McMillan & Wife-The Complete Second Season (1971)

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Released 13-Sep-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series Main Menu Audio & Animation-Music and live action from series.
Booklet-8 pages : Plot outlines, cast list, writers, directors.
Isolated Effects Track-Combined with music.
Isolated Musical Score-Combined with effects.
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 505:39 (Case: 500)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Gary Nelson
Ron Winston
Edward M. Abroms
Robert Michael Lewis
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Rock Hudson
Susan Saint James
John Schuck
Nancy Walker
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Jerry Fielding
Luchi De Jesus
Henry Mancini


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Isolated Score & Effects Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     From Universal, and released here by Madman, we now have The Complete Second Season of McMillan and Wife, available here before its release in the U.S. Originally part of the NBC Mystery Theatre, this series was aired in an "umbrella programming" strategy devised by NBC for Universal product. So successful was this format that NBC concurrently aired The Sunday Mystery Theatre and The NBC Wednesday Mystery Theatre. Under the umbrella format different shows were aired in rotation, the three original 1971-72 shows being : McCloud, which starred Dennis Weaver; Columbo starring Peter Falk and McMillan and Wife.

     In this series, Rock Hudson is top-billed as San Francisco's sophisticated police commissioner, Stuart McMillan, assisted in his war against crime by his cute and sassy wife Sally, played by Susan Saint James. These two were rather like a 1970s version of Nick and Nora Charles, though there really was no comparison with the elegance, wit and charm of William Powell and Myrna Loy in that revered series of The Thin Man films produced by MGM in the 1930s and 40s. Rock Hudson, nee Roy Fitzgerald, was probably the greatest fabricated star in the history of Hollywood. Blessed with a tall, athletic frame and handsome facial bone structure, he was moulded by Hollywood's most notorious "star maker", Henry Willson,, into a celluloid icon of masculinity. The enthusiastically willing young man was given a new name, new teeth and a new voice - yelling his throat ragged to lower his naturally girlish pitch. Gay stars from the Willson stable included, amongst many others, Tab Hunter and Rory Calhoun, but Hudson was Willson’s supreme creation. Robert Hofler, in his book The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, explores the relationship between the Hollywood Pygmalion and his male Galatea, and it is fascinating reading. When Hudson's big screen popularity waned in the late sixties, he turned to stage musicals and television, striking instant success with McMillan and Wife.

     First things first! The dreadful moustache which adorned the Hudson features in Season One has gone by the opening of Season Two. Despite the photographs adorning the slip case, the slick and the discs themselves, the star of the series is here clean shaven. Reference is made in the season's opener to McMillan having had "a haircut" ! Cast opposite Hudson, at just over twenty years his junior, was Susan Saint James. Beginning her career as a model in the U.S. and then France, Saint James looked to Hollywood to further her career where she found work in popular TV series such as It Takes a Thief and Alias Smith and Jones. Her kookiness, with just a hint of Shirley MacLaine's appeal, caught the attention of the producers of a new series, The Name of the Game (1968-1971), and the young actress was cast as the female interest against the established male stars Gene Barry, Robert Stack and Anthony Franciosa. When that show was cancelled Miss Saint James moved straight into the role of "Sally McMillan" where she stayed for five years. Apparently there was little love lost between the two stars of the new series, although their chemistry on screen is quite effective, and the sixth and final season was re-titled simply McMillan, with Rock solving cases without the assistance of his perky wife.

