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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Action > Gangster > Spy > Secret Agent > Martial Arts > Detective > TV Movies > Telefilms > Ur > Ambushed (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 8-Movie Collection (1964 - 1967)/Shaft: The TV Movie Collection (1973 - 1974/MGM/Warner Archive DVD Sets)

Ambushed (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 8-Movie Collection (1964 - 1967)/Shaft: The TV Movie Collection (1973 - 1974/MGM/Warner Archive DVD Sets)


Picture: B- & C/C+/C Sound: B- & C+/C+/C+ Extras: C-/C-/D Films: C-/B-/C+



PLEASE NOTE: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Shaft DVD sets are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the links below.



Here's a look at three action entries that you may not have heard about, including a new one that should have worked much better...



Giorgio Searfini's Ambushed (2013) brings Dolph Lundgren, Vinnie Jones and wrestler Randy Couture together in an unfortunately formulaic tale of L.A. criminals with Lundgren as a DEA agent who will do anything to bring down a drug ring headed by a tough guy (Jones) and enabled by a corrupt cop (Couture) in a set-up that had potential, but the writers decided to make this from the extremely tired gangster genre formula that has been done thousands of times, especially lately.


Dialogue is as forgettable as the situations and the fight sequences are not up to par for these actors either, so the result is a bored, tired mess that drags on and on and on for its very long 97 minutes of running time. Jones steals his scenes by default as he is the only one showing any energy here. Do not operate heavy equipment around this one.


A Behind The Scenes featurette is the only extra.



There is a three way tie for now between the longest running U.S. spy movie series between the Bourne films (though they did not retain their same lead star), Dean Martin's Matt Helm films of the 1960s and the four Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films and that is about to become a two-way tie. However, even as we get fifth films from the active series, there is one series that lasted longer, even if it is a bit of a cheat to count it. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 8-Movie Collection (1964 – 1967) collects the eight theatrical releases of two-part episodes (or two unrelated episodes in a few cases) of the hit TV spy series with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum that were cut together and padded with new footage. A clever move by MGM, these cheap-to-produce releases were starting to become common in the 1950s when several episodes of the George Reeve Superman were successfully issued the same way, but not with new footage.


Though not reissued since and not included in the Complete Series DVD box set of U.N.C.L.E., Warner Archive has issued all eight and some are better than others. The titles and the episodes they are made out of are as follows:


To Trap A Spy (1964, poor mix of The Vulcan Affair and The Four Steps Affair)


One Of Our Spies Is Missing (1965, from The Bridge Of Lions Affair)


One Spy Too Many (1965, from The Alexander The Great Affair, not as effective)


The Spy With My Face (1965, poor mix of The Double Affair and The Four Steps Affair)


The Spy In The Green Hat (1967, from The Concrete Overcoat Affair)


The Karate Killers (1967, the best film here, from The Five Daughters Affair)


The Helicopter Spies (1968, from The Prince Of Darkness Affair)


How To Steal The World (1968, from The Seven Wonders Of the World Affair)


If you count the reunion telefilm, that would make 9 (or 8 ½?) films and MGM quit as the show ended and the last faked films come from the final episodes of the series. It is almost as if they were suggesting they might just launch real U.N.C.L.E. films, but the show was cancelled as the spy craze slowly declined. Still, they are fun, did get full theatrical release treatment including posters and just added to how much fun and how big the TV show really was. Overseas and in the U.S., other shows like The Saint and The Avengers also issued faked feature films as big screen TV and color TV was only just arriving, so this really was more common than you would think. The extra footage is the biggest reasons to see these and have some great guest actors like Fritz Weaver, Senta Berger, Sharon Farrell, Harold Gould, Rip Torn. Yvonne Craig, Dorothy Provine, Jack Palance, Janet Leigh, Joan Blondell, Elisha Cook Jr., Penny Santon, Herbert Lom, Joan Crawford, Kim Darby, Telly Savalas, Curt Jurgens, Jill Ireland, Terry-Thomas, Carol Lynley, Bradford Dillman, John Dehner, Sid Haig, Julie London, John Carradine, Kathleen Freeman, Barry Sullivan and Eleanor Parker among the great names and actors who landed up on the big screen.


