Released by Umbrella and The AV Channel
Definitely a prime candidate for DVD release of the year and one of the best put together packages I’ve seen. This 7 disc box set from The AV Channel and Umbrella Entertainment is simply a must, bringing together as it does, all 28 episodes of the 1968 cult ITC classic Department S.
Department S, a secret wing of Interpol and based in Paris, featured a trio of agents, each with their own special skills, tackling the kind of cases that leave most people baffled. Created by Monty Berman and Dennis Spooner and filmed concurrently with that other ITC classic Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Department S starred Peter Wyngarde as novelist Jason King who would use his literary brain to try and crack the case, then there was the American Joel Fabiani as the straightish Stewart Sullivan and thirdly there was Rosemary Nichols as computer expert Annabelle Hurst. All three answered to the African Sir Curtis Seretse (played by Dennis Alaba Peters) but their cases took them all over the world (although due to budget constraints most of these locations look suspiciously like ITC’s favourite pre-filmed backdrops).
In a somewhat similar format to The Champions the cases that Department S undertook were generally of the fantastic variety such as episode one’s Six Days where a plane and its passengers disappear for six days but have no memory of it and The Pied Piper of Hambledown where an entire village goes missing. All of the 28 stories are very quirky and very great fun.
You get a real nostalgia glow from watching the episodes here, Peter Wyngarde as Jason King fairly eats up the screen whenever he appears, so popular was he in fact that he soon gained a spin-off show – the self titled Jason King. The great thing too about all of the ITC shows is their glossiness, all shot on high (Lew 🙂 Grade 35mm film they just look fantastic, this release proves it too, choc a block full of extras and boasting great audio and digitally remastered prints. Not to be missed.
Well where do we begin – this 7 disc set is packed to the rafter with great bonus material, starting off with the reproduction ITC publicity booklet included as an insert in disc one. There are audio commentaries, isolated musical tracks, massive amounts of production detail and much more. With each disc containing something different the easiest this to do is list each disc separately.
1. DISC ONE – Pick of this disc is the audio commentary on the episode Pied Piper of Hambledown from Mr King himself Peter Wyngarde where he sheds some very interesting light not just on the series but his own life too. There is also a reproduction of the original ITC press kit (running to almost 70 pages). there is an excellent photo gallery, very extensive production notes as well as a fun bio of Jason King (taken from the jacket blurb on one of his supposed novels), as well as biogs of prominent guest stars.
2. DISC TWO – Original UK/USA ITC publicity. more production notes. bio of Stewart Sullivan, more photos and more guest cast info.
3. DISC THREE – Another major highlight is isolated music tracks on the first two episodes of the this disc (The Double Death of Charlie Crippen and The Treasure of the Costa Del Sol.) Very groovy listening too, there are also some very extensive notes on musical director Edwin Astley. A Department S trailer. A biog of Annabelle Hurst, more photos and more guest cast info.
4. DISC FOUR – Fun with Department S collectables, a look at the trio’s cars, a Curtis Seretse bio, more guest cast info and more photos. Incidentally all of the photos featured are very high quality production stills not the usual screen grabs you often get these days.
5. DISC FIVE – Stand out extra on this disc is the text feature looking at Peter Wyngarde in Australia (his early 1970’s appearances down under saw him achieve idol status), there are also more guest cast bios and more quality photos.
6. DISC SIX – In the early 1970’s Peter Wyngarde recorded a high concept pop album and the feature on this disc takes an indepth look at it. There is also a fun look at Department S locations, more guest cast bios and more photos.
7. DISC SEVEN – There is no let up even for this last disc as there is another fab Peter Wyngarde commentary on the episode A Small War of Nerves, there is also info on the sequel Jason King too as well as a trailer for that show plus more guest cast info and a final photo gallery.
Also featured on every disc are trailers for forthcoming ITC attractions from the AV Channel and Umbrella and these include such classics as Man in a Suitcase, The Protectors, UFO, Strange Report, The Secret Service, Fireball XL5 and many more. Also worth mentioning is the great sleeve notes put together by Grant Taylor. All in a all a fantastic package.
Format: PAL All Region Total Running Time: 28×50 minutes Certificate: M15+