Category: DVD Review

DVD Review: Pie in the Sky, Series Three

The Third Series of Pie in the Sky sees Richard Griffin return as Chief Inspector/Restaurant Chef Henry Crabbe. Unlike the first two ten-episode series, this series and the next only featured six episodes.

I’d describe this particular series as mellow compared to the two that came before. From its gentle theme song to its stories which leave plenty of room for character development and light human drama to its lovely small town setting, the show was a series that’s unafraid to walk on the mild side. Only one homicide occurs in the six episodes.

The series kicks off with a shake-up in the first episode as the criminal who has been key to Crabbe being blackmailed by his superior Assistant Chief Chief Constable Freddy Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair). This had been the only reason Crabbe remained on the force while also working at the restaurant. However, a new complication is added in that policies have changed and he can’t take early full retirement and has to wait three more years to do so. This is not nearly as interesting of a hook and the thing I least liked.

Overall,  even though the mysteries were not homicide, they were generally interesting and well-written. My favorite mystery was  in the episode, “The Other Eden” where Crabbe was tasked with solving the mystery of several stolen gardens and had to deal with a national department that was trying to claim jurisdiction.

Beyond that, the character work in the series was pretty good. Crabbe and his wife Margaret (Maggie Steed) do have some clashes. She technically owns the restaurant (due to regulations that forbid him from owning it as long as he’s still a policeman) and they have a bit of a battle of wills over her desire to save money by cutting corners on the ingredients. They also have to deal with a super strict health inspector threatening to close down  their restaurant and a bank manager who’s not too certain about giving them another extension of credit. It makes for interesting viewing since we’re invested in the characters and we get to see the way that Margaret and Crabbe approach problems differently.

The second episode, “Game Pie” sees some nice character moments for Fisher. Through the first two series, Fisher had been portrayed as the  ambitious police officer who was more concerned about his career and looking good with his superiors than with doing the right thing. However, when he’s implicated in an apparent accidental death, many of his fellow senior officers take steps to protect the department and put him at a distance, this brings out a different aspect to him.

There were some changes as well in the kitchen staff with Nicholas Lamont joining the cast as the new assistant chef and ex-con Gary Palmer who replaced the old chef Steve Turner.  Other than having a bit of a chip on his shoulder, I didn’t get much of a feel for Gary as a character. Though, it should be noted the kitchen staff characters, while having some distinct characteristics, were much more functional than anything else.

Overall, this series is a likable bit of television with solid acting, particularly with the leads, good stories, and makes for easy viewing.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5

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A Look at the First Two Episodes of T and T

T and T was a 1988-91 syndicated television series starring Mr. T as T.S. Turner, a former boxer who was wrongfully convicted of a crime until attorney Amanda Taylor (Alexandra Amini) clears him. He becomes a private detective and teams up with her to help the wrongfully accused.

As a kid, I loved Mister T and but never got to watch more than a  few minutes of the show as at that age, I never had control of the television. So I was curious to find out what I missed when I found it streaming on Tubi.

T and T was from an era where Canadian-produced first-run syndication series were quite popular and this was a half hour program which could come in handy for local TV stations looking to fill a block of programming. The budget for the show is modest and the show definitely looks of its era.

The child actors and supporting actors on this series range from competent and professional to either monotone or over the top. Ms. Amini comes off a bit flat in the first episode, but in the second, I think she’s much better.

Mister T. carries the show in these first two episodes. Mr. T’s charisma and warmth make Turner an endearing character. Turner isn’t quite the larger than life character of Mr. T’s most famous roles, Clubber Lang and B.A. Baracus. He’s slightly more down to earth. He’s a professional who cares about people, does his job, and carries himself with style. In these first couple episodes, Turner spends a lot of time wearing nice suits and the look really works for Mr. T.

The first two episodes are, “Extortion in Chinatown” and “Mug Shot.” The first involves Turner and Taylor trying to help a shopkeeper and his son in Chinatown. “Mug Shot” finds Turner and Taylor trying to help out a teenage boy who was duped into delivering crack.

These are pretty boilerplate detective show plots and the story plays out in a typical manner. The storytelling is workmanlike and not all that surprising. Like a lot of Mr. T projects during this era, T and T is concerned about teaching good morals, with the high popularity of Mr. T among 1980s youth. These episodes weren’t too preachy, but there were a few pieces of dialogue that were a bit off. (Though it could have been the acting.)

The show was hurt by its half hour length. By nature of the format, both Turner and Taylor were working together and operating in very different worlds. I don’t think there’s enough time to do this properly in the half hour runtime. I did find that there was a four part story (originally a TV movie) and I might check that out in the future.

Overall, T&T is an okay show. If you like Mister T and are intrigued by the idea of him as a 1980s private detective and are willing to overlook a few production quality issues, this is a fun show to watch, and the half hour length makes it a quick fast-paced watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

T and T is available for streaming on Tubi for free with ads.

DVD Review: The Avengers: The Complete Emma Peel Megaset

Three seasons of the Avengers passed prior to Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) becoming John Steed’s (Patrick Macnee) partner in fighting crime and espionage. After she left the series, it carried on with a new assistant for Steed for another thirty-two episodes. Yet to many fans, if they think of the Avengers as anything other than Marvel Comics’ superhero team, they think of Steed and Peel. The Avengers was that rare British TV show that came to America and became a success in prime time television.

Steed worked for British Intelligence. Emma Peel was the latest civilian drawn into Steed’s orbit. She had inherited wealth, but also had a keen scientific mind, along with amazing martial arts skills.  

This DVD release collects all 52 episodes comprising the Black and White Season 4, the color Seasons 5 and Season 6, and her departure story in the first episode of Season 7. 

