Blu-ray slight return: Halloween edition
All in the Family: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory, 10/30) can easily be on your playlist for the next several months. That’s considering that the 28 disc box set features all 213 episodes (over nine seasons) and an extras disc with pilot episodes of the original show as well as subsequent spin-offs like Archie Bunker’s Place, Gloria (whoa, her character minus Meathead has moved in as an assistant to country vet Burgess Meredith), and a ‘90s oddity called 704 Hauser that lasted six eps. All in the Family was a landmark series from the 1970s that comically observed a big city bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) his subservient wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), and his live-in daughter Gloria and her longhair husband Michael whom Archie not so affectionately refers to as Meathead (Sally Struthers and future Spinal Tap/Princess Bride director Rob Reiner).
Before Archie Bunker viewers of television never heard a character aimlessly utter words like kike, spic, nigger, et al. One of the greatest eps ever is near the end of season two when Sammy Davis Jr. visits the Bunker residence and plants a kiss of Archie’s cheek as they’re having their picture taken. All in the Family had the first guest character who was gay but wasn’t a swish. Also interesting is the show’s 200th episode that’s actually a 90-minute recap of AITF’s highlights. 704 Hauser refers to the address where Archie lived. In 704 the roles are reversed with John Amos as a liberal black man who now lives where Archie once dwelt. His son is a conservative Republican type with a kooky Jewish girlfriend (Maura Tierney). All three pilots of the original All in the Family are included with only the third utilizing bright lighting in the opening song and with Struthers and Reiner as the kids.
Rosemary’s Baby (Criterion, 10/30) set the standard for subliminal horror when it came out in 1968 and while all sorts of films nowadays ape RB its template has never been surpassed. A woman living a comfortable life in New York City gets pregnant only to find out in a slowly evolving manner that the baby is the spawn of the devil. Mia Farrow stars, and Roman Polanski directs. (It was his first American film.) Locations include The Dakota residence building in New York, and shots outside of the Dakota are lensed in the very place that John Lennon was shot in 1980. Bright primary colors pop out during the film in the way that Blu-ray makes colors pop out, and William Fraker’s cinematography has a brooding quality with its slight movements. Other cast members include Ruth Gordon, John Cassavetes and Charles Grodin. Extras include a television documentary on composer Krysztof Komeda, and a 40-minute doc shot earlier this year featuring interviews with Farrow, Polanski and producer Robert Evans.
Disasters Deconstructed (A&E, 10/23) contains six discs that examine to various degrees architectural accidents of the 20th century. Subjects include the Titanic (exposes cover-ups by the ship’s company) and the Hindenburg (three docs that are truly amazing and the main reason to get this set). Other discs showcase episodes from Inspector America that chronicles a safety inspector who shows how antiquated much of America’s infrastructure really is. Major cities with 19th century plumbing and bridges you drive on that are below acceptable standard are just the tip of this show’s iceberg. The last two discs are from the show Modern Marvels: Engineering Disasters and deconstruct some of the most famous man-caused disasters of modern time.
— Michael Bergeron