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Find out about the amazing facts in fiction, and discover the truth about what's really going on in the World around us...

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Alex G

Alex G

Sunday, 22 May 2016 23:00

Whicker's early ITV on DVD

Whicker and Whickers New World come complete to DVDAlan Whicker has rightly gained the reputation of television legend on British shores. The incisive journalism took him to global locations, and saw him create an inimitable niche over 50 years of broadcasting. Having previously had three volumes from Network over the years of what many would consider his ‘greatest hits’, now the company goes back to the beginning to release a chronological collection of his entire ITV output. The first two double DVD sets are out now, from 1968 and 1969.

And there is good reason to do this relaunch. You very much get to see the development of the television character, the honing of the most incredible of narrations to the material you get to see, and also appreciate the scope of how what initially local current affairs for the ITV network from the Yorkshire Television area became something far more. The scope increases, as must have done the budgets, where the characters Whicker encounters become more outlandish, doused in cash and idiosyncratic.

Sunday, 15 May 2016 23:00

Roobarb (and Custard) on DVD

Roobarb - and Custard - in a complete DVD collectionA creative dog, a puce shade of green, tries to put into action every mad-cap scheme. A cynical cat, who watches on mostly from the top of the fence in critical disdain. And a cast of garden wildlife, including Mole and Rookie the Rook to support or hinder the dog’s equivalent of tilting at windmills, in terms of invention and innovation. So it is that Roobarb, and its sequel series, a five minute show supposedly for kids, took on the pre-news slot in the early evenings on BBC1, and ended up having adult fans from all walks of life making time to see the short adventures. It may have been a different form of animation, magic markers taken to the extreme, but this was very much a generational-crossing concept in the same surreal category as The Magic Roundabout.

Roobarb was inspired by creator Grange Calveley’s Welsh Border Collie, who was so named after ‘watering’ the rhubarb in his garden, very soon after going to live at his home. Despite publishers liking the character and his strange adventures, no-one took Grange up on them, so he turned his thoughts to a series of short television animations instead. Persistence with the BBC eventually paid off – not a slot on Jackanory, oh no, but a request to see a pilot episode. Enter Bob Godfrey, animation director, and Australian animation director Peter Green brought Calveley’s sketches to life. And now all 69 episodes are released together on DVD by Simply Media.

Monday, 25 April 2016 14:00

The Professionals MKIV on Blu-ray

The Professionals MkIV - The final batch of original episodes comes to Blu-rayWith the release of the final 18 episodes of The Professionals, in this collection known as “Mk IV”, Cowley, Bodie and Doyle head off into the sunset, with some fine examples of the series, and all three of the actors at the top of their game. There are no fillers here, and we get little glimpses of character back story, leaving the audience to flesh out their out-of-episode lives themselves. It’s a lesson which contemporary television could learn from – concentrate on the plots and let them be the driver for characterisation, and not the other way around.

Gordon Jackson, Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins had wheel-spun themselves through 57 episodes. And once again, Network Releasing has spared no expense in bringing us the episodes in a quality as good as it will ever get, and actually far better than when originally broadcast. Here, on Blu-ray for the first time, they have been restored from the camera-original negatives with the option of 5.1 surround sound, to add to the atmosphere and unsettle the neighbours – especially when the opening credits roll! Even if you are very familiar with the stories, here we have a rendition which will have even the hardest hearted beaming big smiles throughout.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016 23:00

Ellery Queen comes to UK DVD

Ellery Queen - out now on UK DVDBack in 1975-76, on some early weekday evenings on BBC1, you were asked to see if you could solve 22 mysteries from the New York vista of 1946-47, with Ellery Queen (Jim Hutton) and his widowed father Inspector Richard Queen (David WayneThe Mad Hatter in the 1960s Batman). It has become something of a short-run classic series from the creators of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote. In America it was called simply Ellery Queen, but when BBC1 first screened it way-back-then, they opted to call it The Ellery Queen Whodunit (in much the same way as they bizarrely decided to rename Ironside as A Man Called Ironside).

