Immensely enjoyable and full of charm, despite moments of machismo and sexism
The Professionals Mk1 Blu-ray Review
“Anarchy, acts of terror, crimes against the public. To combat it I've got special men - experts from the army, the police, from every service - these are The Professionals”So says George Cowley head of CI5, a fierce leader whose officers Bodie (Lewis Collins) and Doyle (Martin Shaw) enforce law and order according to Cowley’s direct instruction. The above characters were created by Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell for the TV show The Professionals which aired on British TV between 1977 and 1983. The show was a hard hitting police drama whose idea was the creation of a new division to deal with an unstoppable tide of criminal activity – CI5 were somewhere between the S.A.S. and Special Branch their ‘loophole’ allowing a James Bond ‘licence to kill’ approach to policing. This made the show very different to other police shows of the time.The first season was beset with problems including last minute cast changes, uncooperative actors, tensions on set and filming and budgetary delays; but looking at it now you would never know; it is polished, contemporary and contains episodes that tackle some very sticky subjects. Indeed the whole of the first season is without any real dips in quality, even if the ideas in place might be farfetched. Each director gives the scripts a sense of pace, all three main actors, are really on their game and the slightly antagonistic relationship between Collins and Shaw makes for an electric tension. Fans of the show, or anyone interested in hard hitting police stories that tackle a myriad of ideas should check it out - Highly Recommended.
What is The Professionals Mk1 Blu-ray Picture QualityThe disc presents a broadcast correct 1.33:1 1080i transfer using the AVC codec and is Region free. The packaging announces that the set has been restored from the original camera negative, and having been used to the terrible quality of the cable reruns (that are even now being shown) the resulting image is nothing short of astonishing; as the packaging says: it’s like seeing them for the first time!
The image detail is remarkable, from Cowley’s wrinkles to Bodies keen eyes, from Doyle’s bomber jacket’s to the boy’s pistols, from the distance shots that overlook London to the distance shots that cover lush areas of grass land; posters that adorn walls are perfectly legible, brickwork on buildings is clear and defined everything has a keen edge and looks as though it could have been filmed yesterday.
The set has been restored from the original camera negative and the resulting image is nothing short of astonishing.
Colours are, for the most part, well definfed, the primaries do hold up very well, greens are suitably lush, reds are bold and blues remain cool, though the style of filming did not go for strong bold colouring, it looks, as it should, like film. Flesh tones are somewhat pale, but this again is down to the style and they always look perfectly natural. There is one caveat to all of this, the first two episodes are colour timed slightly differently, though this might be due to the film stock being used; they are marginally more yellow than later episodes.
Brightness and contrast are set to give excellent blacks that really add to the depth of the frame, more so that you would usually credit a 70’s TV show. The stark reality that the style was aiming for comes to the fore with a black level which gives punch and shadow detail in equal measures.
Digitally there are no compression problems, no edge enchantment or banding issues.The original print is in near pristine condition after the clean-up (check out the series 2 titles restoration feature on the extras) with only the very occasional sight of damage, grain is well maintained, but what is visible is an incredible amount is hair trapped in the camera gate – lost count on how many occasions I saw this! But other than this minor quibble, these episodes are, seriously, the best they have ever looked and rival modern shows in their presentation.
How does The Professionals Mk1 Blu-ray SoundSeveral choices: a re-mastered dts-HD MA 5.1 surround track, the original mono track and a music-only soundtrack. I opted for the surround track which, much like the picture, is a revelation. However, don’t expect modern day standards when it comes to effects, they aren’t there, but as a sound field that is open and realistic, this is the place. Dialogue is clean, clear and precise, dominated by the frontal array, which sounds very natural and Cowley’s brogue has never sounded so intense. Stereo effects are limited but well realised, aircraft fly overs, vehicle movements and gun shots are the best examples of speaker play. Laurie Johnson’s epic score does very well in the remix, being strong and vibrant with plenty given over to the low end and probably does the best with the stereo as well. Bass itself is well realised, LF effects are surprisingly sparse, but the sub comes alive to help give weight to gun shots, explosions, thumps, vehicles etc. but seldom are there any deep rumbles that modern fare are want to give.
Cowley’s brogue has never sounded so intense.
The mono track is cleaned up just as well, but sounds very limited compared to the above, while the music only track is just as good and highlights just how great Johnson’s score really was. Terrific stuff all round.
The Professionals Mk1 Blu-ray ExtrasSurprisingly limited really, however there is one gem.
Without Walls – A thirty minute feature filmed in 1996 and covers interviews with Collins, Shaw and Clemens who all tell similar, but slightly different, stories of their time on the show. It’s chequered past is well covered and the antagonistic relationships are not glossed over. It’s not quite a warts and all telling, but it serves as a great introduction to those that don’t know just how inharmonious the filming actually was. A real gem if you’ve not seen it before.
The rest of the extras are patchy at best; raw credits, closing credits with the CI5 title, advert break bumpers (missed this in the show, funnily enough), PDF material accessed by via computer (I never looked at this), a restoration demo of the series 2 opening titles (astonishing what has been achieved), HD gallery of each of the episodes, some extended and additional material (very limited) and finally a very comprehensive book titled Film Notes, by TV historian Andrew Pixley, who talks about the shows conception, early problems before going into the minutest detail about the production of each episode in this first season.
Is The Professionals Mk1 Blu-ray Worth BuyingWhat’s not to love about The Professionals? It’s hard hitting, violent, but noteworthy scripts are delivered in an uncomplicated and extremely watchable way; some plots even hold water today; and the likable, though antagonistic, relationships between the three leads is extremely enjoyable. This set covers the first thirteen episodes presented in the original production order (something the broadcasters failed to adhere to) which, while each episode is independent, does give a feeling of continuity especially when you see the professional relationship bloom between Collins and Shaw. It is immensely enjoyable, full of charm – the occasional macho, sexism and tone of several episodes notwithstanding – and still holds up to repeatable viewing even against modern TV fare.
What’s not to love about The Professionals?
Network’s set has breathed life into what has for years been very ropey looking show on cable reruns – the clean-up is nothing short of a revelation with a picture that has to be seen to be believed with colour balance, detail and black level that rivals modern viewing; the 5.1 surround track opens up the sound stage giving more urgency to the dynamics and whilst the extras are a little bit limited, the 1996 short documentary does cover most of the bases and is well worth a visit. MK1 is well worth time and investment; roll on MK2!
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