Archive DVD labels #1: Network

Network DVD (http://www.networkdvd.net) is one of the premier archive television DVD labels in the United Kingdom, mainly releasing material first transmitted on ITV (with the exception of Southern Television programmes, which have been released through Simply Home Entertainment).

Starting life as a video label, they have built up a wide-ranging list of dramas, comedies, soap operas, and children’s programmes since moving into the DVD market, and have also started releasing a small number of Blu-Rays. One specialism has been compilation sets (ITC at 50, Look Back on 70s Telly, Soap Box) which provide sample episodes of series which may later get a full release, or to showcase orphan episodes which would otherwise languish in the archives.

Network release their titles either through the usual retailers, or via their website as web exclusives. You may find their titles on the high street, but usually at extremely high prices, so it is best to shop around. Their oldest titles, a compilation of Public Information Films (Charley Says) and the complete Robin of Sherwood, have remained top sellers, while well-loved recent series such as Heartbeat sell in high enough numbers to support more niche releases.

Early titles included booklets giving further information on the titles included, but this has stopped in the last couple of years; however, the product remains high-quality, with titles long forgotten now making it back into commercial release, and a policy of consultation which has led to some titles being suggested by customers and eventually cleared for sale. Recently Network have announced a partnership with Studio Canal to release material from ABC (Public Eye, Armchair Theatre), as well as the Edgar Wallace Mysteries, which were originally shown in cinemas as B features.

A sample of Network’s DVD catalogue:

Television drama: Armchair Theatre (2 volumes, a third in planning); Armchair Thriller (excluding the two dramas produced by Southern TV); Armchair Cinema; The Buccaneers; The Adventures of Robin Hood; The Adventures of William Tell; Alan Plater at ITV; Jack Rosenthal at ITV; Laurence Olivier Presents; Thriller; Band of Gold; Upstairs Downstairs; Thomas and Sarah; The Hanged Man; The Bass Player and the Blonde; South Riding; Floodtide; Travelling Man; Crown Court (6 volumes); The Adam Dalgliesh Chronicles; Napoleon and Love; Six Days of Justice; Justice; The Beiderbecke Trilogy; The Blackheath Poisonings; HG Wells’ The Invisible Man; The Caesars; Jamaica Inn (now OOP); Clayhanger; Disraeli; Will Shakespeare; Beasts; Scorpion Tales; The Good Companions; The Main Chance (3 volumes, a fourth in planning); Red Letter Days; Mr Palfrey Goes to Westminster; The Zoo Gang; The Protectors; Van der Valk; The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (2 volumes); Shadows of Fear; Tales of the Unexpected; Jemima Shore Investigates; Smuggler; The Gold Robbers; The Chain; Cause Celebre; Framed; Twelfth Night; Coronation Street – 1972; Dennis Potter at LWT (2 volumes); Espionage – Michael Powell; A Kind of Loving; Lady Killers (1 volume, a second in planning)

Television comedy: Ripping Yarns (BBC); Agony; Romany Jones (2 volumes); The Galton and Simpson Playhouse; The Strange World of Gurney Slade

Films: Hitchcock – The British Years; Movie Movie; Cottage to Let; Quartet / Trio / Encore; Paul Robeson Collection; Vice Versa; The Thief of Bagdad; The Private Life of Henry VIII; Black Narcissus

Children’s television: Pipkins (3 volumes); Saturday Morning Pictures (Children’s Film Foundation)

Compilations: Soap Box; Look Back on 70s Telly (4 volumes); ITC at 50

Miscellaneous: Frost on Friday / Saturday / Sunday; Sunday Night at the London Palladium (2 volumes); Unknown Chaplin; Buster Keaton Chronicles (most of Keaton’s silent features); The Royal Ballet

Whatever Network’s faults – and there have been comments about the quality of their transfers at times – they are to be applauded for releasing material which would never see the light of day elsewhere, particularly series made in black and white. Now they have started releasing material from the BBC again it is possible we might see a run of comedies to complement the archive BBC drama being released through Acorn (and to a lesser extent, 2entertain). They have also come back from potential disaster as a large chunk of their back catalogue was destroyed in the Sony warehouse fire last summer, and are now considering a move into the digital downloads market. Very much a case of ‘watch this space’.

About Louise Penn

Writer, reviewer, fan. View all posts by Louise Penn

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