Guest stars included Roddy McDowall ( “Planet of the Apes”), Eve Arden (“Grease”), Tom Bosley (Happy Days), Cesar Romero (Joker in the 1960s Batman), Don Ameche ("Cocoon"), Joan Collins, Vincent Price, Milton Berle, Eva Gabor, Betty White, Larry Hagman, and even a cameo by the iconic George Burns! And you had the chance to win one of three copies we had up for grabs in our prize competition.

Monday, 11 April 2016 23:00

Original DOOMWATCH on DVD

The original DOOMWATCH - out now on DVDI was one of those children of the 1960s old enough to just about recall watching Doomwatch in one of its late-night (around 10.00pm) slots, when originally aired on BBC1 from 1970 to 1972. Something of a ‘treat’ given the lateness of the hour for a pre-teen, it was billed as Science Fiction extrapolated from Science Fact, the exploits of the Department of Measurement of Scientific Work, working to the Ministry for National Security, took on the facet of being a ‘forbidden fruit’ – you MUST be mature, as you wanted to watch this series!

My younger self recalled a lot of talking, with one or two action set-pieces each episode, on a good week that is. Now, revisiting what remains of the series (just 24 of 38 made are still in the archives), its premonitions are as jaw-dropping today as they must have been some 45 years ago. The politics in the background is spookily spot-on for a modern audience, and the attitude of authority to being questioned as dismissive as it still remains. The characterisations are strong, the scripts and direction crisp and enthralling. And you had a chance to win a copy of this Doomwatch DVD box set in our prize competition.

Sunday, 13 March 2016 00:00

Rod Serling's Night Gallery on DVD

Night Gallery - The Complete Collection out now on UK DVDThere are some shows which would not be the same in colour. The monochrome production of The Twilight Zone from 1959 to 1964, all 156 episodes, was a case in point. To the modern eye, Rod Serling’s televisual masterpiece is boosted by being black and white, adding to the atmosphere and storytelling in a way which cannot be truly quantified. But rest assured, there has never been talk of colourisation. Its recent Blu-ray restoration simply enhanced the credentials of keeping red, green and blue away from it. However, back at the end of the 1960s, when colour had stormed small screens in the USA, and everything monochrome had effectively been shipped off to the scrap heap, it was almost inevitable that Serling would be tempted to make a series in colour.

And so it was that Night Gallery was born. With Jack Laird as Producer, Serling was a scriptwriter, at least in part, on 27 of the episodes. Out went the hard science fiction of The Twilight Zone era, replaced with predominantly supernatural horror, with the odd jokey segment in an anthology series where the lengths of the stories varied – you never knew whether a story will take over an entire episode or just a couple of minutes. And now, thanks to Fabulous Films, we in the UK get to see the most definitive release of the show anywhere in the world. AND YOU COULD HAVE WON ONE OF FOUR NIGHT GALLERY DVD SETS WE HAD UP FOR GRABS IN OUR COMPETITION.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 00:00

Dan Aykroyd's Dragnet DVD comedy

Dragnet - the 1987 movie out now on DVD“Dragnet”, an August 1987 comedy spoof movie adaption of the original long-running television series, is back on DVD. Dan Aykroyd plays rule-bound, straight-laced and stiff Joe Friday, nephew of the original series character of the same name. Double Oscar winner Tom Hanks is the more streetwise and relaxed Pep Streebeck, and the pair learn a trick or two from each other as they save the City of Angels from street wars, porn barons and secret societies. Add in a television evangelist and a Police Commissioner working to her own rules, and the stage is set for hilarity! 

Very much paving the way for Leslie Nielsen’s “The Naked Gun” series of movies in 1988, 1991 and 1994 (itself based on a TV series, 1982’s Police Squad!), it might well have been that the success of “Dragnet” led to Nielsen’s Frank Drebin character getting the ‘big screen’ treatment. Certainly, a failed six-edition half-hour television comedy doesn’t normally become a sure-fire choice for a major long-form adaption, even if the people behind it had been those who engineered the runaway success which was “Airplane!”

