DVD Review: Dallas (The Movie Collection)

Why after 14 seasons of Dallas on DVD do you sense the saga of J.R. Ewing isn’t complete? There’s a nagging sensation that something is missing from those numerous volumes on the shelf. Turns out things weren’t finished with the final episode. There was enough dastardly backstabbing left to fill two TV movies starring most of the key cast. Dallas isn’t complete without these and now CBS Paramount has brought them together, along with a prequel movie and a cast reunion, on what truly is the final installment of the original series.

Dallas: The Early Years (1986 – 140 minutes) aired in the middle of the series run during the eighth season. The TV event gave viewers the early years of the feuding clans that had only been spoken in whispers or screamed in the middle of brawls. Larry Hagman opens up to a reporter wishing to know what caused the riff between Digger Barnes (David Grant ) and Jock Ewing (Dale Midkiff). He claims he can’t be any help, but that doesn’t end the special. Turns out that at the height of the Great Depression, Jock Ewing and Digger were hobos on a boxcar. The down on their luck duo prospect for oil instead of becoming singing sensations like Boxcar Willie. The men quickly strike something more valuable than black gold in Miss Ellie (Molly Hagan). Their relationship quickly sours when they compete for her love. Is it a spoiler if you know who she eventually choose? It’s an enjoyable backstory that doesn’t require you to watch the previous seven seasons.

Dallas: J.R. Returns (1996 – 94 minutes) takes place five years after the series finale. J.R. returns to Dallas ready to retake Ewing Oil from Cliff Barnes. Turned out the series finale cliffhanger was a lie. Not only must he get back the family business, J.R. must worry about Bobby selling Southfork. What’s going to be left of the guy other than a sneer and a cowboy hat? The battle over stuff is overtaken by a desire to get the intangibles back in his life like the love of his wife. There’s another shocking death and reveal later in the movie.

Dallas: War of the Ewings (1998 – 86 minutes) recreates the shocking Bobby shower scene to tease the audience. Hard to say what happens here without spoiling the ending of J.R. Returns. The family once more battles over financial intrigue. George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke) takes part in the scheme.

Dallas Reunion: Return to Southfork (2004 – 87 minutes) is a Texas-sized family reunion. The cast recounts all the major moments from the series. They bring them out to the real Southfork Ranch. There’s home movies from the set and bloopers to make things interesting. Southfork might be the third most famous private house in America behind Graceland and the Playboy Mansion. This is a good introduction to the series for newbies curious about starting to collect the 13 boxsets (Seasons 1 & 2 were combined) and finishing up with this set. You might want to watch it soon since TNT is reviving the show next season. Then there will be another boxset of J.R.’s cunning moves.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer look fine. Dallas Reunion was shot on video. The one odd thing is Dallas: The Early Years is in a 1.78:1 anamorphic format, but with bars on either side so the 1.33:1 image is maintained. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo for all, but The Early Years. That’s in Dolby Digital Mono. The sound is fine. You can clearly hear the backstabbing. The subtitles are in English and French.

No extras have been included.

Dallas (Movie Collection) plays on both ends of this monumental prime time soap opera. The Early Years sets up the mystery of how two titans began their generational feud. J.R. Returns and War of the Ewings brings back the regulars for two more adventures. Finally Reunion lets them step out of character and recount their time at Southfork. The complete Ewing saga is now out on DVD. That’s worthy of a Texas-sized marathon starting and ending with this boxset.

Warner Home Video presents Dallas: Movie Collection. Starring: Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy and George Kennedy. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: May 24, 2011. Available at Amazon.com