The Great DVD Backlog

Some DVDs Worth Looking At (And One To Avoid Like The Plague)

Thanksgiving (also known as Indian Genocide Day, or Eat Until You Pass Out Day) is upon us, and it can mean one thing:

No, not the start of the War on Christmas.And no, not that Hell has frozen over because people actually want to watch the Lions game this year.

It means that there are tons of DVDs coming out!

The deluge has already started. Disney has unleashed the fall Platinum Edition, The Lion King (with a special version that has even more impractical packaging than the special version for the old DVD release), and of course Cars 2: Herp And Derp With Larry the Cable Guy is out. Plus, Warner has unleashed the first Looney Tunes Blu-ray set (the whining about the double-dipping of shorts having started half a year ago), and the first Golden Collection for Tom And Jerry, which will (finally!) collect all of the duo’s shorts, fully restored and uncut. However, what’s coming down the pike is even more exciting. Shout! Factory is even in the act, with Part 1 of Conan the Adventurer‘s second season having come out today.

First and foremost, Shout! Factory is releasing a complete series set for Underdog, the first in a cycle of releases that will see all of the Total TeleVision Productions cartoons released to DVD for the first time. And, unlike with the Sunbow shows, there is 1) a definitive, published expert on the studio’s output, and 2) Classic Media, the current owner of the Total TV library, has enlisted this expert, a man named Mark Arnold, to completely rebuild each episode as it was originally aired (as syndicators have long since redistributed the individual Total TV shorts and jumbled them around, often mixing them in with Rocky And Bullwinkle shorts for perpetual rebroadcast). While I hold no claims of being the Sunbow expert (I haven’t even interviewed a single Sunbow staffer in over 8 years of running this site, for one thing), having someone with a good, working knowledge of the Sunbow shows would have been far preferable to letting Brian Ward (who has at times admitted on the Shout! Factory message boards some level of ignorance about the Sunbow shows, to say nothing of his ignorance of what the Doctor Who Restoration Team has proven can be done to restore videotape masters) fumble about.

Next month, Warner Archive is releasing the second volume of Season 2 of The Jetsons (these are more of the ’80s episodes with that Orbitty thing, if that helps any), which will leave only the last 10 episodes of the series unreleased.

Season 2 of Rocko’s Modern Life is coming in February, which leads me again to wonder why You Can’t Do That On Television still hasn’t been considered for a DVD release.

Mill Creek, who has sublicensed the DVD rights to a number of DiC shows from Shout! Factory, is releasing an odd 3-disc compilation featuring C.O.P.S.Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors,….. and Pole Position. The latter show has never had a home video release before, which has long been assumed to be a result of Namco asserting their US rights to their early arcade games (most ’80 Namco games were released in America by either Bally/Midway or Atari-the latter of which Namco became a part owner of for a time when the arcade division was spun off as Atari Games after the notorious Video Game Crash). The problem is, Pole Position has 13 episodes, and Mill Creek crams a maximum of 10 half-hour episodes per disc on its releases. I’m sure that you can do the math. Also, you know that those jerks at Cookie Jar/DiC/whatever the Hell the name is now have nuked the original end credits logos (which will cut off part of the end credits theme song, one of the more memorable parts of the series).

Hovering off in the horizon is another run of DVDs for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power by Mill Creek as part of Mattel’s rather odd 30th Anniversary celebration for the Masters of the Universe toyline. Now, I have it on good authority that the man himself, Lou Scheimer, retains 16mm prints for all episodes of both shows (and one would presume that the same is true for Secret of the Sword and the Christmas Special, though who knows if the same is true for The Greatest Adventures of All and Skeletor’s Revenge), but my faith in Mattel (who seems barely able to control its contempt for Filmation and its co-founder), Classic Media (a prominent example of a “media archive mill” that leeches off the remains of fallen independent studios will little regard for what masters they do or don’t have), and Mill Creek (who is infamous for their “budget” DVD releases) is pretty low. Personally, I think that Lou Scheimer’s personal archives should be raided to fuel as many Blu-ray releases of Filmation shows as is possible, starting with He-Man, seeing as how crappy DVNR-heavy PAL-compressed transfers with a huge chunk of the pilot missing due to “print damage” do no one any good (to say nothing of the heavy amounts of material missing from the Archie and Fat Albert series as currently presented on DVD).

And now for something you’ll real hate! Shout! Factory is releasing the first season of DiC’s G.I. Joe on DVD in January, which has prompted this review from yours truly on Amazon. Shockingly, unlike my scathing takedown of the Shout! “Complete Series” Sunbow Joe set, I haven’t seen my review counterbalanced by the webmaster of “GeneralsJoes.com”, a site run by a guy who has no knowledge or affinity for the Sunbow series, and whose action figure reviews are laden with so many repeated clichés, he has literally inspired a bingo game. (And yes, that sounded sufficiently bitter, don’t you think?) I’m not advocating destroying the DiC Joe masters, but I’d at least like a correct, uncensored release of the Sunbow series before any love for the DiC series is given. Just imagine my reaction if special features that should have been on the Sunbow DVDs (like, say, the Sgt. Slaughter wraparounds) end up on these DiC DVDs.

 

Vicki in: “How to Behave When Your Friends Get Into A Lover’s Quarrel”

Credit goes to Leanne Hannah for first teasing this little scene in the second part of The Space Museum, wherein Vicki finds herself caught in the worst place possible: right in the middle of your friends’ fighting, when both of them are in a relationship.

