SeaQuest DSV: The Complete Series

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Mill Creek;
Sci-Fi;
$85.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Roy Scheider, Jonathan Brandis, Stephanie Beacham, Stacy Haiduk, Don Franklin, John D’Aquino, Royce D. Applegate, Ted Raimi, Marco Sanchez, Rosalind Allen, Edward Kerr, Kathy Evison, Michael DeLuise, Peter DeLuise, Michael Ironside, Elise Neal.

The success of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in the late 1980s gave rise to all sorts of knockoffs and attempts to cash in on the subsequent sci-fi adventure craze that flourished in the early 1990s. NBC’s entry into this zeitgeist, premiering in 1993, was “SeaQuest DSV,” which was essentially just “Star Trek” underwater.

Set in the “far off” year of 2018, the show starred Roy Scheider as Nathan Bridger, captain of the SeaQuest, a massive submarine (deep-submergence vehicle — the DSV of the title) that patrolled Earth’s oceans conducting military defense and scientific studies. In the SeaQuest future, mankind had taken to colonizing Earth’s oceans, leading to the formation of a global government called the United Earth Oceans Organization, which was tasked with keeping the peace against rogue nations and pirates.

Scheider was an inspired bit of casting to lead the series, given his association to aquatic adventures from the “Jaws” movies. Steven Spielberg was one of the executive producers of the series and no doubt lent it more credibility in that regard.

The series certainly didn’t skimp when it came to guest stars, boasting a line-up that included William Shatner, Mark Hamill, Michael York, Kent McCord, Dom DeLuise, Shelley Hack and Charlton Heston. The pilot movie was directed by none other than Empire Strikes Back helmer Irvin Kershner; this would be the final directing credit of his career (he died in 2010).

The cast also included Jonathan Brandis as Lucas, a teenage prodigy who served as the ship’s computer expert. Tossing a kid into the mix to appear to younger viewers, despite how much it strained credibility, was practically a requisite for these kinds of shows following the prominence of Wesley Crusher on TNG. The move paid off for the show, as Brandis became a popular teen idol in the 1990s, but he would ultimately succumb to the pressures of being a child actor, killing himself in 2003 at the age of 27 after a stalled career led him to start drinking heavily.

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The show’s most notorious element was the character of Darwin, a highly trained dolphin that could speak to the crew thanks to a translation program in the ship’s computer. He was most commonly referred to as the show’s “talking dolphin,” which was a bit of a misnomer as the technology as presented in the show could theoretically be used to communicate with any number of dolphins.

The first season of 24 episodes dealt more with the scientific themes such as conservation and climate science that originally inspired the series. Noted oceanographer Dr. Bob Ballard, aka the guy who found the wreckage of the Titanic, served as the technical advisor and would appear at the end of episodes to present factoids about marine science. The show was also one of the first to make heavy use of CGI for its visual effects.

While it was an expensive series to produce, “SeaQuest” wasn’t a ratings juggernaut, prompting extensive meddling from the network. The show’s tone and creative direction ended up being re-tooled every year it was on.

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The second season of 22 episodes veered the show more into the realm of science-fantasy, with storylines involving genetic engineering, ESP and aliens. In the season finale, the sub is literally plucked from Earth by an alien ship and dumped into the middle of a civil war in the ocean of a far-away planet.

This prompted the final overhaul of the series — renamed “SeaQuest 2032” in season three, which only lasted 13 episodes. While the storylines were more grounded, the show’s tone was more militaristic, as SeaQuest was tasked with leading efforts to contain a growing dictatorship encroaching on the UEO. Bridger was replaced by Capt. Oliver Hudson, played by Michael Ironside, as Scheider appeared in only a handful of episodes due to contractual obligations.

The bigger sin of the third season, however, is that it ditches John Debney’s Emmy-winning theme tune. It’s a sweeping melody that instantly captures the spirit of seafaring adventure, even it sounds a lot like the “Star Wars” theme with a few notes altered.

This great-looking Blu-ray set marks the first North American disc release of the third season. The first two seasons were released on DVD by Universal more than a decade ago.

