'Little House on the Prairie: Legacy Movie Set'
(Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Karen Grassle, Dean Butler, Victor French, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / LGF)
Overview: Experience 'Little House On The Prairie' like you’ve never seen it before with newly restored and remastered uncut episodes when it arrives on DVD (plus Digital) and Digital HD on September 13th from Lionsgate.
DVD Verdict: The story of the Ingalls family concludes with these three heartwarming movies—newly restored and remastered for optimal sound and picture quality. Say farewell to this legendary western drama with three movie adventures: Look Back to Yesterday, Bless All the Dear Children, and The Last Farewell.
As we all know by now, this delightful television series is based on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957), who wrote the story of her family's life on the prairie. I read these books growing up and then loved the TV series as well. Michael Landon, that I had seen on "Bonanza", was the icing on the cake: one of my favorite actors helping to tell one of my favorite stories.
As a young kid, I was aware that some of the issues on the program were very serious, but I still considered it, like many of you, to be a 'family' program; sweet, sappy, and moralistic. As the years have worn on, I've watched the program in reruns. Lately, for the past 2-3 months, I've been watching back-to-back reruns nearly everyday, and have been extremely surprised at the darker layers to 'Little House' that I guess most people never picked up.
Indeed, here's some of the darker subjects tackled on 'Little House' - murder, corruption, child rape/abuse/endangerment, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, accusations of adultery, etc. From this list you'd think you I was talking about a show you couldn't watch with your family. 'Little House' also dealt with death, destruction of one's home, the evils of gossip, alcoholism, divorce, kidnapping, racism/xenophobia/religious persecution, personal crisis, loss of faith, etc.
Sure, some episodes tried to have a resolution at the end of 60 minutes, but most did not. The characters were not perfect by a long shot; not even the main character Laura or even the Reverend Alden. I highly recommend 'Little House' to adults wanting to try something different out, but these days I might well be preaching to the choir of the already-converted, of course.
The first TV movie is 'Look Back to Yesterday' (1983), where we discover that Albert Quinn Ingalls wants to be a doctor. But soon he discovers that he is fatally ill. He decides to spend the rest of his life in Walnut Grove. Meanwhile children from school are preparing for their traditional climbing of the mountain. Indeed, his last romance, which could have been a sad tale of the lost dreams of a sick boy, is a beautiful rendering of a love which has no time in this world, but is sweet in all the sadness.
I'm not a religious person. I'm not sure what I believe in. But the strength of faith which has lead Michael Landon and Victor French to create a world so poignant and strong, so memorable and so believable based on the unforgettable stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder is admirable. What I do know is that Michael Landon himself died from pancreatic cancer in 1991, a few years after the Little House ended and two years after the death of his friend and co-star through many years Victor French.
Next up is 'Bless All the Dear Children' (1984), where during preparation for a Christmas baby, Rose Wilder is kidnapped by the woman who recently lost her child. Looking for her Laura, Almanzo and Mr Edwards meet lonely orphan boy, who finally stays with that woman. Now, I myself enjoy LHOTP, but this Christmas special seemed lacking on so many levels. First of all, it was obviously summer when it was filmed. The trees were green and nobody was wearing jackets. Had Walnut Grove been south of the Mason Dixon line, this would have passed, but not in Minnesota.
Also, the whole kidnap drama was wrapped up too cleanly. Laura and Almonzo take back Rose with just an apology and then leave the orphan boy with the family. It is obvious the woman had some mental instability and they left the boy with her? He immediately calls the man "dad" too and I highly doubt the orphanage in Mancato would just say "Oh, thanks" when they were given word the child was left behind with a family a few towns over. Sorry, but they are just my own personal gripes, but maybe you'll see it differently when you watch it.
Lastly we have the series finale 'The Last Farewell' (1985), where the town of Walnut Grove is revealed to have been built on land owned by a railroad tycoon. The citizens deal with the loss of their town and lifestyles, and some must decide how best to respond to this explosive event. This is probably one of the most heart-wrenching "episodes" of the entire LHOTP series! Here we see most of the main characters (with the exception of Harriet Oleson who is in a hospital). We watch in agony as the citizens of Walnut Grove, including Charles and Caroline, say goodbye to their town.
There's really not much I can say about this movie. The last thirty minutes is just agonizing! We watch the buildings blow up one by one and see the realistic tears on the faces of the actors and actresses. The tears were will! The town was REALLY being blown up! The actors and actresses were really crying as they said goodbye to this beloved era of television! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Check out this RECENT INTERVIEW with Almanzo Wilder himself, Dean Butler, as he talks about his arrival on set for season six, about the ending of the show five years later, about last years 'Little House' reunion, and about all those loud explosions!!