Matlock: Greatest Cases Is A Great Set For Dramaphiles And Matlock Fans Alike

Courtesy:  CBS DVD/Paramount

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount

Courtroom dramas today are so boring. The reason being that there are so many of them. And among that mass of legalese there is little to no originality among said series. Thankfully those that love the genre but hate the general lack of choices have another option thanks to the people at CBS DVD and Paramount. That option comes in the form of the new Matlock compilation set Matlock: Greatest Cases. The three-disc collection was released in stores this past March. And regardless of viewers’ familiarity with the series this recently released collection proves to be one that any courtroom drama fan will enjoy. This is especially the case for those looking to escape all of the cookie cutter series on television today. The main reason for this is the collection of episodes featured throughout all three discs. There are eleven episodes featured in this set, one of which is a two-part episode. What’s more, each of the series’ nine seasons is represented through the episodes. This will be discussed shortly. It is just one reason that the collection proves so interesting for audiences. The writing behind each of the featured episodes is just as much to note as the episodes themselves. Audiences will note a clear difference between the overall content of these episodes and those of nearly every other courtroom drama that has been on television since it ended its run. Last but hardly least of note in this set is the work of the show’s cast, most notably of lead actor Andy Griffith. The intensity that seems so prevalent among casts of today’s courtroom dramas is nowhere to be seen at any point in these episodes. Yet the cast (including the guest stars) still keeps viewers entertained and engaged from beginning to end in each. It shows that even today dramas don’t have to be so overly dramatic in order to be entertaining. It rounds out the ways in which Matlock: Greatest Cases proves to be such an entertaining new collection of episodes from the classic series. Together with the featured episodes and their writing, the collection in whole shows clearly why dramaphiles and Matlock fans alike will want to pick up this box set.

Matlock is one of the best courtroom dramas of the 20th century. It ran for a total of nine seasons from 1986 to 1995. That run is actually as long as CBS’ classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. THAT series ran for nine seasons from 1957 to 1966. Earlier this year, CBS DVD and Paramount teamed up to release Matlock in its entirety in one complete series box set. It marked the second time since 2013 that the series had been released in one complete box set. Along with that collection CBS DVD and Paramount also released the much smaller compilation Matlock: Greatest Cases ahead of the show’s full-series re-issue on March 10th. This collection is a good representation of what made Matlock such a hit series for so long regardless of viewers’ devotion to the series. The main reason for this is the collection’s featured episodes. Matlock: Greatest Cases features a total of eleven episodes, one of which was a two-part episode. That brings the episode list to a total of twelve spread across three discs. The episodes themselves are just part of what makes them important. A closer look at the set reveals that all nine of the series’ seasons are represented through these episodes. That means that while it may only present eleven (or twelve depending on how one decides to count it) episodes, the collection in whole paints a relatively rich picture of the series and what made it such a fan favorite in its initial run on television. That being the case, the episodes that are featured throughout this collection show clearly why they are an important part of the collection’s overall presentation. They are not the set’s only important element, either. The writing behind the episodes is just as important as the episodes themselves.

The episodes that were culled for Matlock: Greatest Cases are in themselves an important part of the presentation’s whole. That is because they paint a relatively full picture of the series. The picture in question succeeds in showing in its own way what made (and continues to make) Matlock such a fan favorite. Of course without solid writing, the episodes wouldn’t be worth the presentation. It is safe to say in regards to the series writing that it is definitely solid. As a matter of fact, it is far more solid (and enjoyable) than that of so many courtroom dramas that have come along since Matlock ended its initial run. That is exemplified in every one of the collection’s episodes. That is because the show depicted within each featured episode is one that was more soft-boiled than hard. To illustrate that comparison, it is more akin to the like of Perry Mason than Law & Order or other more modern courtroom dramas. That is exemplified primarily through the set’s lead episode “The Judge.” Guest starring legendary entertainer Dick Van Dyke, the episode sees Van Dyke’s character Judge Carter Addison on trial after the murder of his lover Joanne Leigh (Bobbie Eakes–The Bold and the Beautiful, All My Children, One Life To Live). Most of the story takes place in the courtroom. There is no time wasted with investigators running around searching for evidence and interviewing possible suspects here, there, and everywhere. What this does is it allows for more character and story development. In turn, the noted character and story development will keep viewers fully engaged from beginning to end. It’s just one example of the importance of the series’ writing in this collection of episodes. “The Last Laugh” is another example of the importance of the series’ writing.

