PLEASE NOTE: If we link out to a site and you buy something there, we make money off of that. Everyone online does that, the difference is we love you. For why we have to specify this, click here.

Headsup: Of Doctors, Princes and Aristocrats

There’s a lot of stuff that comes out all the time, and the companies are want your attention and mostly…your coin. But, you know, it’s your coin and you have to take care where you spend it. With these posts we try to take you through recent releases so you can make up your mind. If you find the info here to be of use, do us a favor and purchase stuff from Amazon through us. Especially if you were going to buy the stuff anyway. That gives us kickbacks, which help pay for things. Like the server. And coffee. And therapy. We thank you.

Doc Martin Collection DVD
Fresh Prince Season 6 DVD
Upstairs Downstairs: Series 1 DVD

[ad#longpost]Doc Martin shouldn’t be as entertaining as it is. I mean, at its center is a doctor who might be good at what he does but he doesn’t play well with others. Don’t we, you know, already have a really huge series like that? Well, yes, but what sells this is Martin Clunes as the lead character, who is brilliant and hysterical in the role. It’s not that nothing else in the series holds water or anything, but without somebody like Clunes to anchor the thing, it just wouldn’t have held up in my opinion. Here we have the first four series of the series (the fifth is to be filmed this year). We get thirty episodes across nine discs for around twenty-four hours of solid content. The total cost of the boxed set is $65.99 as I type this. There’s no real bonus bits to speak of besides text on screen, which puts the cost at just over $2 an episode. That’s not terribly shabby, I must admit. If you’ve never seen the show before, I wouldn’t jump right in…I’d suggest renting a couple via Amazon Instant Video or Netflix first. If it’s up your alley, then go for the rest if you think it’s something that you could get some rewatch value from. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air completes its run on DVD with this sixth season, hitting thanks to Warner Brothers. While I do appreciate Will Smith, this has never been one of my favorite series, admittedly. It always seemed capable enough but nothing compelling enough for me to make a point of watching it during its initial run. And you know I’m picky about getting hooked on television shows anyway. The main point here is that Warner Brothers, which has been flaky about other series, finished this one off. It only makes sense, considering the bankability of its star. But you never know. There are no bonus bits here, but you do get all twenty-four episodes across three discs. With a price point of $21.99 as I type this, that puts you at well under $1 an episode. In other words, if you’ve already grabbed the other sets, it makes sense to continue the trend. I would say a completist might want to consider buying if the replay factor works for them. If you want to sample, it’s available via Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. As far as Warner Brothers coming back and giving us a better release later…I don’t know. There’s always the chance a complete series might have a featurette or two, or maybe some additional interviews…but I just don’t see them doing so much you’ll be filled with regret. And as for an inevitable Blu-Ray release, I’m not sure what other value is added. So I would guess you were safe to purchase if the spirit moved you thus. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Upstairs Downstairs has been getting a lot of attention lately. First up, there’s the new series, which appears to be continuing with what’s being called a seventh season airing next year. Then there’s Downton Abbey which is I guess the Dynasty to UpstairsDallas if that makes any sense. But that all being said, it’s the 40th anniversary of the original series–and thus Acorn Media re-issued the entire series with all new bonus material. What we’re looking at here is the first series of the original series: all thirteen episodes across four discs. Whereas the entire boxed set of the series previously released by A&E had only a 25th anniversary special, this time you’ve got–on this set, anyway–the first part of a making-of docu, an alternate pilot episode and six episodes come with audio commentaries featuring writers and cast. As to purchasing…well, I think if you’re a fan of the series you should forego grabbing this and get the full set. Because the price point just doesn’t make sense–at this point by the time you’ve bought just three seasons of the show (which ran five) you’ve paid for the full series. And that way you get all the bonus bits in one fell swoop. You can snag the complete set here. Uncertain whether or not you like the show? You can nab episodes via Amazon Instant Video here to try them out. Even if you had the original set, I think the amount of bonus features this time around make this worth nabbing. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Highwater Blu-Ray
Perfume of the Lady in Black
Tron Legacy Reconfigured

