have just been watching the early 'Special Branch' series featuring Derren Nesbitt who here plays an escaped, psychopathic villain - which of course he does brilliantly.

    Having escaped from prison with a sidekick in tow, Nesbitt's character, full of sinister charm, sets out to avenge his ex-wife Ruby who's testimony put him in jail in the first place. When his little boy, who refuses to hear a bad word about his father, runs away to be with him, he decides to take the boy's life in order to punish the mother. Enter the CID with Gideon holding the reigns! Gripping drama and an absolutely jaw dropping amount of screen detail in the black and white image.


    British agent Ruth Klinger apparently defects to the East Germans,who set her a loyalty test involving her old flame McGill,in Germany to track down the missing Johann Liedkind. Johann is in fact part of a neo-Nazi revivalist group, which places McGill in a dangerous situation. But at the same time he is faced with a dilemma. How can he escape and save Ruth with him without blowing her cover? The final scenes, with McGill trying to cross the border into no-man's land and beyond, cigarette hanging loose from his lips as he pushes the Beetle's metal to the floor are absolutely incendiary. Though many people are unaware of the series, whenever I've played an episode or two to friends or relatives, they love it. And it's never looked as good as this before.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    Call me weird, but I have sore misgivings about viewing old tv shows in high definition.  Having said that, I'm going to fork out for Volume 1 of this set (the one with The Persuaders on) in a spirit of scientific experimentation.

    Why do I have sore misgivings?  Because I don't think these shows were made to be seen in HD.  Remember, when most of these ITC shows were made, most of the audience was watching them on 405-line black-and-white sets.  Even on repeats the best the picture could look was 625-line colour.  These HD presentations will be at 1080p (i?)  Does the filmmaking of ther era stand up to the closer scrutiny?  If it does, all well and good and I'll be looking forward to seeing shows like The Persuaders and The Avengers in HD but if watching these shows turns into spot-the-wig-lace I'll be disappointed.
    posted by Mark Oates on 1/3/2011 19:30
    Mark - you're right! The quality hidden in these 35mm gems is astonishing, but (I kid you not) dandruff, nicotine stained fingers, make up, dodgy props and more are all clearly visible. It's a weird but quite wonderful experience. Even though it does feel all wrong. Volume 1 looks like the cream of the crop,
    posted by Stuart McLean on 1/3/2011 21:28
    Well, I have forked and now I'm waiting for Volume Oney goodness to land with a thump from the letterbox.  I'm not so anal about movies and tv that I can't be persuaded to hang up a preconception.  It's just a shame there's such a price premium on Blu-ray tv titles otherwise I could be tempted to double-dip on some of my more favourite titles.
    posted by Mark Oates on 2/3/2011 00:56
    One Blu-ray disc all the way from Sony's DADC (as Network's order fulfilment service) landed on the mat today with the aforementioned thump.  I spent the evening watching:
    The Persuaders: Chain of Events - that's the one where Tony Curtis spends the day with a briefcase making like Sidney Poitier (handcuffed to him).
    Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): When Did You Star To Stop Seeing Things? - that's the one where Marty has to recruit hypnotherapist consultant Clifford Evans to free Jeff from Reggie Marsh's basement.
    Department S: A Small War of Nerves - that's the one where Anthony Hopkins has exposed himself to nerve gas and decides to precipitate a ban on chemical warfare by gassing Central London.
    The Champions: The Invisible Man - Peter Wyngarde gives Stuart Damon voices in his head.
    Strange Report: Report 2493: Kidnap - Whose Pretty Girl Are You?  Sally Geeson is apparently kidnapped by Ian Ogilvy and Richard O'Sullivan (possibly to make a series called "Saint About The House"?)

    So, did I change my mind about whether HD would spoil these old favourites by exposing poor production values?

    Did I ever!!   Wow.  Holy Cow.  Fecking Heck!!  (I'm trying to moderate my language).  My gob has been well and truly smacked.

    Of the five shows on the disc, The Persuaders and Strange Report are undoubtedly the best looking - but only by the tiniest of margins.  They all look absolutely stunning in high definition.  I applied the closest scrutiny to The Persuaders being my absolute favourite of the ITC series.  I already have the show as the original Carlton set, and selected discs from the Network DVD release as Reviewer check discs, so comparing the show with the HD wasn't a problem.

    It was as big a revelation as moving from VHS to DVD.  The episode Network had chosen to master in HD - Chain of Events - is one of the best Persuaders episodes.  Written by Terry Nation and directed by Peter Hunt, it's a cross country romp for Roger and Tony as they try to avoid the police, MI5 (in the shape of Suzanne Neve and George Baker) and the villains (in the shape of Peter Vaughan and his brains trust - Larry and Rocky Taylor and Pete Brace).  Holing up in a vacant health farm they get the briefcase x-rayed only finding out in the last reel the thing is packed with plastic explosive.  Shot in very late autumn - the place is awash with fallen leaves - the episode looks cold and quite murky on the Carlton DVD.  There's quite a bit of that high-compression-rate ghosting going on but when I bought the disc I thought I had the best copy available.  Not any more.  The Blu-ray version is almost like watching a remake - the picture isn't just sharper, it's brighter, better contrast and colour.  There are no video artefacts in fact the image looks - should I say it - cinematic.  The sound is mono, as you would expect from shows made in the 1960s and 1970s, but there's none of that tinniness that usually goes with that.  The sound is rich and full bodied.  I've never seen the shows on this disc looking so good and frankly I'm salivating to see more.  My only problem's going to be my bank balance.

    I hope the eventual Blu-ray releases of The Avengers will be as magnificent as these ITC ones.  I'm also hoping that Network will go against what I've been led to believe is conventional wisdom in the industry and see how much detail can be pulled out of 16mm series as well.
    posted by Mark Oates on 6/3/2011 02:37
    Glad to hear retro-Action 1 is every bit as good as volume 2. Like you I was well and truly converted. It's going to be an expensive couple of years!!
    posted by Stuart McLean on 6/3/2011 10:19