Saturday, December 19, 2009

Classic TV

The Golden Age of Television (Criterion)
Even for a company like the Criterion Collection, which releases classic films every month, The Golden Age of Television is a big deal. This three-disc set collects eight full-length plays originally shown live on television in the ‘50s, then shown on PBS in the ‘80s with introductions and recollections from various principals.

The plays include Rod Serling’s biting drama Patterns, Paddy Chayefsky’s groundbreaking Marty, and three other hard-hitting works, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Days of Wine and Roses and Bang the Drum Slowly, the last of which stars a dynamic young actor named Paul Newman.

Watching these old kinescopes (the audio and visual quality is substandard, but since that’s all that survives of these live performances, we should be grateful for what we have) is an evocative experience, especially when watching such splendid performers as Rod Steiger, Richard Kiley, Ed Begley, Jack Palance, Kim Hunter, Piper Laurie and Cliff Robertson play meaty roles in dramatic plays that would never be shown on TV today. Extras include commentaries by directors John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann, Ralph Nelson and Daniel Petrie, and cast and crew interviews.

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