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Aged to Perfection

From 'All Creatures Great & Small' to 'Bewitched,' vintage fare makes a new splash.


Video shelves have sprouted into a couch potato's garden of Eden thanks to the recent release of several vintage TV series and movies on home video.

For Anglophiles, there's the BBC Video's "All Creatures Great & Small" set ($100). The six-tape collection includes all 13 episodes from the first season of the lovely British series, which aired on PBS in 1979. The show was based on James Herriot's heartwarming bestsellers about his experiences as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales.

The splendid cast includes Christopher Timothy as Herriot, Robert Hardy as his boss, Siegfried Farnon, and Peter Davison as Siegfried's carefree younger brother, Tristan. Have your hankies ready.

A&E Home Video's "More Cracker Mysteries" set ($60) features three episodes from the gritty British crime series "Cracker," which aired for five seasons on A&E. Robbie Coltrane is amazing as the troubled but brilliant police shrink Dr. Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald. The award-winning series was the basis for ABC's short-lived 1997 American version.

To order call (800) 423-1212.

For PBS "Masterpiece Theatre" and "Mystery!" buffs, Anchor Bay is offering three recent installments: "Painted Lady" ($30), a thriller starring Helen Mirren as a washed-up blues singer; "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman" ($40), a P.D. James mystery starring Helen Baxendale ("Friends") as private detective Cordelia Gray; and the acclaimed new version of Thomas Hardy's classic novel "Far From the Madding Crowd" ($30).

Before Michael Douglas became an Oscar-winning superstar, he was partnered with Karl Malden on the popular '70s ABC detective series "The Streets of San Francisco." Republic Home Video's new collection includes the two-hour pilot and Douglas' final appearance on the series in 1976. Each tape ($15) features two episodes from the series.

Comedy lovers should get some yuks out of Columbia/TriStar's latest additions to its "TV Screen Gems" line ($10 each): "All in the Family," "The Partridge Family," "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeannie." Each tape features three episodes of the enduring sitcoms. The "All in the Family" installments include the first episode and the classic Sammy Davis Jr. appearance. Farrah Fawcett and Richard Pryor visit the "Partridge Family," and Don Rickles, Bob Denver and Flip Wilson are among the celebs who pop up on "Jeannie."

The offbeat '70s series "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" was a major influence on "X-Files" creator Chris Carter. In fact, "Night Stalker" star Darren McGavin was a guest last season on "X-Files."

The two ABC TV movies that inspired "Night Stalker" have finally made their long-awaited video debuts (Anchor Bay, $15 each). Both films are delicious, clever and scary fun. "The Night Stalker," from 1971, finds McGavin's down-on-his-luck reporter investigating a series of bizarre murders in Las Vegas. In 1972's "The Night Strangler," he's assigned to investigate a series of puzzling murders in Seattle. McGavin is terrific.

Sci-fi fanatics will want to check out the four episodes new to video from the second season of the syndicated series "Deep Space Nine" (Paramount, $15 each), as well as three more vintage episodes from the campy '60s series "Lost in Space" (Fox, $25 for the set; $15 each).

Columbia House Video Library's re-tv is offering two new collector's editions: "Hawaii Five-O," starring Jack Lord as the steely Steve McGarrett, and the sitcom "Mr. Ed," starring Alan Young as Wilbur and Mr. Ed as himself. Each "Hawaii Five-O" video includes two uncut, remastered episodes from the 1968-80 detective series; the "Mr. Ed" tapes each contain four episodes from the '60s cult sitcom. The first installment in each collection is $5; subsequent tapes are $20. To order call (800) 638-2922.

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