Thursday, November 09, 2006

Classic and contemporary television series as well as a double bill of forgotten crime films are in this week's DVD column.

Police Squad: The Complete Series

Leslie Nielsen had been a solid dramatic actors his entire career when he was included in the cast of a low-budget comedy titled "Airplane." That film not only changed the face of film comedy, but also gave Nielsen a whole new lease on his career.

Since then, the silver-haired actor has been known for his comedic roles in many films, including the "Naked Gun" series, also the product of the creative team behind "Airplane."

Before the "Naked Gun" movies, though, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams tried their hand at television with a hilarious parody of 1980s crime dramas called "Police Squad." These half-hour shows were part "Dragnet," and part all of those crime shows produced by Quinn Martin that were divided into acts and had an epilogue.

Dense with both jokes and sight gags, the show only lasted six episodes, and, as Nielsen describes in one of the disc's extras, it was the show's density that caused it to lose viewers.

The show demands your attention or you will miss something and apparently in 1982 that approach didn't make for popular television.

If you're a fan of Zucker, Zucker and Abrahams, this is must-have for your collection.

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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation The Complete Sixth Season

I enjoy the original "CSI" series (the New York version is tolerable, but I can't watch the pretentious Miami version) and this collection shows that after six years there is still some life and originality in the series.

After all, just how many ways can a person be killed? Wouldn't they be running out by now?

Apparently not. Although the number of ways a person can be killed may be limited, the circumstances seem be endless.

What has become the strength of the series is not the almost R-rated gore of the show although I'm sure that attracts some viewers but its evolution from a procedural cop drama to one in which we care about the characters.

So here we have Warrick (Gary Douran) getting married because his jobs teaches him that life can be fleeting and Nick (George Eads) going the extra distance for a little girl who everyone thinks is dead because of his own near-death experience.

While the sex and violence can get a little oppressive in some episodes -- this is not a series suitable for children -- the show can also be a tearjerker as well.

And I love watching show such as this one on DVD with no commercial interruptions!

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Forgotten Noir: Volume

The folks at VCI Entertainment have put together another good double feature of crime dramas from the lat 1940s and early 1950s.

Make no mistake. These are not big-budget classics. These are the kind of films found in neighborhood theaters or drive-ins. Both share a theme of showing the under-belly of what was then considered peaceful and prosperous post-World War II America.

First up is a nifty little film titled "Loan Shark" starring George Raft as an ex-con who just wants to go straight. Getting a job at a tire factory, his new boss wants him to go undercover to discover who is the loan shark prettying on his staff. Raft doesn't want to do it until the hoods kill his brother-in-law.

Raft played tough guys his entire career and never showed the versatility of actors such as James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson or Humphrey Bogart. He is effective though in this film as the guy who is willing to risk his life to find out who is at the top of the racket.

Filmed in a real tire factory, the film has a realistic quality that adds to its appeal.

"Arson Inc." is much more of a procedural crime drama with an actor playing the head of the Los Angeles Fire Department telling the audience the story of a young fire fighter (played by Robert Lowery) who goes undercover to smash an arson and insurance fraud ring.

Although its stock footage that contains shots of fire equipment that goes back to the 1920s doesn't help the film, generally the movies proceed at a steady clip telling its story. With just 63 minutes, there isn't much padding!

Lowery was a working class actor who never achieved great stardom but appeared in over 70 feature films in either starring or supporting roles. He is up to the task here or being charming in one scene and tough in another.

I'm a sucker for these kind of films and if you're the type to stay up late to see something on Turner Classic Movies you've never heard of before, you just might like this double-bill as well.

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©2006 Gordon Michael Dobbs. Standard disclaimer apples.

1 comment:

Reel Fanatic said...

I love Police Squad more than words can even express .. the Naked Gun flicks were great too, but this kind of humor just worked perfectly in that little half-hour dose