20th November 2004

More details about Columbia Tristar's release of the first season of the dull BBC paranormal investigation drama Sea of Souls have been confirmed.

The two-disc set will be released on the Sony Pictures Television label (the series was a co-production between BBC Scotland and Sony Pictures Television International).

The six episodes will be presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen format, with 2.0 Dolby Digital audio.

The only extras will be character biographies and a DVD-Rom screensaver. The RRP is £24.99.

The second series of Sea of Souls is due to be released on DVD on February the 28th.

Columbia Tristar has also outlined the rest of their February line-up, which is led by theatrical releases White Chicks and Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse, which are both due on February the 7th. A box set featuring both Resident Evil films will be released on the same day.

Other February titles include:

7th February - Frankenfish

14th February - Paul Schrader's Hardcore, Tokyo Godfathers Gift Set

28th February - Starsky and Hutch - The Complete Third Season; Spike Lee's She Hate Me; the Charles Bronson movie Doing Hard Time; Sea of Souls - Series 2

The second half of the first season of CSI: Miami will be released by Momentum Pictures on February the 21st. The three-disc set features twelve episodes (episodes 1.13 to 1.24), in anamorphic widescreen format (the press release says 1.85:1, but it's more likely to be 1.78:1), with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and optional English HoH subtitles.

Bonus features for the set include items titled Production of Handling Evidence; The Autopsy Theatre Tour; The Gun Labs Tour; and commentary tracks on 1.18 - Dipso Day and 1.23 - Freaks and Tweaks. The RRP is an increasingly-hard-to-justify £39.99.

18th November 2004

Busy, busy, busy!

Let's begin with a new review, our first review of a theatrical release for a while. Andrew Smith has seen Jonathan Glazer's controversial movie Birth, which stars Nicole Kidman as a woman who believes her dead husband has been reincarnated in the form of a ten year-old boy. You can read Andrew's thoughts on the film by clicking on the poster image (left), or here.

Spurred on by yesterday's announcement about Devil-Ship Pirates, the Hammer DVD Guide has been given a good overhaul, hopefully bringing it bang up to date.

It's been a turbulent time for Hammer collectors recently, with new discs and re-issues from Warner Home Video and DD Video, in stark contrast with the complete lack of activity from Columbia Tristar and Universal, who, between them, own the bulk of the remaining unreleased horror titles (including classics like Brides of Dracula and Curse of the Werewolf) .

The rights to the early US Anchor Bay Hammer discs have now lapsed, and many of their releases are quickly disappearing from retailers. For some time it was expected that Anchor Bay's rival Blue Underground would snap up the rights, releasing their own re-mastered versions with exciting new additional features. Sadly that doesn't look likely to happen (at least, not in the foreseeable future). Anchor Bay's final push to clear stocks by bundling two discs together at bargain prices has considerably devalued the product, and made it far less attractive for any company thinking of re-issuing them. Having spoken to Blue Underground's Bill Lustig, I've removed references to the company being a potential licensee for the titles deleted by Anchor Bay.

Warner Home Video only has one or two unreleased titles, and DD Video is running out of available titles, too. DD Video have the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense TV series lined up, as well as early SF films Spaceways, Four Sided Triangle and Stolen Face, and the "documentary" clip-show series World of Hammer. Their release of the 1954 racing drama Mask of Dust is likely to be the final Hammer movie from the company for the time being. DD Video are keen to license and release more Hammer titles, but unless they can come to some kind of deal with one or more of the big studios who are neglecting their Hammer titles, pickings look slim.

While things look bleak for American Hammer fans, there are glimmers of hope elsewhere. The best version of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell was recently released in Germany, along with an attractive version of Dracula - Prince of Darkness, which combines an anamorphic widescreen transfer with the bonus features from the deleted Anchor Bay disc.

Keeping track of all the different versions is quite a task, so I'm always  happy to receive corrections, additions or corrections (email me at

Check out the updates to the Hammer DVD Guide for more details.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of Robert Zemeckis' innovative new movie The Polar Express. Sadly, I wasn't among those hobnobbing with the film's star, Tom Hanks, and its director at the glitzy Leicester Square premiere, which was also held last night, but I dare say that those of us who experienced the film at the bfi London IMAX Cinema got the better deal.

