Takes Q's, Kicks A's!
Has anyone ever had as much success (and fun) playing himself as R. Lee Ermey? For many moviegoers, he will always be the Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, the almost maniacal drill instructor from Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. However, of late he has been having a blast and educating audiences over on The History Channel with Mail Call, his look at historical military terms and trivia both obscure and commonplace. This disc, as you can probably tell from the title, collects seven episodes that Ermey considers the best of Season One.
The wide variety of questions asked by Ermey's viewers guarantees that each episode of Mail Call is a grab bag of interesting historical nuggets. Through it all, Ermey's enthusiasm and charisma make each segment interesting and entertaining, and occasionally quite funny. From medieval armor to Civil War cannons to the latest high-tech military gear, Ermey is a gung-ho tour guide having more fun than a kid in a candy store. You want to know how to drive a WWII tank? Ermey is only too happy to show you. You want to know how a grenade launcher works? He will demonstrate, with relish. Ever wonder exactly how knights wore their armor? Good ol' R. Lee will happily get himself bashed with a sword to show you how it's done. The show moves along quickly and gives some interesting information along with a dose of Ermey's trademark bluster.
Video quality on this History Channel release is a little spotty. Ermey and his crew travel around to a lot of different locations, as well as depending on stock footage from time to time, so the original film elements tend to vary in quality. Even the best footage, that of Ermey in controlled conditions sitting in front of a tent to answer the mail, shows a lot of digital flaws. Edge enhancement abounds; I know Ermey probably thinks he's eligible for sainthood, but the halos on this DVD are ridiculous. Aliasing is a huge problem in just about any curved surface. The audio is presented in a nice but basically unremarkable Dolby 2.0 Stereo. Like all History Channel discs, there are no subtitles.
My main beef with this disc is the exclusion of my favorite episodes. I mean really, R. Lee—how can you consider this a "best of" Season One and not include the show with the samurai swords? How can you miss out on the one with Revolutionary War muskets and jousting?
All told, Mail Call: The Best of Season 1 is a reasonably fun and educational way to spend a few hours. Is it worth a purchase? Probably only to hardcore fans of the show. A rental certainly wouldn't hurt, however, if this sort of thing is up your alley.
Semper Fi and carry on!
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