Manhunt: The Complete Series
by Jef Burnham
Coming to DVD on May 25, 2010 from BFS Entertainment.
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Manhunt is the epic story of a Royal Air Force pilot shot down during World War II over Nazi occupied France and forced to work for the French Resistance if he ever hopes to get home. Against the backdrop of 1942 France, Manhunt goes much further than its numerous predecessors’ romanticized adventures of the French Resistance to provide a thorough and profoundly disturbing exploration of the troubles that faced the nation during the occupation.
RAF Squadron Leader, Jimmy Porter and a Resistance Captain, codename: Vincent are charged by Resistance leaders to escort Nina, a secretary who has memorized everything that the Resistance dare not write down, to England. On their trek through the French countryside, the three encounter a myriad of historically accurate horrors committed by both Germans and French during the occupation. The Germans take advantage of the French and the French turn on each other while strife grows within the German ranks. Yet the trio encounter others on both sides who would do their part toward the emancipation of France or a peaceful end to the war. It is this objective portrayal of the barbarism and humanity of both camps that makes Manhunt an exceptionally intelligent and effective war drama.
However, with television being Manhunt’s medium, it does have its peculiarities and inconsistencies. For instance, Nazi troops inevitably stop directly in front of the trio whenever they are ducked beside the road in the middle of nowhere, and there is the occasional slow spot as they get stuck hiding in a barn or something for an entire episode. However, these slow spots provide some characterization which is instrumental to the success of later portions of the series, and as for the predictability of the German soldiers: well, it’s television and the majority of televised narratives operates on formula by default. Despite Manhunt’s formulaic deviations, its socio-historical content makes for exceptional formulaic television.
Anyone who keeps up with my reviews of British television DVDs knows how fond I am of the gorgeous 16mm color film stock used by British producers throughout the 70s and 80s. Usually, the entirety of a series would be shot in 16mm, or the interiors would be filmed on video and the exteriors on film. Manhunt, much to my initial disappointment, was shot entirely on videotape, with the exception of one episode. But the series looks great anyway. Had they shot the exteriors on 16mm and the interiors on video, it would have irreparably compromised the tone of the series, and for this consistency I was personally thankful for their use of videotape.
This 7 disc set from BFS contains all 26 episodes of the series (clocking in at approximately 22 hours), with no special features. While the series’ transfer suffers from the occasional scratch of flicker, the picture looks remarkably good considering the age and relative obscurity of the material.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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