Sunday, May 22, 2016

Popcorn & Coffee: Airwolf: The Complete Series

Not Rated; 3811 minutes; $44.98; Amazon; Mill Creek Ent.
Now available this month for the first-time in the United States from Mill Creek Entertainment. is Airwolf: The Complete Series, featuring all 79 episodes from the 1984-1987 series. There are no special features or extras or on the 14-disc set. The complete series is also available on Blu-ray. The first season was also released on a two-disc DVD set.

Created by Donald P. Bellisario, the original 97-minute pilot centers on Airwolf, a high-tech helicopter developed by The Firm, a division of the CIA), being stolen its designer,  Dr. Charles Henry Moffet. The Firm's point man, Archangel (played by Alex Cord), makes a deal with Stringfellow Hawke (played by Jan-Michael Vincent) - String will steal back Airwolf in exchange the government's help in locating his brother whom went MIA during Vietnam War. 

Along with his friend Dominic Santini (played by the late Ernest Borgnine), String travels to Libya to retrieve Airwolf. After the mission is a success, String refuses to return Airwolf to The Firm, hiding it in a cave in the "Valley of the Gods," until The Firm locates his brother.

After the pilot, Seasons 1-3 focused String and Dominic using Airwolf to go on missions that were funded by The Firm. To boost ratings, season two added Jean Bruce Scott as pilot Caitlin O'Shannessy. Sadly, this move didn't help much as the series was canceled by CBS after three seasons, but that wasn't the end of the series as a fourth season was ordered by USA Network.

The budget for the fourth and final seasons was 1/3 of what the prior seasons had been, meaning the original Airwolf couldn't be used. Instead of new footage, old scenes of Airwolf were recycled and a few unused shots were used. The entire cast were replaced with only Jan-Michael Vincent returning for the first episode "Blackjack." The premise for the season centered on String's brother St. John Hawke (played by Barry Van Dyke) being rescued, and he quickly takes over as the main pilot for Airwolf, which is now operated by "The Company" (for some odd reason it is no longer called the "The Firm"). The scripts were watered-down to be more family-friendly, but thanks to the extremely low-budget, the quality of the season was horrible, resulting in the series final cancellation.

Final Season: I was bit too young to remember to remember Airwolf when it debuted in 1984 (I was a three-year-old at the time), but I do recall watching the series when it went into syndication in the late 80s. The pilot, along with the first season, where smartly written espionage thrillers. Seasons two and three were more action-oriented, but were still entertaining. There is only one word that represents the fourth season - horrendous. 

Yeah, it's really difficult to watch the final season. It was shot on video tape instead of film and it really shows on the DVDs as the picture-quality is grainy, well all accept the reused action-scenes from the previous seasons. I only recommend watching the season's first episode "Blackjack" for Jan-Michael Vincent's final performance as Stringfellow Hawke.

There are 14 discs in this set; the first season is on 2 discs and seasons 2-4 are on 4 discs each. The picture quality for the seasons 1-3 are really good. All the episodes are 1:33:1 aspect (full screen).

Overall, Airwolf: The Complete Series is a great DVD set to own for any fan or for any action-80s-junkee. At a retail price of $44.98, it would make a great gift for Father's Day this year.

*Disclaimer - I received complimentary copy in exchange for my unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

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