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00

Alfred Hitchcock Hour on DVD

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour - The complete series comes to UK DVDFor the first time, the entire collection of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour is available on DVD in the UK - all 93 stories presented by the ‘Master of Suspense’ himself, thanks to Fabulous Films.  Broadcast in the USA from September 1962 to May 1965 – amidst a golden period for the auteur which included “The Wrong Man”, “Vertigo”, “North by Northwest”, “Psycho” and “The Birds”, this series was voted one of the 100 Best TV Shows of All Time by Time Magazine. Hitchcock’s films had a consistently high degree of profitability, but it was the sale of syndication rights to the TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and then this, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which made him the third biggest stockholder in MCA (the predecessor to NBC Universal).And we had a complete box set to give away in our prize competition, as well as individual sets of seasons one, two and three.

The series, like its half-hour predecessor, is filled with stars, both those in their twilight of their careers, as well as others on the way up. Leslie Nielsen, he of Police Squad and “Airplane” fame is the star turn in the Season 2 episode 13 classic story “The Magic Shop”. He’s the father of a truly dislikeable child, emphasised by the kid’s desire for a leather biker jacket on his birthday, who has an obsession with going to a magic shop which his parents are adamant does not exist. We also have Martin Landau appear in Season 2 Episode 30 “The Second Verdict” as a lawyer who gets guilty-as-hell Frank Gorshin’s villain off-the-hook in a murder trial. Landau is very much experimenting with the delivery and poise which he will use as John Koenig in Space: 1999, whereas Gorshin is showing the sort of evil he would later crank up several notches as The Riddler in the Adam West Batman series.

Thursday, 31 December 2015 00:00

Cult TV Awards Winners 2015

Filmed In Supermarionation - Cult TV Award WinnerVoted for by appreciators of cult television, Doctor Who has once more in 2015 showed its continuing popularity. The first season of Peter Capaldi’s adventures cruised through this year’s Cult TV Awards by picking up top gongs, as well as many for those associated with the programme. Ratings may appear to tell a different story, but these results show that those looking for a hero rather than a heart-throb can appreciate the quality of what the full 12th incarnation has to offer. And the late Patrick Troughton became the sixth star to play the Time Lord to be added to the ‘Hall of Fame – Actor’ category.

Also of note was that Game of Thrones finally appeared on the Cult TV fandom radar, having never previously won an award, and walking away with the ‘Best Returning Premium Channel Series’ prize for its fifth season. Of the new shows coming out between September 2014 and August 2015, The Flash and Gotham, both based on characters from the DC Comics universe, were those that picked up prizes.

The works of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson also continued to be recognised by the Cult TV Awards, with Steve Zodiac from Fireball XL5 added to the Hall of Fame for ‘Animated Character’, actress Wanda Ventham, one of the female leads in UFO, added to the Actress Hall of Fame, and the documentary “Filmed in Supermarionation” was hailed as the ‘Blu-ray/DVD Presentation of the Year’.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015 00:00

The Professionals MKIII winners

The Professional MkIII - now available on DVD and Blu-rayWhat was your favourite DVD or Blu-ray release of 2015? We’re going to find out soon when the results of this year’s Cult TV Awards, voted for by YOU, are made public. Meanwhile, Network Distributing asked our very own Alex J Geairns to pick which of their releases this year was his favourite.

Just recently made available on DVD are the remastered versions of the episodes that make up The Professionals MkIII – the third batch of episodes from the classic action series which starred Martin Shaw, Lewis Collins and Gordon Jackson (in a big change from his role in the original Upstairs Downstairs). It’s this title that makes it to the top of Alex’s chart, and to celebrate we had three copies (you could choose whether you wanted a DVD or Blu-ray version) available to give away in a prize competition. It also comes with a hefty book specifically about the production of these stories from renowned archive excavator Andrew Pixley. This was definitely something to help cheer up your festive season!

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