Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Action;
$64.99 Blu-ray 10-disc set;
Not rated.
Stars Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, Beatrice Colen, Richard Eastham, Debra Winger, Cloris Leachman, Carolyn Jones, Beatrice Straight, Norman Burton.

To speak of the 1970s “Wonder Woman” TV series immediately brings to mind Lynda Carter’s portrayal of the title character, which became so iconic that she is indelibly compared with any subsequent depictions of the DC Comics heroine. That’s a fortunate legacy for a series to have, as over time the fondness for her in the role seems to have overwhelmed the collective memory over specifics of the series, which is unmistakably a product of its decade.

The series was undoubtedly hampered by a haphazard production schedule in which the series’ format was constantly tinkered with. It began with a 1975 TV movie that more or less recounts Wonder Woman’s classic comic book origin: she becomes an emissary from the Amazon women to the United States after pilot Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) crashes his plane into the hidden Paradise Island during World War II.

The subsequent 13-episode first season of the series, which aired on ABC from 1976 to 1977, maintained the period setting, with Wonder Woman in her alter ego of Diana Prince serving as Trevor’s yeoman at the War Department and assisting him in thwarting a ridiculous new Nazi plot each week.

After the first season, the show switched from ABC to CBS and was retooled to a modern-day setting, taking on the name “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman.” Fittingly, the first episode of season two is like a second pilot, as an envoy of secret agents led by Trevor’s son (also played by Waggoner) accidentally wanders into Paradise Island airspace. The Amazons learn that, 30 years after the defeat of the Nazis, that the world is plagued by a vague underground group of criminals seeking global domination, and send Wonder Woman back to America to keep an eye on things.

Thus, the second and third seasons find Diana rising up the ranks of a spy agency in Washington, D.C., foiling some goofy criminal plots, such as infiltrating a health spa whose owners are hypnotizing politicians’ wives into leaking government secrets, or investigating a comic book convention to find jewel thieves, or stopping mad scientists from cloning Adolf Hitler. With Diana subtly battling sexism while encouraging the male gaze, the influences of “Charlie’s Angels” and “Mission: Impossible” on the series’ writers are obvious.

Over time the trappings of the fictional spy agency became sillier, such as with the introduction of a little roving robot messenger that scampers around the office, the show’s version of R2-D2 of the recently released Star Wars, or K-9 from “Doctor Who,” another genre show with a very similar tone as “Wonder Woman.”

By the end of the third season, the show was retooled again to relocate Diana to Los Angeles. In addition to a new boss, her work as a secret agent would have been aided by a man genetically engineered to be indestructible, as well as a super-powered chimpanzee, plus a kid who kept sneaking into the office to sell the agents overpriced food and other knick-knacks. The “Arrowverse” it wasn’t.

Mercifully, the show was canceled so CBS could make room for “The Dukes of Hazzard” on the schedule.

It should be noted that the two-parter that ended up as the series finale was aired out of order, as it takes place before the L.A. episode. The airdate order is preserved on the Blu-ray.

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Another fun aspect to the series from a historical perspective is spotting a lot of recognizable faces of performers who would go on to bigger things. Of particular note in this regard is a young Debra Winger, who appeared in three first-season episodes as Drusilla, Diana’s younger sister who assists her as Wonder Girl.

Their mother, the queen of the Amazons, would end up being played throughout the run of the show by three different actresses, two of them Oscar winners: Cloris Leachman (Best Supporting Actress for 1971’s The Last Picture Show) in the TV movie pilot, Carolyn Jones in the first season, and Beatrice Straight (Best Supporting Actress for a five-minute scene in Network a few years prior) in the CBS years.

Jones, best known as Morticia in the 1960s “The Addams Family” TV series, also appeared in a handful of episodes of the campy but classic Adam West “Batman.” Likewise, keep an eye out for Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler on “Batman,” as an old toymaker who creates an android duplicate of WW.

But the highlight of the series is definitely Carter, who quickly settles into the role and ably anchors the series throughout its many changes. Notice how quickly she adapts to performing Diana’s iconic spin to transform into Wonder Woman, a time-saving costume change invented by the show that has become a trait of the character in subsequent portrayals. Carter eventually perfects the spin into a graceful maneuver. Compare her twirls with Winger, who seems rather ungraceful in her spins to transform into Wonder Girl, since she didn’t get much chance to practice having appeared only in a handful of episodes.