“The Judge” is in itself a key example of what makes Matlock’s writing so important even in this three-disc episode collection. “The Last Laugh” is another example of its importance. While subtle the episode’s title is one way in which the writing proves to be so important not just here but in every episode. The episode’s title, as with each featured episode’s title, is short and straight to the point. It tells the episode’s story without trying to be kitschy in its delivery or too simplistic either. The story’s execution is just as important as its title. In this episode, Matlock has to defend comedian Harvey Chase (Milton Berle) after Chase is accused of murdering another comic that had insulted him in front of an entire audience. The case looks to be cut and dry until Harvey accidentally reveals an important piece of evidence that could in fact prove his innocence. Not even Harvey had thought about the key piece of evidence. The ultimate reveal at the story’s end makes the whole adventure worth the watch. That is because at no point in the story’s run does Berle (who co-wrote the episode with Stephen Lord) make the answer obvious to audiences. Rather it keeps audiences guessing right up to that moment. In other words, Berle and Lord keep audiences engaged with ease from beginning to end yet again. They show just as much here as in any of the series’ other episodes that it is possible to have an enjoyable mystery without the dark, gritty content that is so prevalent in so many of today’s crime and courtroom dramas. It is not the last example of what makes the featured episodes’ writing so important even as impressive as it is here. “The Debt” is another example of the importance of the writing behind Matlock even in this collection of episodes.

“The Judge” and “The Last Laugh” are both key examples of what makes Matlock’s writing so important in the series’ latest collection of episodes. That is thanks in large part to the stories’ execution. The same can be said of Season Seven’s “The Debt.” This episode sees Matlock’s daughter Leanne having to defend her ex-husband Peter MacIntyre after he is accused of murdering his friend and boss. The accusation stemmed from the discovery of Peter kneeling over said individual’s dead body, which had a large knife sticking in it. While not an overly used plot element, the use of an estranged couple being forced into one another’s lives in a difficult situation is not necessarily new to the entertainment world. Nor was it new at the time of the episode’s airing. That aside it was still handled quite well here. It was nice to see Leanne not just giving in to Peter as he begged her to represent him even as he tried to seduce her. Female viewers will be proud to see her stand up to Peter and remind him that he is with another woman and she will not fall for his attempts. In the same vein, it is interesting to see something of a different side to Matlock in this episode, too. He shows a certain vulnerability when Leanne tells him that she is going to represent Peter. As the story proceeds audiences see a change in Matlock’s view of his one-time son-in-law. That is because Peter’s sense of morality begins to kick in and even he grows. That overall character development ties directly in to the episode’s overall script and helps the story in whole advance with ease. Because it does, it will keep viewers just as engaged as any of the other episodes featured in this box set. It is one more example of the importance of the writing behin Matlock in the series’ new box set. It is not the only other example of said importance either. There is still a handful of other episodes in this collection that could just as easily be cited in illustrating the importance of the series’ writing. Regardless of whether one cites those episodes or the ones noted here, it can be said of each episode within this collection that each one shows in its own way the importance of the series’ writing. All combined, the writing with each of the set’s featured episodes proves why dramaphiles and Matlock fans alike will want to add this box set to their own DVD libraries.

The episodes that make up the body of Matlock: Greatest Cases, and the writing behind each episode clearly show together why this three-disc set is one that any dramaphile and Matlock fan will want to add the collection to his or her own home DVD library. They are just part of the reason why said audiences will want to pick up this recent release, too. The work of the show’s cast is also of note in the set’s featured episodes beginning with lead actor Andy Griffith. While Griffith isn’t playing Andy Taylor in Matlock, each episode here shows that he still carried over some of that down home personality that made him so beloved during his days on The Andy Griffith Show. Yet at the same time, there is a certain serious element to his portrayal of Ben Matlock. Thanks to boasting both character elements, Matlock comes across as the kind of person that anyone would want should they ever end up in court. He is a lawyer with heart. And it’s not the overly pious and emotional heart that is so common among lawyers on today’s courtroom dramas. The guest stars are just as enjoyable to watch in this collection, too. Dick Van Dyke showed that he was just as capable as a villain in “The Judge” as he was a comedic actor in The Dick Van Dyke Show or even a more serious actor in Diagnosis Murder. It goes to prove his versatility as an actor in simpler terms. And Milton Berle is just as entertaining in his guest role in “The Last Laugh.” Given, he was type cast for the role. But even considering this, Berle (It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Batman, The Love Boat) still handled his role with the utmost seriousness and expertise. When Harvey is forced to admit that his career is near its end, the emotion in his voice and on his face is so powerful. With his acting experience, it would have been so easy for him to just phone it in and even ham it up. But he didn’t go that route, opting instead to really give his best possible performance. It is just one more portrayal that proves the work of the show’s cast (main and otherwise) to be just as important as th episodes themselves and the writing behind each featured episode. Th combination of all three elements together makes Matlock: Greatest Cases a collection that dramaphiles will enjoy just as much as the series’ original fans.

