Network On Air (studio)
Cert 12 (certificate)
approx 400min total (length)
30 November 2015 (released)
31 December 2015
It would have been nice to say that this 3 DVD box set is the ultimate Xmas gift for any Callan fans out there. You will note the word 'any' as opposed to 'many'. Sadly this set does not do James Mitchell's epic creation, which made a star out of Edward Woodward, much justice. Yes, you'll get an overall idea of the series… though that is not really good enough for the un-initiated and a bit of a disappointment for the fans.
The series began as an Armchair Theatre TV series play and ended in the early 70's as one of the most popular TV series ever (raking in at one time some 13 million viewers). Disc 1 contains a documentary featuring a great many persons involved with the series though sadly, creator and star are both dead.
The doc is, if anything, a little overlong. Nevertheless and as to be expected, there are a number of interesting facts to be gleaned from first hand knowledge which is invariably a good thing.
This should whet your appetite for Disc 2, containing the 'actual' episodes... well a few of them. It is certainly good to see the Armchair Theatre original 'A Magnum for Schneider' (later filmed in the 70's). It is only too easy to see the commercial appeal of this programme, which is the complete opposite of the highly entertaining kitsch reactionary hokum of The Avengers. Serious stuff this and pretty deep. Mitchell knew what he was about and Woodward is exemplary as 'the killer with a conscience'. Callan is, in case you didn't know, a top government agent albeit a somewhat reluctant one. He just happens to be the best at his job. Unfortunately what follows next on Disc 2 is rather a scrappy mess. Ok, perhaps not altogether uninteresting to the few who remember the series but even that's debatable. We get nothing from the later series at all, though one has been reliably informed that this 'cracking' series simply got better and better. Are these episodes no longer in existence?
As for Disc 3, just leave it! It is a bonus you can do without. With the success of Callan, Woodward was now launched as a star, with a lead role in the seminal The Wicker Man and then, hell forbid, The Edward Woodward Hour - a variety show produced by the maestro William G. Stewart. We can see Eddie doing all the things that an actor born in 1930 perhaps dreamt of doing. We are treated to an embarrassing skit with Father, dear Father star Patrick Cargill. Also included are a couple of comedy sketches with Sister George Beryl Reid where Edward, not a natural comic, doesn't do too badly. We even get an homage to the world's worst poet William McGonagall though perhaps a Scot might be a better person to judge this. No quibble about Eddie's histrionics! He sings like an actor as indeed did Richard Harris and actually released an album. Fred Astaire surely wouldn't have dissed it entirely.
The additional James Mitchell docs are a mess. The first one, presumably made in the early 70's, is probably about Mitchell's upbringing in South Shields but about 85% of the sound appears to be missing. The second doc appears to be okay and looks like it was done fifteen years later with Mitchell talking about his then new novel. Next up we encounter the same business with the soundtrack and if this isn't bad enough the viewer is subjected to ridiculous things like a five-min footage of seagulls in a dock and prolonged static shots of buildings which leaves you guessing about the significance. But, as already mentioned, we have little or no sound. Don't put yourself out for this one!