V: The Original Miniseries (DVD)
Aliens pretending to be friendly come to Earth and are received openly. The aliens have masqueraded themselves to look just like humans. When it is discovered that the aliens' planet is dying and that they have come to rape the Earth of its natural resources, the war for Earth begins. An important key to the humans' success is distinguishing their own from the aliens.
In its day, V
was a monumental event that for one generation remains a pop-culture touchstone. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
may have reassured us that perhaps we have nothing to fear from alien visitors and E.T.
introduced us to a benign extraterrestrial who only wanted to go home, but Kenneth Johnson's 1983 television miniseries knew better. Visitors who claim to come in peace are revealed to be nothing but human-looking reptilians on human conversion and conquest. As in the dark days of fascism, some collaborate with the enemy; others form the resistance.
At the time, the epic scale of this production was unprecedented. Those 50 motherships that hover over Earth's major cities anticipate Independence Day by more than a decade. The special effects and makeup are still awesome. Less so is the often-hackneyed dialogue. But thanks to their signature roles, the mostly no-star cast, most of whom would be reunited for a sequel and subsequent television series, have ensured themselves standing invitations to sci-fi conventions. Marc Singer is cameraman-turned-freedom-fighter Mike Donovan. Julie Parrish is a medical student-turned-rebel. Richard Herd is the aliens' supreme commander. Jane Bradler is Diana, the ravishing but ruthlessly ambitious alien science officer. Leonardo Cimino lends dignity to his heavy-handed allegorical role as a Holocaust survivor. Look for a pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund as one of the aliens.
The DVD is presented for the first time in widescreen format. Supplemental features include an amiable and enlightening director's commentary and a brief "making of" segment. --Donald Liebenson