Saturday, February 26, 2011

DYNASTY: Season 4 Volume 1 (Spelling 1985) Paramount/CBS Home Video

Before delving into the various machinations of plot in Dynasty Season Four - Volume One: I would like to stress the pointlessness of studio greed that chops television seasons into two volumes, simply to take advantage of the consumer and charge more money for their product. Television shows come to us in full seasons during their original aired broadcasts. Hence, there is little to encourage this continuation of giving us only half a year's worth of that experience - particularly when we are dealing with soap operas that build their story lines to a crescendo throughout a single season. Enough said.
Season Four: Volume One picks up exactly where Season Three Volume Two ended: inside Steven's (Jack Coleman) cabin, aflame with Krystal (Linda Evans) and Alexis (Joan Collins) trapped inside. Unfortunately for the show's creators Richard and Esther Shapiro, Season Four begins on a rather sour note - fundamentally flawed with too many all too convenient narrative tie ins that, in hindsight, do not make very much practical sense.
We begin with screams for help. Krystal's cries are heard by Mark Jennings (Geoffrey Scott), who somehow just happens to be nearby and breaks down the door, allowing Krystal to pass, while carrying the unconscious Alexis to safety. Mark's arrival is never entirely explained. What was he doing at the cabin? How did he know anyone was inside it to even attempt a rescue? Unhappy circumstance for Mark that he doesn't seem to know these answers either and thus becomes the police's prime suspect for setting the cabin on fire in the first place.
Meanwhile, the usually stable Joseph (Lee Bergere) loses his grip on reality - a plot entanglement even more feeble than Mark's presence at the cabin. In previous seasons, Joseph is the peerless Major Domo of the Carrington mansion, equally adept at managing the estate staff as he is at drawing subtle innuendo out of Alexis. Presumably, because he could not bear to have Kirby (Kathleen Beller) learn the truth about her mother from Alexis, Joseph confesses to having set the blaze that trapped both she and Krystal, before taking his own life with a pistol.
Meanwhile, Blake (John Forsythe) tries to gain custody of Blake Jr., using Steven's homosexuality as the chief reason for his being unfit to raise the boy himself. Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear) lies on the witness stand to further ruin Steven's chances of keeping Blake Jr. But Claudia (Pamela Bellwood) proposes that she and Steven wed in Reno - having once had a brief affair with Steven before she entered the sanatorium. Steven agrees and the judge declares the couple as Blake Jr.'s rightful parents. Adam (Gordon Thomson) switches the original purchase sheets for the mercurochrome oxide with copies he has fooled Alexis into signing. Next, Adam confronts Blake with the forged copies and Blake, in turn, uses these to blackmail Alexis into giving Jeff (John James) back his shares of Colby Co. stock. He also foils the merger between Colby Co. and Denver Carrington.
In an attempt to break out of the insular Carrington/Colby world, three new and devious, though largely forgettable faces join the cast of Season Four; Deborah Adair as scheming Denver Carrington P.R. maven, Tracy Kendall; Helmut Berger as unscrupulous playboy/drug smuggler, Peter De Vilbis and Michael Nader as wealthy rival businessman, Farnsworth 'Dex' Dexter. Only the latter will have any staying power beyond this season.
After Blake appoints Krystal the head of Denver Carrington's public relations Tracy works to submarine Krystal's chances for success while gaining access to Denver Carrington's top secret files. Krystal agrees to marry Blake for a second time. At a horse race, Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) meets the arrogant Peter De Vilbis; the bad girl within her instantly becoming smitten. Peter introduces Fallon to the drug culture and then feebly plots to blackmail Blake by having one of his own prized race horses stolen from Blake’s stables. Neither narrative thread has any real staying power. Both quickly fizzle in due course before the cliff hanger.
Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger taunts Claudia by telephone with recordings of her late husband Matthew - nearly pushing Claudia over the edge of her already fragile mental state. Blake learns that Adam raped Kirby (Kathleen Beller) and that it is his child - not Jeff's - she is carrying. Separated from Jeff, Kirby agrees to Adam's rather sincere marriage proposal, though shortly thereafter her health takes a turn for the worst.
Season Four is a mess of plot entanglements, none of which seem to gel for more than two or three episodes at a time. Secondary characters come and go, having little or no impact on the existing Carrington/Colby clan or any hope of establishing their own longevity within this claptrap of implausible narrative threads. After the exhilarating intrigues of Season Two and Three, Season Four Part One is decidedly a letdown.
Paramount Home Video's transfers are an improvement over their work on Season Three. Edge enhancement still exists, but it has been greatly reduced for an image that is overall smooth and satisfying. Color fidelity remains solid. However, colors seem less vibrant than on previous seasons. Contrast levels also seem slightly softer than before. The audio is mono as originally recorded and adequate for this presentation.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)

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