Vicki: Oh boy, here they go again.
Vicki: This is going to last awhile, isn’t it?
Vicki: I hate it when they argue like this. Maybe we should go back to Rome.
Vicki: Maybe if I stare at the wall, they’ll stop fighting.
Vicki: Is it really over?
Vicki: Thank God, it’s over!
Vicki: OK, let’s go! Barbara and Ian: Huh?
Ian: You Know this is your fault. Barbara: Whatever, Ian.

Fin.

 

G.I.Joe: The Movie Blu-ray/DVD review

I mentioned in the blog’s first post that I’ve purchased some Blu-rays for things I already know that I want to upgrade. One of these was none other than G.I. Joe: The Movie.

The short review: It’s the first Sunbow release that Shout! Factory has gotten right.

The long review: I like the Rhino DVD for G.I. Joe: The Movie. It’s a huge step up from the VHS releases in visual quality, even if it simply uses the same telecine transfer as the various VHS releases. Plus, it has a pretty good amount of the show’s PSAs in decent quality (especially compared to the bootlegs and online videos, which was the only place to see most of them at the time the disc was released). The problem is, the sucker’s old, and looks it in every way. The video has pretty heavy artifacting, and the 5.1 audio mix creates an echo effect with the background music (which was essentially mono, and created for a TV show that was barely stereo at its absolute best). The extras beyond the PSAs are quite silly, with an ancient ad for the original 12″ G.I. Joe, and an ad for MASS Device that was originally designed to have station IDs and voice overs thrown in in the middle and at the end. So, obviously, there was room for improvement, and the Sony/BMG DVD re-issue of Transformers: The Movie showed that the Sunbow feature films most certainly have their 35mm elements intact.

So, now, we have this new Blu-ray and DVD. Two wrinkles are immediately obvious: The Blu-ray is only available in widescreen (simulating the aspect ratio the film would have had if it had made it to theatres as planned), and the DVD has both the widescreen and the 1.33:1 format that the film has always been screened in. Unlike the notorious Dragon Ball Z “Orange Box” DVDs and the recent pair of Looney Tunes discs, the matting doesn’t result in a great deal of headless bodies or other vital information missing from the screen, belying the intended release format. In fact, one could argue that the movie could and should be shown at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, though the difference is incredibly minor when you get down to it. The stereo mix is also much better than Rhino’s 5.1 mix, as the background music is finally as clear as it was on VHS and the various TV airings.

While this alone would be enough to make it the best Sunbow home video releases in quite some time, there are special features to deal with. The main draw is the commentary track by Buzz Dixon, and it’s at least as good as the commentaries that Christy Marx and Roger Stern recorded for Rhino’s Jem DVDs way back when. The other features are a bit of a mixed bag, though: the PDF script confined to the DVD is of course a great thing, and as Dixon notes, the differences between it and the final feature a pretty subtle save for a couple of deleted scenes (including a funny sub-plot for Tomax and Xamot that would have set up their separation from Cobra in the never-made Season 3), but the art gallery is not much more than line art seen on the back of the original VHS releases and over at Dave Thornton’s website, JoeGuide.com, which is simply played for about a minute instead of selectable like most other DVD galleries I’ve seen. Worse are the PSAs. First off, these 8 are here because Shout! in their great ignorance (and because their G.I. Joe DVDs are not much more than ports of the discs that Rhino prepared) failed to search through the broadcast masters for. On the Blu-ray, the PSAs look and are encoded rather poorly (as I had issues advancing through the PSAs, especially when I noticed the fairly poor encodes). They look much better on the DVD, matching the quality one should expect for most of the Sunbow broadcast masters: clean, if aged, telecine transfers. But, again, these should have been on the so-called “Complete Series” box set.

As these are the last G.I. Joe DVDs we’ll see for awhile (at which point we can only hope that Hasbro and whatever distributor they choose stick with the uncut ’80s broadcast masters for the TV series), it’s comforting to finally see a release that generally gets things right, even if it’s a bit sparse in the special features department. Now, if only The Hub manages to continue this trend by using the broadcast masters for their reruns of G.I. Joe and The Transformers.

 

It’s A Blog!

So, instead of actually, you know, working on the site (next planned review: The Transformers’ first season-episode, “Divide And Conquer”), I’ve decided to entertain myself with…..a blog. I know, I know, but it’s the best way to deal with what’s been delaying me from my work: baseball, the selling off of my excess junk, and (the topic of this first post) my enormous DVD backlog.

Back when times were still relatively good, I managed to amass quite a collection of DVDs. Some, such as pretty much all of the cartoons, got watched immediately. Others, like a great deal of the TV season sets, got ignored for some reason or another. But now, with Blu-ray pretty much the winner of the format war, the time has come for me to go through all of these discs before even thinking about upgrading what can be upgraded. Granted, some things have already been upgraded (as I already know that I like, say, Major League and Star Trek), but there’s a great deal to go through. As of right now, I’ve gone through all the Disney stuff I own (it has its own section), and the As, and am now re-watching the Bond movies because I feel like it (besides, it’s been years for some of these movies since I’ve last seen them, and most only on VHS or TV broadcasts). So, yes, it’ll be a while before I get back to things in full, but I’m certain to have more than a few pertinent observations along the way.