Baa Baa Black Sheep – Volume 1

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Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
Robert Conrad as Maj. Greg ‘Pappy’ Boyington
Dirk Blocker as Lt. Jerry Bragg
Robert Ginty as Lt. T.J. Wiley
John Larroquette as Lt. Bob Anderson
Jeff MacKay as Lt. Don French
Larry Manetti as Lt. Bob Boyle
Joey Aresco as Sgt. John David ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
Dana Elcar as Col. Thomas Lard
W.K. Stratton as Lt. Larry Casey
James Whitmore Jr. as Capt. James Gutterman

Special Features:
From the NBC News Archives: Interviews with Major Gregory Boyington

Other Info:
Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Sound
Running Time: 9 Hours 44 Minutes

Synopsis:
This is the first 11 episodes of Baa Baa Black Sheep (aka Black Sheep Squadron) which aired in 1976-1977. The following is the description from the DVD cover:

“The sky’s the limit for high-flying action as the popular WWII military series, Baa Baa Black Sheep (Black Sheep Squadron), comes to DVD for the first time ever! Ride along with the heroic ‘Black Sheep Squadron,’ a group of misfit Marine fighter pilots. Robert Conrad stars as the unconventional squadron leader, Major Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington, with Simon Oakland, Dana Elcar, John Larroquette, James Whitmore Jr., Dirk Blocker, W.K. Stratton and Robert Ginty as the pilots known as the ‘Terrors of the South Pacific.’ This thrilling double-sided 2-DVD collection is fully loaded with the first 10 episodes of Season 1, plus the original 2-hour pilot, of the war series where men were men, and the South Pacific was the place for unlimited adventure!”

Baa Baa Black Sheep is not rated.

The Series:
Before getting this DVD, I had never seen a single episode of Baa Baa Black Sheep (at least that I recall). However, I found it to be much to my interest. I’ve been reading and watching a lot of WWII stuff the last couple of years and this fits right in what that sort of material. (I’ve been reading and watching Band of Brothers, Ghost Soldiers, and I have Flyboys on my shelf waiting to be read.) It’s a little bit like The Dirty Dozen in that a band of misfits are put together for a difficult mission. It’s also a little like M*A*S*H in that it features comedy and irreverent characters set against a wartime backdrop. But Baa Baa Black Sheep is different in that it’s based on a true story.

A big part of the series was the numerous dogfights that took place between the squadron and the Japanese. They accomplished this with a lot of cheesy stationary shots of the planes, but they also did recreations of dogfights with vintage aircraft. More interesting, though, is the extensive use of actual footage from WWII. While it’s very obvious when it switches to this footage, it’s still dramatic enough to pull you into the battle. But even though the aerial battles were the highlight of the show, they did become repetitious at times.

The cast of the show was decent. Robert Conrad was good as Maj. Greg ‘Pappy’ Boyington. Based on the guy from real life, Conrad plays Pappy with a lot of energy, bravado, and rebelliousness. In fact the cocky pilot who thumbs his nose at military authority is pretty much an established stereotype now. Conrad reminded me of Han Solo at times in the way he only wanted to get paid, how he despised military brass, and how he smuggled things under the radar. Supporting Conrad was a very young John Larroquette (Night Court) as Lt. Bob Anderson, Dana Elcar (MacGuyver) as the uptight Col. Thomas Lard, and many other character actors. Also look for cameos by Sharon Gless (Cagney & Lacey), George Gaynes (Punky Brewster), Lance LeGault (The A-Team), Charles Napier (Austin Powers), and George Takei (Star Trek).

If you are a WWII buff, if you like war dramas, or if you like war comedies, then I think you’ll find Baa Baa Black Sheep worth checking out. It does slow to a crawl at times, but there’s still enough good stuff here that makes it entertaining.

The Extras:
There is only one bonus feature on this DVD. It’s “From the NBC News Archives: Interviews with Major Gregory Boyington”. The first brief segment is an interview with Robert Conrad and the real life Boyington from the Today Show. They are shown promoting the upcoming TV series. A second clip is from the 1950′s and it shows Boyington promoting his book that the TV series was based on. I would have liked to have heard comparisons between the show and real lie, but that’s really glossed over in the interviews. It’s better than nothing, though.

The Bottom Line:
Baa Baa Black Sheep is a series not many people may have seen during its brief run in the 70′s, but it is likely to entertain war movie buffs.

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