Best DVD sets of 2012 take a retro turn
By Miriam Di Nunzio firstname.lastname@example.org December 28, 2012 1:29PM
Updated: January 29, 2013 6:05AM
When it comes to some of the year’s best DVD box sets, 2012 was all about vintage. From classic television to one iconic film dynasty, it was clear that this was the year that retro ruled.
So here are five must-have box sets from of the year. It will probably take most of 2013 to get through all of them, but with the wintry days ahead, curling up with any of these will make the cold nights fly by.
“The Dick Van Dyke Show — The Complete Series” (25 discs, Blu-ray, Image Entertainment; $150.49 at Amazon.com)
The hi-def transfer from the series’ original 35mm negatives is just one of the reasons this set is dynamite. The series — all 158 episodes, which aired from 1961-1966 on CBS — starred Van Dyke as Rob Petrie, the head comedy writer of the fictional “Alan Brady Show” (played by series creator Carl Reiner). Included for the wild ride were Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie, Richard Deacon and an up-and-comer named Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie, the devoted wife who made capri pants so sexy the sensors almost banned them.
Included are the pilot episode (the series was originally called “Head of the Family”) with Reiner in the role of Rob, Barbara Britton as Laura, Morty Gunty as Buddy Sorrell, and Sylvia Miles as Sally Rogers. They couldn’t hold a candle to the cast that was assembled for the series that followed two years later. Hours of bonus features are included, but they’re the icing on the cake of episodes that are as fresh and hilarious as ever.
“Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection” (Blu-ray, MGM Home Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $279.99 at Amazon.com)
If you missed the Black Friday “steal” for $99 or $150 on various websites, you’re gonna have to shell out the big bucks for this one. But fans of the film dynasty won’t be disappointed (save for “Never Say Never Again,” which is omitted yet again). No matter, 23 discs feature 22 films, which means you can start at the very beginning.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of James Bond is no small feat, but watching the series come to life and evolve, from the actors who stepped into the tuxedo and ordered up their shaken martinis to the women who entranced them to the villains who tormented them, to the gadgets that boggled our minds to the cars that none of us could afford, it’s all here in remastered hi-def. Interestingly, some of the transfers look odd in places (the gold in “Goldfinger” isn’t quite as sparkly as I remembered), but those kinds of color discrepancies are quickly forgiven. Best bonus: “The World of Bond” pop-up trivia feature that proves quite challenging.
“Peter Gunn — The Complete Series” (DVD, Timeless Media Group, $99.99 at Amazon.com)
This 12-disc collection boasts the entire marvelous, highly sophisticated series (114 episodes) that aired from 1958-1961, with Craig Stevens as the suave, handsome and impeccably dressed title character — a private investigator who was as cool as he was successful.
Created by the legendary Blake Edwards and featuring a jazz score (and a Grammy- and Emmy-winning theme song) by the equally iconic Henry Mancini , the series was an homage to classic film noir (the black-and-white tones are pristine), set in a nondescript city and centered at the smoky jazz club called Mother’s. Co-star Lola Albright served as the occasional guest singer at the club and love interest to Gunn, while Herschel Bernardi was the streetwise cop and pal to Gunn, Lt. Jacoby.
Gunn was the highest-paid PI on television, commanding $1,000 for his services. No less than Robert Altman served as the writer on many episodes (and directed a few, as well). A bonus CD features a handful of songs from the show.
“All in the Family: The Complete Series” (DVD, $189.99, Shout! Factory)
This box set will have you truly appreciating just what this iconic and controversial series means to television history. The 28-disc set features the original broadcast versions of all 200 episodes that were the genius of series creator-writer Norman Lear. The show centered on a Queens, N.Y., family headed by Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) and his doting wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), and their daughter, Gloria (the often mini-skirted Sally Struthers).
The series, which aired on CBS from 1968-78, touched on issues that few television shows dared to cover, including rape, gun control, abortion, divorce, menopause, racism, bigotry, the civil rights movement, the anti-war sentiment, draft-dodging, insurance fraud, homosexuality, women’s lib, Watergate, the list goes on and on. But at its core was the workaday Bunker family, with the addition of college student/son-in-law Michael Stivic (played to liberal perfection by Rob Reiner), that lived from paycheck to paycheck and suffered the slings and arrows of Archie and his narrow worldview.
Not every episode has stood the test of time, but they remain a slice of the American pop culture pie, capturing an era that many remember, whether we agreed with Archie or not.
“The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection” ($199.99, www.timelife.com)
Only 50 episodes from the 278 that comprised this iconic CBS series are featured here (along with 20 hours of bonus material, including clips of Burnett’s early days as an ensemble member on “The Garry Moore Show”), but there’s enough to satisfy fans who have been clamoring for the full episodes for decades.
All of the unforgettable characters and featured bits are well-represented, including Mrs. Wiggins, Mama’s family, “As the Stomach Turns,” the mini-musicals, the salutes to Hollywood’s greatest films — “The Godfather” skit featuring Steve Lawrence is still a gem, and the 1976 spoof of “Gone With the Wind,” featuring the great window curtain dress, is iconic for good reason.
Among the many guest stars: Sammy Davis Jr., Betty White, Joanne Woodward, Pearl Bailey, Roddy McDowall, Madeline Kahn, Peggy Lee, the Smothers Brothers and Bernadette Peters.
Watching the show’s ensemble of Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner and Harvey Korman perform everything from slapstick to scripted (and often off-script) vignettes, you have to marvel at just how talented an ensemble they were.
Burnett made history by proving that a woman could host a successful weekly comedy-revue series; the show has 25 Emmy Awards to prove it.