With the introduction of the twirl as Diana’s quick-change method of choice, it’s interesting to see how the series develops rules for her powers. While the initial implication is that her powers stem from her Amazonian heritage, the second season retcons this a bit by suggesting she has no powers off the island without her magic costume on. Given how minimal the suit is, it makes one wonder why she doesn’t wear it under her clothes just to be safe. (Or maybe she does, given that she still tosses grown men across the room in a few episodes while still in her Diana garb).

The series also stretches the credulity of no one figuring out that Diana is Wonder Woman, her disguise of a pair of glasses apparently as effective for her as it was for Clark Kent. Somehow the ruse holds up even after Wonder Girl arrives at the same time as Diana’s sister, with both being the same size and neither wearing a mask. (In a recurring gag, the agency supercomputer seems to have figured it out, though.)

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This new Blu-ray compilation of the pilot movie and 59 episodes provides a nice restoration of the series given the source materials that must have been available, and production values that varied widely in quality, from mismatched stock footage, obvious edits to hide stunts, and visual effects that, while adequate for television in the 1970s, are a bit rough in retrospect.

Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, for example, is very obviously a model of a clear plastic airplane with a doll in it.

Indeed, very little is hidden in HD, and viewers will get the occasional peek of the edge of the soundstage in some shots.

Another gimmick of the series was the use of comic-book like title cards that pop up on the screen to explain transitions, though these are often riddled with typos and misspellings (such as Carribean instead of Caribbean in the first episode).

One episode, meant to take place in Hollywood in the 1940s, establishes the setting by using stock footage that switches from black and white to color as it tries to be period appropriate. Switching from WWII to a contemporary setting must have cleaned up a lot of production headaches for the producers, not to mention saved the network a pretty penny.

In some ways, though, the show may have been ahead of its time, exhibiting a scope and ambition limited curtailed by the logistics of television production. Despite these potential obstacles, Warner has done a great job cleaning up the show for high-def. The colors really pop and the 1970s of it all is part of the charm.

While the Blu-ray set includes a booklet with an episode guide arranged by season, it doesn’t indicate which episodes are on which disc, which can be annoying.

The Blu-ray also carries over the extras from the previous DVD season sets released in the early 2000s, without any new material.

These include a couple of episode commentaries, and a retrospective featurette for each season, which are presented in standard-definition.

For season one it’s the 21-minute “Beauty, Brawn and Bulletproof Bracelets: A Wonder Woman Retrospective”; season two has the 11-minute “Revolutionizing a Classic: From Comic Book to Television”; and season three offers the 14-minute “Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon.” All of which are self-explanatory given their titles, but are fun to watch nonetheless.

The old commentaries also are interesting to listen to, especially when Carter begins speculating on how a future movie might deal with the character. This is years before Gal Gadot took on the role for the big screen, though one gets the sense that Carter hasn’t given up the notion of playing her again, either.

Shout! Announces Complete Series of ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ Will Be Available for Streaming June 1

All 11 seasons of “The Carol Burnett Show” will be available June 1 for viewing on streaming platforms from Shout! Factory TV.

On May 30 and May 31, Shout! Factory TV will kick things off by celebrating the release with a weekend-long marathon.

“The Carol Burnett Show” will be available for streaming-on-demand across Shout! Factory TV platforms, on ShoutFactoryTV.com; Shout! Factory TV’s Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Android apps; and on various Shout! Factory TV-branded channels, including Tubi, Amazon Prime Channels, and the Roku Channel.

Many of the episodes included in the streaming release will be available to watch for the first time since the original broadcast more than 40 years ago. The comedy legend, who turned 87 on April 26, worked with Shout! Factory to find the long-lost masters of these episodes.

Shout! Factory TV will celebrate the streaming launch by hosting “The Carol Burnett Show” marathon, which will be streaming curated episodes of the classic show all weekend long on May 30 and May 31. The marathon can be viewed on ShoutFactoryTV.com; Shout! Factory TV’s Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Android apps; and the following digital streaming platforms: Twitch, Samsung TV Plus, Comcast Xfinity, Xumo, YouTube, Redbox, Vizio, Pluto TV, IMDb, and STIRR. Viewers will also be able to chat live on Shout! Factory TV’s Twitch channel and the Shout! Factory YouTube channel, and answer trivia questions on Twitter @ShoutFactoryTV.

