Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TREMORS - THE COMPLETE SERIES

1990's TREMORS, starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and some truly nifty giant killer worms, was something of a bomb at the box-office, due to bad timing and a title that had audiences thinking it was about earthquakes. But, with frequent airings on cable channels like USA, the film's combination of witty dialogue, brisk direction, eccentric characters and good, old-fashioned monster movie thrills soon attracted a large cult following. This following was so great that three successful, direct-to-video were produced over the next decade, and in 2003, the franchise made the jump to television with TREMORS, a 13-episode series for the then-SciFi Channel.

The series follows the continuity of the movie/sequels quite closely, and features Michael Gross reprising his film role of Burt Gummer, the survivalist monster hunter who, over the course of the first three features, went from quirky supporting character to full-fledged star of the franchise. In the weekly series, the small population of the desert town of Perfection, Nevada has learned to live with the one surviving "graboid," which they call El Blanco, and attempts to eke out a small living on the tourists who come to their valley hoping for a glimpse of their famous (and government-protected) monster. But it turns out that El Blanco isn't the only strange creature that calls the valley home, and the residents are regularly menaced by a variety of bizarre new beasts.

I'm actually rather surprised that the series didn't go beyond 13 episodes. The cast (which also includes Victor Browne, Marcia Strassman, Lela Lee and sexy Gladice Jimenez) is uniformly likeable, the writing is sharp, and the producers do a remarkable job of opening up the film universe to allow for a wider variety of stories and beasties. The special effects are decent enough for an early 00s television show, and the overall production values are very high. It's a fun show, very well-made.

(If I have any complaint, it's that Gross disappears near the end of the series and his character doesn't appear in the last two or three episodes. Wonder what happened there?)

Universal's 3-disc DVD set includes all 13 episodes in pristine, 1.33:1, fullscreen transfers and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio - the show looks and sounds terrific. There are no bonus features, though Universal has placed the episodes in the creators' intended sequence, rather than jumbled up SciFi Channel airing order. There's a much more logical narrative flow to the series now.

If you're a fan of and own the TREMORS movies, you'll want to pick up the TV series and complete your collection. It's an extremely entertaining science fiction romp with great characters - especially Gross' Burt Gummer - cool monsters, and a smart sense of humor. Recommended.

BUY: Tremors: Complete Series