A very young Daniel Day-Lewis stars in three British TV films and a five-part miniseries, which have made their DVD debuts this week.
“Daniel Day-Lewis Triple Feature” (BBC, 1982-86, not rated, two discs, $24.98, three movies).
“Daniel Day-Lewis: My Brother Jonathan” (BBC, 1985, not rated, $24.98, five episodes, featurette). Like most big stars, three-time Oscar winner Lewis began by laboring on the stage and in made-for-TV movies. Four of the latter are contained in these two sets — the first has three feature-length British TV films and the second contains a five-part miniseries.
The films range from somewhat interesting to most compelling and all are rather talky by today’s standards, but each shines a light on Lewis’ blossoming talent in both starring and supporting roles, which would eventually lead to “My Left Foot,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “There Will Be Blood” and “Lincoln,” among others.
“Triple Feature” boasts a pair of engaging efforts from British anthology programs and a stand-alone TV movie. In “How Many Miles to Babylon?” (1982) Lewis plays a son of privilege whose childhood pal is looked down upon by his family because he’s just a local village boy. The friendship is even more strained in adulthood when they find themselves in the military during World War I and Lewis’ character becomes an officer while his friend is a private.
Lewis’ role is smaller in “The Insurance Man” (1986), but he stands out as a compassionate insurance adjuster named “Kafka” who is sympathetic to another’s plight in a decidedly Kafkaesque portrait of bureaucracy. A lesser and very stagy effort, “Dangerous Corner” (1983) has Lewis as a businessman in a social gathering with colleagues when an innocent remark leads to sordid revelations.
A most enjoyable BBC soap opera miniseries set in Edwardian England, “My Brother Jonathan” (1985) gets a real boost from Lewis in the starring role as the awkward older brother in an industrial family that prizes his cricket-playing younger brother, which brings about events that derail his surgical career as he winds up joining a modest medical practice that serves the poor.
“Cheyenne: The Complete Fifth Season” (Warner Archive1960-61, four discs, $34.95, 13 episodes). Clint Walker is back defending the downtrodden in the Old West. This season includes a crossover episode with the stars of “Sugarfoot” (Will Hutchins) and “Broco Layne” (Ty Hardin). Other guests include Dawn Wells (who would go on to become Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island”), 6-year-old Ron Howard (the same year he started “The Andy Griffith show”) and veteran character actor Jack Elam. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
“The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies” (MPI, 1981, $14.98, new introduction, cast commercials/promos, 2005 documentary: “Paul Henning & the Hillbillies”). This so-so reunion movie has only three of the original cast members — Buddy Ebsen, Donna Douglas and Nancy Kelp. Better is the documentary about Henning, creator of the show, which features archival footage of George Burns, Gracie Allen, Robert Cummings, Bea Benaderet, etc.
“No Job for a Lady: The Complete Collection” (Acorn, 1990-92, three discs, $59.99, 18 episodes). Funny three-season British sitcom stars Penelope Keith (“Good Neighbors,” “To the Manor Born”) as a newly elected member of Parliament for the left-wing Labour Party, which requires her to repress her true feelings to get along with male chauvinist colleagues while trying to fight for women’s rights. Filled with more than its share of witty banter.
“Chance in a Million: Complete Collection” (Acorn, 1984-86, three discs, $59.99, 18 episodes, alternate pilot, audio commentaries). Familiar British character actors Simon Callow (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) and Brenda Blethyn (Oscar nominee for “Secrets & Lies”) were in their 30s when they co-starred in this sitcom, Callow using a halting speech pattern and bumbling gait as someone constantly hindered by bizarre circumstances and coincidences, and soft-spoken Blethyn as a shy, love-starved librarian. Funny but also very broad and silly.
“A Mind to Kill: Complete Collection” (Acorn, 1994-2002, 11 discs, $79.99, 21 episodes, Welsh-language clip, text production notes and filmographies). This gritty police procedural set in South Wales follows Det. Noel Bain (Philip Madoc), a widower who believes in traditional values and feels at odds with an increasingly amoral world, as well as having a strained relationship with his daughter, who is also on the police force. Occasionally gruesome and sexual.
“Extreme Dinosaurs” (BBC, 2000/2004, $19.92, two episodes).
“Predator Dinosaurs” (BBC, 2005, $19.92).
“Prehistoric Park” (BBC, 2006, two discs, $19.92, six episodes, featurette, pop-up trivia, storyboards, photo gallery). These three documentary releases use computer-generated re-creations to explore what we know about dinosaurs. On the first disc, hourlong programs “Extreme Dinosaurs” and “T-Rex: Warrior or Wimp?” ask whether the T-Rex really was the fiercest of all, which is further examined in the two-hour “Predator Dinosaurs.” “Prehistoric Park” is a semi-documentary series sharing research in the guise of a sci-fi storyline that has real-life naturalist Nigel Marven traveling back in time to capture prehistoric creatures for his sanctuary.
“Jersey Shore: Season Six: The Uncensored Final Season” (MTV/Paramount, 2012, four discs, $26.99, 13 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes). Is this really the “Final Season” of this sleazy reality show? We can only hope. And take the “Uncensored” label as a warning.
“Secret Millionaires Club” (Vivendi, 2013, $14.93, six episodes, five webisodes). Animated TV series on The Hub cable channel features Warren Buffet as a mentor to kids exploring business ventures.
“Dora’s Easter Collection: 2-DVD Gift Set” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2013, two discs, $19.99, seven episodes, music videos, interactive games; sticker sheet). This set has two previously released Dora DVDs: “Dora’s Easter Adventure” and “Egg Hunt.”