Forgotten series from the1950s leads TV shows debuting on DVD

Published: Friday, March 1 2013 5:50 p.m. MST

Geraldine McEwan in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," the British TV series based on the film.

Acorn

Before they became movie stars, young Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen appeared on “West Point,” a 1950s TV series making its DVD debut this week.

“West Point: The Television Series” (Timeless, 1956-57, b/w, four discs, $29.93, 39 episodes). Here’s a vintage television program with which I was completely unfamiliar, relating true stories of cadet experiences in and around the military academy of the title with a different cast each week.

The show ran for just one season at a time when anthologies were as common as reality shows are today. With location filming at West Point and well-written episodes starring competent actors, these remain enjoyable half-hour dramas.

Among the guest stars are Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Barbara Eden, Robert Vaughn, Martin Milner, and as recurring characters, Leonard Nimoy and Chuck Connors. Future “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry wrote nine episodes.

“Garrow’s Law: The Complete Collection” (Acorn, 2009-11, six discs, $79.99, 12 episodes, featurettes, photo galleries, text biographies/filmographies). Excellent British series about London’s 18th century judiciary unravels real-life cases taken from Old Bailey records and weaves them into the story of an advocate for prisoner’s rights who clashes with the rich and powerful. Engrossing drama is first-rate all the way.

“Maigret: Complete Collection:” (Acorn, 1992-93, four discs, $59.99, 12 episodes; eight-page booklet). Michael Gambon stars in the title role as a police inspector in France unraveling a variety of crimes. Guests include Minnie Driver, Brenda Blethyn and Michael Sheen.

“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” (Acorn, 1978, three discs, $49.99, seven episodes, featurette). This single-season British TV series is built around the character made famous by Maggie Smith’s Oscar-winning movie role, an unorthodox teacher in a 1930s Scottish girls school. Geraldine McEwan is very good in the role, some 26 years before she became “Marple.”

“Africa” (BBC, 2013, two discs, $24.98, six episodes, deleted scenes, featuretes, outtakes). Stunning cinematography highlights this documentary series now showing on the Discovery Channel. Michael Gunton and crew spent four years traversing 27 countries to chronicle a variety of creatures living in jungle and desert habitats. (Also on Blu-ray, $34.98)

“Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013, two discs, $24.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; three vintage cartoons). New feature-length “Scooby-Doo!” cartoon has the gang at a comic-book convention where a villain from a movie seems to have come to life to threaten fans. (Also on DVD, $19.98)

“Barbie in the Pink Shoes” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, two discs, $26.98, outtakes, webisode: “Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse,” music videos, trailers). The latest animated feature in the straight-to-video “Barbie” series has her as a ballerina whisked away to a fantasy world where she must defeat an evil Snow Queen. (Also on DVD, $19.98)

“Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series” (Nickelodeon/Shout!, 1993-96, eight discs, $29.99, 52 episodes, original pilot, short cartoons, audio commentary, featurettes). This surreal animated series was originally aimed at children despite containing double-entendre material that is decidedly adult. A cult favorite, the show revolves around an anthropomorphic wallaby in suburbia and his wacky neighbors and friends.

“Phineas and Ferb: The Perry Files: Animal Agents” (Disney, 2008-12, $19.99, 12 episodes, episode of “Take Two” spinoff; includes spy kit with binoculars). This one also has an Australian connection, an animated series about a secret agent platypus with lots of animal pals to help out. These episodes are gleaned from the first three seasons.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2012, $14.99, six episodes, featurettes, music video; poster). “Rise of the Turtles” is the two-part opener of the current series, which, along with the other four episodes here, led the first season.

“The Red Hen … and more cooking stories” (Scholastic, 2013, $14.95, four stories, read-along, cake recipe). Animated stories read by Lily Tomlin, Michael McKean and others include “How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?” and “Arnie the Doughnut.”

E-MAIL: hicks@deseretnews.com

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