The film, which is based on a best-selling children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, is about a group of children who journey to the North Pole on a fantastical steam train to meet Santa Claus. It's the first film to be created entirely using performance capture technology (akin to that used to make Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films). Every character in the film was generated in this way, most notably by Hanks, who plays four characters in the film, including the fatherly Ticket Collector. The rest of the film is entirely computer-generated, allowing spectacular sequences that certainly couldn't be filmed in reality.

The IMAX presentation is in 3D, using the polarized-filter technique, which separates two slightly-askew images being thrown onto the screen by the awesome 30,000 watt projectors. The effect is startling, with terrific apparent depth to the image. When snow is falling, as it does almost constantly, you can focus on individual snowflakes as they gently drift between you and the screen. When the train screeches to a halt, it stops inches from your face. Thrilling stuff!

It's obvious that the filmmakers took full advantage of the 3D enhancement, by creating a film that seems tailor-made for the process. From beginning to end the film is an astonishing rollercoaster ride, with something to make good use of the 3D effect in every shot. In fact, I'd go as far to say that anyone who sees the film in a conventional cinema is wasting their time and money.

As for the film itself, well, it's almost unbearably sentimental, and rather trite. The computer graphics range from the picture-perfect to a number of shots that look unfinished and under-funded. Of course, blown up to the massive proportions of the IMAX screen (26m x 20m), it's almost amazing that the whole film didn't look like a ZX81 computer game. That's not to say that the IMAX process doesn't reveal a few flaws that wouldn't be evident in a conventional cinema: peripheral faces in group or crowd shots, which would ordinarily be relatively tiny, are magnified so that they're as large as they would be in medium shot in an ordinary film. This shows where the filmmakers have cut a corner or two, with lifeless, mask-like faces.

The film may be saccharine, but it's technical achievements are impressive (and often very, very impressive). Treat the kids: they'll be simply amazed. If you don't see it in 3D on an IMAX screen, you'll only be getting two-thirds of the picture! The only caveat is that very young children - a sizeable proportion of the target audience, I'd have thought - might have trouble keeping the 3D glasses on. They're designed to fit older children and adults, and without them the film is practically unwatchable.

For more details and online booking, visit, or ring 0870 787 2525 (10.30am-7.30pm). The film opens on the 29th of November, and runs until January the 9th.

Revelation will release the sixth series of The Tomorrow People on DVD on January the 24th.

The disc features three complete two-episode stories: The Lost Gods, Hitler's Last Secret and The Thargon Menace.

As usual, the episodes are accompanied by a commentary track, and the disc will also feature character biographies, a photo' gallery, fact files and episode synopses.

The disc is already available as part of a three-disc box set, which was exclusively-available from MVC. (It's no longer listed on their website, so presumably stock is now only available in-store). The box set will be made available to other retailers next year.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release M*A*S*H Season 5 on DVD on January the 17th. The set includes Alan Alda's Emmy Award-winning episode Dear Sigmund. As usual, there's an option to play the episodes with or without the laugh track, but no other bonus features. RRP for the set is £29.99.

Fox has confirmed that the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons of The X-Files will be re-released on December the 27th, in new packaging, and at the lower RRP of £34.99.

Warner Home Video will release a Special Edition version of the popular 1992 Kevin Costner / Whitney Houston smooch-fest The Bodyguard on February the 7th (a week before the title is released in the US). The disc will have a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, and will be presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format. The disc will feature "never before seen" on-set footage and interviews with Kevin and Whitney; the music video for Houston's cover version of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You; and the theatrical trailer. There's no mention on the UK press release of the commentary track that's listed as a feature of the Region 1 release. RRP for the disc is £15.99.

The Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes DVD box set from Optimum, which was mentioned here last week, now has a release date: January the 31st.

I've taken a quick look at the two-disc edition of I, Robot, which is due from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on December the 3rd. The bonus features look very interesting - certainly not the PR fluff you get on so many discs. The two-disc UK version easily trumps the US edition, which can only muster a single thirteen-minute Making of... featurette, and only one of the UK disc's three commentary tracks. Menu screens for the discs can be seen here. You can view a Quicktime trailer for the disc by clicking here.

