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Monday, 12 June 2017

Star Maidens is back on DVDStar Maidens has found its way back on to DVD, courtesy of Simply Media. The title originally came to the home market back in 2005 through the now-defunct Delta Home Entertainment, but it’s enough of a curiosity that copies of that version still command a good price, so there’s logic in bringing it back into the foreground once more. It was originally shown as a regional opt-out in some ITV regions (HTV had it, ATV didn’t – which is why I got to saw an episode or two when I was in Wales at the time).  Popping up here and there between 1976 and 1978, it’s classified as an Anglo-German production, with a take on a planet whose dominant sex is female. This is something which The Two Ronnies would do their own version of in their serial “The Worm That Turned” in 1980, in which women rule the Britain of 2012, and male and female gender roles are completely reversed.

So, here’s your chance to get something in for late night schlock sessions in good company, with all 13 half-hour episodes in a twin-DVD digitally remastered set.  There’s plenty of reasons for Cult TV appreciators to pick up a copy as it stars Gareth Thomas, three years before he played Blake in the Blake’s 7. As per the previous DVD release, it also contains a bonus interview with Gareth, weighing in at a very respectable 34 minutes and covers much of his career, but with a focus on Star Maidens.

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Monday, 05 June 2017

1990 - Series 2 out on DVDFollowing on from the release of 1990 Series 1 earlier in the year, here we are already with the second and final series now on the shelves to complete this compelling story. Wilfred Greatorex described the format as "Nineteen Eighty-Four plus six" and details Jim Kyle’s (Edward Woodward) fight against a corrupt government in a disturbing then-future Britain, devoid of rights of any kind, in a world which is heading in the direction of the worst nightmares foretold by Orwell and Huxley . It is as relevant today as when it first aired, and is something a lost gem for Cult TV appreciators to get their hands on.

For those of you familiar with what has happened previously in this dystopian vision from 1977-8, here’s what’s changed between runs. Kyle’s actions at the end of the last series mean that Dan Mellor is no longer the Home Secretary, replaced by Kate Smith (Yvonne Mitchell), who Skardon (Robert Lang) sees as a threat. Delly Lomas and Henry Tasker have been moved away, to be replaced in one swoop by an old flame of Kyle’s, Lynn Blake (Lisa Harrow), put there to keep Kyle on a leash. And Kyle no longer has ‘Tiny’ Greaves as his editor – he’s gone to the ‘Alcoholics’ Laundry’ and been replaced by Tom Doran (Clive Swift) who now rather weakly fills his boots, he’s not much into putting the cat amongst he pigeons.

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Monday, 29 May 2017

The Brothers - Series 5 out on DVDThe Brothers as part of the Cult TV landscape? In the 1970s this Sunday night drama about a road haulage company was, ah-hem, something of a ‘juggernaut’ in the ratings. After four seasons, the show needed a lift, so colourful characters were brought in or given greater prominence via Cult TV stalwarts Colin Baker (the sixth Doctor Who), Kate O'Mara (who would later cross paths again with Colin in his Time Lord regeneration as the Rani) and Mike Pratt (Randall in the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)). They complicated the world of the Hammond family, so they are now nowhere near as cosy as they had been. They face an uncertain future with power struggles for the control of the family business, ill health, new additions to the family, and having to face the consequences of their own personal vices and demons.

The Brothers: The Complete Series 5, contains all 13 episodes from Spring 1975 of this reignited format, created by N J Crisp (Dixon of Dock Green) and Gerard Glaister (Dr Finlay’s Casebook). Doctor Who aficionados will be able to see why Colin Baker gained nationwide fame and notoriety, and if this is this is the nature of your interest, this is an ideal jumping-in point. Although his Paul Merroney character was much-talked about in Series 4, he was actually only seen in a handful of episodes (“Partings” - Episode 4.5, “Hit and Miss” – 4.7, “Public Concern” – 4.8, “A Bad Mistake” – 4.12, “The Fall Guy” – 4.13). Series 5 is where he becomes an unmissable core of the proceedings.

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Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Rockliffe's Babies - out now on DVD

Seven trainee CID officers based in London tackle some tough cases and an even tougher boss in this BBC police drama series from the 1980s. Sgt Alan Rockcliffe (Ian Hogg – “Hitler: The Rise of Evil”, Doctor Who “Ghost Light”) can be the most charming and supportive leader, but if you make a mistake or catch him on a bad day, he will come down on you like a ton of bricks! Can the rookies solve enough cases to win promotion, or will they crack in the process?

Running for just two seasons (three if you include the spin-off series Rockcliffe’s Folly, not included here), Rockcliffe’s Babies quickly introduces us to the trainees, though interestingly we do not meet Rockcliffe himself until the end of episode one. They are a real mixed bag, with varied backgrounds and skillsets that - when pulled together - make a great team; sometimes, however, the PCs bicker and fragment, and that is when things do not run quite as smoothly, much to their skipper’s chagrin.

