January 22, 2010

Review - Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Sixth Season



 Another season of Murder, She Wrote is the subject of a review. This time, it's season six.
This season is a bit infamous as the season of  "guest detective" or "bookend" episodes that starred a multitude of guest stars solving crimes instead of Jessica Fletcher. As a result, ratings sank. Clearly, Angela Lansbury was the star of the show, and viewers were not going for these episodes (although many viewers liked the episode "O' Malley's Luck", with Pat Hingle as amusing Irish Detective Jim O'Malley, and "Jack and Bill", with Ken Howard as an ex-football star-turned private eye who inherits his murdered friend's poodle).
 In the episodes with Jessica in it, plenty of good mysteries feature. "Appointment in Athens", the season's opener, gets Jessica involved in espionage in Greece posing as the wife of Michael Haggerty (Len Cariou), while "The Big Show of 1965" has Jessica attending the dress rehearsal of a variety show reunion that was the scene of an unsolved 25-year-old murder.
 Disc 1 includes the featurette "Recipe for a Hit", which features Angela Lansbury, Ron Masak, producer Robert F. O'Neill and others talking about how MSW was able to become a mainstay. "America's Top Sleuths" gives us a look at some of TV's other notable crime solvers.
 Guest stars in this season include: Shirley Jones, Madlyn Rhue, Robert Vaughn, June Havoc, Hurd Hatfield, Johnathan Rhys-Davies, Carol Lawrence, Gene Barry, Cassie Yates, Hallie Todd, Keith Michell (as Dennis Stanton), Bill Maher, Ken Swofford, Johnathan Brandis, Farley Granger, Barry Van Dyke, Marty Ingels, Connie Stevens, Anne Francis, Gavin MacLeod, Pat Hingle, Edd Byrnes, Genie Francis, Brenda Vaccaro, Doris Roberts, and Elliott Gould.
 Don't let the non-Jessica Fletcher episodes faze you, since the writing itself is in pretty good shape. The season after this would cut down on these episodes, with the exception of some Dennis Stanton-headed episodes.

Michael Haggerty (Len Cariou) in Murder, She Wrote: Appointment in Athens

Monica Douglas (Dina Merrill) in Murder, She Wrote: Always a Thief

Dennis Stanton (Keith Michell) in Murder, She Wrote: Always a Thief

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) in Murder, She Wrote: How to Make a Killing Without Really Trying

Jerome Ashcroft (Farley Granger) in Murder, She Wrote: How to Make a Killing Without Really Trying

Jack the Poodle in Murder, She Wrote: Jack and Bill

Lt. Jake Ballinger (Barry Newman) in Murder, She Wrote: Class Act

David Kingston (Nicholas Pryor) in Murder, She Wrote: O'Malley's Luck

Victoria Griffin (Genie Francis) in Murder, She Wrote: The Fixer-Upper

Howard Griffin (Dean Butler) and Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) in Murder, She Wrote: The Fixer-Upper

Mort Metzger (Ron Masak)

Lt. Jim O'Malley (Pat Hingle) in Murder, She Wrote: O'Malley's Luck

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) and Lt. J.T. Hanna (Elliott Gould) in Murder, She Wrote: The Error of Her Ways

Enjoy!