Highwater is Image Entertainment’s answer to the question: “I am a surf fan who owns a hi-def setup at home…what can I do to show off this lovely sport to not just myself but others?” Well, there you go. This documentary covers the Triple Crown competition at Oahu and features a number of the surfers and the people around them. Is it the best docu you’ve ever seen or heard in hi-def? Probably not…but for what it tries to capture, it does all right, both are acceptable. There’s a great deal of bonus material here, what with “bonus surf footage” (which is exactly that) and some extended interview footage (almost fifty minutes’ worth). Again, this is for fans of the sport–and mayhap anybody who just wants a glimpse of what the whole thing’s about. The former might want to consider purchasing for replay value but the latter would be fine renting or grabbing via Amazon Instant Video. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Perfume of the Lady in Black is a giallo film directed by Francesco Barilli which, as near as I can tell anyway, is getting its Region 1 DVD debut from Raro Video. The tale starts off simply enough: we have Sylvia who seems to be doing all right until…one day, she’s not. The past comes back to try and kick her ass (at least in a mental sense) and she goes down the path of madness and chaos. While not the best of the genre, it has enough in the way of weirdness and creepsville to make it worth a watch for anyone who hasn’t caught it previously. The video and audio look great for a film of its vintage. It’s held up better than me, let’s put it that way. The one main bonus bit on the disc is an interview with the director where he walks you through his decisions on the film. While the release is reasonably priced ($13.49 as I type this), it’s probably for the huge fan of giallo to purchase. For anyone who wishes to just sample it, it’s available via Amazon Instant Video as well. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Reconfigured version of the Tron: Legacy soundtrack is seemingly designed with me in mind: as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I went into the first soundtrack by Daft Punk with the wrong expectation. I was looking forward to a Daft Punk album rather than a Daft Punk musical score. So all of the crazy techno-house wackiness I was expecting wasn’t always there. However, here we get a remix album which gives me that–and really, with both discs, what I wanted musically from the film is damn near complete. Those on hand to remix Daft Punk bits are The Crystal Method, Paul Oakenfold, Moby, Teddybears, Photek and others. You get fifteen tracks in this vein. The MP3 album is $5 as I type this, which is a damn fine price for this set. (Click here to buy the MP3 download from Amazon. Click here to buy the CD from Amazon.)

Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: Power Struggle DVD
Firebreather Blu-Ray
Vanquisher Blu-Ray

The latest release of Ben 10 has hit DVD from Cartoon Network. It’s from the Ultimate Alien series: Power Struggle. It’s the second round of ten episodes from the first season, closing it out. This continues the rest of the tale of sixteen-year-old Ben and his coping with the latest version of his device, the Ultimatrix, not to mention dealing with his latest powerful enemy. As far as the DVD goes, the audio and video are passable. There’s no Blu-Ray release that I’m aware of on the horizon…but even when it does hit, if this is for kids they’ll probably be fine with this as it stands. The only thing you might miss out on is bonus bits. The price per episode is less than $1.50 as I type this, so that’s fairly respectable. I would say if you’re new to the series, it’s probably best to start earlier on…although you could jump in with the first volume of the Ultimate line if you wished. Otherwise, fans of any age who want to have it on their shelf should purchase…everyone else might consider a rental or Netflix. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Also from Cartoon Network it’s Firebreather, based on the comic published by Image by Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn. The deal is fairly simple: if you thought your teenage years were problematic, try being half-dragon. Especially if you get it from your father’s side, who happens to be, you know, over a hundred feet tall. So it’s sort of like a John Hughes Kaiju film. Anyway, the main problem for me is the CG design…the characters all look very, very odd. I understand that’s probably due to the budget limitations with this being a telefilm and all, but it really detracts from what would be a decent little story. The Blu-Ray here comes with a deleted scene, a 2D animation test, animatics and an image gallery. The 2D animation looks good and it makes me wonder if that’s the direction they originally wanted but were forced into CG by the budget. Regardless, the Blu-Ray is $5 more than the DVD, so if you are going to purchase, it makes sense to just go ahead and get the hi-def. But consider the replay factor–also consider if this does happen to go to a full series, no doubt this back door pilot will get included in a later set, I’m sure. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

From Magnet we have Vanquisher, a mindless bit of action fluff from Thailand that doesn’t really commend itself to much. You remember in the 80s how you would grab some Vestron Video or Trimark action film and take it home and go, “Meh.” (This was even before the word “Meh” was fully introduced into the lexicon.) This is a lot like that. The plot is that a badass Thai agent gets partnered with a badass CIA agent and things go…well, bad. And our Thai agent wants to get revenge. That’s about the size of it. This is the sort of film you MST3K with some friends…and if you must try it out, Amazon Instant Video might be the way to do it, since there it’s only $3.99 and $20.99 for a Blu-Ray with dubious replay value seems a bit much. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ernest Goes to Camp and Ernest Goes to Jail Blu-Ray
Galaxina and The Crater Lake Monster Blu-Ray
Last Gun and 4 Dollars of Revenge Blu-Ray