     With the timeslot demands of the NBC network shared by three separate shows, McMillan and Wife contributed only six or seven episodes per season, each episode filling a "feature" timeslot of ninety minutes. Allowing for commercials, the actual running time was approximately seventy-three minutes. This set spreads the seven episodes of Season Two over three discs, their contents being :

    Disc 1:

    Disc 2:

    Disc 3:

     Apart from the two stars, the major plus of this series is the extensive location work around San Francisco and its environs. We see the streets with those incredible hills and of course there's a car chase, well staged in the episode No Hearts No Flowers. We see shopping areas, museums, the bay - both Rock and Susan actually end up in the drink, in different episodes - racetracks, restaurants, art galleries, and a well staged parking station sequence, literally every episode containing extensive location work involving either one or both of the stars of the show. Despite the 70s penchant for zooming, the series is beautifully filmed by Milton R. Krasner, also responsible for the superb black and white work on The Set-Up (1949) and All About Eve (1950). The finale to the season includes a chase sequence on horseback, a nice variation for what is basically a "cop" show. The authenticity of these locales does, unfortunately, make many of the studio interior sets look very fake indeed, with many blank "walls" which just tower out of camera range. Just as unconvincing are most of the plot lines, which are of a very basic Perry Mason style. Don't look for any gritty realism here, just basic good guy, bad guy fluff. As soon as you see the cast list of an episode, it is painfully easy to guess who the culprit is. Despite some impressive guests, including Rafael Campos (The Blackboard Jungle), Sheree North (No Down Payment), once touted by Fox as Marilyn Monroe's replacement, and Edie Adams (It's A Mad, Mad , Mad, Mad World and Broadway) they are given little to do, and often what they do is very, very bad. Keir Dullea, just four years after 2001, delivers enough ham for the next ten Christmases and Edmund O'Brien, Oscar winner for The Barefoot Contessa, is downright sad. There is a consistency to the bad performances from ordinarily good actors that more than suggests sometime director Ron Winston was the culprit. The episodes No Hearts No Flowers and Two Dollars on Trouble to Win were directed by Gary Nelson (The Black Hole), and these contain much more disciplined performances. The best of the guests is dear, old William Demarest (The Jolson Story and TV's My Three Sons), who has all the punch and vitality he had decades earlier. There is an appearance by Ken Mars, before he became "Kenneth" in The Producers, and director George Seaton pops up as himself in a film studio sequence, shooting a western that very well could have starred a young Hudson in his early days at Universal.

     A major contribution comes from John Schuck as Sergeant Enright, the commissioner's right-hand-man. His character is even allowed an ex-wife in Cop of the Year in the form of Lorraine Gary (Jaws), one of the better guest appearances. Always a delight is regular Nancy Walker as "Mildred", the McMillan's housekeeper. Walker, along with June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven was one of the Broadway stars of Best Foot Forward when that property was bought by MGM in 1943. After three films at Metro, Nancy Walker returned to Broadway, but was back in Hollywood in 1954 for Doris Day's Lucky Me at Warners. Walker became extremely popular on TV, appearing in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and The Nancy Walker Show amongst others. She also turned her hand to directing, first for TV and then for the big screen with Can't Stop the Music in 1980. As always, the talented, diminutive star makes the most of every second she has on screen. Also good value is John Astin (The Adams Family) as a goofball scientist type who is regularly called in to assist with his forensic expertise. With echoes of Peter Sellers, Astin provides some moments of silly fun.

     A final word about the deplorable 70s. In fashion, Susan Saint James fares best, although the unceasing parade of hats becomes scene stealing in itself. Hudson though frequently looks like an oversized pimp, with his flashy jackets, coloured shirts and loud ties. Not a good look. The music too has that hollow 70s disco sound, with trumpets blaring and trendy bongo riffs chucked in far too frequently. The Henry Mancini Mystery Theatre theme is fine, but the music composed for McMillan itself, credited to Jerry Fielding (The Wild Bunch) and Luchi DeJesus, a former staff member at Mercury Records and later composer for The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man, serves as a reminder of the extent to which western culture declined during this tasteless decade.

     McMillan and Wife is fairly run-of-the-mill mystery theatre fare. Though totally predictable, the show does have two charismatic stars and great location work around a beautiful city. Each seventy minute episode is a fairly painless distraction with occasional thrills, as in a couple of good car sequences, to provide something to make you sit up and take notice. Put your feet up, relax, have a drink and enjoy the 70s nostalgia of Commissioner Stuart McMillan and his missus.

