Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes (Network). Three episodes of this much loved classic series, broadcast in 1969, were destroyed in a cost-saving purge. Tapes were expensive and regularly reused. The original scripts by Jimmy Perry and David Croft have been respectfully recreated by a new cast who, led by Kevin McNally (in the Arthur Lowe role of Captain Mainwaring), pay affectionate homage to the original actors. Robert Bathurst with a laid-back smirk captures John Le Mesurier perfectly. Matthew Horne (in the role of black market spiv) and David Hayman (in the John Laurie role) are funny. Funniest of all is Kevin Eldon’s Jones (in the Clive Dunn role) and especially in his farcical attempts, brilliantly executed, to put out a fire. The bucket of water destined for the flames invariably goes over him.
The Halfway House (StudioCanal) A dying orchestra conductor; a divorcing couple with teenage daughter; a French mother (Françoise Rosay) grieving for the son who died in the war; her husband who was a naval commander (Tom Walls) whose ship was torpedoed; a black marketer and an embezzler just out of prison. These diverse characters arrive at a remote inn in Wales run by a ghostly innkeeper (Mervyn Johns) and his ghostly daughter. No, it’s not another Dead of Night. It’s a modern morality play with a lot of stagey dialogue. Made in 1944, Ealing Studios had a positive message for its wartime audiences: “The world is what you make it.”
Rugby World Cup 2019 – The Official Review (Lionsgate). Cheers and tears; relive the legendary moments. The 2019 Rugby World Cup was thought by many to be the greatest Rugby World Cup yet. It was the first tournament to take place in Asia. The disc offers extended highlights, pivotal moments, behind the scenes, interviews, commentaries and an exploration of host nation Japan. Where you in Yokohama or in front of your television set? The final match between England and South Africa was the United Kingdom’s most watched TV broadcast in 2019 with a peak audience of 12.8 million watching.
Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans (Altitude). The popular television series is now on the big screen. A nerdy, weedy teenage Roman (Sebastian Croft) is banished to England (a fate worse than death). He meets a feisty teenage Celt (Emilia Jones) who wants to fight with Boudicca (played by Kate Nash as a pop star). Meanwhile back in Rome, Nero (Craig Roberts), who objects to being a mummy’s boy, plots to murder his mummy, Agrippina (Kim Cattrall). What the film needs is a better script and better songs. Don’t expect the wit of the Monty Python team and Black Adder and Ben Elton. It’s aimed at a much younger audience whose puerile humour is still at the poo poo stage.
The Fate of Lee Khan (Eureka). Mongol and Chinese rebels clash in 1366. I expected King Hui’s martial arts movie, extremely popular in Taiwan when it was released in 1973, to be so much better. You will have to sit through a very long preamble before you get to the big climatic, acrobatic swordfight with its leaping, somersaulting, high-flying choreography. It could be worth the wait for Kung-fu fans. The bulk of the action, however, is set indoors in one set, a rural inn, frequented by a warlord, spies, comic thieves and female patriots disguised as waitresses. The comedy is broad and the acting in too many cases is very poor.