'Hart to Hart' and 'Major Crimes' are on DVD this week
Posted June 2
A vintage TV series that owes a debt to a 1930s movie series is on DVD this week.
“Hart to Hart: The Complete Series” (Shout!, 1979-84, 29 discs, pilot, 110 episodes). With an obvious nod to William Powell and Myrna Loy’s “Thin Man” movies, Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers star in this glossy romantic adventure series as industrial CEO Jonathan Hart and his journalist wife, Jennifer Hart.
They’re elegant jet-setters who also manage to get caught up in intrigue, adventure and murder in each episode, sometimes impersonating various non-socialites and always solving crimes with the help of their gravel-voiced butler/chauffeur/friend Max (Lionel Stander).
The entire series is here but not the eight TV reunion movies (1993-96), which have been previously released in two four-movie sets. Guests include Natalie Wood, Eve Arden, Ed Harris, Ray Milland, Jill St. John, Stella Stevens, Tippi Hedren, Dorothy Lamour and many others.
“Major Crimes: The Complete Fifth Season” (Warner, 2016-17, five discs, 21 episodes, deleted scenes, bloopers). Mary McDonnell and her team return for more Los Angeles mysteries to be solved by the Major Crimes unit, including a teenage girl who’s gone missing while helping the homeless, a cop killer on the run, and a decapitation in an isolated corner of the city.
“Oklahoma!” (Shout!, 1999, featurette).
“Kiss Me, Kate” (Shout!, 2003). These two classic Broadway musicals were revived by the Royal National Theatre in London and then filmed for posterity. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” is the big draw, as it stars Hugh Jackman, who manages to make the role of Curly his own, singing familiar tunes (“Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” etc.) and dancing up a storm. “Kiss Me, Kate” is also fun, Cole Porter’s backstage comedy of a musical production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” being mounted by stars whose personal lives parallel the play. These releases mark the Blu-ray debut of both shows.
“Golden Years” (Acorn, 2016, featurette). This British TV movie evokes a few smiles with its variation on “Going in Style,” as a retired couple (Bernard Hill, Virginia McKenna) discover that their pensions have dried up, so they turn to robbing banks to make ends meet. Then, when their social hall is threatened, they enlist some friends so they can steal enough money to save it. Lots of familiar English character actors dot the cast. (There is coarse language.)
“Code of a Killer” (Acorn, 2015, three episodes, featurette). This is an interesting, fact-based docudrama set in 1984 about Dr. Alec Jeffreys (John Simm) and his groundbreaking research into DNA. The film chronicles his breakthrough, then his frustrations in the face of public opposition and inadequate funding — until he teams up with a detective to stop a serial killer through the use of DNA profiling. (There is violence and strong language.)
“Victorian Slum House” (PBS, 2016, two discs, five episodes). For those who harbor a rosy view of Victorian England, this reality show may be an eye-opener, as 21st-century families are dropped into the slums of London, where they work in a poverty-stricken industrial era and live hand to mouth, reliving the 1860s. Subsequent episodes move them into the 1870s, 1880s, 1890s and, finally, into the early 20th century.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.