For Hicksflicks.com, March 28, 2014

Two DVD sets released this week by independents illustrate that film/TV lovers who work at smaller labels often give beloved titles more respect than the studios that own them.

In the case of Michael Landon's 1974-83 nine-season television series "Little House on the Prairie," based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's auobiographical books, the show has been on DVD for years in various packaging, but many of the episodes in those sets are the syndicated rerun versions, not the original NBC broadcast-network versions.

That means each episode is shorter, with scenes missing, to make way for more commercials during the hour in which it was shown, something that non-network, syndicated programming requires. Watching those older sets, most of us might not care or even notice, but to die-hard fans, it was sacrilege.

But this new first-season set from Lionsgate, which includes the original pilot movie, has restored each episode to its broadcast length, and each has also been remastered so that the picture and sound are better than ever. The set is available on both DVD and Blu-ray, it's reasonably priced ($17 on Amazon for the DVD, $19 for the Blu-ray) — and Season 2 is already scheduled for a similar release in early May.

And in the six-film collection "Best of Film Noir, Vol. 1&2," the titles are all in the public domain, meaning the studios no longer own them in copyright … although the studios still have the best prints hidden away in their vaults.

Each black-and-white film here is already available on a wide variety of DVD labels, some very cheap, as low as a buck. But most of those DVDs are also of inferior quality, some very difficult to watch, with soft-focus pictures, muted sound and even pops and skips, thanks to their being transferred from old, much-used prints.

But this new set, from the independent label Film Chest, is remastered with the films looking/sounding better than ever. And they are all excellent mystery-thrillers: "The Red House" (1947), starring Edward G. Robinson and Julie London; "Suddenly" (1954), Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden; "Kansas City Confidential" (1952), John Payne, Lee Van Cleef; "Pitfall" (1948), Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott; "The Stranger" (1946), Orson Welles, Loretta Young, Edward G. Robinson; and "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" (1946), Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas, Lizbeth Scott.

And it's reasonably priced in the $30 range on Amazon.com.