At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

CORONET BLUE – THE COMPLETE SERIES (KINO/Lorber)

By • Sep 25th, 2017 •

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DVD review by Roy Frumkes


Peerless idea man Larry Cohen created this odd one-season series, which pushed for almost Lynch-like or McGoohan-like surrealism a year after THE PRISONER shook up complacent living-room viewers. Though it wasn’t directly influenced by THE PRISONER, having been shot before the Brit series premiered, it couldn’t not have had an influence on the BOURNE films – protagonist dredged out of the water, wounded, with amnesia, pursued by malevolent forces as he tries to remember who he is, and what the meaning is of the McGuffin – the words ‘Coronet blue.’

Although the lighting by Andrew (THE WARRIORS, SOUTHERN COMFORT, FIRST BLOOD) Laszlo is TV-bright, and lead actor Converse seems too old for the role, too hysterical at the slightest provocation, and is constantly sweating which is unpleasant to watch…despite such things, and the series’ constant striving for weirdness, it undeniably has its quirky virtues. If you end up getting hooked, don’t feel bad, it’s only 650 minutes out of your life.

The opening salvo is directed by Paul Bogart. Even his theatrical features (eg. faux-noir MARLOWE) looked like TV in the theaters. And the script doesn’t do justice to Cohen’s concept. All involved are having trouble finding their footing.

Episode 2 is very 36 HOURS. Everyone is in on the scam except for our protag. Janet (DAVID AND LISA, MORITURI) Margolin is a pleasant treat. The director is Lamont (THE EXECUTION OF PRIVATE SLOVIK, A GUNFIGHT, THE MCKENZIE BREAK) Johnson, who does better with the material than his predecessor.

Episode 3 is a compressed version of GETTING STRAIGHT (1970, 2 hrs 4 mins), even having Candice Bergen as the lead. It steps away from the paranoid, FUGITIVE-type plot line and pontificates on academic integrity. Silly and over-acted, with terribly pretentious dialogue and jokes, it ends better then it began, and features a truly outrageous cast of co-stars, including Bergen, Richard Kiley, Jon Voight and John Carradine. There were series back then that didn’t get lucky with any of their guest stars, so the casting department for CORONET BLUE exhibited almost psychic gifts regarding who would make it to the big time.

Episode 4 – A DOZEN DEMONS – finds Converse pursued by an unknown assassin with a silenced gun. Rescued by a monk-in-training (Brian Bedford), he skips out on the monastery with the monk in pursuit, to solve the mystery of his life. An edit away and they’re working in an eaterie, washing dishes? Bedford lingers around for several more episodes. There is a heavily surreal component to this one, clearly going for that prescient PRISONER vibe.

If the guest stars in episode 3 weren’t spectacular enough, Episode 11 gives them a run for their money. Famed DJ Murray the ‘K’ plays a raucous DJ. Sally Kellerman, still looks like the stoned-out amazon she played in the Star Trek TV pilot the year before. Peter Duchin more or less plays himself. And get this – Dick Clark plays the heavy! And there’s more: Murray and Dick are excellent, at ease in front of the close-up camera and definitely inhabiting their characters. Converse is only in half the show, which is a smart move, and Bedford gets the shit beat out of him, which isn’t such a terrible idea either. After the stumbles and flat notes of the first batch of shows, an episode like this one practically makes up for the rest. If you have an affectionate spot in your heart for the old days of Rock ‘n Roll, you might want to keep this release just for installment 11.

The 13th and final episode was written by Waldo (MIDNIGHT COWBOY, DAY OF THE LOCUSTS, SERPICO) Salt, and it’s a literate, enlightening screenplay, which weakens a bit at the very end. Keye Luke gives an intelligent performance as a martial arts instructor.

And then there’s the supplement – 12 minutes with Larry Cohen. He compares the McGuffin – ‘Coronet Blue’ with another mystery word, ‘Rosebud.’ He explains the genesis of the show, and expresses a certain amount of disappointment with the budgets allotted. He also reveals the never-filmed ending to the series, and the meaning of the enigmatic title. Over the interview’s end credits he sings the theme song, which apparently has persisted in people’s minds long after the show itself has faded.

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