'Mod Squad' Returns From the '60s

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Collectors of old TV shows should enjoy rediscovering episodes of "The Mod Squad," a hip series that appeared on ABC in the late '60s and early '70s. The first five tapes available on video, featuring two-hour shows at $20 per cassette, have just been released by Nu Ventures, based in Marina del Rey. Five more tapes are scheduled for future release.

Starring Peggy Lipton--whose most recent credit was "Twin Peaks"--Michael Cole and Clarence Williams III, the show chronicles the adventures of three young undercover cops who are knee-deep in the counterculture. Back then it wasn't considered a creative gem. But like the current TV hit, "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Mod Squad" struck a nerve with the youth of the era, focusing on some of their problems and reflecting their styles and tastes.

The show mirrored the black and feminist consciousness of the time through its actors Lipton and Williams. Many of the episodes deal with the tensions between the conservatism of the heroes' establishment positions and their counterculture leanings.

Some of the stories seem hokey now, but the '60s lingo, themes and styles should appeal to those riding that wave of '60s nostalgia. "Mod Squad" is the kind of show you'd want to watch wearing a tie-dyed shirt.

Video Ventures: Since there are no major new movies making debuts on home video this week, it's a good time for renters to sample some videos they might otherwise bypass for current hit films.

* "Test Pilot" (MGM/UA, $20): In this 1938 movie starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy, the romantic comedy subplot is more fun than the drama centering around the trials of a pilot (Gable) testing new planes. Tracy fans love this one because of the subtle way he steals the picture from macho-hero Gable. Crude flying sequences were considered thrilling in their day. One year later, director Victor Fleming made "Gone With the Wind."

* "Manhattan Melodrama" (MGM/UA, $20): This plot--boyhood friends who wind up on opposite sides of the law and chasing the same woman--was a cliche by the 1940s, but it was fresh when this film came out in 1934. Starring Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy, it's a bit corny but still a classic. Film trivia buffs know it as the movie playing at the Chicago theater where gangster John Dillinger was killed.

* "Bhowani Junction" (MGM/UA, $20): In this rather touching 1956 love story, Ava Gardner displays rare emotional power as a half-caste Indian who falls for a British officer (Stewart Granger) in post-World War II India. George Cukor directed.

* "The Glass Bottom Boat" (MGM/UA, $20): Doris Day, a Soviet spy? Hard to believe, but in this 1966 comedy, her cutesy character gets mistaken for one. Some laughs, but not nearly her best. Co-starring Rod Taylor.

* "Flying Disc Man From Mars" (Republic, two cassettes, $30): In this 12-episode serial, a dashing aviator (Walter Reed) thwarts a weird alliance between a Martian and Nazi who are planning world domination. Not as exciting as you'd expect.

* "Eminent Domain" (SVS Triumph, $90): Dull, oblique story of the downfall of a Polish Communist (Donald Sutherland). Anne Archer plays his beleaguered wife.

* "Dice Rules" (Vestron, $90): Comedian Andrew Dice Clay in concert at Madison Square Garden. Strictly for fans of the vile, vicious Diceman.

* "Rich Girl" (Columbia TriStar, $90): Familiar plot--runaway rich girl falls for poor rock singer in Hollywood--with a few interesting wrinkles. Some critics praised performances by Jill Schoelen and Don Michael Paul.

The B's: * "The Devil's Daughter" (Republic, $90): Above-average, grisly, low-grade horror tale, with "Rosemary's Baby" overtones, about a group of homicidal megalomaniacs seeking world domination through a plot involving the corruption of a school teacher (Kelly Curtis). Produced and co-written by cult terror favorite Dario Argento. Not up to his best.

* "Deadlock" (Monarch, $80): In this routine action movie, mercenaries are on a mission to heist a one-man missile launcher. Co-starring Jeremy Slate.

* "Delta Force 3" (Cannon, $90): Some decent action sequences in this story of the Delta Force unit tracking a crazed terrorist who's planted an atomic bomb. Starring Nick Cassavetes.

* "Delta Force Commando 2" (LIVE, $90): Complex, full-of-holes plot about a former Delta Force member chasing a terrorist who's his ex-lover. So-so story, but a few first-rate action sequences.

* "Born to Ride" (Warner, $90): TV star John Stamos and motorcycle action scenes are the big attractions of this movie about a World War II biker troop.

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