Chris Hicks: TV movies starring a young Daniel Day-Lewis arrive on DVD this week

Published: Friday, March 22 2013 5:35 p.m. MDT

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.

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