January 11, 2010

Review - Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Fifth Season



 Season five of Murder, She Wrote saw a strong batch of episodes, new locales, and new faces.
 This season, we're introduced to Dennis Stanton (Keith Michell), a dashing jewel thief who gets entangled in a murder mystery only Jessica can solve. Also in this season, we see Jessica talk further about life after Frank and as a mystery writer with a crowded professional life and not getting out enough (that's how I see it, anyway).
 The season's first episode even sees Jessica behind bars (no, really!) for murder in the confusion that ensues after a Bulgarian operative is killed in "J.B. as in Jailbird", and it's up to nephew Grady (Michael Horton) and Michael Haggerty (Len Cariou) to prove her innocence.
 Speaking of Grady, season five also saw him marry girlfriend Donna (played by his real-life wife Debbie Zipp). Unfortunately, the domineering maid gets done in with a meat thermometer in the back.
 "Snow White, Blood Red" features an unusually bloody murder (MSW is famous for being family-friendly mystery viewing) as well as a twist, not uncommon especially in this season.
 And of course, we first meet new Cabot Cove Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak, who made several appearances on MSW prior to this). Convinced that policing Cabot Cove is a "paid vacation", imagine his reaction when two dead bodies are discovered in the yard of two elderly sisters.
 Disc one has a featurette entitled "Origin of a Series", which tells how the show came about. It was amusing to hear that Angela Lansbury had the choice of either doing this or a Norman Lear sitcom.
 Like pretty much any season, there's no shortage of guest stars. These include: Lucie Arnaz, Jean Simmons, Gale Storm, Eugene Roche, David Birney, Mel Ferrer, Shirley Knight, Dennis Patrick, Ralph Waite, Dee Wallace Stone, Elizabeth Ashley, Ken Swofford, Kristoffer Tabori, Julie Adams, Jerry Orbach (as P.I. Harry McGraw), Ken Howard, Barbara Bain, Paul Sorvino, Mike Connors, Bill Maher, Megan Mullally, Chuck Connors, Adrian Zmed, Dinah Shore, Shelley Fabares, Erin Gray, and Roddy McDowall.

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) in Murder, She Wrote: J.B. as in Jaibird

Michael Haggerty (Len Cariou) in Murder, She Wrote: J.B. as in Jailbird

Dennis Stanton (Keith Michell) in Murder, She Wrote: A Little Night Work

Nora Morgan (Barbara Bain) in Murder, She Wrote: Coal Miner's Slaughter

Tyler Morgan (Chuck Connors) in Murder, She Wrote: Coal Miner's Slaughter

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) and Maisie Mayberry (Gale Storm) in Murder, She Wrote: Something Borrowed, Someone Blue

Gen. Havermeyer (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) in Murder, She Wrote: The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel

Angela Lansbury in Origin of a Series

Richard Levinson and William Link

Franchesco (David Birney) in Murder, She Wrote: Prediction: Murder

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) and Lee Goddard (Dale Robertson) in Murder, She Wrote: Prescription: Murder

Mort Metzger (Ron Masak)

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) and Lt. Timothy Hanratty (Barney Martin) in Murder, She Wrote: Smooth Operators

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) in Murder, She Wrote: From Russia... With Blood

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) and Walter Murray (Mike Connors) in Murder, She Wrote: Truck Stop

Eudora McVeigh (Jean Simmons) in Murder, She Wrote: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) in Murder, She Wrote: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Another season reviewed, folks!

January 2, 2010

Videos: "Blood and Black Lace" Opening Credits and Trailers

 As I mentioned before, Blood and Black Lace is a 1964 Italian film directed by Mario Bava. It has since been considered a classic in the sub-genre of giallo. My last post related to Blood and Black Lace seemed to scare everyone away (you can see it here).
 Today, I'll introduce you guys to some trailers and two opening credit sequences from the DVD releases of the film. If you're familiar with his film, then you know that in its original U.S. release, the original opening credits were replaced with an animated credits sequence featuring mannequins being riddled with bullets. I couldn't find that sequence on YouTube, but I'll be on the lookout for it.
 Anyway, for the current DVD, VCI inserted the English title onto the original Italian credits sequence. Other than that, it's exactly what Italian audiences saw. The now-out of print German DVD, released by Hande Weg, has different credits than VCI's but also has a better image quality. Some of the differences include different orders of appearance for Eva Bartok's and Cameron Mitchell's credits.


Here's VCI's English opening credits:



Thanks to SiennaLien for uploading this video.

And here's Hande Weg's German opening credits:


Thanks to gialloplus for uploading this video.

Personally, I prefer the English version's credits, but the German version's image quality is definitely superior. You can see a detailed comparison of these two DVDs and the previous English DVD, also from VCI here.

 UPDATE: The Filmation-produced American opening was posted recently, so here it is:


Thanks to lethalforcethemovie for uploading this video.

 While on YouTube I also came across some trailers for the film, in English, German, and French. Here's the original English trailer:

 
Thanks to ChadBloodyHorror for uploading this video.

Here's the French trailer:


Thanks to jonnyredeyes for uploading this video.

And here's the German trailer:


Thanks to Fleischwaldi for uploading this video.

Hopefully, you guys got a good learning experience in giallo. Happy trails!