S.W.A.T.-Complete Season 1 (1975) (NTSC)

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Released 10-Nov-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 651:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4 Directed By Various
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Steve Forrest
Rod Perry
Robert Urich
Mark Shera
James Coleman
Case ?
RPI $49.95 Music Barry De Vorzon


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    S.W.A.T. was a bit of an Aaron Spelling anomaly. From the man who handed out such brilliant shows as Beverly Hills: 90210 and Melrose Place, here is what was meant to be a serious police drama. It does not gel well with Spelling’s usual style of ditzy air-head rich kids screwing each other and screwing each other over, and thus it is no wonder it only lasted a couple of seasons. That, and the fact the dialogue is at times not merely cringe-worthy, but painful.

    For those not in the know, S.W.A.T. stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. These guys are basically the paramilitary unit of the police force, similar to our own Special Operations Group. They’re the guys with the M-16s and the sniper rifles and the body armour who raid buildings to save hostages or to take out a heavily armed posse of drug dealers and fire twenty-one warning shots into armed suspects.

    The crew of the S.W.A.T. TV-show are a bunch of gung-ho shoot-em-up cops who like getting in their gear and driving out to shoot up some random psycho with a sniper's rifle (a common theme in the show). There’s Lt. Dan ‘Hondo’ Harrelson (Steve Forrest), the tough-as-nails commander who cares for his boys and likes to briefly negotiate with people before he blows them away. Then there’s the token black guy, Sgt. David ‘Deacon’ Kay (Rod Perry), the up-and-coming young junior officer Jim Street (Robert Urich), the wise-guy Italian kid Dominic Luca (Mark Shera), and the young sniper T.J. McCabe (James Coleman). Together, these boys get all the tough assignments, fighting crime like superheroes.

    The first season of the show breaks down like this:

Disc 1

    1. The Killing Ground (50:18) -- A group of armed psychos are ambushing and killing policemen all over town. Sounds like a job for the S.W.A.T. team.

    2. A Coven Of Killers (50:18) -- When an extremely violent criminal is sprung from hospital by his worshippers, he embarks upon a vendetta against everybody who put him away, including Lt. Harrelson.

    3. Death Carrier (50:18) -- When a sniper kills a man on a freeway, the SWAT crew discovers that two similar killings were boyfriends of the same young model.

    4. Pressure Cooker (50:21) -- It has been a busy time for the SWAT crew and this is taking its toll on Harrelson’s home life. When a journalist is given permission to do a piece on the squad, his life is about to get a whole lot busier.

    5. Hit Men (50:06) -- Crime lord Vincent Richie escapes a hit in prison and agrees to testify before a Senate Committee. But as he is being quickly run into town he is ambushed and shot, with several police killed in the process. Richie survives and SWAT is given the task of making sure he lives long enough to testify.

Disc 2

    6. Jungle War (49:18) -- Harrelson’s ex-Vietnam vet buddy, Bo, comes along to an armed robbery. But when Deacon gets shot, Bo goes cowboy and raids the house single-handedly, killing the perpetrator. After a drunken fight in a bar that night, people start asking some serious questions about his mental health.

    7. Death Score (50:07) -- When a man is hired to shoot at an ambassador’s car he is double-crossed by the man who hires him, leading to a shoot-out with SWAT. However, the whole thing seems to be related to an extortion racket revolving around a basketball team. Moreover, one of the team members is a friend of TJ.

    8. Time Bomb (50:16) -- Street leaves a new gadget behind at a movie studio where the SWAT crew are doing training. When he drops in with his girlfriend to pick it up later that night he inadvertently gets caught in the middle of a plan by a psychopathic ex-stuntman to blow up the studio.

    9. The Bravo Enigma (50:12) -- An assassination attempt on a Senator is foiled by SWAT and an international assassin is called in to do the job right. However, it is soon discovered that the assassin is unwittingly carrying a lethal virus which is killing everybody in his path. A counter assassination soon becomes a desperate quarantine mission for the SWAT crew.

    10. The Steel-Plated Security Blanket (49:49) -- An armoured car is stolen and a security guard is shot and SWAT are put on the case. However, it turns out that the thieves are an old Vietnam vet crew with plans to rip off the crowning jewellery at a beauty contest.

Disc 3

    11. Omega One (50:13) -- Street is taking a course on the philosophy of non-aggression with a professor who inadvertently helped create the Omega One formula now suspected of being used to make chemical weapons by a local company. A peaceful protest is organised by the students, but the protest becomes a hostage and ransom situation when a group of students steals some guns and raids the plant.

    12. Blind Man’s Bluff (49:46) -- A hold up at a massage parlour calls for the special attention of SWAT. But when Harrelson cops a bullet's graze across the head and refuses proper medical attention, he starts experiencing problems that put everybody at risk. Is this the end of Harrelson’s SWAT career?