Matlock: Greatest Cases may not be as big as the recent re-issue of the show’s full-series DVD box set. Regardless it is still a collection that any of the show’s original fans will enjoy just as much as any dramaphiles in general. The main reason for this is the set’s featured episodes. The episodes that were culled for the three-disc set represent each of the series’ nine seasons on television. The writing behind each of the featured episodes sets the show completely apart from all of the overly gritty hard-boiled courtroom dramas. The writing makes it more akin to the likes of Perry Mason than Law & Order. The work of the show’s cast in each of the featured episodes is just as important as the episodes and their writing. All three elements together make this collection whole and wholly entertaining to dramaphiles and the show’s original fans alike. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from CBS DVD and Paramount is available online now at:

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20 Million Miles To Earth Is A Must See For Any Lover Of Classic Cinema And Sci-Fi

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The annual countdown to Halloween is on once again. With Halloween only a few more weeks away at the time of this review, everyone’s busy looking for a way to bring some frights and fun to their yearly celebrations. Mill Creek has given audiences two more wonderful options for their Halloween parties thanks to its release of the Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature. This new double dose of classic monster movies includes two of Ray Harryhausen’s great sci-fi/horror classics in the form of 20 Million Miles to Earth and It Came From Beneath The Sea. The second of the features will be discussed at a later date. For now, the focus will be solely on the first in the pair. 20 Million Miles To Earth is a wonderful watch not only for those Halloween parties this year, but for anyone that is a lover of classic cinema in general. The main aspect of this classic sci-fi flick that makes it work is its script. Yes, there’s at least one minor issue with the writing. That will be noted later. But by and large, the script for this movie is a big part of why audiences will love it. Just as important to the whole are the movie’s special effects. Compared to nearly every one of today’s way-over-the-top special effects blockbusters, the effects used in this piece are outstanding. And last but most definitely not least of all worth noting is the movie’s cast. The movie’s lead actors were no strangers to their crafts. They were quite versed as a matter of fact. The importance of this aspect will also be noted later. Suffice it to say that all three of these factors together make 20 Million Miles to Earth a must see whether at this year’s Halloween get together or any other time of the year by any lover of classic cinema. And together with its companion piece It Came From Beneath The Sea, it makes Mill Creek’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature an absolute must see.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature is an absolute must see by any lover of classic cinema. While not the first time that the movies in this set have seen the light of day, they are very difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray. So taking that into consideration, anyone with any love for the golden age of cinema will appreciate this double movie presentation. Looking specifically for now at the first of the features, 20 Million Miles to Earth, this movie works so well here for a number of reasons. One reason that it works so well is its writing. The story behind this movie was nothing new for the film industry when it debuted in June 1957. It sees an ever-growing lizard creature from Venus terrorizing the Sicilian countryside after having been released by a young boy named Pepe. The end result is the hunt and eventual killing of the unnamed creature. Legendary B-movie director Roger Corman had already churned out ten sci-fi classics when this movie debuted. And It Came From Beneath The Sea, the other film featured in this collection, had already debuted two years previous. Adding in to the believability of the story, the birth of the “space race” was only months away as Russia went on in October of that year to release Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. So it goes without saying that the fascination with worlds and beings other than our own was at an all-time high when this movie made its premiere. That makes the movie’s very plot so fun.

The plot behind 20 Million Miles to Earth, when set against the other B-movies of its era, is just as enjoyable as those churned out by fellow sci-fi legend Roger Corman and by Harryhausen himself. The plot is just one minute part of what makes this script work, too. The manner in which the movie’s writing team executed the story adds to the overall enjoyment. If not for young Pepe’s greed (he even tries to extort money from the American military officers when they come to investigate the crash), none of what happened might have happened. In turn there might not have been a story. One could argue that if not a child, then an adult might have done the same thing as Pepe. That’s true, too. So taking this aspect of the movie’s writing into consideration, one can’t help but wonder if the writers were trying to make a statement about the cost and danger of human nature a la 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still.   In the same vein, Col. Calder (played wonderfully here by William Hopper) makes a statement regarding the creature being docile unless provoked right before provoking the creature so as to capture it. That is so subtle but so powerful a statement about human nature, too. If Calder knew the creature was docile, why not try a peaceful means to corral it? Some might argue this to be a major plot hole. A more thoughtful analysis though, reveals that it could have been another lightly veiled commentary about the contradictory nature of humans in terms of their behaviors and thought processes. It’s really something to think about. It is that writing and commentary (intended or not) that along with the script makes 20 Million Miles to Earth such a wonderful watch.