Trailers are the only extras, but you can read more about the series at this link:


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/6407/The+Man+From+U.N.C.L.E.+%E2%80%93+The+Co


..plus more on the show and the spin-off The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. also issued by Warner Archive at this link:


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/12400/The+Girl+From+U.N.C.L.E.:+The+Complete+Serie



In the opposite direction, MGM did what they could to keep anything making money if they so after a trilogy of Richard Roundtree Shaft films played in movie theaters, instead of settling for the poor box office of the ill-advised and muddy Shaft In Africa, they decided that it might be a good idea to jump on the bandwagon of hit detective TV series (many of which were TV movie series) and decided to make some TV movies with the character and got Roundtree on board. Seven telefilms resulted and are all featured in Shaft: The TV Movie Collection (1973 - 1974) which tones down the language and violence, but gos the gritty urban TV detective route.


That it happened surprises many and that they were fun and not bad, holding up better than you would expect, will surprise fans and most who have not seen them. It was too urban for detective fans and not graphic enough for Blaxploitation fans, so production eventually ended, but they are all worth seeing just to see what they did and where they took the character. They include:


The Executioners (Robert Culp, Barbara Babcock, Kaz Garas, Rafael Campos, Richard Jaeckel, Dean Jagger)


The Killing (Ja'net DuBois, Val Avery, Michael Ansara, Henry Beckman, Leonard Frey, Jared Martin, Vito Scotti)


Hit-Run (Tony Curtis, Howard Duff, Anthony Geary, Percy Rodriguez, Paula Shaw, Jason Wingreen)


The Kidnapping (Jayne Kennedy, Greg Mullavey, Erik Holland, Frank Marth, Paul Burke)


Cop Killer (Darren McGavin, Arch Johnson, George Maharis, Kim Hamilton, Max Gail, Richard Schaal)


The Capricorn Murders (David Hedison, Cathy Lee Crosby, Don Knight, Arthur O'Connell)


The Murder Machine (Clu Gulager, Fionnula Flanagan, Sheldon Allman, Glenn Robards)



The show had Shaft working somewhat closely with Eddie Barth as Lt. Al Rossi, but the pairing has limited chemistry, though it was not unrealistic. Darren McGavin shows up as a police captain when Rossi gets into trouble and that had more chemistry and potential, but MGM made the huge mistake of not signing him on as a new regular, which left McGavin free to do the Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV series (reviewed elsewhere on this site) so the last telefilms that followed suffered and MGM pulled the plug. They are all better than the ill-advised Samuel L. Jackson revival remake and worth seeing again.


There are no extras, but you'd think someone had something to say about these shows.




The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Ambushed Blu-ray is the best looking of the discs here, but it is a weak HD performer with motion blur, downstyling choices that are beyond played out and a generic look that does not help it. The anamorphically enhanced DVD version is especially weak and can barely compete with the 1.33 X 1 image presentation on the U.N.C.L.E. and Shaft DVD sets, both of which were processed n MetroColor. U.N.C.L.E. ids the next best looking of the discs here though the film prints can show some damage, age and grain from optical printing, but color is not bad throughout. The Shaft transfers are, however, weaker overall than expected with poor definition, crushed video black, lack of depth, some muddiness and come from older video masters. Both sets deserve Blu-ray treatment.


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on the Ambushed Blu-ray is the sonic champ here by default, with dialogue and some other sound too much in the front speakers, weaker still in the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD version which even lacks more of a soundfield. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the U.N.C.L.E. and Shaft DVD sets can more than compete by simply being competent and well transfers, sounding good for their age.



As noted above, to order The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Shaft DVD sets, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.warnerarchive.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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