Released by Acorn Media on September 25th 2012. SRP $59.99 (DVD)
On September 25th Acorn Media will be releasing Special Branch Set 1. This will be covering the first 13 episodes that starred George Sewell as DCI Alan Craven and Patrick Mower as DCI Tom Haggerty. The title “Set 1” is a bit of a misnomer. The episodes on this set cover episodes that ran in 1973. As it happens, this is actually Series 3. Special Branch started in 1969 as a Thames television series. It started off in black and white shot on videotape. It was made mostly in studio with exteriors being shot on film and then videotape. The series starred Darren Nesbitt as DCI Jordan. Special Branch took a hiatus after the 1970 series and got re-tooled. The revamped Special Branch became the first production of the Thames subsidiary Euston Films. Started by Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor, and Brian Tesler, they decide on an approach to a new style of making television for the UK and hoped to sell it abroad. First, they dropped the videotaped approach. All the series would be shot on film and on location. This meant no studios at all. If they needed to shoot something in a flat, they would shoot it in a flat. Another big change would be that each series would have 2 film crews working simultaneously on an episode. Once again, they could get through production quicker. When watching episodes on this DVD set, when Haggerty is in the series, it is obvious that these two film crews are at work. There is a large part of these episodes where Craven and Haggerty are doing separate parts of the same investigation, I am sure these were being shot simultaneously or it could be a simple as a B crew going around taking pick up shots. If Euston Films sound familiar to you, other programs they made were Van Der Valk, The Sweeney (which also included 2 feature films), Reilly: Ace of Spies and Quatermass.
As a big fan of British television, there were a lot of faces I saw that I recognized from other programs and were glad to see them like Tony Selby, Peter Jeffrey, Clifford Rose, Angus MacKay, Andre Morell, Richard Marner, Norman Jones, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Dennis Chinnery, Geoffrey Bayldon, James Bree, Stephanie Beacham, Michael Gambon, Mark Eden, and Ronald Leigh-Hunt. If you do not know who these people are, they have appeared in everything from ‘Allo ‘Allo, Only Fools and Horses, Quatermass and the Pit, Doctor Who and so much more.
|Andre Morell also appeared as Bernard Quatermass in Quatermass and the Pit|
|A shot from the 1969 version of Special Branch in the Sewell/Mower interview extra.|
The episodes range from good to very good. It is clear that when the new Special Branch came back, it was not only getting used to its new format but the way it was being made under the newly formed Euston Films. Regardless, it is very enjoyable and there are going to be some episodes I am definitely going to go back to watch. I hope there will be a “Set 2” of this series and if there is enough interest, I hope that Acorn Media thinks about releasing an “Early Years” set so we can enjoy the original episodes with Darren Nesbitt.
Disc 2: Polonaise, Red Herring, Death by Drowning
Disc 3: All the King’s Men, Threat, The Other Man
Disc 4: You Won’t Remember Me, Hostage, Blueprint for Murder; Interview with George Sewell and Patrick Mower (17 minutes).
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