    13. Sole Survivor (50:17) -- A carnival worker goes crazy and starts shooting at people from the rooftop. SWAT is called in to solve the problem and wind up shooting the guy. However, a young boy on the scene turns out to be the shooter’s son and SWAT wind up looking after him. Furthermore, a group of master criminals is watching the whole thing to discover SWAT’s methods when they plan a heist of their own.

    This show, while undoubtedly original in its day, has not aged well. What should be serious drama and good buddy-cop action stuff now seems riddled with clichéd dialogue and gung-ho bravado all set to jiving 70’s porno music that you just cannot take seriously. In short, S.W.A.T. is the unintentional hit comedy re-release of the year. Not as dodgy as The A-Team, which is hands down the most unintentionally funny show ever, but I found myself chuckling along nevertheless.

    Sure, the show had a lot going for it in its day. Most of the characters actually had personal lives and stories, which rounded them out a bit and made you empathise with them as far as you could with hair like that. But these attempts at cultivating backgrounds and histories is a bit shallow and try-hard by contemporary standards. It makes some of the shows of today look like crap by comparison, and that’s saying something, although probably not so much about this show.

    Moreover, S.W.A.T. relies too much on random psychos, Vietnam vets with issues and crazy rooftop snipers rather than raiding drug dens and shooting it out with well-armed cadres of coked-up psychopaths ready to get rich or die trying. It has no core. No realism. There is not a moment of tension because you always know what’s going to happen. Next to shows like The Shield or even the early series of N.Y.P.D. Blue, S.W.A.T. has nothing. And worst of all, these guys hold their rifles like a pack of ... well, actors. I guess I’ve just been spoilt by all those TV series and movies with people who have been trained to hold their weapons like professionals, and to see these guys wield their weapons like eight year old kids playing cops and robbers is just plain funny.

    Ultimately, S.W.A.T. is a great nostalgia trip back to when shoot-outs were not all serious and bloody (indeed, there is hardly any blood at all when people get shot, which is in stark contrast to real life) and the bad guys were disorganised losers who wore black hats and deserved to get shot, if for nothing else than just for being so plainly disorganised. It has some original scripts and decent production values for its day. It is, however, totally implausible, has dialogue riddled with horrible platitudes, and the main cast are completely invincible and blasé about the whole thing. Bullets bounce off them. If you feel like remembering those old cop shows where everybody is laughing at the end on freeze frame after blowing away a dozen crooks in thirty minutes flat and solving major criminal conspiracies in the other twenty minutes, this is the one to see.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in 1.33:1, Full Frame, non-16x9 enhanced, this is the original broadcast ratio for the series. The image is also in NTSC format, so those of you out there with PAL-only monitors are going to have a psychedelic experience watching this.

    Let me just say from the outset – wow. From a series this old I was expecting hopeless visual quality. But this beats the pants off the transfers of the early series of Buffy, and if you think about that a little it’s kind of depressing. Certainly, this makes Columbia Tristar’s effort at transferring the first season of Dawson’s Creek look just plain appalling by comparison. If you guys can do this well with NTSC rather than PAL, well, stick with what you’re good at.

    The image is very crisp and clear, with only a very minor softness which is indicative of the age of the print more than anything else. Shadow detail is very good.

    Colours are rich and clear, not quite to the vibrancy stage of glowing off the screen, but definitely an impressive effort given the medium we are talking about here – TV.

    I noticed no glaring MPEG artefacts and the worst I can say about the picture is that there was some very faint low-level noise in the background and some slight aliasing which tends to be a problem with NTSC transfers because of the sparse number of horizontal lines in comparison to a PAL image. However, none of the aliasing is really noteworthy and unless you really go looking for, you’re not going to notice it.

    There is a bit of dirt here and there and the odd hair in a corner of the screen marring the print, which is to expected, but really there was not much at all in the way of film artefacts. Most of these film artefacts crop up during edits between scenes due to the old manual editing that used to go on back then (nowadays everything is done on PCs).

    There are no subtitles.

    The dual-layer pause is in the middle of the third episode on the first and second disc, during a fade to black indicating where the ad-break would be. This is at 25:55 during the episode Death Carrier on Disc 1, and at 24:38 during the episode Time Bomb on Disc 2. As far as I can tell, the pause is between episodes two and three on Disc 3, because it is not during any of the episodes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only the original English 2.0 Dolby Mono soundtrack available.

    This track is decent, but nothing special. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and any audio sync problems are very minor.

    The range is a little flat, with not much bass. All the gunshots sound hollow by comparison to modern TV shows. The funky 70’s porno music is rendered reasonably well, but is still a little dull and, well, hilarious.

    There is no surround information or subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced. They are static and silent.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 release is absolutely identical to this one.

Summary

    S.W.A.T. is a classic TV cop show from its day, complete with bad hair, do-or-die attitudes, woeful dialogue and actors playing cops and robbers like invincible eight year olds.

    The video is excellent given the age of the show and I was quite surprised. Why can’t other distributors remaster their TV series like this?

    The sound is a fairly flat 2.0 monaural experience that conveys the story, but does little else.

    The extras have all been killed by random psychos before the SWAT team could arrive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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