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.
“The Costume Drama Classic Collection” (Acorn, 1971-2012, 15 discs, $99.99, five programs, featurettes). This set of reissued episodic dramas includes the original “Upstairs, Downstairs: Series 1” (1971), with Jean Marsh and Gordon Jackson; “Lillie” (1978), about Lillie Langtry, played by Francesca Annis; “Lost Empires” (1986), with young Colin Firth; and “Doctor Zhivago” (2002), starring Keira Knightly as Lara. Also, all five episodes of “The Story of the Costume Drama” (2012), a documentary series exploring the history of BBC period programs.
“The Weight of the Nation” (HBO, 2012, three discs, $19.97, four episodes, 11 shorts; 20-page booklet). Documentary series from HBO focusing on health issues, in particular facts and myths of obesity.
“Misfits: Season One” (BBC, 2009, two discs, $24.98, six episodes, featurettes). Five teenagers working court-ordered community service gain super powers after being struck by lightning in this rough-and-tumble comic fantasy. Lots of R-rated language, sex, nudity.
“Baseball’s Greatest Games: New York Mets First No-Hitter” (MLB/A&E, 2012, $12.95), alternative audio tracks). Johan Santana’s no-hitter from last June, the first in the history of the franchise.
“Beautiful Planet: England/The Low Countries” (Mill Creek/Blu-ray, 2012, $9.98).
“Beautiful Planet: Germany/Australia” (Mill Creek/Blu-ray, 2012, $9.98). A sort of guided tour to the title locales in gorgeous high-def cinematography.
“The Ultimate Civil War Series” (Mill Creek, 2012, two discs, $9.98, seven episodes). New documentary miniseries timed to the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States.
“WWII: Waking the Sleeping Giant” (Mill Creek, 2012, $9.98, 11 episodes). This documentary series covers the war from Pearl Harbor through the Nuremberg trials.
“The Decade You Were Born: The 40s” (Mill Creek, 2012, $9.98).
“The Decade You Were Born: The 50s” (Mill Creek, 2012, $9.98).
“The Decade You Were Born: The 60s” (Mill Creek, 2012, $9.98).
“The Decade You Were Born: The 70s” (Mill Creek, 2012, $9.98).
“The Decade You Were Born: The 80s” (Mill Creek, 2012, $9.98). Interesting collection of factoids and documentary footage about the decades of each title, roughly four hours of footage, including a 90-minute overview of the decade, movies, TV episodes, trailers, commercials, text timelines, etc. Nice novelty birthday gift.
“Marvel Animated Series: Blade” (Marvel/Sony, 2012, two discs, $19.99, 12 episodes, featurettes).
“Marvel Animated Series: Wolverine” (Marvel/Sony, 2012, two discs, $19.99, 12 episodes, featurettes). Anime series based on the popular comic book/cartoon/movie franchises.
“Dora’s Fantastic Gymnastics Adventure” (Nickelodeon, 2012, $16.99, three episodes). Dora the Explorer gets a workout.
“Twinkle Toes: The Movie” (Universal, 2012, $19.98). Feature-length cartoon about the dancing girl with stage fright. Based on a character from SKECHERS girls shoes. No kidding.