Chris Hicks: History Channel's 'Hatfields & McCoys' comes to DVD, Blu-ray

Published: Friday, Aug. 3 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

Two popular miniseries shown 35 years apart lead these television programs new to DVD.

“Hatfields & McCoys” (Sony, 2012, two discs, $45.99, three episodes, featurette, music video). This acclaimed down-and-dirty History Channel miniseries tells the story of the widely referred-to but largely forgotten feud between two backwoods families that live just across the West Virginia-Kentucky border from each other.

Kevin Costner is Anse “Devil” Hatfield and Bill Paxton is Randall McCoy, close friends and neighbors until the end of the Civil War when Hatfield deserts, something McCoy is unable to understand or forgive after he returns home. The families’ feud escalates following a murder, a land-grabbing attempt, disputed ownership of a pig, and a Romeo and Juliet-style romance, as misunderstandings and apparent betrayals lead to killings and retributions on both sides.

Overlength is a bit of a problem here, especially when things slow down or accusations seem redundant, and it’s filmed with that muddy, not-quite-color, sort-of black-and-white cinematography that has become an inexplicably popular device for modern filmmakers. And the show apparently takes a lot of latitude with the facts of this “true” story.

But in general it’s a gripping tale, bolstered by excellent performances from an exceptional cast that includes Jena Malone, Mare Winningham, Powers Boothe and a virtually unrecognizable Tom Berenger. (Also on Blu-ray, $55.99.)

“The Kent Chronicles” (Acorn, 1978-79, three discs, $59.99, six episodes, trailer, text biography of John Jakes). Jakes is the author of eight novels published in the mid- to late-1970s set in and around the American Revolution, designed to take advantage of the Bicentennial mania going on at the time. The first three novels were adapted as a trio of syndicated two-part miniseries. “The Bastard” follows Frenchman Phillipe Charboneau (a wooden Andrew Stevens) to the American colonies where he becomes Philip Kent. “The Rebels” chronicles the War of Independence, in which Philip (again played by Stevens) fights. And “The Seekers” shows Philip’s progeny going into the Western frontier and fighting in the War of 1812.

Overall, this is a period prime-time soap opera of epic proportions with an all-star cast (William Shatner, Patricia Neal, Don Johnson, Tom Bosley, Peter Graves, Brian Keith, George Hamilton, Kim Cattrall, Buddy Ebsen, Lorne Greene, Olivia Hussey, etc.), which can be fun if you accept it on its own terms.

“Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV” (Shout! 1988-95, four discs, $59.97, four episodes, featurettes, short films; four mini-posters). A foreign-themed collection features bad movies from Russia, Mexico and Japan as Joel, Mike, Tom Servo and Crow serve up rarified snark. These episodes are new to DVD: “Fugitive Alien,” “Star Force: Fugitive Alien II,” “The Sword and the Dragon” and “Samson vs. the Vampire Women.”

“Melrose Place: The Final Season, Volume 1” (CBS/Paramount, 1998, four discs, $42.99, 18 episodes).

“Melrose Place: The Final Season, Volume 2” (CBS/Paramount, 1998-99, four discs, $42.99, 17 episodes). These two sets wrap up the seven-season soap opera about the young, rich and entitled in a posh L.A. apartment building, with Heather Locklear, Josie Bisset, Alyssa Milano, Jack Wagner, Rob Estes, etc.

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