The long-awaited release of The Fugitive on DVD begins today with Season One, Volume One; the Masters of Horror adaptation of Clive Barker’s Valerie on the Stairs, and John Farris’ We All Scream For Ice Cream present two of season two’s best efforts; The Tick vs. Season Two continues the almost dadaistic adventures of The big Blue bug of Justice, and Stargate SG-1, Season 10 concludes the DVD release of the longest-running science fiction series in North American television history…
[b]The Fugitive: Season One, Volume One[/b]
The premise of The Fugitive was lifted directly from the classic novel, Les Miserable: Dr. Richard Kimble [David Janssen] was convicted of murder despite his protestations that she was killed by a one-armed man he saw fleeing their home as he arrived. The train transporting him to prison was derailed and he escaped the custody of Lieutenant Philip Gerard [Barry Morse]. Thus began his life on the road – traveling under a number of aliases; taking jobs that didn’t require a social security number – always just a few steps of the relentless Gerard.
The series began with the murder, conviction and escape a fait accompli – a brief saga sell at the beginning of the first [and every succeeding] episode presented the premise before jumping off into the week’s episode. The premiere had Kimble taking a job as a bartender and becoming friends with the bar’s piano player [Vera Miles], a single mother who was fleeing an abusive husband [Brian Keith]. The episode established the basic formula of the series: new name, new job, new emotional complication – always with Gerard on Kimble’s trail.
Because Kimble could take any number of different jobs [sailmaker, crop picker, bartender], the variations to be played on the central theme were virtually limitless. Occasionally – as in the program’s first two-part story, Never Wave Goodbye – Kimble would forget himself for awhile and begin to feel safe, only to find Gerard almost literally on his heels and having to resort to a faked death by boating accident to regain his lead on the juggernaut lawman.
The show made sure that we didn’t just see Gerard as an enigmatic foe for Kimble – in abovementioned Never Wave Goodbye, for example, we see Gerard having to give up a camping trip with his son to follow up a strong lead. And we could feel his frustration when a bizarre turn of events in Smoke Screen lead him to believe that Kimble hadn’t delivered a baby in a forest fire threatened area.
Besides having a premise that was so flexible, The Fugitive had another thing going for it – the Quinn Martin production was shot in an almost documentary fashion [in black & white] that added a definite feeling of realism to the proceedings. The opening and closing narrations sounded like something you might’ve heard in a newsreel, adding to the documentary feel.
Then there were the guest stars. In the first half of season one, roles were played by Vera Miles, Brian Keith, Robert Duvall, Bruce Dern, Sandy Dennis, Susan Oliver, Ruby Dee, James Edwards, Hari Rhodes and Beverly Garland, among others. The scripts were tight and remarkably well constructed and the show’s directors kept the tension high through pacing and judicious plundering of music libraries and original scores.
The series was among the best of its time and influence any number of later programs – including Kenneth Johnson’s take on The Incredible Hulk.
Season One, Volume One includes no extras, but for those who’ve been clamoring for its release, I doubt there will be many complaints.
[b]Final Grade: A[/b]
[b]Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs
Series creator Mick Garris wrote and directed this adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story, Valerie on the Stairs. It’s the story of a young writer who takes up residence in an apartment building that is dedicated providing homes for unpublished writers.
Rob Hanisey [Tyron Leitso] no sooner gets moved into his apartment when he sees a girl on the stairs – only when he tries to find out who she is – after she vanishes – no one will admit to ever seeing or hearing her. Long-time residents Everett Neely [Christopher Lloyd] and Nancy Bloom [Nicola Lipman] advise him to forget about the apparition, but he continues to see here – and she seems to be pleading for his help!
Valerie on the Stairs is a fable about get caught up in your work and the hazards of pouring too much of yourself into your work. The tie-in between Valerie [Clare Grant] and other denizens of the apartment building are appropriately odd and lead to a certain amount of nudity and violence. There is a demon, of course, but he’s nothing like we’ve seen before – and Tony Todd does an excellent job of making him an intriguing and relatable character [not what you might be expecting in a horror movie, but consider it an added bonus]. The denouement is as strange as anything Barker has ever written and Garris does a fine job of turning it into live action.
Features include: Spine Tingler: The Making of Valerie on the Stairs; Jump Scare: Editing Valerie; Audio Commentary with wrier/director Mick Garris; Photo Gallery, and a DVD-ROM Screenplay.
Grade: Valerie on the Stairs: B+
Grade: Features A
[b]Final Grade: A-[/b]
[b]Masters of Horror: We All Scream For Ice Scream[/b]
We All Scream For Ice Scream welcomes director Tom Holland [Child’s Play and Fright Night] to the Masters of Horror. It’s a twisted little tale that wouldn’t have been out of place on Tales From The Crypt – you can almost hear The Cryptkeeper cackling in the background.
It’s a little ditty about vengeance from beyond the grave, involving a group of boys who accidentally caused the death of a mentally challenged man who dressed up as a clown and drove an ice cream truck. Years later, Buster the clown [William Forsythe] returns from the beyond to drive his ice cream truck around to give the group’s children tasty treats for their fathers – treats that have an extremely gooey effect!
Shot in a manner that might recall Killer Klowns From Outer Space [and with a similar demented glee], We all Scream was adapted by David J. Schow from a story by John Farris – and he does a very cool job of capturing that dread that clowns can inspire. The twists and turns of the plot are deftly handled and the cast is first-rate – right down to the kids who watch in horror as buster dies.
