Review for retro-ACTION! Volume 2
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!
THE SAINT - THE QUEEN'S RANSOME (1966)
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!
DANGER MAN - NO MARKS FOR SERVILITY (1964)
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.
THE PRISONER - ARRIVAL (1967)
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.
GIDEON'S WAY - THE TIN GOD (1964)
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.
MAN IN A SUITCASE: SOMEBODY LOSES, SOMEBODY …WINS?
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.