Saturday, February 26, 2011

DYNASTY: Season 2 (Spelling 1982) Paramount/CBS Home Video

The Carringtons and the Colbys: ah, me. For nine years these two feuding families dominated prime time Wednesdays with their inimitable blend of venomous spite, intrigue and sinfully laisse faire sexuality. Such was the implausible world of television's night time soap operas in the 1980s; a glittery playground of tangible perversities made somewhat wholesome by the latest fashion. However, none matched Dynasty (1981-89) for ultra-glitz, glam and gaudy excess. Season One's cliff hanger, the debut of Alexis Carrington (Joan Collins) begins Season Two on a high octane note of conniving intrigue. In fact, it is in Season Two that Dynasty really hits its stride and developed its staying power as a pop icon. The story lines crafted by Richard and Esther Shapiro seem tighter; character development more linear and engaging. Just as Dallas eventually proved to be Larry Hagman's gig as the unscrupulous J.R. Ewing, Dynasty quickly evolved into Alexis' grandstand.
In Season One, the Shapiro's attempt at grafting the role of viper/vixen onto Blake Carrington's (John Forsythe) daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) proved an ill fit for both the character and the actress. After all, how could television's original Nancy Drew willfully hurt anyone? But it's a role Joan Collins - with all her class, culture and exacting precision as a seasoned performer - was born to play. Alexis begins her tirade on Season Two by lying on the witness stand at Blake's murder trial - claiming that he was a violent spouse who threatened physical harm if she ever came back to Denver to see her children. This slander is partly responsible for Blake's conviction of Ted Dinard's murder. However, the verdict is distilled into a suspended sentence, affording Blake the opportunity to move on with his professional oil dealings.
Unfortunately, for Blake, his home front is anything but a calming influence. Blake's refusal to accept Steven's (Al Corley) homosexual lifestyle only serves to widen the rift between father and son. Meanwhile, Fallon and Jeff's (John James) marital relations continue to disintegrate, especially after Fallon begins to flirt with the family's personal psychiatric physician - Nick Toscanni (James Farantino). Nick harbors deep, though as yet hidden resentment toward Blake after he discovers that his brother was murdered while overseeing oil fields in the Middle East for Denver Carrington.
As for Claudia, (Pamela Bellwood); she attempts suicide before mobilizing her efforts to learn where Matthew has taken their daughter, Lindsay. Blake gives Claudia a job at Denver Carrington; a move that Cecil Colby (Lloyd Bochner) takes advantage of when he lies to Claudia about knowing the whereabouts of Matthew and Lindsay but refuses to tell her unless she spies on Blake's oil dealings first for him. Alexis moves onto the Carrington estate and into the artist's cottage, originally a wedding present from Blake to her and for which she currently holds the deed. Alexis' presence causes constant friction between Krystal (Linda Evans) and Blake. After learning that Krystal is pregnant Alexis ratchets up her desire to destroy their happy home by firing a gunshot into the air while Krystal is riding her horse. The animal is spooked, throws its rider to the ground, and Krystal later loses the baby.
Enter Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear), Krystal's scheming, poor niece who immediately sets her sights on becoming a Carrington to inherit her piece of the pie. Sammy Jo seduces and then marries Steven; much to Alexis' chagrin. However, realizing that Steven has no tangible wealth other than what his father provides, the greedy Sammy Jo quickly loses interest in her new husband and runs off to Hollywood to seek her own fame and fortune. Meanwhile Blake is taunted by an omnipotent oil tsar named Logan Rhinewood (actually Cecil Colby) who threatens to take over Denver Carrington by buying up its stock. After a car bomb set by Rhinewood's henchmen temporarily blinds Blake he shuns Krystal and the rest of his family - relying almost exclusively on Joseph (Lee Bergere) to guide him through his daily routine.
The last third of Season Two escalates into a powerhouse of dramatic tension. Fallon learns she is pregnant with Jeff's baby and eventually gives birth to a son they name Blake Jr. After spying for Cecil and even sleeping with Jeff in order to steal his keys to Denver Carrington's secret files, Claudia learns that Cecil has been lying to her about Matthew and Lindsay's whereabouts. Already mentally unhinged, Claudia plans to shoot Cecil. But Krystal discovers the gun first. The two women struggle and Claudia is wounded in the head. On the eve that Alexis is set to marry Cecil Colby (Lloyd Bochner) on the Carrington estate, he suffers a massive heart attack and has to be hospitalized. Blake Jr. is kidnapped and Claudia, having once more lost her grip on reality, disappears into the night without a trace, thus becoming the prime suspect.
Unfortunately, Blake's time with Nick Toscanni has run out. In the first of Dynasty's many memorable season cliff hangers, Nick unsuccessfully attempts to seduce Krystal - then decides to go after Blake at the mountaintop retreat where he and Krystal are vacationing. Nick confronts Blake on horseback. Blake is thrown down a steep ravine and left for dead just as a violent storm approaches. Thus ends, Dynasty Season Two with just about all the high stakes drama one could hope for in a ‘prime time’ soap. In hindsight, the season's strengths are decidedly its more tightly crafted interwoven narratives, the shifting of bitchiness from Fallon to the scheming Alexis and the introduction of James Farantino to the cast. It is a genuine pity the latter was written out of the series, because Farantino manages to convey great menace throughout Season Two
Paramount/CBS Home Video assumes the distribution rights for Season Two of Dynasty - the last season to be released in its entirety as a single package. Image quality is vastly improved over the Fox presentation of Season One (though still not the best it could be) with superior color fidelity and contrast levels. Flesh tones are quite naturally realized and there is a considerable amount of fine detail evident throughout.
Edge enhancement is practically non-existent, but the image is marred by a considerable amount of age related dirt and scratches. Also, various dupes within several episodes appear to have been sourced from less than original negatives - resulting in a few brief but distracting and very grainy inserts. The audio is mono as originally recorded but adequate for this presentation. The one extra feature that Paramount deems to bestow on us is a pathetic 'interactive' family tree that provides a sort of 'six degrees' of separation who's/ who, but with very sketchy details. Otherwise, Season Two comes recommended!
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)

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