The acclaimed Warner Brothers Vietnam War television series China Beach was released in a complete series set by StarVista/Time-Life earlier this year. While devoted fans of the series had mostly nothing but praise for the set, the hefty price tag caused potential purchasers who were not sure about the show to take pause and wait for single-season releases. StarVista/Time-Life has responded by releasing China Beach Season 1 at an attractive price point. This set contains the feature-length pilot and the six hour-long episodes which were aired during the show's short first season in 1988. It also contains some attractive extras which are discussed below.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Other
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 8 Hr. 0 Min. (approximately)
Package Includes: DVD
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Release Date: 10/01/2013
The acclaimed Warner Brothers Vietnam War television series China Beach was released in a complete series set by StarVista/Time-Life earlier this year. While devoted fans of the series had mostly nothing but praise for the set, the hefty price tag caused potential purchasers who were not sure about the show to take pause and wait for single-season releases. StarVista/Time-Life has responded by releasing China Beach Season 1 at an attractive price point. This set contains the feature-length pilot and the six hour-long episodes which were aired during the show's short first season in 1988. It also contains some attractive extras which are discussed below.The pilot episode of China Beach aired on ABC on April 26, 1988 and the first hour-long episode, "Home," was shown the next day. The remaining episodes of Season 1 continued to air on Wednesday nights until the second week of June. The show was a critical success, and while not a ratings hit ABC nevertheless renewed it for three full seasons. The long-anticipated DVD release of the series was held up for years because of the problems inherent in clearing the music rights to the more than 300 songs which were used in the series.The setting for China Beach is the 510th Evacuation Center and R&R Center (nicknamed the "Five and Dime") near Da Nang during the height of the Vietnam War. The base is essentially a large emergency room where severely injured soldiers are stabilized before they can be evacuated for further medical treatment. It also is where soldiers who do not survive their wounds are embalmed and put into body bags. The central character is Colleen McMurphy (Dana Delany), a nurse from Kansas who, in the pilot episode, has only a few days remaining in Vietnam until her tour of duty is up. Other recurring characters include Captain Dick Richard (Robert Picardo) the head surgeon who would be brought up on charges of sexual harassment today. He is constantly hitting on McMurphy but she rebuffs him at every turn. SP4 Samuel Beckett (Michael Boatman) is in charge of the Graves Registration Unit and is responsible for embalming and shipping home the bodies of soldiers who die at the "Five and Dime." Beckett's macabre work causes many of his fellow soldiers to be uncomfortable being around him. Corporal Boonie Lanier (Brian Wimmer) is a Marine who has been assigned to be the lifeguard at China Beach, where the overworked personnel can get a few hours of relaxation.As noted, the "Five and Dime" also is a recreation center which puts on USO shows and has Red Cross volunteers (called "doughnut dollys") who are there to boost the morale of the troops. Laurette Barber (Chloe Webb) is a singer from Pennsylvania who agreed to come to Vietnam to entertain the troops for a week in the hope that this will put her on the road to the big time. Cherry White (Nan Woods) is a naive Red Cross volunteer whose primary motivation for being in Vietnam is to try to locate her brother, who is missing in action. K.C. Kolowski (Marg Helgenberger) is a civilian volunteer who came to Vietnam and discovered that she could make a pile of money by giving the men in the military what they really want (and it isn't doughnuts). Major Lily Garreau (Concetta Tomei) is the ranking Army officer who tries to keep an eye on the American women who are on the base.Although China Beach has many of the characteristics of an adult soap opera, it also is an unflinching look at an unpopular war and the men and women who had to do the dirty work. As to the show's authenticity, I leave that judgment to those who served in-country in Vietnam. Dana Delany deservedly won two Emmy Awards during the show's run, and China Beach also won a Golden Globe award for best dramatic television series in 1990. Season 1 currently has a street price of less than $15, giving viewers an inexpensive opportunity to sample what the entire series of this remarkable show is like.
The Production Rating: 5/5
The 1.33:1 standard definition image accurately recreates the aspect ratio in which China Beach was shot and appeared on television screens in 1988. The image quality is variable, with fluctuations in color accuracy and black levels, but the transfers do not exhibit any damage or focus issues. The dramatic elements of China Beach are so strong that many viewers may not even notice that the picture quality is not optimal. However, absent a remastered Blu-ray release, this DVD is as good as China Beach is ever likely to look.
Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is fine. Dialogue is clear and understandable, which is good news since there are no subtitles. Music clearance issues made it impossible to release China Beach exactly as it originally appeared on television, but the producers did yeoman's work to clear most of the original music. Those who are interested in knowing what music has been cut or replaced can find it here:More About "China Beach" DVDThe music sounds consistently good and viewers who lived during the era of the Vietnam War will find themselves re-living those days, for better or worse.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The Season 1 set of China Beach contains several extras, most of which appear on Disc 3.The one extra on Disc 1 is a commentary track which accompanies the pilot episode. The commentary was recorded by series co-creator and executive producer John Sacret Young and director/producer Rod Holcomb in 2003.The following bonus features can be found on Disc 3:1. Footage of the show's 25th Anniversary Reunion which took place in Los Angeles on December 12, 2012.2. "Reflections" is a featurette which includes behind the scenes footage and members of the cast and crew reminiscing about working on the show.3. "China Beach Origins" is a roundtable discussion about the show. The participants are John Sacret Young, series co-creator William Broyles Jr., Rod Holcomb, and casting director John Levey.4. There are interviews with cast members Dana Delany, Nancy Giles, Brian Wimmer, and Jeff Kober.Also included is a 12-page booklet which contains a listing of episodes, several photographs and an essay by series co-creator and writer William Broyles, Jr.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
China Beach is a powerful and rewarding television series about the Vietnam War which is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago. Whether you were a fan of the show when it first aired or missed it during its network run, this DVD of Season 1 is an outstanding opportunity to see what all the fuss was (and is) about.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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