Home DVD DVD Reviews DVD Spotlight on: MPI HOME VIDEO
DVD Spotlight on: MPI HOME VIDEO
Written by US Townhall staff   
Thursday, 26 August 2010 01:14

MPI Home Video distributes numerous special interest DVDs including classic TVFounded in 1976 by brothers Waleed and Malik Ali, Chicago's MPI Home Video (part of MPI Media Group) has issued an array of classic television series and specials on DVD over the last several years.  Many of their titles are longtime cult favorites that hold special places in the hearts of generations of television viewers.  While we often shine the spotlight on the major releases from the big studios and home video distributors, we are also firmly committed to expanding our coverage of the DVD marketplace to include the smaller, independent video distributors who publish a variety of offbeat and interesting titles.

 

What follows is our exclusive look at some of the more praiseworthy titles released by MPI Home Video that could easily find a place in the homes of serious DVD collectors.

 

 

 

 

Here's Lucy Season 1 Here's Lucy Season 2 Here's Lucy Season 3

 

Here's Lucy Seasons 1-3

 

In 1968, after having sold Desilu Studios – and her top-rated sitcom, The Lucy Show, to Gulf & Western – Lucille Ball formed Lucille Ball Productions and immediately returned to television that fall with her third consecutive hit show, Here's Lucy.  Joining Lucy and her favorite straight man, Gale Gordon, were Lucy's real-life children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Aranaz, Jr.  Like her previous two series, Here's Lucy lasted for six full seasons before ending in the Spring of 1974.

In 2004, Shout Factory released a best-of set comprised of 24 episodes from among the series' span of 144.  In August of 2009, the rights to distribute this series were picked up by MPI Home Video who was determined to release all six seasons of the series in season sets, the way most fans have told us they prefer.  True to their word, MPI has released the first three seasons with Seasons 4-6 potentially coming in 2011.

As for the DVD itself, MPI did a great job in putting these sets together.  Video is crisp, clean, and colors are bright.  Audio is also free of blemishes, which is especially important for this series with its plentiful musical numbers.  Each episode comes with a new introduction by Lucie and Desi, who summarize the premise of the story before it begins.

MPI has went above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to extras.  Each of the three sets released so far include a wealth of new special features detailing many behind-the-scenes aspects of the show including Lucille Ball shooting her live-action insert for the famous opening sequence, home movies, production files, screen tests, the episode of Make Room for Granddaddy that guest-starred the Lucy Carter character, and much more.

 

MSRP: $29.98 each

 

BOTTOM LINE

RECOMMENDATION:

Recommendation: BUY

Mothers-In-Law: The Complete Series

The Mothers-In-Law: The Complete Series

 

The strait-laced Hubbards, played by Eve Arden and Herbert Rudley, become family with their more fun-loving neighbors, The Buells (played by Kaye Ballard and Roger C. Carmel), when the Hubbards' daughter elopes with the Buell's son.  Comedic hijinks ensue when these meddlesome mothers clash over their differing world views on how their children should conduct their marriage and live their lives.

This series, based on its pedigree, should have been a hit.  It was created by Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Davis, who were two of the principal writers of the classic series, I Love Lucy, and who wrote the earlier, better seasons of its successor, The Lucy Show.  Furthermore, it was produced by none other than Desi Arnaz himself for his new company, Desi Arnaz Productions, that he created after he sold his interest in Desilu to Lucille Ball in late 1962.  It was given every chance to succeed as NBC, the network that aired the series, placed it between its hits Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color and its top-rated series, Bonanza.  Although the competition was fierce with The Ed Sullivan Show airing on CBS and The FBI airing on ABC, people were clearly going out of their way to avoid The Mothers-in-Law.  The series was just about canceled after its first season, but Arnaz convinced NBC to give it one more season to succeed.  Star Roger C. Carmel was replaced by Richard Deacon after Carmel did not agree to do the second season without a pay raise the way the other cast members did.  Ratings were worse in the second season, and the series was shuttered.

