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Default Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season One




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: December 18, 2001
Released by: Fox
Release date: 1/15/2002
MSRP: $39.98
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1



Veteran fans of the site may be surprised to see me doing a review for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season One DVD. To be honest, I'm a bit surprised myself. Anyone who knows my tastes in regards to horror movies knows that I tend to hate anything that falls into the "screamy bopper" category. Now, I'm not saying Buffy falls into that category, at least not yet. However, I am inclined to put Sarah Michelle Gellar into that category. She was in the dreadful movies I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2, after all. As for Buffy, I've only just begun watching Season One (remember, this is just the review's introduction); it would be unfair of me to put it into any category at this point, even if it does star Gellar.

I did try watching Buffy many years ago when it first aired on TV. I'm a huge vampire fan, so anything having to do with vampires is certainly something I'm willing to take a look at. But for some reason, when I watched Buffy on TV, it didn't hold my interest. I recall thinking that it was too "90210-ish." Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't. As with any review, I'm going in with an open mind. I'm starting the series fresh and I'm hoping for the best. There's nothing better than discovering a terrific series that on has been missing out on all these years, only to fall in love with it after it's released to DVD (that's exactly what happened to me with X-Files, but those comments are for another day). Without further delay, lets take a close look at season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Story

inline Image 1x01: Welcome to the HellMouth: This is part one of the series premiere. After being throw out of Los Angeles high school for burning down the gym (hey, it was full of vampires - that's a good reason), Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her Mom pack up and move to Sunnyvale in hopes of starting fresh. At her first day of high school, Buffy befriends Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), and the snobby Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter). After discovering a dead body in the school's locker room that has two puncture holes in the neck, Buffy realizes that her wishful thoughts of retiring from slaying is nothing but a dream. She is a slayer, a chosen one with the strength and skill to hunt vampires. The school's librarian, Rupert Giles (Anthony Head), is the "watcher", the one who guides and trains the slayer. On her way to The Bronze, a local club where all the students hang out, Buffy meets Angel (David Boreanaz), a dark and mysterious young man that warns her "the harvest is about to begin." When a group of vampires hits The Bronze, a few of Buffy's friends are abducted. Now, Buffy must find her friends and destroy the vampires before the harvest begins.

inline Image 1x02: The Harvest: In part two of the series premiere, Buffy saves Xander and Willow from a group of vampires that were gathering up human offerings for their master. Buffy was unable to rescue Jessie, a fellow student also abducted; the vampires disappear with Jessie before Buffy can react. The master vampire has been imprisoned underground for many years and has recently arisen in order to be set free by the harvest. When the master learns of his lost offerings and the existence of a slayer, he decides to use Jessie as bait to trap and kill Buffy. Buffy heads to the vampire's underground layer, unbeknownst that Xander is close behind her to lend a helping hand. Buffy must now battle the master vampire's minions and stop the harvest before the master is unleashed upon the earth once more.

inline Image 1x03: Witch: Buffy the cheerleader! Buffy decides to try out for the cheerleading team in hopes of putting some normality into her life. Her hopes are once again dashed when during tryouts, one of the cheerleader's hands spontaneously catch on fire. Buffy and her team of investigators - Xander, Willow, and Giles, suspect a student named Amy, who is obsessed with becoming a cheerleader. This obsession stems from Amy's mother, Katherine, who was the cheerleader captain back in her day and is now pushing Amy to follow in her footsteps. When Amy doesn't make the primary squad and instead becomes an alternate, Giles suspects Amy is practicing witchery to disable the primary cheerleaders so that she can take their place. He sets out to prove it with a magical potion that will turn a witch's skin blue if a spell has been cast recently. During science class Buffy, with the help of Xander and Willow, drops the potion on Amy's arm. Amy's arm indeed turns blue just as another student, who happens to be a cheerleader, has her lips disappear right off her face. Buffy and friends soon discover there's more to this story then what appears on the surface, and that Buffy's very life is in jeopardy if the cheerleader witch isn't stopped.

