What’s in the damned set?
Is it in stereo?
What are the specific episodes?
The reason these questions are frustrating are really quite elemental: Alliance rarely sends out review screeners of their catalogue material, and more crucial, the packaging is often bereft of any substantive details.
Case in point: LEXX, the original mini-series. Most websites are forced to parrot whatever details are supplied by Alliance, and in most cases it’s woefully insufficient.
LEXX was produced by Salter Street Films, released and released by them on DVD via KOCH. Salter Street was then gobbled up by Alliance, but the show wasn’t reissued in Canada. It was licensed to Mill Creek in the U.S., who reproduced the same blah box copy typical of Alliance, and failed to indicate the show was in mono. In actual fact, they were given a shoddy master; while the Mill Creek logo which headlined each disc was in stereo, the audio for all 4 LEXX teleplays was mucked up.
Fault: Alliance, whose video division isn’t ideal, particularly when it comes to promoting and publicizing product to niche and fan groups. No one seems to care that part of marketing a title is to provide the kind of details that are standard on A-list titles. It's just common sense, and fair to buyers.
Case in point: The Hitchhiker: The Complete Series, which consists of 6 dual-layer DVDs divided into 3 volumes, and of which no details are present on the box art. The episode tally only appears silk-screened on the DVDs, but for fan edification, what follows is a semi-retentive breakdown of what's there, what's been left off, and what's still MIA on home video.
THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Note: titles in bold denotes episodes already present on a prior Canadian 3-volume set from KOCH.)
Vol.1, Disc 1: Last Scene / Nightshift / The Miracle of Alice Ames / Ghostwriter / Man’s Best Friend
Vol. 1, Disc 2: W.G.O.D. / The Legendary Billy B. / Homebodies / Why are you here? / In the Name of Love
Vol. 2, Disc 1: O.D. Feelin’ / True Believer / Perfect Order / Cabin Fever / A Whole New You
Vol. 2, Disc 2: Dead Heat / The Curse / Out of the Night / Secret Ingredient / Man of Her Dreams
Vol. 3, Disc 1: Man at the Window / Dead Man’s Curve / Made for Each Other / Joker / Videodate
Vol. 3, Disc 2: Best Shot / My Enemy / Tough Guys Don’t Whine / Riding the Nightmare / Cruelest Cat
Total hours (as stated on box): just over 12. Total episodes: 30
* * *
Episodes unique to the prior Canadian DVD release (erroneously branded "The Complete First Season") are the following 13, bringing the total released on DVD up to 2011 (in Canada) as 43:
Disc 1: When Morning Comes / Shattered Vows / Split Decision / Remembering Melody / Face to Face / And if we Dream / Petty Thieves / Hired Help
Disc 2: Murderous Feelings / A Time for Rifles / Love Sounds / One Last Prayer
Disc 3: Killer
* * *
Episodes still unavailable on video (in Canada), as outlined in the IMDB series tally:
From Season 4: Minuteman / Doctor’s Orders
From Season 5: The Martyr / In Living Color / Dark Wishes / Garter Belt / Shadow Puppets / Renaissance / Code Liz / Her Finest Hour / Together Forever / Phantom Zone / Spinning Wheel / Square Deal / Part of Me / Fashion Exchange / Hootch / Coach / The Verdict / Hit and Run / Studio 3X / Striptease / The Dying Generation / My Enemy / Power Play / Pawns
From Season 6: Fading Away / Strate Shooter / Hard Rhyme / Toxic Shock / New Dawn / A Function of Control / Trust Me / Windows / Working Girl / White Slaves / Tourist Trap / Homecoming / Living a Lie / Made in Paris / Offspring / Secrets / New Blood
* * *
To avoid getting into heavy details, The Hithhiker was an international co-production of which 85 episodes were made, and rolled out in seasons in an order at the discretion of member broadcasters, so while the prior Canadian 3-volume set released by KOCH in 2004 contains selections from Seasons 1-3, these seasons reportedly correspond to Seasons 1-3 + 5 in the U.S.
The series was (again reportedly) trimmed of violence for its syndicated run. Sampling of episodes on both the prior KOCH & new Alliance DVDs reveals little change in running times, but while the KOCH DVDs bear the Alliance logo, Alliance’s Complete Collection actually replicates the same masters used by HBO for their own 2-disc, 3 volume sets from 2005, which contain only the HBO DVD logo.
Unlike the KOCH release,which features mono 2.0 and bullshit stereo 5.1, the Alliance Complete Collection contains mono 2.0 sound mixes on all episodes except on Vol. 2, Disc 2, which offers mono 1.0 and 2.0. Each episode also comes with English, French and Spanish subtitles.
The prior KOCH DVDs contained no extras, whereas the Complete Collection, as originally produced by HBO, offers the following audio commentary tracks from a melange of directors:
Vol.1, Disc 1: Last Scene ( Paul Verhoeven) / Nightshift (Phillip Noyce & producer / writer Lewis Chesler) / Ghostwriter (Carl Schenkel) / Man’s Best Friend (Phillip Noyce & producer / writer Lewis Chesler)
Vol. 2, Disc 1: True Believer (Carl Schenkel)
Vol. 2, Disc 2: The Curse (Phillip Noyce & actor Harry Hamlin)
Picture quality is still ringy, largy due to the original broadcast masters probably being on ¾” U-matic. The Alliance / HBO sets seems to have some smoother & more stable colour, but the difference is only slight.
Bottom line: those still in possession of the older Canadian DVDs from KOCH should hold onto them, whereas label should be ashamed of themselves for using terms like ‘Complete’ when they’re clearly not.
The irony: I’ve never seen a full episode of The Hitchhiker. I simply loathe misleading packaging and the ensuing confusion which sets such as “The Complete Collection” present when merchants are faced with queries by confounded fans, and reviewers may mistakenly presume a set is in fact complete when there is much, much lacking.
Mark R. Hasan, Editor
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