This makes The Mothers-in-Law quite an interesting curiousity piece in the annals of classic television as it had all the right ingredients to become a hit, but never became one.  For fans of those one or two season wonders that have become mere footnotes in the pop culture history books, this is a must-get.  MPI has done a great job in assembling all 56 half-hour episodes, complete and uncut, into this box set.  Video and audio quality are quite good, especially for a series of this age.  Arnaz, Carroll, and Davis did not exactly reinvent the wheel with this series (two crazy wives and their long-suffering husbands), but the caliber of the gung-ho cast kept this series from feeling like a cut-rate I Love Lucy.  Desi Arnaz himself appears in a couple of episodes, and this was the last series he produced for television.

This set's bonus features are among the more complete and impressive that we've seen for such an old series.  Said bonus features include the original unaired pilot featuring a different actress in the role of the daughter of Eve Arden's character, a script for an unproduced episode, a new interview with star Kaye Ballard, and two unaired pilots from Desi Arnaz Productions: The Carol Channing Show and Land's End.  Fans of rare television and "lost" episodes shoud snatch this DVD off the shelves for the bonus features alone.

 

MSRP: $39.98

 

BOTTOM LINE RECOMMENDATION:

(for diehard

classic TV fans)

Recommendation: BUY

(for the casual

& curious)

Recommendation: RENT


Dark Shadows: The Beginning collection 1 Dark Shadows: The Beginning collection 2 Dark Shadows: The Beginning collection 3
Dark Shadows: The Beginning collection 4 Dark Shadows: The Beginning collection 5 Dark Shadows: The Beginning collection 6

 

Dark Shadows: The Beginning   DVD Collections 1-6

 

Although MPI began releasing this classic daytime drama back in 2002, with vampires being all the rage (again) thanks to the current Twilight film franchise, we wanted to call attention to the fact that MPI has dutifully released each and every episode of this cult favorite onto DVD in no less than 32 DVD sets of four discs each for a total of 128 DVDs of watching.  Quite a lot to sink your teeth into!  But for the diehard fans of Barnabas and the crazy Collins family, it will be well worth it.

 The series' most famous and best-loved character, Barnabas Collins, did not debut until about episode #210, which is where MPI originally began their DVD sets.  Once done, MPI went all the way back to day 1 and released a companion set, Dark Shadows: The Beginning.  These episodes do not feature Barnabas, but they are still important to the development of the series as supernatural elements were slowly introduced in order to stem the tide of low ratings even before Barnabas's arrival in Collinsport.  Fans who may have been on the fence about picking up these six "Beginning" collections can rest assured that, while the thrills might be somewhat more low key than what was to follow, there are plenty of intriguing developments such as young David Collins' attempt at murdering his own father, the mystery of the death of Bill Malloy that took up dozens of episodes and put Victoria Winters in mortal danger (not for the last time), Burke Devlin's arrival in Collinsport to settle an old score with Roger Collins, and the introduction of the ghostly Josette Collins.

 As for video and audio quality, Dark Shadows was recorded onto videotape and is over 40 years old, so it is what it is.  MPI did the best they could with it, and most episodes are quite crisp.  Occasionally, MPI had to use a kinescope version of an episode where the original tape was missing.  We applaud MPI for going the extra mile to ensure that every episode has been made available to Dark Shadows fans and to the general public, and that all episodes are complete and uncut.  This is the only daytime drama to achieve that distinction.

 Each DVD set has some nice bonus features including current-day interviews with some of the stars.

 If you aren't a Dark Shadows fanatic, upon viewing these wonderful sets from MPI, you just might become one.  However, we realize that it might be too cost prohibitive for most people to own all 32 sets or even the 6 sets of "The Beginning," but definitely give it a rental to sample some classic television.

 

MSRP: $59.98 each

 

BOTTOM LINE RECOMMENDATION:

(for diehard

Dark Shadows fans)

Recommendation: BUY

(for the casual

& curious)

Recommendation: RENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

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