17th November 2004

Hammer fans will be able to add another title to their DVD collections on January the 17th, when Warner Home Video will release Don Sharp's swashbuckling costume drama The Devil-Ship Pirates. The film, which stars Christopher Lee as Captain Robeles, also features Hammer regulars Suzan Farmer and Michael Ripper.

That's the good news. The bad news is that, according to the press release, the disc will be in 4:3 format. Hopefully that's a mistake, because The Devil-Ship Pirates is one of Hammer's few true widescreen productions (it was briefly available in widescreen format on VHS, on the Lumiere label). RRP for the disc will be £15.99.

15th November 2004

We start the week with four new reviews - that's right, four! - and what an eclectic bunch they are, too!

Matt West has been grooving to William Shatner's Has Been CD; Richard Spurr has been re-living his childhood with Revelation's Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds DVD box set and Mark Frost casts an eye over Visconti's masterpiece The Leopard. Finally, a hearty welcome to a new reviewer here at Zeta Minor, Tim Symonds, who has taken a look at Network's fourth and final The Sweeney box set. My thanks to all of them for their valuable contributions.

For one reason or another I couldn't arrange any new competitions for this week, so I'm extending the closing dates of last week's. Many of the interesting new releases this week were BBC Worldwide titles, and they aren't at all co-operative, I'm sorry to say. I can't even persuade them to regularly send me press releases!

HBO Video is releasing Carnivále - The Complete First Season as a six-disc box set on February the 21st. The set features twelve hour-long episodes, so six discs seems very excessive, but it's presumably to justify it's whopping £49.99 RRP. The set will feature commentary tracks (the press release doesn't specify, but there are three on the US set), a Making of Carnivále featurette, and a Museum of TV and Radio panel interview with cast and crew members. No technical specifications for the set were announced, but presumably the episodes will be presented in 16:9 anamorphic format, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The US set (due on 7th December) is on three discs, incidentally, but just about as expensive.

HBO Video is also releasing Everybody Loves Raymond - The Complete First Season, as a five-disc set featuring all twenty-two episodes. Bonus features for the set include commentary tracks by star Ray Romano (there are two such tracks on the US set, with Romano appearing alongside series creator Phil Rosenthal); video interviews with cast and crew, and a Late Show With David Letterman Romano interview (the first of such many appearances Romano has made). The press release was vague about the bonus materials, so it's not clear whether the UK version of the set features the same material as the US set. Again, no technical specifications were announced: the US set features full-frame 4:3 transfers, with 2.0 audio. The set is due on January the 17th, with an RRP of £39.99.

Warner Home Video will release a lavish four-disc set featuring a completely-re-mastered and restored version of the great MGM movie Gone With The Wind on February the 7th. The set looks likely to replicate the US edition, which was released to great critical acclaim recently.

The film has been digitally re-mastered using Warner's proprietary Ultra-Resolution restoration process (recently deployed for Singin' In The Rain, The Adventures of Robin Hood and Meet Me In St Louis).

The bonus materials include recently-recorded comments by star Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Remembers..., 45m); the outstanding behind-the-scenes 1989 documentary The Making of a Legend (125m, which includes, amongst other gems, rare screen and costume test footage); footage from the film's 1939 Atlanta Premiere and the 1961 Civil War Centennial re-premiere, with David Selznick, Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland; a 66m documentary about Clark Gable (A King Remembered), and a 45m documentary on Vivien Leigh (Scarlet and Beyond, hosted by Jessica Lange). The set will also feature a restoration featurette; a Fred Zinnemann-directed short, The Old South, which played alongside the film in its original run; the International Prologue; sample scenes dubbed in foreign languages; trailers

The film is accompanied by a commentary track by film historian Rudy Behlmer. There will be a choice of audio mixes: the original mono mix, or a more recent Dolby Digital 5.1 track.

The press release also offered the fact that, adjusted for inflation, Gone With The Wind has grossed 2.4 billion dollars, the biggest worldwide box office gross in movie history. And yet, according to studio accountants, it has yet to turn a profit. (That's a joke for you Hollywood insiders!) The set will The set has an RRP of £24.99.

