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June DVDs

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

The_Adventures_of_Black_Beauty_DVD_cover.The Adventures of Black Beauty: The Complete Series

(Network, Blu-ray and DVD)

It’s a fair bet that many testosterone-ridden adolescents (myself included) tuned into The Adventures of Black Beauty on Sunday afternoons, not so much for the horses and charming stories of rural life but to catch sight of the actress Judi Bowker. She played Jenny who, along with brother Kevin (Roderick Shaw), discover a wounded horse at their new home in the countryside and nurse him back to health, acting as a springboard for all manner of wholesome adventures.

Not so much an adaptation of Anna Sewell’s beloved book as a continuation (by Ted Willis, writer of Dixon of Dock Green), with new characters, The Adventures of Black Beauty was a perfect fit for the Sunday teatime slot but, although it always seemed to be on in some region or other on the ITV network throughout the Seventies, only two series, of 26 episodes each, were made – and Judi Bowker was only in half of them, having left after the first series.

What a treat then to have all the shows in one place, and, adolescent crushes long gone, enjoy them for what they are, perfectly crafted reminders of a more innocent time.


Inside_No_9_DVD_coverInside No.9 (BBC, DVD)

Those Friday late-night horror double bills on BBC2 have a lot to answer for; not just scaring a generation of impressionable youngsters out of their wits but introducing them to some of the great British horror films of the Sixties and early Seventies. Two of those impressionable youngsters were Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, whose staple diet of Hammer horrors and Amicus chillers has permeated all their work together, first with the League of Gentlemen, then Psychoville and now the long-running anthology show Inside No 9.

Amicus is a particular influence on the series, films like Tales from the Crypt and From Beyond the Grave, which would feature four or five short stories linked by an over-arching theme. The TV show’s stories are all linked by the number nine, most often on a door or gate but also, in this latest series, a pew or the name of a TV quiz show.

Inevitably some of the shows work better than others but the Christmas-set ‘The Bones of St Nicholas’, guest starring Simon Callow at his fruitiest, and the episode featuring a man with a pathological fear of Friday the 13th, in particular, deliver more than their fair share of shocks and twists.


Nottinghams_very_own_local_heroes_DVD_coverLocal Heroes

(Miracle Media, Blu-ray and DVD)

There’s an ever-growing field of football-related documentaries, and this is one of the best. Focussing on the all-conquering Nottingham Forest side of the late Seventies and early Eighties, it puts three of the club’s players from that era under the spotlight, all of them born and brought up within a few miles of Forest’s City Ground, and tells their fascinating stories. All of them, in their different ways, defied the odds to become, as the title of the film has it, local heroes. Viv Anderson, from the Clifton area of the city, made history by becoming the first black player to represent England, Gary Birtles was a carpet fitter from Long Eaton who went on to success with England and Manchester United, while Tony Woodcock, who in the film flatly denies being a hero, still insists “I’m just a normal guy from Eastwood”.

The turbulent social and political background of the era during which the players enjoyed their success with the club are well evoked and there are some great footballing memories – especially if you are Forest supporter.


The_Conquest_of_Everest_DVD_cover.The Conquest of Everest

(StudioCanal, Blu-ray and DVD)

Marking the 70th anniversary of the historic expedition, this is a new restoration of the classic documentary telling the story of the first successful attempt on the peak of Everest. Using footage supplied by the climbers themselves, it’s a remarkable document of an epic journey whose completion was announced on the morning of the Queen’s coronation in 1953. Not surprisingly it won a Bafta for best documentary and was nominated for an Oscar. The disc also features footage from the film’s premiere in 1953 and an interview with producer John Taylor, filmed in 1988.

Also available…

Cosa_Nostra_DVD_coverCosa Nostra: Franco Nero in Three Mafia Tales By Damiano Damiani (Radiance Films) is a new limited edition Blu-ray box set featuring three outstanding cinematic collaborations between two Italian greats, Italian actor Franco Nero and director Damiano Damiani. The set features three Seventies classics in restored editions, The Day of the Owl, The Case is Closed: Forget It and How to Kill a Judge

La_Regle_de_Jeu_DVD_cover.Banned for being unpatriotic when first released, Jean Renoir’s 1938 film La Règle Du Jeu is now recognised as one of the greatest films ever made. Newly restored, it has been released by the BFI on Blu-ray with extras including a newly commissioned commentary by film writers David Jenkins and Trevor Johnston, and a selection of complementary archival films. At once a satirical series of interlinked romantic intrigues that take place during a weekend shooting party in a country château it is also, on a deeper level, a study of the corruption and decay at the top of French society on the eve of the Second World War…

The_Changeling_DVD_cover.In the classic 1980 chiller The Changeling George C Scott plays a composer who relocates to Seattle hoping to make a fresh start after the tragic loss of his wife and daughter. But his new home houses a terrible secret, and fresh torments await. Much admired by the likes of Stephen King, Martin Scorsese and Guillermo Del Toro, the film is now available through Second Sight in a limited edition box set and standard edition Blu-ray with numerous special features…


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