TITLE: DALLAS - MOVIE COLLECTION
DVD Release Date: April 12, 2011 (Warner Home Video)
Packaging: Clear plastic keep case-style with hub
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Episodes: 4 Movies/Specials
Running Time: 411 minutes
Audio: English: Dolby Digital Mono (Dallas: The Early Years)/Dolby Digital Stereo (All others)
Subtitles: English, French
Special Features: Dallas Reunion: Return to Southfork
Get ready for one last trip to Dallas, Texas, to enjoy the riches, greed, and backstabbing of the Ewing and Barnes clans. This set collects the two post-series reunion films, as well as the prequel film, and a reunion special recorded in the mid-2000s, finally releasing the last of the original Dallas series. I’ve been a longstanding fan of this series, so it’s great to finally get it all out on DVD. As with many other reunion movies, it’s hard to recapture the magic of the series. However, both of the reunion movies on this set do a decent job of that.
First on this set is 1986’s “Dallas: The Early Years.” This was a 3 hour movie event that aired in the middle of Dallas’ 9th season. The movie goes into the back-story behind the Ewing/Barnes feud that was already well-established when Dallas premiered. We get to see Jock Ewing (Dale Midkiff) and Willard “Digger” Barnes (David Grant) meet during the Great Depression, forming a great friendship and business partnership. That’s all destroyed when they both fall in love with the same girl: Miss Ellie Southworth (Molly Hagan.) We then follow the Ewings and Barneses all the way to the 1950s where the story culminates with an explosive Ewing barbecue. Larry Hagman also appears briefly at the beginning and end of the film, telling the story to a reporter. This movie is a great look at the history behind the show and, in my opinion, is the highlight of this set.
The other two movies are 1996’s “J.R. Returns,” and “War of the Ewings” from 1998. In “J.R. Returns,” J.R. is killed in a car crash... or at least that’s what everyone thinks, until he shows up at his own funeral... plotting to take back over Ewing Oil, even if it means hurting his own family in the process. A similar plot is the focal point of “War of the Ewings.” J.R. finally owns the largest oil company in Texas... but still wants the second largest company: Ewing Oil, owned by ex-wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy.) So he starts a war, pitting Ewing against Ewing, in the hopes of taking the company in the process.
The movies appear to be unedited. “The Early Years” is much longer as it ran for three hours. I’m not clear on why “J.R. Returns” is longer than “War of the Ewings” since both aired within a couple years of each other in two hour slots, but nothing seems to be missing. Runtimes are as follows:
Dallas: The Early Years: 2:20:25
Dallas: J.R. Returns: 1:34:20
Dallas: War of the Ewings: 1:25:56
Dallas Reunion: Return to Southfork 1:27:07
As with previous Dallas sets, the discs are in a clear plastic-keep case, which is inside a cardboard sleeve -- a hinged page on the spine holds disc one, while disc two is mounted to the back. The outer artwork shows several images from the later two movies on the front, with “Dallas Movie Collection” in big letters against a sort of gray background. More images are on the back, mostly from “The Early Years.” The discs have the Dallas logo against a similar gray background, and lists which movie or special is on which disc. A booklet is also included, describing each of the movies and telling when they originally aired.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The main menu is very attractive. It features the Dallas logo against an either blue or green (depending on the disc) tinted shot of the Dallas skyline, and the option to choose one of the two movies on that disc or Languages. The background features for the fourteenth time, the 1978 recording of the main theme. One would think they could have updated this with each set, but alas they did not. Chapter stops are placed at commercial breaks.
Video and Audio Quality:
Video quality is very considering the era these movies are from--very crisp and clear. One point of concern is the aspect ratio of “The Early Years.” The disclaimer on the box is sort of misleading. It says that the movie has been presented in a “matted” widescreen format preserving the original theatrical aspect ratio. The movie was never seen in theaters, so this leads one to believe they cropped the top and bottom to make it fill a widescreen TV, and that there will be black bars on a standard TV. That’s not the case. Instead, there are hard encoded black bars on the sides of the picture, keeping it at a 4:3 aspect ratio. If you have a widescreen TV, you probably won’t notice anything is wrong, except that you can’t stretch the picture to fill the screen. However, if you’re watching on a standard TV, you’ll see black bars on all four sides of the screen! Very strange.
Audio is also very clear. “The Early Years” is presented in its original mono, as CBS hadn’t converted to full-time stereo transmission yet in early 1986. All the other features are in stereo.
The only special feature isn’t all that special. Not that there’s anything wrong with “Dallas Reunion: Return to Southfork,” but it has already been released as a special feature on Dallas Season Four. I’m not sure why they released it again, other than to pad out the set. They may have thought that three movies was too little content for a $29.98 price tag. At any rate, there was surely a wealth of other bonus features they could have included as well...interviews or commentary perhaps? “The Early Years” would have been worth a documentary in my opinion. There was also a wealth of promotional material for Dallas through the years that would have made good bonus features. They could have easily made up the space on disc 2 with a bunch of those sorts of things, instead of repeating a bonus special from a previous set.
Other than the weird aspect ratio issue and the lack of special features this is a very good set, and the perfect cap to any Dallas collection. I particularly enjoyed “The Early Years” and the reunion movies were enjoyable as well. Fortunately, this may not actually be the end of the Ewing/Barnes story as cable network TNT has commissioned a pilot for a new Dallas reboot series. The new show will reportedly follow the Ewing and Barnes grandchildren who are now running the respective oil companies. Original series cast members will still show up in their original roles, however. I have high hopes for the pilot, and hope to see it and any series it spawns on DVD as well!
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 1/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Greg Brobeck on 03/31/11
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