Classic Movies · Movies · Stuff You Should Know · Television

Back from hiatus

ranchoyesteryear

Gosh, it seems like weeks have passed since I updated the ol’ blog…and as it turns out, it has been—two, to be precise. I apologize for being so negligent, but it’s been a veritable hive of activity around here.

To start off, the house has now been officially listed as up for sale. (The curious can see Rancho Yesteryear in all its inside and outside glory here—see if you can locate the wall clock, Pam!) Notice that there are no snaps of my bedroom (the Hazmat people still haven’t given the real estate agent the okay, ha ha) but if you look at picture #4 you’ll see the sun room and a large stack of clutter that I’ll only be too happy to claim as my own. This Saturday (March 29) we’re holding a Moving Day sale, so if anyone who regularly reads my scribbling is in the vicinity, feel free to stop by and say hidy.

dixon
Ivan Dixon and Julius Harris in Nothing But a Man (1964)

During my hiatus, two notables from the world of show business went to their rich rewards—the first being Ivan Dixon, recognizable to us Hogan’s Heroes fans as the actor who played Sgt. James “Kinch” Kinchloe on the long-running sitcom from 1965-70. (He left the show in its fifth year, and was replaced by Kenneth Washington as Sgt. Richard Baker for the final season.) While Dixon—according to this obituary—never had a problem with being recognized for his work on Heroes, he felt the need to break ties with the series in order to concentrate on directing…which he did on shows like The WaltonsThe Rockford Files and In the Heat of the Night. (He also did a pair of theatrical films: 1972’s Trouble Man and The Spook Who Sat By the Door, released in 1973.) Dixon passed away at the age of 76, and if you’re only familiar with his work on Heroes, you owe it to yourself to check out some of his other performances. I highly recommend his role in 1964’s Nothing But a Man and a great Twilight Zone episode, “The Big Tall Wish.” Rest in peace, Mr. Dixon…you will be missed.

scofield
One of my favorite Paul Scofield turns: Quiz Show (1994).

Actor Paul Scofield—an Oscar winner for Best Actor in A Man For All Seasons (1966)—has also shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 86. Scofield’s film career wasn’t really all that prolific—which is why some people question why he won the Best Actor trophy in the first place—but it’s sort of hard to argue that he wasn’t sensational in every film role he did undertake. My personal preference is Scofield’s turn as Mark Van Doren, father to Ralph Fiennes’ Charles Van Doren in Robert Redford’s Quiz Show (1994), a drama based on the TV quiz show scandals in the late 1950s. I watched a documentary on the subject and when they showed a picture of the real Mark Van Doren, I couldn’t believe how much Scofield resembled him, it was positively uncanny. (Scofield received a Best Supporting Actor nom for his performance, by the way.) Scofield did some marvelous work in films: the erudite (and ruthless) Col. Von Waldheim in John Frankenheimer’s The Train (1964) and the sinister Judge Thomas Danforth of The Crucible (1996) are the two that instantly come to mind. R.I.P. to an incredible actor.

streetsofsanfranciscoThere’s some encouraging news coming from the TV-on-DVD front: CBS-Paramount will be finish out the sophomore season of the classic crime drama The Untouchables with a Season 2: Volume 2 set to be released August 26th, and the first half of the second season of The Streets of San Francisco will also see disc action on July 1. But what really has me pumped is the news that William Conrad’s classic detective drama Cannon is coming to DVD July 8th…though, sadly, it will be with still another split season set. (Conrad’s other TV hit, Jake and the Fatman, will also be released via split season on the same day.) TVShowsOnDVD.com also has a strong rumor about the release of one of my favorite sitcoms, Dave’s World, whose debut season comes to disc August 12th.

route66-2Infinity Entertainment is announcing that the second season (perhaps I should say second split season) of the cult classic series Route 66 will hit the road (pardon the pun) May 20th, and on that very same day they’ll combine the first two split seasons of Year 1 to re-sell as Route 66: The Complete First Season. I purchased Season 1, Volume 1 of Route when it came out even though there was a tremendous outcry from the Vintage TV section of the Home Theater Forum about how crappy it looked (apparently the source material came from 16mm prints) but when I learned that Volume 2 had been completely f**ked up because some doofus lopped off heads and chins in “remastering” the episodes for widescreen TVs, I gave up on any further purchases until Infinity gets its collective shit together. (I went ahead and bought the entire series run from a “root pegger” for about 20 bucks, and I can be happy with that until Infinity learns to do Route 66 properly.) I suppose there’s an explanation for the unevenness of Infinity’s releases (I think their Suspense sets and their Man With a Camera set were extremely well-done, for example) and I welcome anybody who can offer one.

redskeltonIn the meantime, Timeless Media Group has four releases scheduled for a May 6 release that the potential vintage TV-on-DVD buyer might want to scrutinize before plunking down any cash on the counter. Timeless is announcing a 2-DVD tin of The Jack Benny Show that will retail for $12.98 but in looking at the guest stars announced in this TVShowsOnDVD release, it would appear that the content of the set consists of the same public domain telecasts that you can find much cheaper elsewhere (the Mill Creek Entertainment set, The Best of Jack Benny, immediately springs to mind). They’ve also plans for a Sergeant Preston of the Yukon tin (again, with 2 DVDs) and one entitled Here’s…The Johnny Carson Show; the Carson compilation looks to be a repackaging of an earlier release and while the Sergeant Preston tin might be okay for someone just casually interested in the famous Mountie and his faithful husky dog King you can get all three seasons of the show at Deep Discount.com in far better condition (provided, of course, you’re into the series). The last of this Timeless quartet are two 2-disc tins entitled Red Skelton: America’s Crown Prince and Red Skelton: America’s Crown Prince Returns. Timeless has released so many Skelton compilations (to their credit, the material comes from the late comedian’s family) that it’s difficult to tell if this is new material or just recycled stuff.

laramieAs usual, I’ve saved the best for last. Resident HTF curmudgeon Hank Dearborn reports that two vintage television series are soon due to be released by Timeless: the 1959-63 western Laramie and one of the shows I put on my “I’d Buy That For a Dollar” wish list, the 1957-60 crime drama M Squad (starring Lee Marvin!). There’s been no official announcement (release date, specs, etc.) on these two shows but Hank knows people who know people and I’m inclined to trust his sources (particularly since he broke the news about the upcoming DVD release of Mannix). I have to admit, I was both surprised and pleased as punch to hear the news about Laramie and Squad; apparently it’s going to be the same type of deal as with other releases leased to TMG from NBC/Universal (Arrest and TrialCheckmateLaredo, etc.). I can’t wait!

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