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The Golden Age of Television (The Criterion Collection)

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The hugely popular live American television plays of the 1950s have become the stuff of legend. Combining elements of theater, radio, and filmmaking, they were produced at a moment when TV technology was advancing and making art accessible to a newly suburban postwar demographic. These astonishingly choreographed, brilliantly acted, and socially progressive “teleplays” constituted an artistic high for the medium, bringing Broadway-quality drama to homes across the country. The following award-winning programs—curated for PBS in the early 1980s as the series The Golden Age of Television, with recollections from key cast and crew members—were conceived by such up-and-comers as Rod Serling and John Frankenheimer, and star the likes of Paul Newman, Mickey Rooney, Rod Steiger, Julie Harris, and Piper Laurie.

INCLUDES:
  • Marty Patterns
  • No Time for Sergeants
  • A Wind from the South
  • Requiem for a Heavyweight
  • Bang the Drum Slowly
  • The Comedian
  • Days of Wine and Roses
SPECIAL EDITION THREE-DISC SET FEATURES:
  • The live kinescope broadcasts of Marty (1953), Patterns (1955), No Time for Sergeants (1955), A Wind from the South (1955), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956), Bang the Drum Slowly (1956), The Comedian (1957), and Days of Wine and Roses (1958)
  • Commentaries by directors John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann, Ralph Nelson, and Daniel Petrie Interviews with key cast and crew, including Frankenheimer, Andy Griffith, Julie Harris, Kim Hunter, Richard Kiley, Piper Laurie, Nancy Marchand, Jack Palance, Cliff Robertson, Mickey Rooney, Carol Serling, Rod Steiger, and Mel Torme
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by curator Ron Simon and his extensive liner notes on each program


Review

Finally, a holdable piece of crucial TV history -- kinescopes of eight of the finest original dramas of the 1950s era of live original television dramas. Many were later made into movies, but these are the initial presentations of Marty, Requiem for a Heavyweight, No Time for Sergeants, Bang the Drum Slowly, Days of Wine and Roses, A Wind from the South, The Comedian, and Patterns, from legendary writers like Paddy Chayefsky and Rod Serling. Interviews recorded for a 1980s PBS airing offer comments from actors (Rod Steiger, Andy Griffith, Cliff Robertson), directors and others. Added on DVD -- new commentaries from TV-trained directors like John Frankenheimer. There's also a wonderful booklet further exploring their place in TV history. (Set comes out Nov. 24.) --David Bianculli, tvworthwatching.com

If you could somehow imagine an episode of The Office in which all edits and camera moves were done on the fly, the actors romping from set to set completely in character (and never flubbing a line), that s what you get with these minimovies. The appeal was closest to theater, a lineage that television has since traded in for an aesthetic of its own. But these oldies remain superb examples of craft and precision; they are part of the reason for the medium s ascendancy to cultural dominance. Criterion's box of eight of the most successful examples is eye-opening. The image quality is poor (these were shot on early kinescope technology), but amazingly, you won't care. The thrill of pulling off these plays before a rapt, nationwide audience is catching.

There are stars here, actors like Paul Newman and Julie Harris, at the dawn of their careers. But the dominant figure of live television, to judge from this collection, was Rod Serling, a writer who would go on to make a profound, spooky impact on imaginations during the next decade. Patterns, Serling's 1955 corporate indictment, is a still-fresh piece of proto Mad Men tension, with a conclusion that s almost shocking in its cynicism. (An Emmy winner for Serling, Patterns was the first TV program to inspire an encore, performed live a month later.) The following year brought Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight, a boxing drama that includes some of the dramatist's toughest dialogue. The Comedian (1957), starring a sour, egomaniacal Mickey Rooney, is Serling at his most daring. You can see the future work of Scorsese in these plays. --Time Out New York

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Andy Griffith, Myron McCormick, Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Van Heflin
  • Directors: Delbert Mann, Fielder Cook, John Frankenheimer, Mervyn LeRoy
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: November 24, 2009
  • Run Time: 478 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002M36R1O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,566 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Golden Age of Television (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By calvinnme HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 7, 2009
Format: DVD
Early in the days of television, the teleplay was made popular with independent one and two hour segments on shows named after the sponsor, such as "The U.S. Steel Hour". These were early showcases of the excellent talents of young writers such as Rod Serling. Because you didn't have to leave your living room to see a fine drama, they had a huge negative impact on the film industry and led to such innovations as making both the color film and the widescreen film common, since these were two things you couldn't get from television. Up to now many of these early teleplays have been shown only in the public domain if at all, because they only existed on kinescope, and then only for the purpose of rebroadcasting to different time zones. The concept of the rerun and syndication had not occurred to producers at the time these were made - with the exception of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. New digital techniques have allowed these early kinescopes to be transferred and viewed with better clarity than ever before, and this new package by Criterion boasts some fine dramas from the 1950's, many of which went on to be made into acclaimed motion pictures.

