Chris Hicks: Vintage TV programs are among new DVD releases

Published: Thursday, Oct. 28 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

Ever since the advent of home video, fans of early TV have had to make do with dubs of 16mm prints — if not dubs of dubs that were earlier dubbed from some other dub. Meaning, several generations later, the only copies of these shows in bootleg circulation are grainy, have muffled sound and are difficult to watch.

But lately, such vintage programs as "Studio One" and "Omnibus" have made their way to DVD, opening the door for more, including a cult favorite that leads this collection of newly released TV shows.

"Evening Primrose" (eOne, 1966, b/w, $29.98). This is, by all accounts, the best episode of the single-season anthology series "ABC Stage 67." An hourlong musical, the show features four lovely songs from composer Stephen Sondheim and boasts a teleplay by James Goldman ("The Lion in Winter").

Anthony Perkins, six years removed from "Psycho" and still trying to break out of that stereotype, plays the hero, a naive poet who decides to move into a Manhattan department store and live there after hours, writing without interruption and not having to raise rent.

But to his surprise, he discovers an entire community already living there, made up largely of seemingly benign elderly folk. Then, he meets a young woman who is their servant, the two begin to fall in love, and things turn sinister.

(That's "sinister" in the "Twilight Zone" fashion, and this show may remind "TZ" fans of a 1960 episode, "The After Hours," with Anne Francis discovering that department-store mannequins come alive at night.)

If you can forget about Norman Bates, Perkins is actually quite good, and his singing voice may surprise those unfamiliar with his early recording and musical-stage careers.

And especially enchanting is Charmian Carr as the young woman who has lived in the store most of her life but yearns to see the outside world. Her heartbreaking renditions of Sondheim's "I Remember" and "Take Me to the World" will stay with you.

Most of the way, this is a nicely modulated piece, very well-acted and with some directing flourish, but despite being filmed instead of live, it's more like a stage play than a movie, especially with a couple of violent moments near the end. Still, charm wins out.

Extras: full frame, interview with director Paul Bogart, audio interview with Carr, color (albeit silent) location test footage with Perkins; 28-page booklet (with an introduction by Sondheim)

"On the Road With Charles Kuralt: Set 3" (Acorn, 1967-87, three discs, $39.99). Kuralt, a longtime journalist for CBS, is best remembered for these charming, eccentric and funny "On the Road" pieces, short video featurettes about a wide variety of people and places around the country.

This set includes a priest on an Alaska glacier, a horse trader, a singing mailman, someone who makes sorghum, bell ringers, the "goose lady," unique tombstones, the "skill" Olympics and much more.

Extras: full frame, 14 episodes (57 stories), featurette, text biography

"Poldark: Series 2" (Acorn, 1977, four discs, $69.99). Captain Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis) goes home after being dismissed with marsh fever, only to find his home life and local politics in upheaval. This series, set in 18th century Cornwall, has been called a British "Gone With the Wind" for its scope and memorable characters well played by a sterling cast.

Extras: full frame, 13 episodes

"Surviving the Holidays with Lewis Black" (History, 2009, $19.95). Who better than Scrooge-like comic Black to host this 90-minute special on the title subject, specifically the days between Thanksgiving and New Year's? The range of holidays includes Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, along with specifics about each, lighting candles, exchanging gifts, Christmas cards, etc.

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