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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Mystery > Espionage > British TV > Comedy > Jason King (The Complete Chapters: Special Edition/Umbrella Entertainment/Region Zero/PAL DVD set) + Image Entertainment U.S. NTSC DVD Set

Jason King (The Complete Chapters: Special Edition/Umbrella Entertainment/1971 – 1972/Region Zero/PAL DVD set) + Image Entertainment U.S. NTSC DVD Set


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



PLEASE NOTE: The Umbrella PAL DVD set can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Zero/0 PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.  The Image Entertainment set is available on line and at finer U.S. retailers.



After Department S had been such a big hit, ITC had to calculate whether to continue the series or not.  The Avengers had just ended and it was one of its more interesting imitators.  ITC would usually continue a show or end it, but for the first time, they decided to do a spin-off.  They would focus on one character and to the shock of many, it would be Peter Wyngarde’s Jason King, who was considered strong, but not necessarily strong enough for his own series.


Without any cameos from his co-stars and barley a mention of the show it came from, the series was greenlit and ran for a single season, 1971 to 1972.  It would feature a few changes.  For one, it would not be an hour, but a half-hour.  Also, it would be a bit more comic and being shorter, would have to get tot the point of its stories.  Except for one two-part show, the stories would have the faster pace of early episodes of The Saint or Danger Man.  Also, production would switch from 35mm to 16mm film, saving costs and ITC knew that they would not be able to splice together episodes and put them out in theaters as films anymore.  Color TV had arrived and there was more competition now.


As their production of Spy/Action shows ended, Jason King, The Protectors and The Adventurer would all be in 16mm and the stocks were good enough at the time that they were able to get away with it, though it still did not make it as good looking as 35mm.  The advantage is that King would not look like Department S and the makers too advantage of this by bringing a different look and feel to the show.


Now free of working for the organization he would help out on cases, he continued his own adventures independently and all along was an author of spy novels based on his real life experiences.  Another plus was he no longer had any “Mother” or Alexander Waverly figure to report to, freeing the show up.  The budgets were lower, but the show was clever and 26 half-hour shows were produced before it was cancelled.  We are going to look at the show, then compared two DVD box sets on it.


The show came closer to the eccentricity of The Avengers to its advantage and the team that had made so many of the previous shows in the cycle were here so they were in tight form.  Like Department S, we will not list the titles since they might spoil some of the fun of the shows, but the titles are witty, especially in context.  I also need to add that Wyngarde carries the show very well, is not a buffoon as some had feared (and still accuse him of being) and the show holds up very well considering it is a product of its time.  More on that in a minute.


The great directors on this series included Roy Ward Baker, Cyril Frankel, Jeremy Summers, John Moxey and Paul Dickson.  Co-creators Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman wrote many of the shows and were joined by Tony Williamson, Donald James, Philip Broadley and even Harry W. Junkin, who had been so busy with The Saint for so long.  It was a fun show well made, intelligent and still a series all involved can be proud of.  Though King may look dated, this is a show that is more serious than comic.


Key guest stars included David Bauer, Nicholas Courtney, Ronald Lacey, Philip Madoc, Jenny Lee Wright, Frederick Jaeger, Freddie Jones, Ronald Lacey, Dennis Price, Phillip Stone, Alexandra Bastedo, Ralph Bates, Julian Glover, Eric Pohlmann, Basil Dignam, Michael Bates, Nigel Green, Paul Stassino, Pamela Salem, Alan MacNaughton, Alan Cuthbertson, Gregg Palmer, Anton Rodgers, Clive Revill, Geraldine Moffat, Sandor Eles, Ingrid Pitt, Kate O’Mara, Clifford Evans, Fiona Lewis, Roger Delgado, William Squire, Burt Kwouk, Eric Young, Stephanie Beacham, Anne Sharp, Stuart Wilson, Michael Goodliffe, Liz Frazer, Ivor Dean, Roy Kinnear, Sue Lloyd, Simon Oates, Anne Sharp and Patrick Troughton.


You don’t have to see Department S to enjoy and appreciate Jason King either.  It stands on its own, but from the three different covers of three box sets (including the two we have covered here), Image decided to reference the Austin Powers films, even though this is not outright comedy and Powers was more inspired by Michael Caine’s character in the Harry Palmer films, thus his appearance in a sequel.  The other covers are closer to the original spirit of the show and we have placed them on other pages starting with a link below.


Despite an off-screen scandal, Wyngarde never missed a beat as King and even became better as the character as the show moved on.  Now considered one of the most popular characters in U.K. TV history, this show can be enjoyed on so many levels and once you start watching it, it is hard to stop.  Jason King is a minor genre classic and a must-see.



The 1.33 X 1 image is a bit soft throughout, but is still on the consistent side and was one of the three series (besides The Protectors with Robert Vaughn and The Adventurer with Gene Barry, all also on this site) to be shot in 16mm film instead of 35mm film to cut costs and by this time, 16mm could look pretty good for professional TV production.  While The Protectors had prints that look on the faded side, Jason King in both cases here (and The Adventurer for that matter) may not be as faded, but still have detail limits that are from the transfer and not the source.  The PAL editions should look better outright, but the prints from each set are different.  The PAL DVDs handle blanket color (like the credits) better, yet there are many instances where the color from the prints on the NTSC US set has a little better range and detail.  Image’s NTSC copies are old ITC/Polygram transfers and Polygram is no more, bought out by Universal Pictures, though they did not retain series’ rights to any ITC shows.


Underrated Director of Photography Frank Watts, B.S.C. (The Avengers, Department S, The Adventurer, The Champions, The Protectors, Space: 1999, Return Of The Saint) shot every episode and really pushed the format and did some fine 2nd Unit location shooting for it.  It proves that even regular 16mm from that time can look so good, that it will take Blu-=ray to really show it off well, but both sets have fine color points no matter the softness.  16 X 9 TV owners can zoom in on the image and will be surprised how good this looks widescreen, as it was still shot theatrical film safe despite the smaller camera negative. 


Both sets offer Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and the Umbrella PAL set is clean and clear for its age and plays back consistently better than the picture, but the NTSC set has sound that can sound more compressed and this especially affects the theme song.  Is this from some kind of odd PAL-to-NTSC slowdown or is it something else?  Laurie Johnson’s instrumental title theme song is fun and even has a slight reference to The Avengers, but is more of a swinging action song than Department S.


Extras are not included on the Image U.S. set at all, but the Umbrella set is loaded with them including Audio Commentaries with series star Peter Wyngarde on “Variations On A Theme” and “Flamingoes Only Fly On Tuesdays”, Audio Commentary with Director Roy Ward Baker on “Wanna Buy A Television Series?”, Audio Commentary with Director Cyril Frankel on "An Author In Search of Two Characters", Insert reprint of Original ITC Publicity Booklet, Original ITC Pressbook, Story Information and Scripts (in DVD-ROM PDF File form), Bonus complete episodes of Department S & The Baron with Peter Wyngarde (both sets reviewed elsewhere on this site), Cast & Crew Profiles, Textless Title Sequence, Production Notes, Original Memorabilia and Extensive Image Galleries from the ITC Archives.



For more on Department S, try this link:





For the cover of the Australian DVD set, try this link:





As noted above, you can order this PAL DVD import version exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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