     A trivia P.S.: In the episode Terror Times Two which features Rock Hudson playing dual roles, a sight to behold I assure you , there is a scene where the fake commissioner looks into a mirror and is supposed to see his reflection with one brown eye and one blue. Both of Rock’s eyes are reflected in the mirror as distinctly baby blue! (14:42)

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video transfer of this second season of McMillan and Wife should generally please fans of the series. The quality does vary from episode to episode, ranging from the "OK" to very good for its age.

     The episodes are presented at their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The series was filmed on 35mm stock and processed by the Technicolor laboratories. As I've said, there is variation in quality from episode to episode, the season opener being the worst. However, even that "worst" looks pretty darned good, although there has obviously been a bit more digital processing, particularly noise reduction, applied to the opener. In the third episode aliasing is again seen on venetians (22:36) and wood panelling (44:29) for instance. Also in this episode there is a vertical blue flare for just an instant (66:26), but the opener and this episode are the two exceptions, with the remaining five episodes providing no problem whatsoever. In those five episodes everything is sharp, stable and vivid. The colour palette highlights the extravagant colour schemes and tones of the fashions and fabrics of the period. The close-ups come up particularly well, with very good skin tones.

     There is modest film quality grain and detail is basically very good, with shadow detail quite impressive in some of the dark, "mysterious" scenes. Film artefacts are minimal, reduced to the occasional fleck and possibly that blue flare mentioned above in episode three.

     There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

     There are two audio streams on each disc, both are Dolby Digital two channel mono encoded at 224 Kbps. The primary stream presents the episodes complete with English dialogue, while the second stream presents the soundtrack minus dialogue - music and sound effects only.

     The soundtrack is in extremely good condition and quite satisfying given its strictly mono origins. Dialogue is perfectly clear, unnaturally so in many instances, which suggests that there has been quite a bit of excellent post dubbing. The many post-dubbed exterior scenes do offer some sync problems, but generally the dubbing is fine. Hudson was frequently post-dubbed during his early days at Universal; evidently acting while simultaneously talking in a manly fashion offered too much of a challenge. One would guess that maybe old habits died hard during the production of McMillan and Wife. No background hiss was noted at all and there were no crackles, pops or drop-outs.

     The title music of Henry Mancini plus that provided by Jerry Fielding and Luchi DeJesus is quite satisfactorily reproduced, although that thin disco sound of the 70s can be extremely hollow and unattractive.

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

Extras

Main Menu

Over a monochrome (blue) portrait of Rock Hudson and live action plus music from the series the options presented are : Play All, Select a Case (selecting this option leads to a new screen listing six chapters from the episode, with audio of one line of dialogue from that episode) and Textless Title (this is available only on Disc One. It presents the titles plus theme without any text).

Second Audio Stream

     Although there is no indication on the packaging or the discs themselves, there is a second audio stream on each episode which presents the music plus sound effects isolated from the dialogue.

Booklet : Season Two Episode Guide

    Included as an insert, this eight page booklet has two-and-a-half pages of "guide", the balance of the pages containing photographs from the series. The front and back covers of the booklet feature Rock Hudson with moustache, so obviously these are promotional shots for Season One. The details presented for each episode provide a plot synopsis, original U.S. broadcast dates, guest stars, writing credits and names of directors. Quite a nicely produced little booklet.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    To date there has been no release of Season Two in the United States.

Summary

     The many fans of Rock Hudson, and of this series in particular will undoubtedly be very pleased with the visual quality of the episodes. The basic and predictable plots provide diverting entertainment and when dramatic interest sags the location shooting more than compensates. It's a pity that there is nothing extra apart from the booklet, but maybe Susan Saint James, whom I saw being interviewed last year, is no longer interested in this product of her past. Feet up, a glass of wine, some nibbles, Rock and Susan - who could ask for anything more? And those 70s fashions!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, November 08, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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