inline Image 1x04: Teacher's Pet: When Buffy's science teacher, Dr. Gregory, disappears under mysterious circumstances, a young and beautiful substitute teacher named Natalie French arrives to fill in. Later that day, Cordelia finds Dr. Gregory's body, minus his head, in the cafeteria refrigerator. Dr. Gregory was one of the few people that actually liked Buffy, so she's particularly upset about his death. Buffy begins to suspect the rather strange Miss French. First, Buffy witnesses a brutal vampire run away from Miss French in complete and utter fear. Then she sees Miss French do a complete 360 degree turn with her head. Buffy tries to warn Xander, who has a crush on Miss French, that something is very wrong with her. He doesn't listen, of course, and dismisses all accusations from Buffy as jealousy. Later that night Xander pays a visit to Miss French at her home. Now it's up to Buffy, Willow, and Giles to stop Miss French before she can carry out her true intentions for Xander.

inline Image 1x05: Never Kill a Boy on the First Date: After Buffy kills what is seemingly just another average vampire, Giles notices a strange ring the vampire is wearing. His investigation of the ring leads him to the Order of Aurelius, an ancient prophecy where the "anointed one" - a great warrior that is capable of leading a slayer straight into hell - will rise up from the ashes of five on the evening of the thousandth day after the advent of Septus. Buffy says no problem, until Giles tells her that the thousandth day is that very night. Buffy had a date with a student named Owen for that night. Her vampire fighting responsibilities come first, however, so her and Giles have a stakeout at the local cemetery. After hours pass and no anointed one shows, Giles lets Buffy go to her date while he heads to the funeral home just in case. At the funeral home, Giles is surrounded by three blood thirsty vampires. When Willow and Xander discover what happens, they rush to The Bronze to get Buffy. Buffy ditches her date and heads to the funeral home to save the day. Little does she know that her date is right behind her, and the anointed one is about to arise.

inline Image 1x06: The Pack: Field trip! Buffy's class takes a trip to the local zoo for the day. A group of the "cool kids", headed by a student named Kyle, are going around and making fun of other students, including Buffy. Kyle and gang take a nerdy student named Lance into the off-limits Hyena exhibit. Xander follows them in to get Lance out of there. Once Xander arrives at the exhibit, both he and all of Kyle's gang are seemingly hypnotized or possessed somehow after they stare directly into one of the hyena's eyes. Xander and the gang begin a rapid transformation that starts with violent and severe teasing of other students, even by the goofy and usually kind Xander. As the transformation progresses, Xander and the gang begin to exhibit deadly, hyena-like qualities. Buffy, Giles, and Willow realize there are supernatural powers at work here and begin to investigate. They are lead back to the zoo in hopes of reversing the transformations, but first they must overcome several deadly obstacles that stand in the way.

inline Image 1x07: Angel: The master vampire sends out "The Three", three strong and powerful vampires, in hopes of destroying Buffy. When Buffy is attacked by the three, she's unable to defeat them, but manages to escape after Angel shows up to help. The two head back to Buffy's house where she begins cleaning his wounds. Before Buffy can do much, her mother arrives home and tells her that Angel must go. Instead, Angel spends the night in Buffy's room - her on the bed, him on the floor - in order to avoid the three. The next night, Buffy and Angel kiss for the first time in her bedroom. During the kiss, Angel quickly pulls away from Buffy. When he looks back, his true identity as a vampire is revealed. Buffy screams from horror and surprise; Angel flees. Darla, a vampiress and also an ex-flame of Angel's, uses this opportunity in hopes of killing Buffy. Darla devises a plan and attacks Buffy's mother, leaving the blame of guilt on Angel. Buffy plans to do her duty as a slayer and kill Angel. Darla hopes that Angel will kill Buffy to save himself. Will Buffy be able to kill Angel, a vampire that she has such strong feelings for? Or will she falter, only to be killed herself?

inline Image 1x08: I, Robot...You, Jane: Much to the dismay of Giles, the school's library is being equipped with computers. Ms. Calendar, the school's computer science teacher, is in charge of the project, with many of her students on hand to help. Various library books are scanned into the computers by the students. Willow scans in an old book that Buffy pulled out of a batch of new arrivals. After Willow finishes the scans, the text disappears from the page. The next week, Willow comes into school acting all giddy. She tells Buffy that she spent several hours the previous night chatting with a boy named Malcolm over the Internet. Buffy urges caution seeing as how Willow never met the boy, but Willow is quick to dismiss her warnings. As Willow and a few of the computer science students begin to obsess over the computers, Buffy begins investigating. What she discovers nearly kills her. Malcolm is a demon that has was released into the computers when Willow scanned in those old pages. Now, with Willow's life on the line, Buffy, Xander, and Giles must stop the demon before it is can escape from the computers and unleash its terror into the world.