The seemingly lightly veiled commentary aside, another reason that the script’s writing works so well is that the movie’s writing team even made certain to explain how the unnamed lizard creature managed to grow so fast. As was explained by one character, the Earth’s atmospheric make up was to blame for the creature’s growth. As long as it was breathing the air on Earth, it would keep growing every day. That most important of all of the story’s aspect is answered so quickly and easily. It’s one more way in which the movie’s writing team made sure to cover all of its bases when crafting the story. It’s the final part of the movie’s writing that makes the script (and the movie in whole) so enjoyable so many years after its premiere.

The writing that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth is a big reason for the movie’s success nearly sixty years after it debuted. That should be obvious by now. Another reason that the movie continues to be so beloved to this day is its special effects. Special effects have evolved so much throughout the history of the movie industry. While the special effects used in movies such as this might be considered simplistic by some, it is that simplicity that makes them so wonderful. The special effects of today’s major name blockbusters have completely jumped the shark for lack of better wording. They are almost entirely created via computer. Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion special effects in this movie (and others that he worked on) were done entirely by hand. Sure there was some movie magic incorporated along the way to help. But again in comparison to so many of today’s special effects extravaganzas, those effects are a product of their time. They are used as a part of the overall story rather than as the star of the film. Today’s action blockbusters are the polar opposite. That factor alone makes 20 Million Miles to Earth worth the watch. Together with its outstanding writing, the movie’s special effects make this movie even more of a must see for any lover of classic cinema and sci-fi.

The writing and the special effects that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth both play their own important role in the movie’s overall enjoyment and success. As important as both factors are to the whole presentation, there is still one more aspect worth noting in examining the movie. That final aspect is the movie’s lead cast. Anyone with any love of classic movies and television will appreciate the history lesson presented through just the movie’s cast. William Hopper leads the movie’s cast as Col. Robert Calder. Hopper is best known for his role of Private Detective Paul Drake in the classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. Drake was a major character in that series as he helped Mason solve a number of cases throughout the show’s run. Perry Mason, by the way, can still be seen today on Me-TV. He also starred opposite film legend James Dean in the 1955 hit drama Rebel Without A Cause. He starred alongside a then young Natalie Wood as the father to her Judy. On a side note, Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island) also starred in that movie. Adding to Hopper’s resume, 20 Million Miles to Earth wasn’t Hopper’s first creature feature. He starred in another well-known creature feature that premiered only months before this one. That movie, released by Universal Pictures, is called The Deadly Mantis. For those that haven’t seen that movie, imagine Godzilla with a giant, radioactive praying mantis in place of the giant, radioactive lizard. Yeah. And instead of taking place in Japan, the giant mantis thaws out in the North Pole and comes to America to cause all kinds of havoc. It’s still a great watch, regardless. These are just some of the pieces in which Hopper starred. It goes without saying that Hopper’s experience in both action and drama roles proved him to be a good choice for his role. His wasn’t the only good choice, either. Hopper’s co-stars Joan Taylor, Thomas Browne Henry, and John Zaremba starred together in another of Ray Harryhausen’s hits Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in 1956. So they were both just as natural for their roles in this film, too. It was probably Zaremba’s work on these sci-fi favorites that led to his casting in the cult hit sci-fi series Time Tunnel. That series ran for only one year from 1966 – 1967. It is still a fan favorite to this day, though. The movie’s other cast members each starred in some of the movie industry’s biggest names, too. Arthur Space played the supporting role of Dr. Sharman in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Only months before, he starred alongside famed actor James Stewart in The Spirit of St. Louis as Donald Hall, the chief engineer of Ray Airlines. There are plenty of other actors whose resumes add plenty of credit to 20 Million Miles to Earth. But it would take far too long to note each one and their resume. Needless to say, one should have quite the clear picture by now of just how important the cast of 20 Million Miles to Earth was to the movie’s success. The cast’s collective experience shines through from start to finish here making it entirely clear once more just why this movie is still one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films in modern film history and why this movie was a wise addition to Mill Creek’s newly released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature.

20 Million Miles to Earth is one of the greatest sci-fi flicks in modern movie history. So much went into the movie in such a small span of time. Its writing was simple yet so in-depth. The special effects headed up by screen legend Ray Harryhausen are so much better than those presented in today’s major blockbusters. Harryhausen’s special effects are part of the story rather than the star. They do so much to help advance the story. And last but not least of all is the movie’s cast. The cast—both the lead and supporting cast—came into the movie with quite the collective resume. That vast amount of experience shared between the movie’s cast shines through here from start to finish. It is the last touch in a movie that any lover of classic cinema and of sci-fi in whole must see at least once. Now that Halloween’s on its way again, that’s one more reason to pick up this new release from Mill Creek Entertainment. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekent.com/20-million-miles-to-earth-it-came-from-beneath-the-sea-ray-harryhausen-double-feature.html. More information on this and other titles from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at:

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