Thursday, November 4, 2010

DICK BARTON, SPECIAL AGENT COLLECTION

Based on a popular dramatic BBC radio serial from the late Forties revolving around the crimebusting escapades of an ex-British Army Commando, his service pal "Snowey" White, and mechanic Jock Anderson, DICK BARTON, SPECIAL AGENT returned to the airwaves in 1979 as a television series. Now, VCI Entertainment has brought this rough and tumble English adventure series to Region 1 DVD for the first time.

Like the radio serial, the television series was composed of daily, 15-minute episodes, each ending on a cliffhanger. The setting was post-World War II Britain, and the stories were straight out of the pulp fiction of the era, with Barton portrayed as a "Bulldog" Drummond-type man of action. The first 10-chapter serial, for example, pitted Barton against a ruthless band of marijuana dealers, complete with an underground lair and a nefarious plot to turn the population of England into reefer addicts.

It's hard to take the show as anything but camp entertainment these days - and I suspect it was the same in 1979. It's full of damsels in distress, death traps, secret weapons, and thugs with scars. I don't know if the producers intended it to be taken as a comedy or not, though, because it's all played completely straight-faced.

The cast is good - Tony Vogel is appropriately tough-looking and energetic as the two-fisted, trenchcoat-clad Barton, while Anthony Heaton and James Cosmo make satisfactory sidekicks. The period setting is well-realized, with plenty of antique cars and vintage outfits, and the music is appropriately melodramatic.

VCI's 2-disc contains all 32 fifteen-minute episodes (four stories) produced, presented in their original, 1.33:1 "full frame" aspect ratio. The series was shot on videotape, and VCI's presentation is excellent, with a remarkably stable video transfer with good contrast, balanced colors, and no evident video "noise" or color smearing. It looks great. Audio is Dolby Digital mono.The only bonus features are promos for other VCI releases.

Fans of 40's two-fisted pulp heroes (especially British characters like "Bulldog" Drummond) may get a kick out of this. It's hard to take seriously, but it's fun.

BUY: Dick Barton Special Agent (British TV Series)