EPISODES:

Marty (1953) - The motion picture was a Best Picture Oscar winner in 1955. This version has the role of Marty played by Rod Steiger and the role of the girl with which he connects played by Nancy Marchand. Written by Paddy Chayefsky.
Patterns (1955) - Written by Rod Serling. Show starred Richard Kiley as young executive Fred Staples. However, Staples can see his possible distant future in an aging executive (Ed Begley) who is constantly berated and belittled by the boss (Everett Sloane).
No Time for Sergeants (1955) - Andy Griffith is cast as Will Stockdale, a backwoods fellow who is drafted into the army.
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Format: DVD
This set is an enormous disappointment, and an affront to fans of classic television. What is presented in the set is a direct copy of material originally released on laserdisc, using the same kinescope film transfers that were originally done back in the 1980s.

"Requiem For a Heavyweight", for instance, has had minimal corrections made (a slight tint to the original transfer was removed, and the sound was re-synched, that sort of thing.) No serious effort was made to stabilize the image, or to remove considerable dirt and moire artifacts in the old transfer.

Not only would the above-mentioned corrections be fairly trivial to accomplish, there is now a process that has been developed called LiveFeed Video Imaging that restores the "live broadcast" look to programs that were preserved as kinescope films. And since these programs were originally aired as live performances, they're **exactly** the sort of material that the process was invented for! Why on earth would Criterion think people would rather have these shows look like jittery old movies?

When one considers the source of this release, the only words that come to mind are "travesty" and "lost opportunity". While a release of this quality might have been passable in say, 1985, this is the year 2009-- it's inexcusable for a company that heavily trades on its customer's passion for quality presentation to essentially ignore 25 years of advances in restoration technology. (And this from a set that lists 8 different restoration technicians **and** a QC Manager!)

For those who have the original laserdisc sets.. take heart-- there's no need to buy this. For everyone else, please keep in mind that (just as with "The Fugitive" and "My Three Sons"), there's nothing to be gained by encouraging companies to release substandard product, when they're fully capable of providing something vastly superior.
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Format: DVD
These Golden age of television shows originally aired on PBS many many years ago. I have copies of a few of these on scratchy old VHS tapes. I have been waiting for the release of these gems for a long time. I am not disappointed in the quality or the content of this release.

The introductions by "of that era actors" like Jack Klugman are fantastic. The behind the scenes interviews with directors and actors are fascinating. The quality of images are not horrible by any means, and are much better than in previous collections that I have purchased. Five minutes into each show, and you are there, marveling at what an accomplishment these creations really were.

As for the content, in many ways it does not get any better than what you will see here. This is the pick of the of the litter. Personally I prefer the "Marty" that is in this collection to the filmed version. "Requiem for a Heavyweight" is superb in every way. "The Comedian" is incomparable, and "Patterns" sublime.

A negative review for this collection is unwarranted in my opinion. These are shows which you will again and again and again return to, because there is simply nothing like them. Put this one on your must have Christmas list.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It is wonderful to see the stage presentation of 12 Angry Men. The movie is great, but seeing a movie and seeing it live is different. I saw it at the Kennedy center and it, too, was a wonderful production.
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Format: DVD
In the 1950's, Television was LIVE. In the beginning of television were part motion picture and part theater. Shows like Playhouse 90, US Steal Hour, Four Star Play house, etc filled the airwaves. The stage guild would help produce 60 to 90 minutes pieces of theater thru the medium of TV.

This three disk collection is a piece of American history. These tele-plays was high art on a small scale. with talented names like Rod Steiger (Marty), Cliff Robertson (The Days of Wine and Roses), Mickey Rooney (The Comedian), Paul Newman (Bank the Drum Slowly) and Andy Griffith (No Time for Sergeants) fill this piece of TV history. What amazes me is these TV plays still hold up sixty years later.

This is like a time capture since many of the performers are no longer with us. It is a marvelous feat to watch the shows. The staging, the camera work, the acting is all top notice and at the tip of their games.

Originally These eight shows were shown on PBS in 1980's. Thank heaven for the Criterion collection to allow this collection to come to DVD.

If you are a fan of classic tv or just great talent, this is one to get for those who love great television.

Bennet Pomerantz
AUDIOWORLD
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