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February's DVDs

Fancy a night in front of the box? Simon Evans has some great ideas from the latest batch of home entertainment releases

Circle_of_Danger_DVD_front_coverCircle of Danger

(StudioCanal, Blu-ray and DVD)

This restoration of Jacques Tourneur’s Hitchcockian British post-war thriller finds US citizen Clay Douglas (Ray Milland) travelling to London to investigate the mysterious death of his brother, who had served as a Commando with British Forces during the Second World War.

Suspecting that it was not a German bullet that killed his brother, the only member of his unit to be killed, Clay obtains the name and address of one of the members of the raiding party and begins to piece together the missing information.

Abounding in wonderful characters, beautifully shot, and wonderfully evocative of early Fifties Britain (the sequence filmed in Covent Garden is particularly fascinating) this film is a real lost gem.


Darby_and_Joan_Packshot_Series_1_DVD_front_coverDarby and Joan Series One

The Madame Blanc Mysteries Series 3, and Series 1-3 box set

(Acorn Media International, DVD)

Those who like their crime dramas to be cosy rather than gritty, with the added bonus of some great scenery and likeable characters, will enjoy both these shows.

Darby and Joan teams up Greta Scacchi and Bryan Brown as Jack, a retired murder detective, and Joan, a recently widowed English nurse, who collide literally and metaphorically, and end up trying to find the answers behind the mysterious death of Joan’s husband, Ian.

Setting aside the rather contrived title (Jack’s surname is Darby), Scacchi and Brown make up a great team, which is fortunate because the up-and-down relationship of the two key characters is the key to the show’s success or failure. That a second series is already on the way tells you all you need to know about Darby and Joan’s enjoyable adventures.

And the third series of The Madame Blanc Mysteries marks a welcome return for Sally Vincent’s eponymous antiques dealer turned sleuth, investigating a range of unusual cases including a murder mystery party that becomes all too real, the death of a marine biologist and the shooting of a woman at a bus stop.

Joining Madame are trusty sidekick Dom (Steve Edge), wealthy ex-pats Judith (Sue Holderness) and Jeremy (Robin Asquith), as well as guest stars Vikki Pepperdine, George Layton and Julie Graham. As with the previous two seasons, the gorgeous scenery, engaging characters and involving plots prove to be a winning combination.


Paths_of_Glory_DVD_front_coverPaths of Glory

(Eureka Entertainment, Ultra-HD Blu-ray)

Stanley Kubrick’s First World War-set movie, originally released in 1957, is regarded by some critics as the director’s best film, and given that the director’s oeuvre also includes Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey, that’s praise indeed.

On the French front lines of the First World War, after giving the order for an impossible and ultimately disastrous mission to capture a nearby stronghold, the upper ranks move to save face by having three randomly selected soldiers held and tried for cowardice under pain of death.

It’s a searing indictment of both war and the random cruelty of authority that remains as relevant today as it ever was.


Mr_Bates_VS_The_Postoffice_DVD_front_cover.Mr Bates vs The Post Office

(ITV Studios Entertainment, DVD)

Not since the 1990 World In Action special Who Bombed Birmingham?, which resulted, less than five months later, in the release of the Birmingham Six, has a TV drama had such an instantaneous, life-changing impact.

In this case, of course, it was the instant fast-tracking of compensation claims for the hundreds of sub-postmasters and postmistresses wrongly accused of theft in the Post Office Horizon scandal, the greatest miscarriage of justice in British history.

Apart from a few dedicated journalists and MPs digging away in the background, mostly unheard and unheralded, nothing much was been done to at least bring some financial compensation to the many lives wrecked by this grotesque injustice. And it says much about our age that it took this brilliantly written, produced and acted drama series to finally bring the whole sorry affair to the attention of the great British public. Would the government have taken notice if the drama hadn’t been so superbly executed, and if it hadn’t starred the likes of Toby Jones and Monica Dolan, superb as always? Don’t hold your breath.


Also available:

Breath-taking aerial sequences and high-stakes action abound in Born to Fly (Trinity CineAsia, DVD), which showcases the determination and bravery of test pilots as they undergo their rigorous training, and The Prince of Egypt: The Musical (Dazzler Media, Blu-ray and DVD) captures the magic of the epic stage production based on the classic DreamWorks Animation film, featuring Stephen Schwartz’s memorable music…

There’s grisly found-footage horrors on offer in V/H/S/94 (Acorn Media International, Blu-ray and DVD), the latest in the nerve-jangling V/H/S series, and Radical Dreamer (BFI, Blu-ray) is a portrait of the film director Werner Herzog, for whom the phrase ‘larger than life’ would be an understatement. The director of Nosferatu, Fitzcarraldo and Aquirre, the Wrath of God, was once shot in the middle of an interview, climbed into a volcano and even ate his own shoe, and this film provides a fascinating insight into his everyday life, as well as reminiscences from those who worked with the great man and survived to tell the tale, just…

The relationship between Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) and Jack Hodgson (David Caves) continues to deepen in Series 27 of the ever-reliable Silent Witness (BBC, DVD), with John Thompson, Sean Pertwee and Neil Pearson among the guest coppers, and, despite losing its lead actor at the end of series seven, Shetland Series Eight (ITV Studios Entertainment, DVD) was as gripping as ever, with Ashley Jensen joining the cast as a detective who is reluctantly drawn back to her old home on the islands while investigating the murder of a London gangster… 

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