Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BURKE'S LAW - SEASON 1, VOLUME 1

Friday I received the new BURKE'S LAW DVD set from VCI Home Video. This early-60's detective series was produced by Aaron Spelling, and like his later productions, it's slick, a little sleazy, and gimmicky. And man, BURKE'S LAW may just be the most gimmick-laden detective series ever!

The first gimmick is that Amos Burke (Gene Barry, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS), a L.A. homicide captain, is a multi-millionaire, spending his nights in an alcoholic haze, romancing starlets and debutantes and engaging in the other sordid pursuits of the insanely rich. But, when duty calls, Burke orders his Asian manservant Henry to bring around the Rolls Royce, and is chauffeured to the crime scene – usually still in his black tie and tux.

The second gimmick is that each episode is loaded with big name guest stars, both the young, fresh faces of 1964, and a whole lot of Hollywood legends and almost-legends. This first set includes the first 16 episodes of the first season, and the guest stars in those episodes alone include: William Bendix, Bruce Cabot, Rod Cameron, Zasu Pitts, Will Rogers Jr., Elizabeth Montgomery, Soupy Sales, Jim Backus, Mary Astor, Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor, Paul Lynde, Lizabeth Scott, Chill Wills, Joan Blondell, Juliet Prowse, Barbara Eden, Don Rickles, Ed Begley, Rita Moreno, Keenan Wynn, Arlene Dahl, Sammy Davis Jr., Burgess Meredith, Diana Dors, Carolyn Jones, Nick Adams, Cesar Romero, Howard Duff, Ida Lupino, Tina Louise, Niancy sinatra, Gloria Swanson, Edward Everett Horton, Dean Jones, June Allyson, Jack Haley, Agnes Moorehead, Yvonne DeCarlo, Hoagy Carmichael, Broderick Crawford.... and a whole lot more.

The third gimmick is "Burke's Laws," pithy little bits of wisdom that the suave homicide cop occasionally likes to pass along to his junior officers.

VCI's set is very decent, with really beautiful 1.33:1 full frame, B&W transfers, Dolby Mono sound, and a slew of 60s vintage television commercials. My only complaints are that it's only half the season on 4 discs, and each disc has its own, full-sized DVD case. For a guy with over 3,000 DVDs, I have some serious storage issues, and, frankly, this set eats up too much shelf space. I really wish VCI had packaged these 4 discs in a couple of two-disc slimpaks – it would have taken up probably about a third of the space, and be more in line with most other TV-on-DVD releases.

Gimmicky as it is, BURKE'S LAW is also damned entertaining. If you're a fan of old TV detective shows or enjoy spotting familiar faces – as the wife and I both do, since we're huge old movie buffs – it's definitely worth checking out. The writing is sharp (two of these episodes were penned by Harlan Ellison), the production values slick, Gene Barry is charming, and the mysteries are engaging. Recommended.

BUY: Burke's Law: Season 1 - Volume 1 (First 16 Episodes)