Pathfinder In Space Trilogy (1960 1961)/City
Beneath The Sea/Secret Beneath The
Sea (1962 1963/Network U.K. DVDs)/Regan
(Pilot to The Sweeney/1973/Network
U.K. Blu-ray)/Without Motive (2000
Picture: C/C/B-/C Sound: C/C/B-/B- Extras: C+/C/C+/D Main Programs: C+/C+/B/C+
PLEASE NOTE: Without Motive is a U.S. Region One NTSC
DVD from Acorn, while the Pathfinder,
City Beneath The Sea and Secret Beneath The Sea DVDs are Region
Two only and will only play on such DVD players. The Regan
(pilot to The Sweeney) telefilm
Blu-ray is region free and all these imports are only available in the U.K.
from our friends at Network U.K. and can be ordered from them exclusively at
the website address links provided below at the end of the review.
Now for a
look at some classic British TV shows you may not know of and a newer one that
represents more of what we are getting today.
Sydney Neuman (The Avengers, Doctor Who) tried to create all kinds
of TV and among the first British dramas for children and family audiences were
a series of five short shows that happened in succession and had some key
success for Associated British when he was still working there.
The new Pathfinder In Space Trilogy includes
all three shows produced from 1960 to 1961 involving three youngsters whose
father works at a spacer station and the trouble they get into. But things get wilder when saboteurs may be
hiding on the base ready to strike and they get involved in unlikely ways. The first show was so successful that
co-creators Malcolm Hulke (Ghost Squad)
and Eric Paice (Star Maidens, Sergeant Cork) delivered the sequel
series included here: Pathfinders To
Venus and Pathfinders To Mars. Yes the budgets are low, the visual effects a
hoot and the costumes possibly funnier, but these are smart, entertainingly
made and though some of the science and factual data is dated, the shows are
fun. George Coulouris is among the cast.
to take the established audience to new places, the oceans and submarines were
mixed with military and more spies, so City
Beneath The Sea (not to be confused with Irwin Allens later productions of
the same name) this time penned by the capable John Lucarotti (Moonbase 3) making it and its follow-up
show Secret Beneath The Sea further
hits. However, by the final series,
Neuman and Associated British (known as ABC) quit while they were on top and
that was the end of the ongoing shows.
However, these are also much fun and it is nice to see these shows make
it to DVD, as so many other such shows (shot on tape or live captured on
kinescope) need to come out on DVD now.
Extras include booklets and stills sections (including promo still and
behind the scenes stills) for each show, plus a DVD-ROM accessible PDF teleplay
for the Pathfinders prequel Target Luna is also included.
many fantastical action shows like The
Avengers and Doctor Who in the
1960s, a more serious kind of drama was starting to surface (think Callan) and the fine Armchair Theater
anthology series (which we have reviewed elsewhere on this site) showed a TV
movie called Regan with John Thaw as
the tough cop title character. This
landed up serving as a pilot for The
Sweeney, a groundbreaking police drama that changed British TV forever, is
about to be remade and holds up very well.
As a result, the all-filmed telefilm has arrived on Blu-ray (its been on
DVD for a while now) and the landmark holds up as Regan and his team have to a
killer, but he finds Scotland Yard might be as much trouble as the unknown killer
in this enduring work that more people need to see outside of the U.K. and this
is an impressive disc.
Waterman, Lee Montague and Barry Jackson are among the supporting cast and
extras include an interview with writer/creator Ian Kennedy Martin and a
feature length audio commentary track with Waterman, Producer Ted Childs and
Director Tom Clegg.
the result was not only some great British TV, but the often regressive police
procedural cycle, which is safer, less gritty and a little less realistic no
matter how much more graphic the makers can be.
Without Motive (2000 2001)
is such a show, running at least the two seasons represented in this new 4 DVD
set from Acorn. Ross Kemp is Detective
Constable Jack Mowbray, juggling his family with his job. The first season has a serial killer on the
loose, while the second has a man accused of a murder he may or may not have
committed. Not bad, though we have seen
much of it before, it is best reserved for fans of this specific subgenre.
and white 1.33 X 1 image on the Pathfinder
and Sea sets show their age with the
kind of distortion old round picture tubes would give such shows, but this is
as good as they are going to look. The
1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image on Regan is likely from a 16mm print source, possibly 35mm that has
aged, but it is superior to the out of print U.S. BCI Eclipse copy from their Season One box set (they went out of
business) and is the first telefilm in the U.K. out on Blu-ray (the 35mm Dark Night Of The Scarecrow is the
first in the U.s., both beating the telefilm that is usually first in both
markets in a new format, the 1972 Night
Stalker with Darren McGavin) and has some fine shots throughout. It is shot to be dark and gritty and Network
(et al) has done a fine restoration job on the fine work by Lighting Cameraman
John Keeling (Special Branch). Guess the whole series is not far
behind. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78
X 1 image on Motive has too much
edge enhancement and other flaws to look as fine as it should, so in this way,
it disappoints the most.
The Pathfinder and Sea sets have Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that also shows its age and
has distortion issues as expected, but holds up better than their respective
pictures. Regan has an interesting mix of audio options. You can watch the film in solid PCM 2.0 Mono,
in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with stereo music and PCM 2.0 Stereo that isolates
the music score by Mark Duvall. Too bad
there is not a DTS-MA lossless 5.1 option, because these materials suggest this
could have been amazing. Motive has Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
with surprisingly good Pro Logic-like surrounds.
above, you can order all the DVD and Blu-ray imports in this review exclusively
from Network U.K.
- Nicholas Sheffo