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Sunday, 07 May 2017

Born Free - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDBased on a true story and book by Joy Adamson, “Born Free” is the story of a married couple who raise an orphaned lion cub to adulthood and then attempt to prepare the tamed animal for release into the Kenyan wilderness. Virginia McKenna (“A Town Like Alice”) and Bill Travers (“Ring of Bright Water”) star as Joy and George Adamson, and the film won a couple of Oscars thanks to John Barry’s fantastic score and closing credits song sung by Matt Monro.

Treading a careful line between realism and sentimentality, the movie sucks you in with countless shots of cute and majestic animals that interact with the Adamsons like they are domestic cats or dogs. Anyone with a household pet will delight in seeing Elsa the lion cub play, destroy furniture, steal food and bond with her keepers. It is a relationship that cannot last because an adult lion cannot be controlled, and therein lies the film’s central theme.

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Monday, 24 April 2017

Drunken Master - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDJackie Chan stars in this 1978 hit about a young, pretentious kung fu student who is taught the art of drunken boxing as a punishment for shaming his father. Freddie Wong (Chan – “The Karate Kid” remake, the “Police Story” saga) tries to impress his mates by getting into fights and tricking a girl into kissing him. When his father hears the news he sends Freddie to sensei So Hi, a master feared for his infamously harsh training regime.

So Hi (Siu Tin Yuen – “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”) is an alcoholic whose deceptive combat skills depend on his inebriation. Never separated from his flask of booze, So Hi teaches Freddie the fighting styles of ‘The Eight Drunken Immortals’. He also puts the upstart through many gruelling physical trials to boost his strength, endurance and balance. Meanwhile, a deadly assassin is prowling nearby and our duo eventually stray onto his radar.

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Hard Times - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDSet in early 1930s New Orleans, “Hard Times” stars Charles Bronson (“The Great Escape”, “The Dirty Dozen”) as Chaney, a mysterious, uncomplicated drifter who turns to illegal bare-knuckle boxing to earn some cash. The loner falls in with an unscrupulous manager called Speed (James Coburn – “Our Man Flint”, “Cross of Iron”) who, thanks to his serious vice issues, always finds himself in debt to some very unpleasant loan sharks.

Mr Speed wants to use Chaney to take on a rival’s unbeaten fighter but first he must scrape together enough money to qualify, by setting his sights a little lower. Tagging along is drunkard medic Poe (Strother Martin – “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “Cool Hand Luke”). The movie marked the directorial debut of Walter Hill (also co-writer), renowned for “The Warriors”, “48 Hrs” and “Southern Comfort” amongst other hits.

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Sunday, 09 April 2017

The Blue Lagoon - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDBased on the 1908 novel by Henry De Vere Stacpoole, “The Blue Lagoon” follows cousins Richard (Christopher Atkins – Dallas, “The Pirate Movie”) and Emmeline (Brooke Shields – “The Midnight Meat Train”, The Middle) as they learn to fend for themselves and experience a sexual awakening after being marooned on a tropical island. The movie’s director is Randal Kleiser of “Grease” and “Flight of the Navigator” fame.

Initially the pre-pubescent youngsters have the knowledge and company of Paddy, the ship’s cook (Leo McKern – Rumpole of the Bailey, The Prisoner) to support them, but the lure of a barrel of rum puts paid to that. Thereafter the kids must care for themselves, and hope that eventually someone will come looking for them. As their vessel went down in flames they do not know if anyone else survived, and they could be considered lost forever.

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Monday, 20 March 2017

1990 - Series 1 comes to DVD for the first time everIt was then a future Britain 13 years henceforward, and 1990 sharply pictured what happens when the Government is allowed to carry on its agenda, with the apathy of the people allowing anything to happen. The population is soon devoid of individual rights, a dystopian vision which now, in the 21st Century is presciently chilling as the pieces are coming into place for this to be acclaimed as a road map to what will become our future. Originally broadcast on BBC Two in 1977 as part of the ‘Drama 2’ strand, this is the very first time this series has been made available on any home video format, all thanks to Simply Media.  

1990 stars Golden Globe winner Edward Woodward (Callan, The Equalizer, CI5 – The New Professionals) in the lead role as the calm, witty and charming rebel journalist Jim Kyle, with an Austin Princess as his preferred mode of transport. He’s working for one of the last remaining so-called ‘independent’ newspapers, and a secret dissident fighting the corrupt establishment by covertly helping others escape from the UK. He risks prison or even death if identified and ‘collared’.

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Monday, 20 March 2017

The Chamber - out now on Blu-ray and DVDA small US special ops team commandeer a research submersible, searching for an unspecified object in hostile North Korean waters. The experienced pilot of the sub, Mats (Johannes Kuhnke – “Force Majeure”), reluctantly joins the covert mission and is kept in the dark. Mats expresses grave warnings about the aging sub’s capabilities and fears that without proper planning, the military team’s agenda could lead to disaster.

Red, the leader of the three-person spec ops team (Charlotte Salt – The Musketeers, Casualty) seems level headed but her colleague Parks (James McArdle – “’71”, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) is twitchy and aggressive. The third member is Denholm (Elliot Levey – Da Vinci’s Demons, Man Down), a man with some piloting skills of his own. The writer/director is Ben Parker, shooting his debut feature.

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