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Remember FREAKYLINKS? How about VR.5? Well, they were two of the more interesting series that aired on the Fox Network that never found an audience, nor produced more than 13 episodes. What does ALCATRAZ have to do with FREAKYLINKS or VR.5? Not much really, other than being kindred short-lived television series that disappeared from television before their time. Coming from J. J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, ALCATRAZ creates a new mythos that places a weird spin on the iconic real world prison. With the Bad Robot pedigree and actor Sam Neill in a leading role, ALCATRAZ certainly looked like it had the potential to be a success. Of course, genre shows are finicky beasts that either click with audiences or they don’t… ALCATRAZ was just one of the unfortunate ones that failed to catch on. Of course, my appreciation for the series isn’t diminished just because it failed to find an audience.

The premise of ALCATRAZ puts forth an alternate history concerning the closing of the island prison in San Francisco Bay. It seems that on March 21, 1963, two hundred fifty six inmates and forty six guards disappeared from the Alcatraz Island prison without a trace. As a cover up, an "official story" was created that the prison was closed due to age and that all of the prisoners were transferred to other facilities. In present day San Francisco, the missing inmates and guards begin returning… one by one, and not a day older than when they first disappeared, and without a clue as to what happened to them in all the time they were gone. Sam Neill portrays FBI Agent Emerson Hauser, who was a San Francisco police officer 1963 and on scene at the prison, at the time that the incident at Alcatraz was discovered. Hauser is now in charge of capturing the "63s" as they return, and unraveling the mystery of what happened to the missing inmates and guards... not to mention why they are suddenly returning.

ALCATRAZ also stars Sarah Jones as San Francisco Police Department homicide detective Rebecca Madsen, whose family has a history with the prison and the incident in 1963. After her partner is killed by one of the returning "63s," Madsen becomes part of Hauser's team and assists in locating and apprehending the prisoners as they reappear. Jorge Garcia is Dr. Diego "Doc" Soto, a comic book store owner, as well as a comic book author and artist, who also has doctorates in Criminal Justice and Civil War History. In addition to the other aspects of his large skill set, Doc has authored several books on Alcatraz, is an expert on all aspects of the prison, its personnel and inmates... something that makes him incredibly valuable to Hauser and Madsen in their quest to capture the "63s." The cast of ALCATRAZ also features Jonny Coyne, Parminder Nagra, Jason Butler Harner and Robert Forster.

ALCATRAZ: THE COMPLETE SERIES ($50) comes to Blu-ray Disc in a two-disc set that features the following thirteen episodes that were aired during the show’s short run: Pilot, Ernest Cobb, Kit Nelson, Cal Sweeney, Guy Hastings, Paxton Petty, Johnny McKee, The Ames Brothers, Sonny Burnett, Clarence Montgomery, Webb Porter, Garrett Stillman and Tommy Madsen.

Warner Home Video has made all thirteen episodes from ALCATRAZ: THE COMPLETE SERIES available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. As expected, the 1080p presentations that comprise the ALCATRAZ: THE COMPLETE SERIES Blu-ray set are infinitely superior to the over-compressed, artifact ridden 720p broadcast versions shown on my local cable system. Everything appears very sharp, clear and highly defined, with fairly impressive texturing and depth. Flashback sequences set prior the incident in 1963 have a more filtered, or antiqued appearance, which sets them apart from the main story, set in present day San Francisco. Colors are warmer and more vibrant during the present day sections of each episode, while the flashbacks are colder, and display a more subdued color scheme. Contrast can look quite smooth or display something of a stylistic push during flashbacks. Shadow detail is generally very good for a television level production. The elements from which the episodes are transferred appear very clean. Grain/noise is noticeable in places, but not to any level of excess.

All the episodes that comprise ALCATRAZ: THE COMPLETE SERIES are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. The sound design for the episodes is largely dialogue driven, with an emphasis on the forward soundstage and center channel for the talky passages. However, there are sequences within episodes, which are fairly impressive, and make very good use of the entire soundstage, but for the most part, ALCATRAZ remains a dialogue driven show. The rear channels effectively augment the forward soundstage, with active effects during the key sequences. Still, even when things are talky, channel separations are well implemented for the musical component and occasional sound effects. In addition, there is a nice amount of ambience and musical fill coming from the rear channels. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is quite strong, especially where the musical component is concerned. The bass channel is fairly robust and reinforces the music and many of the sound effects. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 channel tracks are also provided for the episodes, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as some extras. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Alcatraz: Island Of Intrigue (eleven minutes). Unaired Scenes and a Gag Reel closes out the extras.

Adios, ALCATRAZ... we hardly knew ye. Joining the likes of FREAKYLINKS and VR.5, ALCATRAZ heads off to the television series graveyard ahead of its time. For those who enjoyed ALCATRAZ during its all too brief run will find the Blu-ray collection to offer excellent visual and audio properties.


Alcatraz: The Complete Series [Blu-ray] (2012)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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