TITLE: AFTER SCHOOL SPECIALS - 1974-76
DVD Release Date: October 12, 2004 (BCI Eclipse)
Color, Approx. 180 minutes
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Specials: 4
Audio Tracks: English
Special Features: Bonus Photo Galleries
Noted as one of the most popular television series of the 70s and 80s, the “After School Specials” produced by Martin
Tahse, which originally aired on ABC from approximately 1972-1998, are now available for the first time ever on DVD. A hit during its
run in the opulent disco era, the “After School Specials” became a favorite of parents and youth alike tackling issues that
still affect today’s family such as substance abuse, eating disorders, teen pregnancy and sexual behavior, racism, divorce
and child abuse, just to name some. Martin Tahse is the most prolific and successful producer of
After School Specials. His 26 productions have won numerous awards and prizes including 18 Emmys,
three Blue Ribbons in the American Film Fesitval, the Peabody Award, and First, Second, and Third Prize
in the Chicago Film Festival in the same year - an honor which has never since been matched.
A total of six DVD sets have been announced. The first two (1974-76 and 1976-77) were released on October 12th. Set #3 will have specials from 1978-79, set #4 will be 1979-80, set #5 will contain specials from 1981-82, and set #6 will offer specials ranging from 1982-86. Each set will contain four specials. This review covers the first set (1974-76) and includes the following four specials:
Pssst! Hammerman's After You (aka The 18th Emergency) - After studying about prehistoric
man in school, Mouse Fawley (Christian Juttner) makes the mistake of mocking school bully
Marv Hammerman (Jim Sage) by claiming Marv's ancestors swung from the trees. Marv does
not react well to the comment, and he makes Mouse feel his own pain the only way Marv knows how, by landing him with punches. This special originally aired on 01/16/74 and runs approximately 45 minutes. It was based on the young adult novel "The 18th Emergency" by Betsy Byars. There are four animated segments contained within this special. Lance Kerwin would go on to star in James at 15/16. Look for Willie Aames in a small part.
Summer of the Swans - The summer doldrums have engulfed Sara (Heather Totten) who finds life
in a small town increasingly irritating. When her younger brother, Charlie, disappears, Sara realizes the need to think of other people and not just herself. With the help of handsome Joe (Chris Knight, The Brady Bunch), who is interested in Sara, they find the terrified Charlie and in the process also find each other. This special originally aired on 10/02/74 and runs approximately 46 minutes. It was based on the Newbery Award winning
young adult novel "Sara's Summer of the Swans" by Betsy Byars. As a Brady Bunch fan, it was nice to see Chris Knight and Eve Plumb in a role other then Peter or Jan Brady. Chris is in multiple scenes for multiple minutes, while Eve is in just one scene for probably less than 30 seconds. Three's Company fans will recoginze veteran character actress Priscilla Morrill, who played Chrissy's mother. She also played the estranged wife of Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The Skating Rink - Living on a poor farm in the South, Tuck Faraday (Stewart Petersen) struggles with the insecurity caused by his stutter. Tuck is fascinated as he watches a deserted factory being transformed into an
ice skating rink and is elated when Pete (Jerry Dexter) offers him a chance to learn how to ice skate so he can overcome his insecurities. This special originally aired on 02/05/75 and runs approximately 46 minutes. It was based on the young adult novel "The Skating Rink" by Mildred Lee. Rance Howard (Ron Howard's father) gives a fine performance as Tuck's father. Look for Cindy Eilbacher in a small role. Of the four specials on the DVD set, I enjoyed this one the most, although the scenes at the skating rink look a little
grainy. They could have used better lighting.
Dear Lovey Hart: I Am Desperate - The new editor of the high school paper, Skip (Meegan King) wants to jazz up the paper. He feels a lovelorn column is just the thing, and to add spice to the idea, he decides the identity of the writer is to remain a secret. The column meets success until a few readers begin to take Lovey Hart's advice too seriously. Hilarity ensues at the annual school carnival when the revealing of Lovey Hart's
identity humiliates the anonymous writer. This special originally aired on 05/19/76 and runs approximately 46 minutes. It was based on the young adult novel "Dear Lovey Hart: I Am Desperate" by Ellen Conford. This was a pretty enjoyable special and definitely had a 70's feel with the clothes, hairstyles, and disco music.
The style of packaging is one of the neater ideas that I've seen for a DVD set. The outer package looks like one of those Mead Trapper Keeper Style notebooks, which were big in the 70's and 80's. The front cover has four photos from the specials, while the back of the box gives details and some other notes about the series. There is a little piece of velcro which lifts up to the inside packaging. The inside of the box features more detailed summaries of the specials along with the running times, original airdates, what novel the special was
based on, and a quote from a different publication on each title. There is a single-wide slim case that houses the actual dvds. The slim case box is red, with the same photos that are on the outer box on the front. The back of the box gives some details on producer Martin Tahse's many awards. The discs have a lined paper background and each have two photos on them from the specials along with the After School Specials logo and the episode titles.
Menu Design and Navigation:
A neat 3-D animated sequence opens the DVD menus. It goes from a camera's point of view. First, you see a door opening and then the camera goes down a hallway with some video clips playing on the school's walls and finally out an exit door. The 3-D sequence runs about 16 seconds and features a musical ditty in the bakground. The main menus continue
the school theme with a lined paper backround with music playing and various
video clips from the specials are played. There is a 'Chapters' submenu with four chapter stops per episode. Various sounds are played such as a paper being torn, pencil writing, eraser, and photocopier when you choose different options on the menus.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality is pretty decent for being around 30 years old now. There are a few tape/film glitches in some scenes, but it's not too bad. The only scenes that I would call very grainy were in The Skating Rink indoor rink scenes. The audio is in mono and is standard from the 70's. Overall, I can't complain about the video/audio quality as they likely used the best possible master copies to produce the sets. They are all certainly watchable and enjoyable.
Bonus photo galleries that are on each disc are the only extras included. There is about a minute on each disc of music playing while various screenshots from the specials are shown one after another. Perhaps, on some future releases, they can include some interviews with Martin Tahse or episode commentaries.
Overall, this is a very nicely produced set. I like how they kept the school theme from the packaging to the menus to the actual dvds. I remember watching some After School Specials back in high school in health class. The storylines are timeless and still carry an important message. I'm sure they are still shown in schools,
and I'm surprised some new ones and haven't been produced in a number of years. These sets
are very affordable, you can probably find them for less than $10 a set. If you can't find them at a local store, you can easily order them online from Amazon.com.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):
Video Quality: 4.2/5
Audio Quality: 4.3/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 10/26/04
To purchase the 1974-76 DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Other After School Specials available on DVD:
1976-77 (Volume 2)
1978-79 (Volume 3)
1979-80 (Volume 4)
1981-82 (Volume 5)
1982-86 (Volume 6)
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