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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Comedy > Adventure > Family > Children > TV > Animals > Shorts > Animation > Literature > Educationa > Annie Oakley: The Complete Series (1954 - 1957/Cinedigm/VCI DVD Set)/Beethoven's Treasure Tail (2014/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Scholastic Storybook Treasures: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site + H

Annie Oakley: The Complete Series (1954 - 1957/Cinedigm/VCI DVD Set)/Beethoven's Treasure Tail (2014/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Scholastic Storybook Treasures: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site + Hi! Fly Guy (Cinedigm DVDs)

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

Here's the latest child/family releases for you to know about...

Annie Oakley: The Complete Series (1954 - 1957) is the entire series finally brought together for the first time from Gene Autry's very successful Flying A Productions with Gail Davis forever immortalized in the title role. Over a decade ago, VCI issued a set of the shows on what has been the best set of them to date that we covered at this link:


Now VCI has outdone themselves with a superior set that belongs together the best-looking set of all the shows to date with a nice, surprise selection of extras. This has been a season for many classic TV shows finally arriving in complete series sets long overdue and that now includes this orphan show getting its due. I hope we see many more and VCI has already delivered some key shows on DVD (like Honey West), making it yet another great moment for the enduring independent. All 81 half-hour shows are here, Jimmy Hawkins played young male sidekick Tagg and Brad Johnson played the local Sheriff. Slim Pickens, James Best, Fess Parker. L.Q. Jones, Denver Pyle, Lee Van Cleef and Alan Hale Jr. show up in a few episodes each and we also get turns from Keye Luke, Gloria Talbott, Dorothy Adams, Shelley Fabares, Clayton Moore and character actors associated with Westerns fans will recognize. Another fun show worthy of rediscovery, this set finally brings it all together.

Extras in this almost VHS-tape-like, clamshell shaped DVD case (with translucent plastic) include an Episode Guide booklet on the show with a few stills, while DVD 11 adds the original Pilot of the show that did not sell, but is interesting to see, 7 Photo Galleries, two new documentary featurettes: Pig-Tails & Six-Shooters: The Making Of TV's Annie Oakley and Bulls-eye!: The Director's Of Annie Oakley and near 12 minutes of commercials Davis and Hawkins did for their sponsors, including Coleman Dairy products (milk, chocolate milk & ice cream) and the former bakery that produced Wonder Bread and Hostess Cakes (chocolate cupcakes, Twinkies & Sno-Balls for only 10-cents a set!) before they dumped the unions and original ingredients making them for the worst. It does not include the Carnation Dairy ad we've seen before, but Davis did not film anything new for that one.

Ron Oliver's Beethoven's Treasure Tail (2014) is at least the 8th release featuring the the St. Bernard dog that debuted in the 1992 film with Charles Grodin that was a hit. All that is left is the breed of dog (who knows what happened to the original 1992 dog) as this fluff (oops, a pun) showing up in a spy caper until we find out it is just a movie production where he is the star. However, his fired and is banished with his owner (Johnathan Silverman, who was in a previous installment), leaving Hollywood.

The bad luck might be good when they run into a map that might lead to real pirate treasure, but it never gets much more interesting than that. Morgan Fairchild and Kristy Swanson also star, but this is for children and fans only at best. Not bad enough to be dog of the week, but part of an unintended series well past its prime.

Digital Copy and trailers for other Universal family releases before the film starts are the only extras.

Scholastic Storybook Treasures: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site + Hi! Fly Guy are two more DVD singles in the long-running educational shorts series that also encourages reading in the best way. Each offers four shorts with Goodnight joined by I'm Fast (narrated by Stanley Tucci about a train), Officer Buckle & Gloria (narrated by John Lithgow, who wrote it from his children's writings) and That Book Woman. Guy is joined by And Then It's Spring, The Ant & The Grasshopper and The Mysterious Tadpole. I just wish they both had a little more on each disc, but these are well done, child-friendly, educational and entertaining.

Extras include Read-Along subtitle function on all shorts and interview featurettes with almost every author of every short (including all on Goodnight).

The 1.33 X 1 black and white image over the three seasons of Annie Oakley has some good points and uses some good prints, but there are still a few too many moments where the image is softer than I would like, or the transfer is softer than the better episodes on this set. Still, its about on par with most Western TV on DVD we've seen at the time. That all the shows survived at all is amazing. The various 1.33 X 1 presentations on the two Scholastic DVDs, all in color, may have some aliasing errors and minor flaws here and there, but look better overall for eight shorts on average, mostly newly produced.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Treasure Blu-ray is the best performer here by default, but has some softness issues that are so poor on the anamorphically enhanced DVD version that the Annie Oakley episodes look no worse. A flat HD-shot production, it does not look as good as the original 1992 film and has few really good shots throughout.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Treasure is again the best sounding here by default, with a capable mix that is still a little inconsistent, so the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD version is weaker to the point that the rest of the DVDs here can more than compete. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the Scholastic DVDs are pretty clean and clear for their simple mixes, but the real surprise is how good the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the Annie Oakley shows sound. Even more than the limited DVD set from a decade ago, the sound is not bad for its age at all.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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