inline Image 1x09: The Puppet Show: Talent show! The new principal, Mr. Snyder, assigns Giles to produce the school's talent show. Later, as the tryouts draw to a close, a young female student named Emily is mysteriously murdered in the locker room. Buffy and pals begin to investigate, talking to all of the students who participated in the tryouts. Most say they saw a student named Morgan talking to Emily shortly before she was murdered. Morgan, with his wooden dummy named Sid, did a ventriloquist act during tryouts. It seems there's more to Morgan then meets the eyes. Willow discovers information about inanimate objects becoming mystically possessed that harvest human organs in their own attempt to become human. Has this wooden dummy come to life in hopes of becoming human? Or is there some other supernatural explanation behind the murders?

inline Image 1x10: Nightmares: A student named Wendell opens a book during class only to discover it's full of spiders. Wendell later explains to Willow and Xander that the incident is identical to one of his reoccurring nightmares. Buffy sits down to take a history class, only to discover the class is over before she finishes writing her name down. A female student is brutally attacked in the school's basement and ends up in the hospital. Giles gets lost in the library and then has trouble reading English text. Buffy's Dad shows up and tells her that she's the reason he and her mother became divorced. Cordeila has a bad hair day. Xander is chased by a killer klown. Each of these incidents are personal nightmares that have come to reality. The only thing connecting them all is a young boy that appears each time a nightmare comes true. Buffy must unlock the boy's secret and find a way to reverse the effect before all of reality becomes a pure nightmare.

inline Image 1x11: Out of Mind Out of Sight: Cordelia is out on a mission to become the school's next May Day queen at the upcoming end-of-school dance. She begins by going around and passing out chocolates with the letter C on them, thinking that people will her with something sweet. A problem arises for Cordelia when Mitch, her date for the dance, is brutally attacked with a baseball bat by some invisible force. After Mitch, even more people associated with Cordelia are attacked by the invisible force. Cordelia, realizing she's a target, turns to Buffy and pals for help. Buffy may have finally met her match when she tries to go up against an enemy she can't see.

inline Image 1x12: Prophecy Girl: The amount of supernatural activity in Sunnyvale is reaching new levels. Buffy kills three vampires in one night, nearly getting herself killed, and the vampires are getting closer to school grounds. Giles does some research and discovers an ancient prophecy indicating that the following night, Buffy will face the master vampire and die. Buffy goes into a rage upon hearing the news, cursing Giles and telling him she's quitting her duty as a slayer. There's no escaping the prophecy, however. The master will rise, bringing the demons of the underworld with him. Buffy has no choice but to face her destiny. Her only hope is that she can take the master with her.

inline Image Buffy has good qualities and bad ones, I'm just not which it has more of. Many of the shows are well written and have great stories to them. I particularly enjoyed The Pack and Nightmares - excellent stories dealing with demonic possession and nightmares. The Pack takes the number one spot for me, thanks to Nicholas Brendon's performance as Xander, who provides great comic relief to show. In The Pack, Xander goes from being a goofy character to a pure evil one. It's Nicholas' strong acting ability that makes The Pack work so well. All of the other actors give decent enough performances, but none that I'd rate exceptional. I mean, how hard is it for Sarah Michelle Gellar to play a 16-year old high school student that kills vampires? She IS a 16-year old high school student (well, she was about that age when Season One was filmed) and 90% of her killing vampires is done by a stunt double. Another surprising aspect to the show is that much of what happens is not predictable. Without giving away the details, I'll just say that things happen to people in the show that one just wouldn't expect. I always enjoy that, and it makes that show that much more enjoyable for me.

inline Image My problems with the show, which stem from me being both a horror and vampire fan, is the whole soap opera aspect to it and the lack of gore. There's lots of implied gore, you just never get to see it. For example, a spinning disc is headed towards a vampire's neck and at the last moment the camera cuts away. The vampire dies and you assume decapitation, but you don't get to see it. Anyone else associate blood with vampires? Well, there's very little blood in Buffy. I want vampires biting necks and blood streaming out of the puncture wounds. I want vampire hearts being penetrated with stakes and blood gushing out. Okay, okay, I do understand the realities of network TV, and I do understand that Buffy is targeted at a specific audience. That audience being teenagers. Teenagers can relate to the high school environment in Buffy and to many of the "normal" problems the characters face in high school. And lets make it, teenagers like 90210. And that's all that Buffy essentially is. It's 90210 and vampires mixed into one.

