Movies Till Dawn: TV Archaeology/Laughing Matters

Man from Atlantis” (1977, Warner Archives Collection) Given the current appetite for all things superheroic, Warner Archives is wise to release a Blu-ray edition of this feature-length pilot for the short-lived 1977 television series starring Patrick Duffy as the titular, web-fingered crime fighter. Duffy, one year shy of starring on “Dallas,” cuts an appropriately heroic figure as the amnesiac Atlantean, who teams with Navy scientist Belinda J. Montgomery to thwart mad scientist Victor Buono‘s plans for world domination. Three more TV-movies and a single, 13-episode season followed, all of which moved from the pilot’s more cerebral science fiction tone a la “Star Trek” (producers Herbert F. Solow and Robert Justman both worked on that series) to more comic book-styled thrills. That approach didn’t translate into ratings, but appears to have helped preserve a dedicated fanbase that should be pleased with this remastered, if bare bones, Blu-ray.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (1988, Shout! Select) Two con men – one urbane (Michael Caine), the other craven (Steve Martin) – who specialize in alleviating wealthy women of their funds strike a wager: the first to boost $50,000 from an unsuspecting mark keeps both the money and the right to use the French Riviera as their personal hunting ground. Sparkling cyanide cocktail of high society manners and lowbrow behavior, orchestrated deftly by director Frank Oz and the two leads, who have the give-and-take of a longtime comedy team; Martin gets the biggest laughs (his best ruse, as Caine’s dimwitted brother Ruprecht, is a stellar showcase for his physical talents) but Caine not only keeps pace, but also barely breaks a sweat. They’re well supported by the late, great Glenne Headley as their primary target and inveterate scene-stealers Barbara Harris and Dana Ivey; Shout Select’s Collectors Edition Blu-ray includes commentary by Oz and an interview with co-writer Dale Launer, who discusses the film’s origins (it’s a remake of the 1964 film “Bedtime Story,” with David Niven and Marlon Brando) and initial cast (David Bowie and Mick Jagger).

Craig of the Creek: Itch to Explore” (2018-2019, Warner Bros./Cartoon Network) Wildly clever animated series which follows its titular, cartography-obsessed hero and his friends’ pursuit of adventure in a swampy stretch of suburban Maryland that, in their minds, is their own Shangri-La. Created by Matt Burnett and Ben Levin (“Steven Universe”), “Craig” has a keen understanding of the elaborate rituals and social strata of childhood, as well as the almost lysergic complexities of playtime and the larger-than-life personalities that comprise it (my favorite is Craig’s Wise Fool sidekick J.P., though I am also fond of forest guardian Wildernessa and her faithful dog/steed, Cheesesticks). The show also finds room for a backdrop of diversity and inclusiveness that doesn’t feel like lip service and even gives Craig a believable home environment (with Terry Crews and Phil LaMarr voicing Craig’s dad and brother, respectively). That’s a lot of content for an 11-minute show, but “Craig” pulls it off with intelligence and humor that will appeal to its target demographic (pre-teens) and older animation fans alike. The WB/CN DVD features the first 13 episodes of the show’s first season, sans its pilot.

Neighbors” (1981, Mill Creek Entertainment) Suburbanite John Belushi becomes convinced that his new and aggressive neighbors (Dan Aykroyd and Cathy Moriarty) are trying to ruin his dull, staid life. Belushi’s final film is marked by a lot of manic energy, especially on the part of Aykroyd, but few actual laughs (even with a script by Larry Gelbart); most of the humor is derived from watching Belushi play the sort of repressed nebbish his other screen roles would have eaten for lunch. He also roped Fear into recording the title track, which was nixed by Columbia and went unreleased until 2015; Mill Creek’s Blu-ray is part of its Retro VHS collection.


Pat Boone and Family: Springtime Special & Easter Special” (1978/1979, MPI Home Video) It would be easy to drop a 50-megaton blast of withering critique on this disc, which compiles two late ’70s-era TV specials featuring Boone and his family; the “Springtime ” and “Easter” – both produced by Jerry Weintraub – are textbook examples of the hopelessly square variety programming that has launched a thousand jokes about ’70s TV, and Boone’s recent stint as a humorless proponent of birther conspiracies warrants a full-bore drubbing. But that’s shooting fish in a barrel – and well-mannered, impossibly nice fish at that – so I will instead say that Boone, his four daughters (including Debby Boone, who was riding high with “You Light Up My Life” when these specials aired), and wife Shirley are wholly committed to entertaining you in both specials, and if that means roller-skating around the Astronomer’s Monument at Griffith Observatory while singing “Ease On Down the Road,” well, they’re all in. Boone pere also endures a few good-natured potshots at his squeaky-clean persona from Don Rickles and Ted Knight, but he shoulders them with a bemused paternal headshake; the other musical numbers, which include the whole family on “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher,” and guests, which range from George Burns and Dick Van Patten to Parker Stevenson, who woos Debby (again, very mildly) with a cover of Randy Newman’s “Love Story (You and Me),” and the Unknown Comic (!) – all work hard to keep viewers amused and delighted, albeit in the calmest way possible. So yes, you could enjoy “Pat Boone and Family” as the purest-grade TV camp, but are you going to feel good about it afterwards? I leave it to you. MPI’s DVD includes solo performances by the sisters (at what appears to be the LA Zoo), the original TV spot for the “Springtime Special,” and an extended promo for the 40th anniversary of the “You Light Up My Life” album.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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