Category: DVD Review

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.

DVD Review: Forgotten Noir, Volume Seven

Forgotten Noir, Volume 7 collects three B-movie mystery/adventure films from the 1950s, all of which had interest to me as a fan of old time radio.

The first is David Harding, Counter Spy. Based on the long-running Phillip H. Lord radio series, the film has a framing device of a commentator who blasted the government, having the idea of counter-espionage explained to him through a story that occurred during World War II as a Navy Lieutenant Commander is called in to find out how information is being leaked from a torpedo manufacturing plant. The framing device is unnecessary and the film has a few slower moments, but this is the best film in the set as it was made as a studio B picture for Columbia rather than as an Independent release.

Next up is Danger Zone. There’s some confusion around this movie. Some say it’s based on Pat Novak for Hire starring Jack Webb. It’s actually based on the Pat Novak for Hire ripoff Johnny Madero, Pier 23 also starring Jack Webb. Future Ward Cleaver Hugh Beaumont stars as Dennis O’Brien, who is Johnny Madero by another name. This movie adapts two different stories made over radio with little to link them, apparently to allow the option of splitting them to air on television. One of the stories adapts an existing radio episode, “The Fatal Auction” and follows the plot beat for beat.

The biggest change is that rather than having his confidant be a waterfront priest, Dennis’ go-to guy, Professor Frederic Schiker, is a Jocko Madigan-type drunk who lives with O’Brien, which does save on scene changes. I did miss the character’s chiding (which was a feature of both Pat Novak and Johnny Madero) and without that the performance is a bit flat. The stories are decent, but the acting is a bit off. Even Beaumont, true pro that he was, seemed to not totally believe the off-the-wall hard boiled lines he was being asked to deliver. It does make me appreciate the unique quality that allowed Jack Webb to deliver those lines with as much conviction as he did.

Finally, we have The Big Chase. I was interested in this film as it starred Mystery is My Hobby and Stand by for Crime star Glenn Langan and his wife (and Stand by for Crime co-star) Adele Jurgens as a rookie policeman and his expectant wife. The story does have some nice features. Langan’s character is given depth as we learned why he joined the force and why he wants to get into the juvenile division. Langan does a good job and plays his part without the more refined voice he does his most famous radio voice in.

The story features better talent than you’d expect with a film like this with Lon Chaney, Jr. playing one of the bad guys and Douglas Kennedy playing our hero’s police Lieutenant buddy. It also featured Joe Flynn (of McHale’s Navy fame) in one of his earliest film roles as a reporter in yet another unnecessary set of framing scenes. The film is called the Big Chase for a reason. It has a twenty minute chase scene that’s a lot of fun. It involves cars, trains, a helicopter, boats, as well as some fisticuffs, and gun play. It’s not perfectly executed but makes up for it with some nice location shooting which can cover a multiple of film-making sins for many fans.

The big problem with the film is that it is severely padded. It runs a little over an hour and has enough interesting material to fill somewhere between 25-35 minutes. The chase really gets started nearly 40 minutes in, and prior to that the pacing was positively glacial.

I was glad to watch the films, but this is one of those ones I couldn’t recommend for everyone. This is a film that you have to be an OTR buff to appreciate. We have a well-known radio series coming to film, an obscure radio series coming to film, and a star of two lesser known radio series playing a policeman in a slow, dull film that gives way to an impressive low budget chase. As the saying goes, if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you would like.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5

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DVD Review: Dick Tracy (1990)

Dick Tracy is a comic strip movie starring Warren Beatty as the famous detective Dick Tracy, as he tries to take down the criminal organization of Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) while avoiding the designs of Breathless Mahoney (Madonna.)

This film won three technical Oscars and deserved it. The world created for this movie is visually appealing with some stunning use of color and art deco touches as well. The make-up and costume design are top notch. In addition, Danny Elfman turns in a typically good score.

The story is decent if not spectacular. The final the twist at the end is good. The plot points related to Junior are taken right out of the comic and feel right in place. There are also some great actors in relatively minor roles including Dick Van Dyke, Dustin Hofffman, and James Caan. In addition, in a nod to classic detective movies, Mike Mazurki shows up.

There are three problems with the film. First, I don’t care much for Beatty’s performance as Tracy. He was going for strait-laced and upright but instead comes off as stiff. Al Pacino, on the other hand, gives a performance that is way over the top. I’ll never understand how he got nominated for an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and a Saturn Award. For me, it was a grating, scenery-chewing performance that was more annoying than funny.

