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“The Murder of Mary Phagan” (DVD-R - Burn-On-Demand)
Wayne Klein
Studio: MGM
Release Date:
Special Features:



Once all the rage the mini-series format introduced the concept of a story arc to regular hour long TV shows. While the mini-series itself has fallen by the wayside except for the cable networks. “The Murder of Mary Phagan” was produced back in 1987 and featured a terrific cast including the late Jack Lemmon, the late Richard Jordan and the late Robert Prosky as well as Peter Gallagher, Rebecca Miller, the late Paul Dooley, Charles S. Dutton, Kevin Spacey (early in his career), Cynthia Nixon and Dylan Baker in a mini-series based on a true story that occurred in 1913. ***

Phagan (Wendy J. Cooke) worked at a pencil factory in Georgia and was strangled with her body left in the basement of the place she worked. The last person to see her alive Leo Frank (Gallagher) became the prime suspect, was arrested, tried and sent to prison based on the testimony of co-workers and subordinates that were often inaccurate or, in some cases, lies designed to enhance the reputation of others including the prime witness (Cynthia Nixon) who told her “tale” to gain fame. Coupled with the testimony of the factory janitor (Dutton) who is believed to have actually murdered the woman, Frank had no chance in court particularly when the prosecutor (Jordan) excluded evidence that suggested Frank was innocent. ***

Although there’s considerable embellishment of the facts of the case in this mini-series, the script and direction remains largely true to the facts including the fact that the real reason Conley was never a suspect was due to simple racism—the police couldn’t believe that a black man could have come up with the story he ended up telling the police when they initially investigated the case. ---

Image & Sound:

A DVD-R burned on demand, “The Murder of Mary Phagan” looks quite good in its DVD debut. There’s a considerable amount of speckles evident particularly during the titles for each episode and while image clarity improves during the course of the episode there’s also some noticeable dirt in the presentation here. It’s clear that while MGM found the best possible source (at the time) for the mini-series that the show could have used some digital touch up work something that rarely occurs with burn-on-demand TV shows or vintage TV series. Over all the image quality is good although there are shots where the image is downright soft and occasionally blurry. ***

The original soundtrack sounds solid with dialogue up front and clear most of the time.

Special Features:

It would be nice because you know that MGM probably has some promotional pieces in their vaults for the series. Considering the high profile cast it would have been nice to get some interviews or a commentary track but typically that’s not something you get with a burn-on-demand DVD. ---

Final Words:

A surprisingly good mini-series with a strong supporting cast, good writing, direction and production values, the MGM burn-on-demand DVD-R features a good looking transfer that has occasional minor issues with dirt, speckles and an occasional soft image. Over all the mini-series looks quite nice given the vintage material.


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