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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Military > Spy > TV > Mail Call - Best of Season Two (A&E DVDs)

Mail Call - Best of Season Two


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Episodes: B



True to his United States Marines roots, R. Lee Ermey is back for a second season of Mail Call, proving that nothing repeats like success.  The actor forever immortalized in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 masterpiece Full Metal Jacket as an uncompromising drill sergeant, Ermey has been appearing in feature films since Francis Coppola’s equally brilliant Apocalypse Now has more facts, dark humor, and necessarily rough language to disperse to the viewer.


Now that the set-up has sunk in, the show is still impressive, but the overall surprise is a bit dimmed.  These programs are an excellent continuation of how good the first set was.  One highlight is seeing exclusive footage of new somewhat-top secret unmanned airplanes (if they were totally so, they would not be on this show), and the editing does not give you the usual lull of being able to tell where the commercials may have been.


This DVD includes the following installments by subject:


1)     Civil War Rifles to Hedgechoppers

2)     U.S. Marine Training Tools to Dazzle Paint

3)     Trebuchets to Boomerangs

4)     LAVs to The Military Salute

5)     The Deuce-and-a Half to Scottish Kilts

6)     Medieval Weapons to Ejection Seats

7)     Unmanned Aircraft to The Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife


Trebuchets are often confused with or misidentified as catapults.  We also learn the history of the Bowie knife, however brief, that I did not get from the A&E ALAMO DVD set (reviewed elsewhere on this site).  The new ADS 2000 military diving apparatus will remind James Bond fans of the JIM diving equipment in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, though the similarities between the two are not acknowledged in that (or any) installment.  The Ejection Seats piece is very interesting as well, with any Bondian reference unnecessary.  The archival footage is as rich as before, making this another great collection.


The full screen, color images are from analog videotape with the usual varying image quality due to the documentary nature of the series.  The transfer is a tad sharper than the previous DVD.  The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, but it is simple and clear stereo, but still no surround activity.  Extras on this first DVD are few, but include a brief biography of Ermey and a hilarious piece called “Gunny’s Deal of the Day” that shows off a favorite Jeep while spoofing used car salesman.  Does he know he is using the infamous tagline for the Delos Corporation in Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973) at the end?


Altogether, this runs about 3 hours and is never dull.  Though it continues to be the biggest hit in the short life of The History Channel, it has yet to hit its stride.  If it stays this good and these DVDs keep getting issued, it will.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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