The inspiring early days of America the personalities, the battles, the bravery, the losses, and even the romance spring to life in spellbinding detail in this sweeping 14-DVD set from A&E Home Video.
FOUNDING FATHERS and FOUNDING BROTHERS examine the relationships of the very human men who risked their fortunes and lives for independence. THE REVOLUTION recounts great battles, devastating losses, and miraculous victories. BEN FRANKLIN and BENEDICT ARNOLD: A QUESTION OF HONOR look at the critical roles played by both men--one a hero, the other a traitor--while WASHINGTON THE WARRIOR and THE CROSSING pay tribute to the soul-stirring leadership of our first president.
With performances by Kelsey Grammar, Aidan Quinn, and Jeff Daniels, rare archival material, and commentary by leading historians, THE FOUNDING OF AMERICA presents historical programming at its comprehensive best.
DVD Features History in the Making: The Revolution ; Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes; Behind-the-Scenes "History in the Making"; Declaration of Independence episode of SAVE OUR HISTORY; The Many Faces of Ben Franklin ; Timeline; Anecdotes; Quotes; List of Innovations and Inventions; Benedict Arnold: Triumph and Treason (50-minute Biography episode); Cast Biographies/Filmographies
The Spy Collection
gathers together four different series, with nearly 60 episodes on 14 discs--a total of more than 38 hours of viewing, plus extras. None of the four, all of which were produced in England in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, is actually a spy show, per se
, but the elements are here: intrepid heroes jetting to exotic locations, beautiful women, fast cars, yachts, ascots, cocktails, and a certain international flavor abound, especially in The Persuaders!
(which teams Roger Moore and Tony Curtis as a millionaire playboys thrown together to thwart various dastardly criminals) and The Protectors
(with Robert Vaughn and his beautiful partner, a putative Italian contessa, traveling around Europe for essentially the same reason). But The Prisoner
, the best known (and arguably best, period) of the lot, is really more like sci-fi/mystery, while The Champions
has a comic book dimension, what with the three principals having been given some measure of superpowers. As it is, there’s plenty here to remind viewers of James Bond, but little to make us forget him; this is TV, after all, with its smaller budgets, faster production time, and limited capabilities when it comes to the kinds of gadgets (like primitive phone machines and computers) and other technical details so familiar to 007 fans. Nevertheless, if your taste runs to pure escapism, The Spy Collection
fits the bill in spades. Various bonus features include commentary on selected episodes of The Persuaders!
and The Protectors
; cast bios; photo galleries; and, for The Prisoner
, an alternate version of the episode entitled “The Chimes of Big Ben,” an interactive map, a trivia game, and more.
The Prisoner (two discs, four episodes): If a top-level spy decided he didn't want to be a spy anymore, could he just walk into HQ and hand in his resignation? With all that classified knowledge in his head, would he be allowed to become a civilian again, free to go about his life? The answer, according to the stylish, brilliantly conceived 1960s British TV series The Prisoner, is a resounding no. In fact, instead of receiving a gold watch for his years of faithful service, our hero (played by Patrick McGoohan) is followed home to his London flat and knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself in a picturesque village where everyone is known by a number. Where is it? Why was he brought here? And, most important, how does he leave? As we learn in Episode 1, Number 6 can't leave. The Village's "citizens" might dress colorfully and stroll around its manicured gardens while a band plays bouncy Strauss marches, but the place is actually a prison. Surveillance is near total, and if all else fails, there's always the large, mysterious white ball that subdues potential escapees by temporarily smothering them. Who runs the Village? An ever-changing Number 2, who wants to know why Number 6 resigned. If he'd only cooperate, he's told, life can be made very pleasant. "I've resigned," he fumes. "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own." So sets the stage for the ultimate battle of wills: Number 6's struggle to retain his privacy, sanity, and individuality against the array of psychological and physical methods the Village uses to break him. So does he ever escape? And does he ever find out who Number 1 is? "Questions are a burden to others," the Village saying goes. "Answers, a prison for oneself." Within this complete 17-episode set (which contains the entire series), all is revealed. Or is it?
The Persuaders! (four discs, 13 episodes): Talk about an odd couple--Moore and Curtis are certainly that. The former’s Brett Sinclair is a titled Brit aristocrat, while Curtis’ Danny Wilde is a Brooklyn hustler who got rich through brains and guile. The pair are “like nitro and glycerine,” says the retired judge who pairs them up, very much against their will, to help track down criminals who somehow evaded the long arm of the law. “Mix them together and you have a potent combo.” The actors certainly seem to enjoy themselves, romping through the scripts like a couple of superannuated Peter Pans. Moore was about to begin his long run as James Bond, and his insouciance, smooth way with the ladies, and penchant for tossing out bons mots while beating the crud out of some hapless fool foreshadow his take on that famous role (he even drives an Aston Martin); as for Curtis, scenery was clearly on the menu, and he chews it with relish. The tone of the whole series is fairly frothy, and you can’t beat those crazy duds they wear. Ah, the ‘70s.
The Champions (four discs, 15 episodes): Based on the pilot episode, this 1968 offering could have been the most entertaining of the four shows. In the pilot, after our three heroes (played by Stuart Damon, Alexandra Bastedo, and William Gaunt) make a daring theft from a Communist Chinese stronghold, their escape plane is hit by gunfire and crashes in the Himalayas, where they’re saved by a strange race who endow them with extraordinary hearing, strength, and other powers (I’ll say--they don lightweight overcoats and stroll out of the mountains as if on a spring promenade through Hyde Park). Cool! But alas, this intriguing premise doesn’t fully pan out, as the three “champions of law, order, and justice,” who work for a Swiss-based operation known as Nemesis, make only limited use of their powers as they battle baddies plotting to steal a huge gold shipment, protect an exiled dictator with assassins on his tail, stop a bitter Brit engineer from selling his blueprint for a Mach 5 “ghost plane” to the enemy, save a nuclear submarine from destruction, and so on. Their enhanced senses (which enable them to tell when another member is in trouble) do add dimension, but not enough to overcome some clunky scripts and cheesy production values.
The Protectors (four discs, 26 episodes): Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this show is its length--with all episodes running just 25 minutes or so, there isn’t much time to develop the stories, let alone the character relationships. Vaughn plays Harry Rule, a private detective who handles his cases with the Contessa di Contini (Nyree Dawn Porter, who’s about as Italian as Big Ben), with the help of their “French” buddy (Tony Anholt). The team is hired by different governments to handle a variety of sensitive tasks, like putting a stop to the stockpiling and distribution of weapons to be used in an armed uprising; capturing a former Nazi who’s sending money to other war criminals hiding out around the world; freeing an unjustly accused man from prison; or finding (at the behest of the KGB) a disenchanted Soviet scientist who’s about to unleash a chemical weapon of mass destruction on the world. Co-produced by British TV legend Gerry Anderson, the show is limited, to say the least; but the episodes are over before you can tire of them. --Sam Graham with Steve Landau