Mill Creek puts out movies on the cheap. They’re not Criterion but sometimes you don’t need Criterion. Exhibit A: Ernest Goes to Camp and then Goes to Jail. Usually when I joke about films that don’t exactly belong on Blu-Ray, I bring up something like Adam Sandler‘s The Waterboy. But this is a horse of a different color. To be fair, it feels bad saying anything untoward about anything having to do with the late Jim Varney, who after being Ernest went on to voice the Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story films before his untimely demise due to lung cancer. And in all fairness, the two movies released here are geared more towards kids than anything else, who will probably still find them amusing, what with Ernest P. Worrell doing his usual goofball routine. You get both films in hi-def and they look decent, although they’re not leap off your screen wow. Normally I would say with no bonus features it’s a hard sell, but at $7…if you do want to own the films this is a nice cheap way to do it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

There’s also the double feature of Galaxina and Crater Lake Monster, which is tied together as a Science Fiction Double Feature on the front and as “2 Drive-In Classic Feature Films” on the back. And I guess if you view it in that respect–a hi-def answer to a drive-in double feature, this might make sense, even at a $12 price point. You’ve got a sci-fi parody starring a Playboy playmate on one hand and on the other, a no-budget monster flick. I’ll let you deduce which is which. Trouble is, the quality of the films are squarely in the MST3K bracket and because of their B-movie origins, they don’t really get much boost from hi-def. They probably look as good as they’re going to get on Blu-Ray, considering they would need some remastering work done and…well, I’m not sure who’s going to step up and do that. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

You have much the same problem with the “Spaghetti Western Double Feature” of The Last Gun and 4 Dollars of Revenge…the only upshot being that they are, in fact, spaghetti westerns. And even a bad one has some merit to it, in my opinion. Last Gun features man vs. outlaws and 4 Dollars has a wronged soldier on the path to revenge. Again, we’re dealing with no remastering and just a straight port to hi-def. It’s also only $12 and has no bonus bits, so it’s hard to say who this would be for from a purchase point of you. Hi-def enthusiasts who are also western completists will probably want to give it a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Bill Cosby Show: Best of Season 1 DVD
Hawkeye: The Complete Series DVD

We’re still in Mill Creek territory here as we have first up The Bill Cosby Show. This is a must-see for fans of Cosby who only know him from his later stand-up outings (i.e. Himself) or the first iteration of The Cosby Show with Phylicia Rashad. Now…this is not the entirety of the first season of his 1969-1971 show but just ten episodes from it, a Best Of setup. While ordinarily it’s a steal at around $3.99 for the set…the problem is this: Shout Factory’s full-on season one set is available with all twenty-six episodes for just $10.99 as I type this. So for $7 more, you get the entire shmeal. If you don’t know the show, it’s best to sample it before purchasing, sure, but the price point for just ten episodes just doesn’t hold up, I fear. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Hawkeye is a series that I had never heard of from the mid-90s. That is a period in which I was away from television pretty much 100%, so it’s not surprising. Because it’s the sort of thing I would have been aware of being a Lynda Carter fan. Because…well, everybody knows why. It was also syndicated and from Stephen J. Cannell, the man who brought you…well, damn near everything, it seems. Based on the Natty Bumppo character from James Fenimore Cooper, it has Lee Horsley (The Sword and the Sorcerer, VHS fantasy video rental nerds) in the title role and Carter playing the love interest. Mill Creek has all twenty-two episodes across four discs for just $10.99. And this is, by the way, the first time it’s hit Region 1 DVD. So that’s a decent way of adding it to your shelf if you want it. Is it Daniel Day-Lewis and Last of the Mohicans? No, but for fans of such shows it would be worth a watch. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Last Voices of WWI DVD
Marcus Welby MD: Best of Season 1 DVD

The Last Voices of WWI is one of the best titles we’ve talked about this go-round, because it basically was one of the last chances to speak with veterans of WWI. It was from The History Channel UK and those veterans are now lost to us. Harry Patch is one of the soldiers featured and he was the latest surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches. He died at age 111. Henry Allingham was the oldest surviving veteran of the War…period. He died at age 113. Incredible. But the fact is this docu: captures their stories and many others–and good thing, too. I think this is a must watch and at $4.99 as I type this, it’s easy enough to snag. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, yes? This set gets you educated about the first World War in a hurry. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

This Marcus Welby MD: Best of Season One release from Mill Creek is slightly different than the Cosby one above. It’s the classic series from the same time (but ran for much longer), starring Robert Young as Welby and a young James Brolin as his rival. Same setup disc-wise, yes and same price point for this release ($5.49 but they are drama-length episodes, so) but the different is the Shout Factory first season release that contains all twenty-six episodes is $24.49. So yes, if you want to own it, you might want to go for the full set, but if you only want to own a selection, here you go. If you don’t know the show, you can always sample it via Amazon Instant Video for $2 a shot. But I would say if you like medical dramas at all, you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with a slice of TV history so you can see where they came from. Purchasing beyond that is up to you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)