Image Quality

inline Image All episodes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season One are presented in full frame 1.33:1 transfers, which is how they were filmed. Overall the transfer rates as above average. Light grain is evident is some episodes, but it's nothing major. The image boasts strong, vibrant colors and the flesh tones appear accurate and well balanced. There are signs of grain in various episodes, but it's light overall and I didn't find it distracting. I didn't catch any blemishes or MPEG artifacts on the transfer. The image is a bit soft; I'm sure there wasn't much, if any, restoration put into the transfer. Season One is only 5 years old, so I'm sure the materials were in good shape to begin with. I'd say the DVD looks exactly how the show would appear on satellite TV. I'm rating the image quality with a B+.

Sound

Sound is presented in Dolby Surround. Sounds is clear and no distortion is heard. Surround activity is light overall, but there is some during the action scenes. Again, I'm sure this is exactly how it sounded when first aired on TV.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Fox has included some enjoyable extras on this Buffy set. First up on disc one is an interview with Josh Whedon, the creator of Buffy, and David Boreanaz who plays Angel. Josh explains how he came up with the idea for Buffy and shares his thoughts on the characters. David discusses his character Angel as well as Buffy. The interview only runs about 4 minutes in length and you don't really get too much information from it. The pilot episode, Welcome to HellMouth, contains an audio commentary by Josh Whedon. The commentary runs the entire episode and has only a handful of silent gaps. It was an enjoyable commentary too. As in the interview, Josh explains how he came up with the idea for Buffy, though he elaborates in the commentary. He discusses many interesting topics related to the show, including the various characters, things that have changed throughout the years, budget constraints, and much more. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. And it's classic how he starts off the commentary: "For some ungodly reason you clicked on the audio commentary portion of this DVD, which means you probably have way too much time on your hands." Rounding out the supplements on disc one are a 3-minute video segment where Josh discusses Welcome to HellMouth and The Harvest, the original pilot script, the buffy trailer, and DVD-ROM content.

inline Image Disc two is a bit lighter on supplements, featuring just a photo gallery and 3-minute video segment where Josh discusses Witch and Never Kill a Boy on the First Date. And finally, disc three contains cast biographies and a 3-minute video segment where Josh discusses Angel and The Puppet Show. While there isn't an abundant amount of supplements on the set, what is included is quite enjoyable. The commentary track and video segments will certainly be appreciated by fans of the show. My only complaint would be the lack of cast interviews. Where are the Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, and Alyson Hannigan interviews? It's unfortunate that stars only seem to be willing to do interviews when it's in their contract (i.e. they have to promote something) or they're being paid tons of money for it. I mean, this show and its fans are what put them on the map. Anyway, rant over.

Final Thoughts

Impressive set here with an above average audio/video presentation. There's a good amount of supplements, though die-hard fans will be wanting more. Fox did a good job with this set, and it's an absolute steal at $39.98. Buffy is a well written show and I can see why it has a large following in the teenager crowd. Die hard horror/vampire fans may be turned off by the lack of gore and the soap opera aspect, however. I admit, the show is much better than I expected. I still wouldn't watch it on a weekly basis due to the lack of gore and that soap opera aspect, but I'd gladly review future sets. I enjoyed going through this set, and I'm certain Buffy fans will love it.

Rating

Season - B-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - B

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 12 shows @ 40-45 minutes each
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 3 Discs
  • Dolby Surround

Supplements
  • Audio Commentary on "Welcome to Hellmouth" by creator Joss Whedon
  • Trailer
  • Production Stills
  • Cast/Crew Biographies
  • DVD-ROM Screensaver
  • TV Spots
  • Interview with Joss Whedon and David Boreanaz
  • Original pilot episode script

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