Second, there’s too much of Madonna singing in this film. One or two musical numbers, I can see. But she has five numbers in this film. They’re all well-written, but the only one that worked was, “Back in Business.”

Third, the film’s tone is inconsistent. It’s a movie that doesn’t know who its marketing itself to. I remember seeing happy meal toys for this movie and the bright colors and character of Junior would appeal to kids. On the other hand, some of the violence was too extreme for children and Breathless Mahoney is an over-sexualized character in keeping with Madonna’s 1990s brand. On the other hand, much of the plot, story, and characters doesn’t appeal to adults. The tonal differences means that sometimes, it feels like the characters are in different movies.

They were trying to imitate Chester Gould, who made Dick Tracy, the type of comic strip the whole family wanted to read by mixing elements that appeal to kids and adults to satisfy everyone. In the film, they seem to have succeeded in not fully satisfying many people at all.

That said, there are worse attempts to adapt a classic property. A lot does work about the film. Something Val Kilmer would prove six years later in The Saint. The film looks classy and has a great sense of style, with a lot of homages to its source material. If you’re a Madonna fan and/or you liked Al Pacino’s performance in this, you’re going to like it more than I did. For me, it’s a film that had a lot of potential but never fully lived up to it.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Streaming Review: Knives Out

Knives Out is a throw-back as a big-screen murder mystery. This is the type of film made all the time during Hollywood’s Golden Age. In the sixties and seventies, these sort of films began to feature all-star casts such as Murder in the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, and Evil Under the Sun.

Then, the big-screen detective faded in popularity and murder mysteries became almost exclusively the province of television. There have been exceptions over the years, but in general, the murder mystery has been replaced by more Thrillers at the box office or occasionally we’ll see Sherlock Holmes re-imagined as a steampunk action film.

What Knives Out offers is an original, modern day American murder mystery that feels a lot like Agatha Christie. Mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead in his mansion the night after his birthday party. He informed family members that he was going to be making some changes to the financial arrangements that his family members enjoy, including to his will. The physical evidence points to a suicide, however Louisiana-based Benoit Leblanc (Daniel Crag), “the last of the gentlemen sleuths” has been hired to investigate the case by an anonymous client. Due to his reputation, the local police take a second look at the case and find that all is not as it seems.

Daniel Craig is good at playing this eccentric detective. There’s a touch of Columbo that has most of the household not taking him as seriously as they should. He has many quirks to his method, plus great human touches. He calls to mind Hercule Poirot. The accent is only so-so, but to be fair some Poirot actors are a bit dodgy.

Ana de Armas has a lovable turn as Marta, the dead man’s nurse and his best friend who Benoit designates as his Watson, as he has a hint that she knows far more than she’s letting on.

We also have a supporting cast with Hollywood mainstays like Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon and lesser known competent character actors, and some younger actors who know what they’re doing.

The mystery itself is something right out of a classic mystery novel and while the plot is complicated, some might say convoluted, it’s played out and resolved with a wonderful sense of style.

While this has a lot of throwbacks, it’s still set in the modern day and also includes enough modern touches to make the story work. In a lot of old detective stories, the victim is a really horrible person to nearly everyone they met. Here, I think there’s more nuance. Harlan does things that makes his family angry and provides good murder motives, but he’s still a decent guy whose actions are taken out of an abundance of concern. He’s actually an interesting person who has complex relationships. The main characters are handled pretty well in that regards.

The family is also a nice mix of modern day characters. They reflect a lot of aspects of society, including the current political divides, but the movie resists the urge to paint some family members as better based on politics or cultural alignment. In fact, with most of the family, it just means that they are equally horrid but in different ways.

There are also some great camera techniques that are used to enhance our enjoyment of the story without overwhelming us with CGI effects. It’s a well-balanced mix of classic and modern storytelling.

If I have one issue with the story, it’s that Marta has an unusual tell that means she throws up when she lies. I’m not a fan of gross out humor, and it was used to facilitate a couple of the laziest writing moments in the film.

Beyond that, this is good. This is a recent Hollywood film that lives up to its hype and I can only hope its success will lead to more films like it.

Based on its returns, I’m hopeful. It grossed $320 million at the box office. That’s not Marvel Movie money, Ant Man and the Wasp grossed $622 million the same year. However, Knives Out did this with a $40 million budget, which is 1/4-1/5 of Ant Man and the Wasp. Knives Out shows there’s still an audience for a well-made and well-written detective movie.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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