Those DVDs included some deleted scenes that are also presented on the new Blu-ray, which also includes several new interviews with the creative forces behind the series, including Debney, series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon, and directors Bryan Spicer, John T. Kretchmer and Anson Williams (the latter best remembered for playing Potsie on “Happy Days”).

Each interview is presented as a separate featurette that runs about 10 minutes and provides some fun insights into the creative direction of the series and the state of sci-fi television at the time.

The 57 total episodes are presented mostly in airdate order, with a few adjustments to fix some major continuity problems with episodes that were originally shown out of order by the network.

‘Jaws’ Swimming to 4K Ultra HD June 2 for 45th Anniversary

Director Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster Jaws will come out in a 45th anniversary limited edition on 4K Ultra HD for the first time ever June 2 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The thriller, winner of three Academy Awards, including Best Original Score (John Williams), will come out in a combo pack with lenticular packaging and will include a 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and digital code of the film along with more than three hours of bonus features and a 44-page booklet with introductions, rare photos, storyboards and more from the archives.

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In Jaws, when the seaside community of Amity finds itself under attack by a dangerous great white shark, the town’s chief of police (Roy Scheider), a young marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a grizzled shark hunter (Robert Shaw) embark on a desperate quest to destroy the beast before it strikes again.

Bonus features on 4K and Blu-ray include:

  • The Making of Jaws
  • The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of Jaws
  • Jaws: The Restoration
  • Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
  • From the Set
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

Additional bonus features on Blu-ray include:

  • Storyboards
  • Production Photos
  • Marketing Jaws
  • Jaws Phenomenon

Klute

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Criterion;
Drama;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Roy Scheider, Charles Cioffi.

Released in relatively stealth fashion during a unforgettable movie summer in 1971 that put and puts the last 10 (at least) to shame, Alan J. Pakula’s Klute is a psychological drama wrapped in thriller/mystery trappings rather than a thriller/mystery per se — which possibly resulted in its being underrated at the time. Don’t get me wrong: Almost everyone save Jane Fonda bashers thought it some degree of good or better. But speaking for myself and not in isolation, it paled somewhat next to the concurrently released McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Carnal Knowledge and Walkabout (and let’s not forget that Two-Lane Blacktop is pretty close to a deity to the carburetor set and/or blackbelt cultists).

Blasting out of the gate with a new 4K remastering of Gordon Willis’s trademark anti-solar cinematography, Criterion’s new Klute release is one of the best-produced Blu-rays I’ve ever seen (Susan Arosteguy). And its combined package of nary-a-dud bonus extras now pounds it into me how unusual this film was — though credit as well half-a-century of the Women’s Movement, which was more or less in its torch-lighting phase around the time Klute came out, especially in and around where I had the good historical fortune to be: NYU. Of course, it always had what seems even more impressive today: an Oscar-winning Fonda performance that is among the significant ones of the modern screen era.

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Criterion always seems to know what kind of supplemental material we want to see and, equally important, how or where to get them — so we get two remarkable Fonda interviews, conducted decades apart, that artfully operate in tandem here. The first was when she was young, pregnant and amid a personal political controversy (“Hanoi Jane”) that has abated only a sliver to this day. The other sit-down is a recent one, conducted by Illeana Douglas specifically for this release, in which Fonda (who is really smart regardless of where you stand on her politics, which were mostly way ahead of their time) talks about what she went through to research the role. And how she wanted to bolt the project on the eve of shooting because weeks spent with real-deal parties had convinced her that no one would accept her as a call girl.

This is what her “Brie” character is and a New York one as well, though she’s moved from more fashionable clientele and digs in a better part of town to something a few rungs down — she’s by no means a street person, or barely better, which is what some of her old colleagues have become. This is the New York before Giuliani turned it into Disney World (no value judgments here; I like Disney World) when “litter” was a cottage industry and even on the Upper West Side where I lived, I could see a guy urinating in the street late at night as I came home to my apartment after a double feature at the New Yorker or Thalia rep movie houses, which all the NYU film students regarded as second homes. Into this world comes the title small-town cop (Donald Sutherland) hired to investigate the year-long disappearance of a friend and possible onetime Brie client. Hers is not a profession, though, where one remembers customer physical descriptions, even of the ones who beat her up.

