Review: Alcatraz on DVD & Blu-ray
ALCATRAZ, the all too short lived drama from executive producer J.J. Abrams (Fringe, Lost, Star Trek) recently got it’s DVD and Blu-ray release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
The show revolves around America’s most infamous prison, the one-time home to the nation’s worst murderers, rapists, kidnappers, thieves and arsonists, where it turns out Alcatraz wasn’t closed because of it’s dilapidation and running costs as history would have you believe, but because in 1963 all the inmates mysteriously vanished…
The story opens with San Francisco Police Department detective Rebecca Madsen (SARAH JONES – House) chasing down a grisly homicide, where a fingerprint leads her to a shocking suspect: Jack Sylvane, (JEFFREY PIERCE – CSI). Shocking because Sylvane is an Alcatraz inmate who died over 30 years ago… Given her family history – both her grandfather and surrogate uncle, Ray Archer, were guards at the prison – Madsen’s interest is immediately piqued, and once the enigmatic government agent Emerson Hauser (SAM NEILL – Jurassic Park, The Tudors) tries to impede her investigation, she’s doggedly committed.
Madsen turns to Alcatraz expert and comic book enthusiast Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto (JORGE GARCIA – Lost) to piece together the inexplicable sequence of events. The two discover that Sylvane is not only alive, but he’s loose on the streets of San Francisco, exacting decades-old revenge and leaving bodies in his wake. Strangely, he hasn’t aged a day since 1963 when Alcatraz was ruled by the iron-fisted Warden Edwin James and the sadistic Associate Warden E.B. Tiller.
Madsen and Soto reluctantly team with Hauser and his technician, Lucy Banerjee (PARMINDER NAGRA – Bend It Like Beckham, ER), to stop Sylvane’s vengeful killing spree. By delving into Alcatraz history, government cover-ups and Madsen’s own heritage, the team will ultimately discover that Sylvane is only a small part of a much larger, more sinister present-day threat. For while he may be the first to reappear from Alcatraz, it quickly becomes clear that Sylvane won’t be the last…
Through the course of the investigation, Madsen and Soto will learn that Hauser has been awaiting the prisoners’ return for nearly 50 years. Soto will witness his life’s work – the history of Alcatraz – come alive. Madsen will be forced to keep her supportive San Francisco cop fiancé, Jimmy Dickens, at arm’s length from the highly classified assignment as she sees everything she thought she knew about her family’s past shattered, all while fighting to keep the country safe from history’s most dangerous criminals.
Although ALCATRAZ only ran for one season, it’s really hard to say why it didn’t grab US audiences the way it should have. It blends element from other genre shows like The 4400, and X-Files into a solid weekly ‘twisty, turny’ drama, with a great underlying plot device which unfolds a little more each episode. Why are the ’63’s (the inmates) back? Are they working together? And if so, who’s orchestrating it? The acting is solid throughout, from Neill’s wonderfully dark and mysterious Hauser, to Garcia’s entertainingly and humanising, geeky ‘Doc’. Also the use of jumping back to seeing the inmates in 60’s Alcatraz to explain their actions today worked really well. There really is very little to fault it on. You do get the feeling this is one of those shows that could have really taken off in it’s second season, but sadly that wasn’t to be…
The release includes a host of extras including:
- The Allure of Alcatraz (featurette): Fans will discover what attracted the creators to this island. The cast members will also discuss their roles and share their memories of working on Alcatraz. Finally, the art department reveals the efforts behind re-animating the mood, tone, and mystery of this iconic landmark. Although, a quick warning – DON’T watch it before watching the season, as it’s full of spoilers!
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
8/10 – A great, solid, mystery drama series.
Dave has over 20 years experience in the digital industry, and is founder and editor of Geektown. Obviously a huge geek himself, he can often be found in front of the latest tv show or movie, on various video games, or with his head in a comic book.