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Category:    Home > Reviews > James Bond FIlms > Filmmaking > Biography > Literature > Cars > Racing > Drama > Police > Crime > Murder > Det > James Bond Gadgets (2002 – 4/A&E U.S. Pan & Scan DVD)/Le Mans (1971/CBS/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Special Branch: Set One (1973/Season Three/Acorn DVDs)/The Streets Of San Francisco – Seaso

James Bond Gadgets (2002 – 4/A&E U.S. Pan & Scan DVD)/Le Mans (1971/CBS/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Special Branch: Set One (1973/Season Three/Acorn DVDs)/The Streets Of San Francisco – Season Five, Volume One + Volume Two (1976 – 1977/CBS DVD Sets)


Picture: C/B+/C+/C+     Sound: C+/B-/C+/C     Extras: C+/C+/C/D     Main Programs: B/C+/B-/C+



PLEASE NOTE: The Le Mans Blu-ray may be marked as a Region B disc, but it is actually Region Free import and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.



Now for some releases for those who enjoy action…



As Skyfall arrives in theaters and the rest of the Bond films finally arrive on Blu-ray for the 50th Anniversary of the most successful film series of all time, A&E has issued James Bond Gadgets (2002 – 4/A&E DVD), a fine, fun two-part program that shows off the various vehicles, weapons and other devices that have made the Bond films one of the most imitated of all time.


We previously reviewed this set a few years ago as an import at this link:





I am glad to see it issued in the U.S., but why they have cut off the sides of the 1.78 X 1 HD image for this DVD to 1.33 X 1 is a shame, because this is a good looking set of specials and deserves better.  However, A&E should issue it is its proper aspect ration and get a Blu-ray edition out there.  The only advantage to this set versus the import is the Biography episode on Ian Fleming included here as it’s only extra.



Now we finally catch up to the Blu-ray release of Lee H. Katzin’s Le Mans (1971) with Steve McQueen in his own race car film drama.  Issued on DVD and later Blu-ray in the U.S. as well, we are covering the Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray as we covered the import DVD from Umbrella at this link:




Though it is the same film and has the same issues, this new Blu-ray edition is such an upgrade (though all the extras are the same) that we get demo moments anyone with a home theater would love to have.  The DVD was not anywhere near capable of handling this fine transfer, but more on that in a moment.



Acorn Media has issued Special Branch: Set One on DVD as The Sweeney (both shows made by Euston in the U.K.) hits Blu-ray in several countries.  This set is actually Season Three from 1973 and whatever spy/espionage storylines the first two seasons may have had, this is more of a dark, outright, realistic gumshoe crime show and a sort of restart.  This time, George Sewell (ITC’s UFO, Barry Lyndon) is the lead cop and he is joined by a new assistant he is not too keen on (Patrick Mower, an alumni from the Spy classic Callan, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and they take on each case in the most brutal of terms.


These are the kinds of police drams with increased realism that eventually took over form the U.K. Spy shows from the 1960s (The Avengers and similar ITC/Lord Lew Grade shows) in parallel to similar detective shows in the U.S. and its sometimes comical but usually dramatic, serious detective cycle from Hollywood, et al in the U.S. and successfully syndicated worldwide.


I like the show and it is a good show with good performances, but many of the episodes did not stay with me after I watched them, though I did like them very much as I watched.  The leads have interesting chemistry and this was somewhat groundbreaking for its time like its sister hit.  In that, it is very much worth a look.


The only extra on this 3-DVD, 13 episode set is a 17-minutes-long interview featurette with Sewell and Mower.



Finally we have one of those U.S. variants of the same genre in The Streets Of San Francisco – Season Five, Volume One + Volume Two, the show that continued Karl Malden’s stardom and established Michael Douglas as a viable actor.  However, it took years before he was a respected, Academy Award-winning box office star, yet he had suddenly become an Academy Award-winning film producer and decided it was time to leave the show.  By the 1976 – 1977 season, the show had done much and was pretty consistent, but he was leaving and they needed a new star in his place.


Enter Richard Hatch, a then-new actor who may have looked a little too much like Douglas (at least matching much of his general description) for the show’s own good.  The future co-star of the original Battlestar Galactica did do as well as he could here and has some star quality, but the way he was written was not different enough or as fully developed as it should have been.  Audiences did not accept Douglas being gone and the chemistry he had with Malden (both with their instantly angry facial expressions and being equals) was succeeded with Hatch being too young, less formidable and the chemistry did not work.


Add a problematic, lame rerecording of the theme song and the show was not long for this world though no faults of Hatch or Malden.  However, it was a huge hit for ABC and Quinn Martin Productions, so Douglas is part of a send-off two-part season opener that is one of the most ambitious, wild, remarkable and now unintentionally amusing ever filmed.


Entitled The Thrill Killers, two people are sent to jail for a killings in a kidnapping attempt thanks in part to a gay witness (Gary Frank, later of Family), but the sentence is protested and four in the crowd are revolutionaries who decide to kidnap the jury and kill them one by one unless the killers are released.  But that’s not all!


The terrorists are led by Patty Duke (when she was Patty Duke Astin) assisted by Susan Dey of The Partridge Family, Anthony Geary (soon to be Luke on General Hospital) and Ron Glass of Barney Miller.  Then you have 1960s Green Hornet Van Williams as a cop, plus jurors played by Dick Van Patten, Norman Fell, Paula Kelly, Barry Sullivan, Doris Roberts and Dr. No himself, Joseph Wiseman!


There are even a few more surprises, but I’ll save them and can tell you there is nothing like it out there.  These companies went all out to keep this show a success, but it did not work in the long run and the show folded up after doing everything it could have.  Those shows are on Volume One, but Volume Two has its share of guest stars and these shows were rarely syndicated, so they are worth catching up with, especially if you are a fan.


If only the writing had been different and theme rerecording been more exciting.  It is just that the energy changed and was fading, so the show was finished and the leads continued successful careers.  There are no extras, but we have covered just about the entire series, so here are links to our previous coverage for your reference:


Season One, Volume One



Season Two Set



Season Three Set



Season Four Set





The 1.33 X 1 image in Bond is butchered as noted and disappoints, but the same on the Branch set (shot on 16mm film) the two Francisco sets (shot on 35mm film) are properly framed and look just fine for their age, consistent and with some nice shots throughout.  They could even get Blu-ray editions if the companies would like to issue them as such.  However, there is some second-generation footage on some of the Francisco shows that do not look as good.  That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Le Mans far better a performer than the DVD version (and note the PAL DVD copy we had should look at least a little better than the U.S. NTSC DVD) which was a little weak.


In this version, image reproduction of the 35mm anamorphic Panavision frame is often stunning, the print does not often show the age of the film and originally issued as a dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor film, the color is often that impressive and wide ranging.  The result is a very pleasant surprise more film and home theater fans should see.



The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Bond and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Branch are about even and sound just fine, about as good as they could for that compressed format, but the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the two Francisco sets have much more compression than their predecessors, especially in the opening theme song.  This often carries over into too many of the shows to the point that it is too low sounding and we must warn to be careful of volume switching when viewing these sets.  This is rare for a CBS release, but it is the case here.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on Le Mans expands the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the previous DVD and the results are not perfect, but the sound is a little warmer and richer throughout and this was a film originally designed for 4-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects, so it has its moments, yet don’t expect a state-of-the-art soundfield all the time.  Still, it is a nice upgrade and the best sound on this list.





As noted above, you can order the import version of Le Mans exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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