The series had them dealing with a wide variety of different threats, including some that were science fiction. The series was always stylish. Steed’s Bowler hat and umbrella and luxury cars mixed with Diana Riggs iconic style made for a compelling combination. The opening to the color episodes could easily be repurposed as a high-end champagne ad.  

The Avengers had a tongue in cheek feel that  grew as the Emma Peel went on. The fourth Season may be the best from a dramatic standpoint. The episodes were often tongue in cheek, but more grounded than some of the color episodes. When the series went to color, there seems to have been a thought that there wasn’t much to it, if the plots weren’t going to be as outlandish as possible. The plots ranged from elaborate revenge plots to towns populated by assassins, dance schools that were training killers, cyborg killing machines, body swapping, mind control, shrinking technology, underground cities, and even killer Christmas Trees. One episode paid homage to the iconic 1960s Batman show by having Mrs. Peel holding up Comic Book action words like, “Pow!” To be fair, this makes slightly more sense in context of the episode but not a whole lot more.

McNee was great as a leading man, providing great humor, but Riggs is ultimately what made the Avengers work so well. Mrs. Peel was a fun character with a lot of facets as a scientist, heiress, and fighter. Riggs’ acting ability is absolutely superb. She’s able to play both the serious and the playful aspects of the show. The strength of how good she can be is seen in an episode like, “The House that Jack Built” where Steed is mostly absent and Peel is trapped in a house meant to destroy her. She walks about the house in silence and sells the eeriness of the situation.

The set lacks a lot of bonus features, but it’s priced reasonably on Amazon at around $20 for more than fifty episodes. The episodes are a mixed lot. Some black and white episodes are bit dull, and more than a few color episodes that are a bit too silly or over the top. But those are matters of taste. At the end of the day, The Avengers is an iconic classic.

Recently Diana Rigg passed away after a long career that included appearing in a James Bond film as well as working on more modern hit TV shows like Victoria and Game of Thrones. If you want to see how she rose in stardom and why after such a long career, this is the role many remember her best for, this is a must-purchase. It’s also essential if you’re a fan of 1960s spy and adventure shows.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

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DVD Review: Forgotten Noir and Crime, Volume 12


Forgotten Noir and Crime, Volume 12 collects another three rare low-budget films.

First up is The Treasure of Monte Cristo: A seaman (Glenn Langan) on shore leave is swept up into romance and marries a mysterious woman (Adele Jurgens) and then finds himself framed for murder. This is a clever plot and it’s gutsy for a low-budget film to try to write a modern-day sequel to one of literature’s great classics. There are nice location scenes and Langan and Jergens (who would later marry) are both pretty good. The rest of the acting is uneven and some plot points are not well-realized, including a confusing escape sequence. Still, this is a fun story.

The second film is Roaring City, the second of the Dennis O’Brien films which adapted two Johnny Madero radio scripts per film. Hugh Beaumont does seem to settle into his role as the tough talking private eye, strolling casually through scenes pipe in hand and finding a way to deliver the over the top hard boiled lines with as much credibility as he could muster. Similarly, Edward Brophy settles into his role as sidekick/roommate/drunk Professor Schicker.  The film is fun and breezy but not without errors. Outside of Beaumont and Brophy, the acting is so-so and there’s a pretty significant continuity error in the second half. O’Brien tells the Professor he’s agreed to go on a date and pretend to be a woman’s husband before he goes on the date and then after he’s inevitably framed for murder, he tells the Professor all over again as if he hadn’t told him the first time. Still, if you can get past hiccups like this, it’s not a bad way to spend about an hour.

The final film is Sky Liner, which is about a murder occuring mid-flight and being investigated before the plane lands. This is a film with silliness that includes ridiculously fast autopsies, but it’s a good setting and with a breezy pace that’s a tad under 50 minutes. There is a longer version of the film that includes a juvenile song number and a subplot about a newlywed couple. I can’t help but feel that this is probably the best cut of the film.

Overall, these are pretty good, low-budget films. They’re quirky and fun. There’s plenty of flaws to be found, but also fun elements that will bring a smile to the face of classic film buffs.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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Streaming Review: T-Men

In the 1947 film T-Men, two Treasury agents (Dennis O’Keefe and Alfred Ryder) travel to Detroit and go undercover in an attempt to infiltrate and ultimately break a counterfeiting ring.

T-men was a very entertaining bit of noir. It has the same cinematographer as He Walked by Night, and if you enjoyed the look of that film, you’ll probably like this one as well.

It’s one of those procedurals like He Walked by Night which really strove to portray the real life work of the investigator. So there’s a lot of detail, a lot of different scenes and minor characters who pop-up as our heroes try to work their way to the top, through a long tangled web of the underworld from creating their criminal identities to solving the case and making the bust. 

The script is smart, well-written and well-thought out. Our heroes are in constant peril and we’re given a reminder of how much they and, by extension, real-life Treasury Agents risk in the course of their work. Throughout most of the time, the film takes a deliberate pace, but it definitely picks up in the last ten minutes as the case comes to a finale.

The acting is solid. Outside of O’Keefe, most of the cast is made up of veteran character actors who manage to play their parts without seeming over-the-top, campy, or too stereotypical. Wallace Ford as the Schemer may have been my favorite performance. The main rising star in this is June Lockheart (Lost in Space) who appears as one of the agents’ wives.

The criticisms I’ve read online have basically come down to complaints about it being a procedural noir made in 1940s. If you want something faster paced or less detailed, this may not be the film for you. However, if you appreciate the realistic procedural films of the 1940s, this is a must-see.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Currently Available for free Streaming with Amazon Prime or on Blu-ray/DVD with two other films.