Warner has announced new dates and details for the two remaining Babylon 5 DVD sets, which were due out earlier this year.

Babylon 5 - The Complete Fifth Season - The Wheel of Fire will now be released on January the 17th. The six-disc set features all twenty-two episodes of the show's final season, in anamorphic 16:9 format, with re-mastered 5.1 audio. Bonus features include cast and crew commentaries on three episodes; an introduction by series creator J. Michael Straczynski; two Making of... documentaries (Digital Tomorrow and Beyond Babylon 5); additional scenes; a gag reel; and data and personal files. The RRP is £54.99.

The three-disc Babylon 5 - The Movie Collection (which features Thirdspace, River of Souls and A Call To Arms) was originally scheduled for release in August, but will now be released on February the 21st. Each episode will feature an introductory video segment, and have an commentary track. RRP for the set is £34.99

The good news for Babylon 5 fans is that the thirteen-episode spin-off series Crusade will be released shortly afterwards - in March.

American label VCI Entertainment (no relation to the UK DVD company far as I know), has announced that four of their titles are going on moratorium, as upgraded replacements will be released in the future, They are The Young Lad, Somewhere in Dreamland, Antonio Bida's Watch Me When I Kill and Mario Bava's exquisite Blood and Black Lace. They've also said that their release of Forever Evil, which was due on November the 30th, won't make that date, because they've encountered a problem with the 5.1 encoding.

And now, here's....


Hi everyone! After the fabulous update last week we’re back to normal with this update to the Incoming and Offers pages…

We’ll start with the films this week and the first listing of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs Predator. Twentieth Century Fox will release a single disc and two-disc Special Edition, at £15.99 and £22.99 respectively, on the 14th of February. I reported some of the clearances at the BBFC of extras presumably destined for the special edition last week. There’s been some more listed this week, as well as one or two that I missed, which were listed a couple of weeks ago. So the full list is: Branching Footage: ADI Workshop (7m); Branching Video: Miniature Whaling Station (7m); The Making of Alien Vs. Predator (59m); Alternate Opening (4m); Easter Egg: Tom – The Alien Actor (9m); Branching Video: Trouble at the Mouth of the Tunnel (3m46s); Branching Video: Facehuggers and Eggs (14m52s); Making of Alien vs. Predator documentary (sic) (21m11s); deleted scenes (with optional commentary) (8m23s); Conception featurette (25m51s); Visual Effects Breakdown (30m8s); Monsters in Miniature by Todd McFarlane (13m30s); The Comic Book (11m24s).

Also listed at the BBFC this week are extras for a special edition of The Amityville Horror from MGM, which include a few featurettes and several radio spots: Dr Hans Holzer’s introduction to the audio commentary (1m16s); For God’s Sake Get Out (20m39s); History’s Mysteries – Amityville: The Haunting (42m00s); History’s Mysteries – Amityville: Horror or Hoax (42m29s); Theatrical Trailer (2m24s); Radio Spot – The First Night (26s); Radio Spot – The Fifth Night (30s); Radio Spot – The Tenth Night (30s); Radio Spot – The Fifteenth Night (28s); Radio Spot – You’ll Never Forget (27s); Radio Spot – The Last Night (29s); Radio Spot – Running for their Lives (29s). So far this release isn’t being listed by the retailers.

MGM’s release of How I Won the War, which was due earlier in the year before being pulled, has reappeared for the 3rd of January. Its RRP remains the same - £12.99.

The Jude Law-starring remake of Alfie has been listed by the retailers for February the 7th. Paramount’s release has an RRP of £19.99.

Warner Home Video’s individual release of Before Sunrise has now appeared joining Before Sunset and the double pack release of the two films on February the 7th. The RRP is £15.99.

And finally for the films…

The BFI are to release a two-disc Volume 1 of British Transport Films on the 20th of December. Titled On And Off The Rails, so presumably a collection on a railway theme, some of the films listed as included are John Betjeman Goes By Train and brand new material, The Diesel Train Driver and On Track For The Eighties (presumably unreleased on the previous VHS British Transport Films releases). Its RRP is £19.99.


