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Join us for the latest on the best in extraordinary fictional television and film from the past, present and future, and analysis on its cultural impacts.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Friends of Eddie Coyle - out now on a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD releaseBased on a novel by crime writer George V. Higgins, this movie stars Hollywood tough guy Robert Mitchum (“Cape Fear”, “The Night of the Hunter”) as the eponymous aging gangster. Coyle is due to be sentenced for a recent misdemeanour and is desperate to avoid another stretch. As a gun runner he has a lot of criminal contacts and senses he can buy a pardon by turning a few of them over to the police, but at what price?

Directed by Peter Yates (“Bullitt”, “Krull”), the film is fashioned in a very naturalistic, believable style that is aided by Mitchum’s relaxed, slightly burnt-out performance. Eddie Coyle is an experienced criminal whose edges have been dulled and he seems more interested in providing for his family than he does getting rich through a dangerous lifestyle.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Last Shift - now available on DVDA rookie cop is assigned caretaker duties at a defunct police station on its final night before closure. Office Loren (Juliana Harkavy – The Walking Dead, “Dolphin Tale”) is led to expect a quiet night with no calls or visitors. The reality is a little different, and before long she is assaulted by all manner things that go bump in the night. The old facility has a particularly nasty history and it is seeping into the present.

Playing a little like a supernatural version of “Assault on Precinct 13” combined with “The Evil Dead”, the film feels simultaneously innovative and derivative. The clean and brightly-lit station provides a welcome change from the traditionally grimy cabin in the woods or dilapidated asylum settings featured in other films of this ilk, and the contrast when the lights go out is all the more stark and effective.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

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.

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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Return of the Pink Panther - out now on Blu-rayThe world’s largest and most valuable diamond has been stolen and that can only mean one thing: Peter Sellers is called on to reprise what is probably his most famous role as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The detective is on back the trail of master cat burglar The Phantom, aka Sir Charles Litton (the iconic Christopher Plummer – who has played everything from Chang in “Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country” to Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”). All may not be what it seems however, as Litton is engaged in his own hunt for a thief.

All of the usual ingredients of Blake Edwards’ hit comedy are present: Herbert Lom plays Clouseau’s twitching, nervous wreck of a boss, Burt Kwouk’s Cato keeps us and the Inspector in suspense as his servant and sly martial arts plaything, and Henry Mancini’s timeless and sublimely slinky theme tune sets the tone. Effortlessly glamorous Catherine Schell (Maya in season 2 of Space: 1999, and Countess Scarlioni in the classic Doctor Who story “The City of Death”) co-stars as Lady Claudine Litton.

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Thursday, 31 December 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’.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

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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Tuesday, 08 December 2015

Detectorists - Series 2 on DVD nowIn series two of the hit BBC Four comedy Detectorists, Andy and Lance have new challenges to deal with. Epic procrastinator Andy (Mackenzie Crook – Almost Human) has a baby son and the prospect of an exciting opportunity in Africa, whilst Lance (Toby Jones - Capital) has mysterious meetings with a young woman. Their metal detecting club also has to contend with an enigmatic young German seeking the location of his grandfather’s downed war plane.

This second set of six episodes does not mess with the winning formula, and fleshes out some of the background characters. The excellent mixture of quirky comedy and heartfelt character drama makes for very fulfilling viewing, and the beautiful countryside, evocative soundtrack by Johnny Flynn and depiction of tranquil village life lends the series a very relaxing tone. Detectorists is quite unlike anything else on television.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Robinson Crusoe on Mars - Out now in a Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD set“Robinson Crusoe on Mars” is a sci-fi spin on the classic novel by Daniel Defoe. After their spacecraft narrowly evades a collision with a meteor, Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West – Batman) and Commander Christopher Draper (Paul Mantee – Cagney & Lacey) are forced to eject down to the surface of Mars. Their escape pods are separated by miles of unforgiving terrain, and supplies of air, water and food are dwindling rapidly.

The film, made in 1964, follows Draper’s search for resources, shelter and his colleague, who he soon learns has perished in a crash landing. Draper is not left entirely alone however, because Mona, their pet woolly monkey also gets down safe and sound. Every time the survivor thinks he has overcome all the challenges the red planet can throw at him, a new and even more deadly peril arrives, be it environmental or otherworldly.

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Monday, 16 November 2015

A Traveller in Time - out now on DVDA Traveller in Time is a children’s mini-series from the 1970s about Penelope Taberner (Sophie Thompson – Detectorists, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”), a teenage girl who discovers she can travel back through time to the late 16th Century. Sent to her Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Derbyshire to recuperate from pneumonia, Penelope becomes entangled in a Tudor plot to rescue Mary Queen of Scots.

Penelope’s own ancestors, the Babingtons, are hatching the high-risk plot to free Mary before Queen Elizabeth I and those loyal to her can have Mary executed. Well aware of history’s path, Penelope is not sure if she can influence events but her uncertainty will not sway her from trying. Matters are complicated by our heroine not knowing how to trigger her time slips back and forth, and the distrust and suspicion that meets her in the past.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Undercover Brother - out now on DVD“Undercover Brother” is a high-energy comedy about a team of black agents striving to overcome a shadowy mega-corp headed by The Man, a Blofeld-esque super-villain. Penned by John Ridley (“Three Kings”) and Michael McCullers (“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”), the film stars Eddie Griffin (“Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo”) as the titular all-action crusader, whose ample afro and sharp 70s outfits define him.

The movie co-stars Aunjanue Ellis (“Ray”) as the high-kicking Sistah Girl, Denise Richards (“Starship Troopers”) as blonde bombshell White She Devil, Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live) as The Man’s conflicted flunky, Chi McBride (Lou Grover in Hawaii Five-0) as the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. team’s irascible boss and Dave Chappelle (“Block Party”) as the rather nervy Conspiracy Brother. The director is Malcolm D Lee (“Scary Movie 5”).

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