The effects for We All Scream are surprising because they cover a lot of area: giving the impression of a sudden drop in temperature; giving Buster a subtly darker, more menacing look when he returns from the dead; the various ooky, oozy effects that come with the deaths of Buster’s killers…
In a way, We All Scream is about bullies and practical jokes gone wrong as a meditation on the consequences of poorly thought out actions. It’s bizarrely funny and as chilling as the best of the Tales of the Crypt.
Features include: Sweet Revenge: The Making of We all Scream For Ice Cream; Melt Down: The Scoop on the Visual and Make-Up Effects; Audio commentary with Tom Holland and David J. Schow; Photo Gallery, and the DVD-ROM Screenplay.
Grade: We All Scream For Ice Scream – A
Grade: Features: A
[b]Final Grade: A[/b]
[b]The Tick vs. Season Two[/b]
Yes, The Mighty Blue Bug of Justice is back with a dozen more twisted episodes featuring some of the most vicious and peculiar criminals ever to grace a TV screen:
Venus [a middle-aged lady who can remove the arms of anyone who tries to capture her], Ants [in pants, no less] and a beautiful woman who makes furniture come alive and boasts the coming of the Ottoman Empire [and, unfortunately, falls in love with Die Fledermaus].
The show riffs on C*O*P*S! with the episode, Heroes [a film crew follows The Tick and Arthur on patrol]; plays with time travel, Sgt. Fury and the genius of inventors in Leonardo Da Vinci and His Fightin’ Genius Time Commandos [the cavewoman who invented fire is a hoot!]; and even finds time for a bit of romance for Arthur [The Little Wooden Boy and the Belly of Love], much to the Tick’s chagrin [and jealousy!].
El Seed returns to steal a 400-Hundred Year Bloom [but it blooms the wrong way!]; Evil Sits Down For a Moment [the world’s most comfortable chair], and The Terror’s grandson tries to earn some respect from the world’s oldest supervillian – and, of course, there’s that ridiculously demented theme song…
The second season of The Tick matched the first in every way: the animation was extremely good; the writing was pure genius; the theme song kicked much tuchus, and the satire hit its target almost every time. The only sad part – the episode Alone together is not included for some reason [some kind of rights problem, no doubt – or else they’re saving it for The Big Box of Justice: The Ultimate Tick Collection!].
There are no features on the DVDs, but the set comes with an insert and lithograph [on the back of which is a bit of Tick trivia].
[b]Final Grade: A+[/b]
[b]Stargate SG-1 – The Complete Tenth Season[/b]
With the advent of The Ori in season nine, the SG-1 audience began to drop below the level required for the Sci Fi Channel to produce it profitably. The drop off can be linked to The Ori themselves, who are, essentially, The Goa’uld with actual power instead of mere technology. The fact that they were, technically, ascended beings [like those who kept giving Daniel Jackson such a rough time in past seasons – only evil] was just one more riff we’d seen before. Fortunately, the introduction of Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell [Ben Browder] and Vala Mal Doran [Claudia Black] added some juice to the series and the effects of their joining the team carry over into season ten.
Season nine ended with four Ori vessels cutting a combined fleet of Earth and allied vessels to shreds and Vala’s baby about to be born. Season ten opened with the decimation of the allied fleet and the birth of Vala’s daughter – who is taken away and aged by The Ori. Vala learns that she was used to place and Ori on our galaxy’s side of the SuperGate and things were looking bad for the allies – even though Vala’s daughter tried to earn her approval by letting her name her [Adria, for detail oriented types].
To add to the general confusion, Baal [Cliff Simon] returns to Earth seeking help and the show’s two hundredth episode, 200, was a sequel to Wormhole X-Treme – and revolved around a movie based on a cancelled science fiction series. The highlight of the season, it featured the return of Richard Dean Anderson and a number of versions of SG-1 that resembled other well-known SF shows [Star Trek, Captain Scarlet/Thunderbirds, Farscape, and more].
The season mixed mythology and standalone eps with its usual dexterity, though this time around, most of the best eps were the standalones [with the aforementioned 200 being the topper]. The season wound up with a cliffhanger – but there was a caveat: despite being cancelled, SG-1 was greenlighted for two direct-to-DVD movies – the first of which to be used to wrap up the Ori arc.
Overall, season ten of SG-1 was probably the worst season of the show’s run. The villains felt like retreads [despite their greater power] and the team found itself in a truly peculiar as the series finale, Unending, wound down. The season’s saving grace – the standalone eps – provided some of the best moments of the series [especially 200 and Bad guys, wherein SG-1 finds themselves in a hostage situation – only they are thought to be the hostage takers].
Features include: Audio Commentaries on every episode except Bad Guys [made up for by having two for 200]; Directors’ Series Featurettes for Momento Mori, The Shroud, and Unending; Stargate SG-1 Behind The 200th Featurette; Life as a Tech with Gary Jones Featurette; Deleted Scenes [with optional commentary], and Photo and Production Galleries.
Grade: Stargate SG-1, Season 10 – B-
Grade: Features – A+
[b]Final Grade: B+[/b]
Eclipse Review Posted by Sheldon Wiebe
Originally Posted on 08/14/07
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