I’m a bit late with this news about the Network DVD sale as it’s been running for the last 24 hours or so, but the good news is that it’s on until midnight tomorrow, Sunday 8 August, so there’s still time to nab a bargain.
As a (slightly obsessive) TV fan who mourns the loss of quality drama from UK screens, bar the odd Life on Mars or Being Human every few years, Network’s dedication to archive telly is to be applauded. This new sale finally brings a number of box sets and single volume series down to an affordable price for those who might want to dip their toe in classic (or is that “old”?) television.
The real highlights in the sale for me are the two Callan sets, a series I discovered earlier this year and which I’ve been trying to spread the word about for the last few months. I’ve reviewed both The Monochrome Years and The Colour Years so won’t go into detail here, but the black and white Callans are really a must for any spy fans with even a passing interest in the genre: with dark, gritty and multilayered scripts, Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter are perfect foils for each other, while Anthony Valentine threatens to steal any scene he’s in.
Sticking with adventure and intrigue, the recently released 4 Just Men from ITC is the template for many of the genre series which would see them through the 1960s and 70s and which have now fallen out of favour in the UK. Strangers is an often overlooked police series starring Don Henderson as George Bulman, a copper relocated from London to the mean streets of the north of England who has some odd peculiarities. Later seasons would see Taggart’s Mark McManus join the cast. Continue reading
Four men who fought together during war time band together to fight injustice on a weekly basis in this latest release from Network, and no, it’s not another repackaged A-Team DVD set: it’s The 4 Just Men, which first aired on UK TV in 1959.
Jack Hawkins, Dan Dailey, Richard Conte and Vittorio De Sica are the Just Men of the title, each with their own unique place in society: Dawkins is London MP Ben Manfred; Dailey is Paris-based US reporter Tom Collier; Conte is lawyer Jeff Ryder and De Sica is Italian hotelier Ricco Poccari.
Introduced in the pilot episode, in which their ex-commanding officer gathers them together to recall their first encounter and send them on their mission as the 4 Just Men, each episode features a different adventure for one of the heroes. Rather than have them in a group every week, we see them take off on their own, only interacting by telephone if things get really tough, though occasionally two actors are allowed to meet.
With episodes only running at 25 minutes each, there’s little time for padding or exposition, and we’re off and running in no time. The problem of this format is clear in the first handful of stories, with a couple almost identical in their plots, and it takes a short while for the writers to get the pacing right. Thankfully, with a whopping 39 episodes on this set, there’s a chance to see things develop, and if you don’t like one story just hand around and another will be along in a little while. Continue reading
Spend more than a few minutes on this site and you’ll find much love for UK DVD label Network, one of the only companies actively mining the ITV archives for series that would otherwise remain an obscure entry on Wikipedia. Network’s latest discovery is 1966’s The Corridor People.
While present-day ITV audiences are lucky to have quality drama series such as…well…there are bound to be some somewhere, back in the 1960s and 70s there were a number of production teams striving to put out a variety of action, adventure, fantasy and drama series for a public that expected something more than just soaps and reality TV. Some, such as The Avengers and, to a lesser extent, Callan, may have lived on in popular culture, but others, such as The Corridor People, aren’t so well remembered.
Described by Network on their website as “a surreal crime/fantasy adventure series in the mould of the The Avengers”, they go on to say that the series features “a host of unlikely characters include Kronk, a paternal CID agent, his henchmen Inspector Blood and Sergeant Hound, and American, Bogart-worshipping private eye Phil Scrotty; each episode sees them pitched against the avaricious schemes of Syrie Van Epp, a beautiful, treacherous Persian millionairess.”
The series is out on Monday 19 July and I hope to have a review up on the blog next week, but in the meantime here’s a clip from Network’s YouTube page: