Editor’s Notes: New to Blu-ray/DVD: Swamp People, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Sleepy Hollow, The People Vs. Fritz Bauer, Deepwater Horizon, & Stevie D are out on their respective formats Tuesday January 10th.
Swamp People: Season 7
Swamp People: Season 7 (Lionsgate) is a History Channel series on the alligator hunting season in Louisiana, which begins on the first Wednesday in September and lasts for 30 days. During this period, several alligator hunters earn most of their yearly income from a risky hunt that relies on experience, the weather, and stringent wildlife laws. Hunters are issued a limited number of tags that must be attached to their kills. Once they “tag out” — run out of tags — they are not permitted to kill any additional alligators.
With so much of their income at stake, the hunters attempt to tag out before the season ends, so they are constantly battling the clock. The rest of the year, they can earn income from shrimp, crawfish, raccoons, turtles, and other forms of wildlife. Some hunters hold full-time jobs in other industries.
Highlights of Season 7 include King of the Swamp Troy Landry dealing with a high water level in the basin and a cold front; Troy bringing in outside help for the hunt; a fight to snare a huge alligator; Troy confronting a poacher; the Landrys taking a gamble on new territory; and a dramatic encounter with a cannibal gator.
The 3-disc DVD set includes all 13 widescreen episodes of the show’s seventh season. Bonus features include six webisodes never before seen on TV, including “Bruce’s Freezer Dilemma,” “Icing the Haul,” “An Impromptu Airboat Ride,” and “Jacob’s Gift to Ridge.”
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends Featuring Jerry Seinfeld
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends Featuring Jerry Seinfeld (Time Life) is a compilation of three complete broadcasts of “The Tonight Show” from the 1980’s, each featuring Jerry Seinfeld before his NBC sitcom premiered.
The first show (from June 27, 1985) features Seinfeld early in his career as well as “Mr. Rambo’s Neighborhood,” one of the most famous sketches by Johnny and The Mighty Carson Art Players. In the second (February 21, 1986), Seinfeld is joined by drag racer Shirley Muldowney, and the future Queen of All Media, Oprah Winfrey, makes her first appearance on “The Tonight Show.” The third (June 9, 1988) features Seinfeld, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and an 18-year-old tennis star named Andre Agassi.
Carson was so impressed by Seinfeld’s first appearance on the show, on May 6, 1981, that Seinfeld became a frequent guest. Seinfeld, which premiered in 1989, would become the most popular and successful sitcom on American television by its fourth season.
There have been previous home video releases of The Tonight Show, but these are complete, including the shows’ original commercials, so watching them recreates the original experience of watching the program. Other releases in the series, each containing three complete programs, feature Robin Williams, David Letterman, Burt Reynolds, Steve Martin, and Rodney Dangerfield.
Sleepy Hollow: The Complete Third Season
Sleepy Hollow: The Complete Third Season (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment) has a different show runner from the first two seasons, and the intention was for the episodes to stand alone rather than be serialized over several programs. Despite the announcement that Season 3 would consist of self-contained stories, however, there is a multi-episode story arc throughout. Unfortunately, the Headless Horseman is written out early on and a new recurring villain, Pandora (Shannyn Sossamon), enters ready to unleash her box of evils on the title town. But it’s not clear what her overall plan is, and her initial menace fades with successive episodes.
In the premiere episode, “I, Witness,” nine months have passed since Season 2 ended. Pandora encounters the Headless Horseman and traps him in her box. She’s granted power over a demon that instills fear in its victims before killing them. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) reaches out to Abbie (Nicole Behave), who is now an FBI agent, after he is arrested for smuggling a tablet from his travels into the country. Ichabod and Abbie are drawn into a murder investigation involving two men in a cabin. Ichabod recounts his relationship with Betsy Ross (Nikki Reed). It’s discovered that the demon is vulnerable when its eyes are whitened, and it is attracted to gunpowder.
Subsequent episodes involve Pandora causing a man to act on his darker impulses and murder those he hates; the conjuring of a creature that stings its targets, causing them to succumb to paranoia; the discovery that a gargoyle is suspected of murder; the transformation of a doctor into the Jersey Devil; a rampaging Banshee who commits a triple murder; and the discovery of a secret order.
The season contains many of the elements that attracted audiences in the first place, specifically the show’s revisionist history, great-looking monsters, and the teaming of Ichabod and Abbie to confront and take down the latest evil threatening the town.
All 18 episodes of the 2015-2016 season are contained in the 5-disc widescreen DVD release. Special features include deleted scenes and a gag reel.
The People Vs. Fritz Bauer
The People Vs. Fritz Bauer (Cohen Media Group) takes place in Germany in 1957. Attorney General Fritz Bauer (Burghart Klaussner) receives critical evidence on the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann, the lieutenant colonel responsible for the mass deportation of Jews. Eichmann is allegedly hiding in Buenos Aires.
Bauer, himself Jewish, has been trying to take the Third Reich’s crimes to court ever since his return from Danish exile. He wants Eichmann extradited back to Germany, charged for his crimes and put on trial so that the people of Germany are forced to confront their complicity. Those in government, however, would rather that Eichmann remain outside Germany. Because of his distrust of the German justice system, Bauer contacts the Israeli secret service, Mossad, and by doing so, commits treason. Bauer claims he is not seeking revenge for the Holocaust; he is concerned with the future of Germany.
The film plays like a spy thriller, with Bauer being discouraged by a system filled with former SS men who feed him bad information and undercut him at every turn. Because he is a closeted homosexual and that revelation could end his career, he must tread carefully. Klaussner plays Bauer as a man dedicated more to justice than to vengeance. He seems beaten down by his inability to find and prosecute war criminals. Eventually he enlists the assistance of a younger member of his prosecutorial team, Karl Angermann (Ronald Zehrfeld), in his quest to bring Eichmann to justice.
This is not a well known chapter in post-World War II Germany. History informs us that the Germans preferred to turn their backs on the past in the years after the war, but Fritz Bauer is not a household name. The media covered the capture of Eichmann in Argentina and his subsequent trial in Israel, but little mention, if any, was made of Bauer, who apparently was a key figure in the SS officer’s capture.
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray release include five deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and theatrical trailer. The film is in German, with English subtitles.
Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate) is based on the 2010 disaster when the title BP oil rig off the coast of Louisiana caused the worst oil spill in American history. Mark Williams (Mark Wahlberg), the chief electronics technician, knows the workings of the rig inside out. We first see him at home with wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) and his daughter as he gets ready for a three-week stint on the rig. Onboard, manager Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) recognizes safety issues and confronts BP company man Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), who wants only to amp up production since the rig is already 43 days behind schedule.
A huge explosion occurs and chaos breaks out onboard as workers scramble to save themselves and others from the inferno. Director Peter Berg (Battleship) puts the viewer right into the action, resulting in a solid disaster flick. Berg keeps the focus on the men and their escalating desperation, as well as Mike’s heroism. There’s little mention of the politics that allowed construction of these rigs, or of the aftermath when thousands of gallons of oil spilled into Gulf Coast waters. But that’s the prerogative of a writer: to tell a story from a particular point of view.
Wahlberg is apparently comfortable working for Berg, since he also starred in the director’s ”Lone Survivor” and the upcoming Patriots Day. His Mike is pretty much a generic movie hero, surmounting overwhelming odds, risking his life, and reacting quickly in crisis. The film fills in what the media downplayed when the story broke — the personal tale of the men on board, both the survivors and the victims of the tragedy.
The 2-disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray edition contains several behind-the-scenes featurettes, including a 5-part hour-long documentary showing Mark Wahlberg and cast meeting the real-life heroes of the disaster who discuss their personal experiences from Deepwater Horizon. A digital HD copy is included. The film is also available in a 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD edition and a single-disc DVD.
Stevie D (Candy Factory Films) is a crime comedy/drama in which the title character (Chris Cordone), the only son of a Los Angeles construction magnate, accidentally kills a connected wiseguy. His father, Angelo (John Aprea), is left with few options. He and his confidant, Lenny (Kevin Chapman), devise a plan that puts Stevie in hiding while an unknown, look-alike actor, Michael Rose (also Cordone), is hired to stand in for him.
Down on his luck, Michael Rose was heading nowhere fast. As Stevie D, however, Michael becomes immersed in a new life, winning people over in ways that surprise Angelo and Lenny and make their lives far more complicated. Michael has also fallen in love with Daria Laurentis (Torrey DeVittto), daughter of Angelo’s lawyer, and the two are forced to keep their illicit romance under wraps.
The script leans too heavily on the romantic sub-plot, which slows the narrative and doesn’t add anything significant to the story. The premise is inspired by Some Like It Hot and Midnight Run but the movie lacks the star power of those features. The pop culture observations by the hit men tailing Michael/Stevie D (Phil Idrissi, Darren Capozzi) are often very funny as the thugs philosophize and banter while taking in the California sun.
There are no bonus features on the widescreen DVD release.