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Burnett and her cast of Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Lyle Waggoner were among the originators of the sketch comedy format. Cited as one of the best TV shows of all time by TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, Time, Rolling Stone and others, “The Carol Burnett Show” ended its 11-year run three years after “Saturday Night Live” started in 1975.

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Over 11 seasons, “The Carol Burnett Show” featured a who’s-who of stars from film, TV and music, including Betty White, Steve Martin, Carl Reiner, Lucille Ball, George Carlin, Cher, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Roddy McDowall, The Smothers Brothers, Bernadette Peters, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lily Tomlin, Bing Crosby, Ken Berry, Madeline Kahn, Steve Lawrence and Jim Nabors, among others.

Kino Lorber July 2018 Releases Include ‘Hitler’s Hollywood,’ ‘Love Me Deadly’ and More

Kino Lorber’s July slate of disc releases features everything from crime series to documentaries, cult classics, horror and foreign films.

Due July 3 on Blu-ray Disc ($29.95) and DVD ($19.95) with numerous special features is the drama Personal Problems (1980), an ensemble piece directed by Bill Gunn that explores black working-class lives.

It appears for the first time in a full-length, two-part version restored from the original camera tapes.

Also coming July 3 on Blu-ray ($29.95) is the Code Red release Monster Shark aka Devilfish (1984), a cult classic monster favorite from Italy in which a marine biologist, a dolphin trainer, a research scientist and a local sheriff try to hunt down a large sea monster, a shark/octopus hybrid that’s devouring swimmers and fishermen off a south Florida coast.

Special features include audio commentary with star Michael Sopkiw and reversible Blu-ray art.

Coming July 10 is the documentary Hitler’s Hollywood on DVD ($29.95). The film asks what the Nazi cinema of the Third Reich reveals about its period and its people. About 1,000 feature films were made in Germany between 1933 and 1945: musicals, melodramas, romances, costume dramas and war films. Only a few were overtly Nazi propaganda films. The documentary explains how stereotypes of the “enemy” and values of love and hate managed to be planted into viewers’ heads through the screen.

Due July  17 is The Emma & Lachy Show on DVD ($14.99), a kids show in the style of “The Wiggles.” Kids can try an Irish Jig with Lachy as he meets Phil the Fluter and attends a traditional Irish dancing ball and dance ballet with Emma and the fairies as they learn some new moves to teach to their dollies.

Also coming July 17 is Modus Season 1 on Blu-ray ($34.95) and DVD ($29.95), a Swedish detective series following a psychologist and ex-FBI profiler as she finds herself and her autistic daughter drawn into an investigation of a series of disturbing and brutal deaths in Stockholm. The series is based on the best-selling novels of Anne Holt.

Due July 24 on Blu-ray ($29.95) is the exploitation horror film Love Me Deadly, from Code Red.  Lindsay has an unusual fascination with the dead. She often finds herself at funerals for people she doesn’t even know. Once the mourners have cleared out, she’s drawn to the corpse by an unspeakable sexual curiosity. It appears that this obsession with the recently deceased has been brewing within Lindsay for quite some time and might have been something to do with her late father. She makes an attempt at a normal relationship (Lyle Waggoner), but is also lured into a corpse-loving cult by a creepy undertaker. Christopher Stone, Timothy Scott and H.B. Halicki co-star in this 1972 cult classic.

Special features include a new 2K Scan of the original camera negative of the uncut version, audio commentary with producer Buck Edwards, the film in “Maria’s B Movie Mayhem Mode,” the original theatrical trailer, and reversible art.

Also coming July 24 is Indivisible on DVD ($29.95) and Blu-ray ($34.95), an Italian drama about the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. Dasy and Viola are conjoined twin sisters living in the suburbs of Naples. They are blessed with beautiful voices and, thanks to their performances at local weddings, communions and baptisms, have become the breadwinners for their entire family. Kept isolated from the world by their exploitative father, their lives are turned upside down when one of them falls in love for the first time, and they discover that it is possible for them to be separated. Special features include behind-the-scenes footage and a trailer.