Tuesday, April 4, 2006

THE RAT PATROL - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

When I was in art school back in the early 80's, working through the night on my assignments with the B&W portable on the corner of my desk, the rousing theme music of THE RAT PATROL was my cue that it was time to hit the sack. Not because I didn't like the show, but because the local TV station aired it at 4:30 A.M., and if I was still up at that hour, I knew I was going to be dragging my ass all day long.

In fact, I liked the show, which made it tough to turn off the TV and go to bed. But thanks to Sony/MGM, I now have all of THE RAT PATROL - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON to view on DVD anytime I like, and I couldn't be happier.

Set in North Africa during World War II (although shot in Spain), PATROL chronicles the adventures of four Allied soldiers – three American, one British – as they race over the desert dunes in a couple of jeeps equipped with heavy caliber machine guns. Very loosely based on the exploits of the real-life Long Range Desert Group, the half-hour show is action-packed – with endless commando raids, chases, gunfights and plenty of explosions – which doesn't leave much time for melodrama. The rugged cast – Christopher George (GRIZZLY, THE EXTERMINATOR), Gary Raymond, Lawrence Casey, Justin Tarr and TV soap opera veteran Eric Braeden (ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES) as their Nazi nemesis – are uniformly good (no pun intended) and play their limited roles with gung ho conviction.

The DVD transfers are remarkably good. The colors on the pilot episode look a little washed out, but the rest look probably better than they did when it originally aired, with only the slightest bit of speckling. The show is presented full-frame with mono sound (it was a product of the 1960s, after all), with no extras except for a selection of trailers for other MGM war titles on the first disc.

In terms of military history, the show's a complete mess – the real Long Range Desert Group was entirely made up of New Zealanders – but as a fun, manly action-adventure entertainment, it can't be beat.

BUY: Rat Patrol - The Complete First Season