There’s some evidence that the missing man is one who did just that, yet this kind of violence is or was against his character, depending on whether he’s now still alive. Beyond this, someone has been recently barraging Fonda with frightening phone calls (no caller I.D. in this era, folks), the kind where the caller breathes into the receiver like an asthma victim. Thus, Sutherland/Klute — whose backstory isn’t defined, which in this rare case, may be to the dramatic good — becomes both a sleuth and a bodyguard as the two odd acquaintances retrace her old haunts in an attempt to follow up on scanty hints. One of these involves a former pimp (compared to many, “polished”) played by Roy Scheider, about four months before he broke through with an eventually Oscar-nominated performance in The French Connection.

A major player in the movie is one john’s sinister-sounding collection of portable tape recordings of Brie/Fonda on the job, a techno side issue that became dramatically cutting-edge for its day (three years, even, before Coppola’s The Conversation). This eerie invasion of privacy subtext — and the participation of cinematographer of Willis on all three films — made Klute the first of Pakula’s oft-termed paranoia trilogy, preceding The Parallax View and All the President’s Men. (Parallax is nowhere to be found on Blu-ray because its rights controller is hapless Paramount, who’d prefer to bring out Grease XLVII if it could.) This was only Pakula’s second feature after a fairly distinguished producing career, and though Willis had already shot at least two worthy-plus commercial flops since his debut the year before, Klute was his first wave-maker. Visually and audibly (the picture has great mono sound and Michael Small scoring), the print caliber here is comparable to what might have been shown at the first critics’ screening in the Warner screening room, 1971.

What makes the movie (we know the mystery with an hour to go) is the manner in which it takes dramatically risky time to examine Brie’s very confused psyche. It’s divulged not just by her actions but by monologues to her psychiatrist — something we didn’t see much in major studio cop movies of the day (see Clint Eastwood’s thematic fourth cousin Coogan’s Bluff as a reference point). This is a person who’s totally confident in her trade where she controls the situation but an emotional shambles outside the bedroom — especially in actress/modeling auditions that end in rejection, even though from the evidence we see, she ought to be garnering more respect.

This is a woman who likes to needle and even ridicule cop Klute, who responds negatively just once. But he gets under her skin, and she sometimes feels an extremely cautious emotional attachment. In off hours, she ditches the party scene and curls up in bed with a hardback book — not the best choice, but this a crowd where you don’t see much reading oaf any kind; she’s stylish about her clothes but can’t keep the rubble off the floor of her apartment. Ultimately, all this is much closer to what the movie is really about, which is a major reason it has aged so well.

Michael Chapman was the camera operator here (I didn’t know that), and he supervised the transfer. Vanity Fair’s Amy Fine Collins gives the full rundown on the film’s fashions and Brie’s character-enhancing accoutrements, and delivers a massive amount of revelatory info seemingly off the top of her head. Pakula gets his day via a documentary that includes Annette Insdorf and Steven Soderbergh just for starters — and there’s a half-hour of the director on a Dick Cavett show right after his reunion with Fonda on Comes a Horseman (or “How To Look Fab Out on the Trail in Jeans and No Makeup”). Mark Harris wrote the essay (you don’t get any classier than that), and even the thrown-in promotional featurette that Warner did at the time is pretty good. (Where did these play? They were too long for a TV spot, and I never saw one in a theater — only several in 16mm years after the fact.)

Pakula had a much more scintillating visual style than his ex-partner Mulligan did, though I suppose that having Willis as cinematographer (he shot five of the 16 Pakula features) could have turned Lesley Selander into an auteur. Before his wretchedly flukish 1998 death on the Long Island Expressway, Pakula definitely had his share of bombs — several of which I’d like to see again for reevaluation. But he had a highly praised track record with actresses (Fonda, Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith, Liza Minnelli), which is noted on one or more of the bonus extras. Of course, with All the President’s Men (by far my favorite movie of his career), he didn’t do too shabbily with male actors, either.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Klute’ and ‘The Leopard Man’