Now the TV releases…

Following last week’s big announcements regarding Network, you be forgiven for thinking this week would be quiet for them, but no! Volume 2 of The Goodies has appeared for the 14th of February. Its RRP is £24.99, the same as Volume 1. Rumoured content for the release includes the episode Radio Goodies and clips from The Cilla Black Show and musical appearances (“It’s Gibbon Time!”). An Australian release is being listed by some of the Antipodean retailers for December, with no listing of episodes, but extras are shown Christmas Night with the Stars, Pebble Mill at One, The Golden Rose, Crackerjack, Look East, Horizon: How on Earth did they do that? As ever there is no guarantee of any of these featuring on Network’s release – so as ever, let’s wait and see! When we have news we’ll let you know!

Eureka are to start releases of Andrew Marshall’s BBC sitcom of the 90s, 2.4 Children, which started Belinda Land and Gary Olsen, who tragically died of cancer four years ago.  Series 1 is listed for the 24th of January with an RRP of £16.99.

BBC Worldwide have a two disc release of Auschwitz showing for the 21st of February. The documentary series will be one of the Corporation’s key programmes in the New Year. Special features include the Forgotten Witness documentary (30m) and an interview with Producer Laurence Rees. The RRP is £19.99.

The next round of individual volumes of The Professionals from Contender is showing for the 24th of January. Volumes 5-8, covering Season 2, have the usual RRP of £5.99 each.

The 7th of February sees the release of Season 5 of The Simpsons, stepping up the releases now the Futurama box sets have finished. Twentieth Century Fox have set the usual RRP of £39.99 for the new box set.

A couple of weeks later, on February the 21st, sees Fox release Season 1 of the sitcom Arrested Development, which recently had an airing on BBCs 2 and 4. So far the listing doesn’t have an RRP. The series was recently released in the US, with substantial bonus material content (commentaries, deleted scenes, cast panel discussion, etc).

Then on the 28th of February Season 5 of Angel is showing. Fox’s price is the usual £79.99.

If endless repeats weren’t enough, Warner Home Video has decided to bring the joys of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to an unsuspecting DVD-buying public. February the 14th sees the release of Season 1 at £29.99.

And finally…

A few weeks ago I reported that a release of the cartoon series Batfink was on the way (from 2 Entertain). Connected with this show in my memory (the airings roughly at the same time in the UK during the 1980s) is another cartoon series, Rocky & Bullwinkle. Optimum will be releasing Season 1 of Rocky & Bullwinkle on the 14th of February. The four-disc set also features the rarely-seen U.S. Savings Stamps Club special episode; never-before-seen Bullwinkle puppet segments; especially created Many Faces of Boris Badenov short; classic Rocky & Bullwinkle promotional TV spots; and a sneak peek at Season 2. Its RRP is £24.99.

Right, that’s it for Incoming let’s have a look at the changes to the Offers page…

Amazon have dropped their prices of the Doctor Who – Lost in Time set to £20.49 and the complete box of Seinfeld – Season 1-3 to £39.99. They also have another entry-level multi-region DVD player at £29.99.

Thanks to Analogueman for posting that Choices Direct has the Fox TV Animation Promotion at what appears to be the cheapest prices – you can get Seasons 1-4 of both Futurama and The Simpsons at £13.00 each.

The aforementioned complete box set of Batfink is being offered by Choices Direct at £15.99 (£7.00 off!).

Thanks to Lissa for posting that have Alias – Season 1 at £14.99 and Season 2 at £17.99.

Thanks to Analogueman again for posting that The Complete Yes Minister box set is at £17.99 (£12.00 off!), and thanks to Martin Bell for posting that the next Doctor Who release, Horror of Fang Rock, is at £12.99. Recent additions to’s box set sale include Cadfael – The Complete Series 1-4 at £32.99 (£22.00 off!), Kavanagh Q.C. – The Complete Series 1-4 is at £59.99 (£40.00 off!), and Twin – Peaks – Season 1 at £17.99.

Finally, thank you to Sean Marsh for posting that Play have the next Journey into Space box set, The Red Planet, at £54.99 (that’s £25.00 off!).

That’s it from me!

Previous Zeta Minor News entries can viewed here.




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