Superstars - The Best of the Best DVD

BBC Worldwide, BBC DVD1376
68 minutes main feature, 21 minutes extras

Ah, the halcyon days of the mid to late 1970s when Superstars was the sports show to watch. And with good reason. Many of the sports personalities on it were big names, and some of them like Brian Jacks and Brian Hooper became big names because of Superstars. And with the first proper series in eighteen years back in full flow gracing our television screens with new heroes to cheer on (and some old ones too) and gutsy performances just like old times, a perfect opportunity to cash in on the nostalgia and release a highlights DVD.

Like most BBC DVDs, this is actually regions 2 and 4, so if you're in Australia, you can play this without any problems. A quick insert into the trusty Pioneer DV646A reveals the main menu, complete with short snippet of the classic Superstars theme. You can either play the main feature, go to the scene selection or go to the bonus features (more on those later).

It starts off with the Superstars presenter of old David Vine exclaiming that no one could actually hum the Superstars theme, and just to prove it the likes of Brian Jacks, Malcolm McDonald, John Conteh and Gareth Edwards have a go - and fail. Malcolm sums it up best though: "David Vine in big wide lapels, introducing the events, marvellous". And it was. And without further ado, the theme kicks in with background images of many of the classic moments you're about to see.

Then, there's highlights of the first ever Superstars (which back then was called Sporting Superstars) in 1973, showing the original seven contestants that took part. This includes some memories from David Hemery who won the first ever event, along with some of the highlights of the events, like Joe Bugner beating Jackie Stewart in the shooting event. And a great shot of Hemery winning the steeplechase, and he says it like it is: "it's because they were competitive in the first place". And exactly right. We then see John Conteh winning in 1974 and even he admits that winning that probably helped him a lot to winning his world boxing title.

Then, it's the 100 metre memories. Not least that of Malcolm McDonald, the ex-England international. In the heat of European Superstars he was in, there was a false start but it wasn't recalled in time, and yet he won in 11 seconds. Malcolm describes the drama well as he gets told he has to run again, this time in 10.9 seconds, classic. And then to the European Superstars final in Rotterdam, where dramatically in the steeplechase event David Hemery catches up with the leaders, only to fall over at the water jump yet fight back and get second in the race. David is superb describing his memories and really shows his enthusiasm even now.

On to 1976. Bjorn Borg wins his heat of European Superstars in Vichy, France, in pouring rain. And Gareth Edwards describes how he'd played Borg at table tennis and lost. Bjorn himself also describes his memories of entering and taking part. But nothing can take away the next moment - the most classic of them all in Supestars - Kevin Keegan falling off his bike in Bracknell. A shame tha the Beeb couldn't interview Kevin about it, but at least it shows you Keegan's fightback to not only re-run the cycling and come second, but also win the heat in gritty determined circumstances.

Off to Cwmbran for memories of Superstars there, including Lynn Davies, the long jumper, winning his heat well, and also the debut of no less than Brian Jacks. The Superstars legend describes how he trained for a few weeks before to ensure he was in peak condition and trained ready. One event that Brian excelled at was the gym tests, and this is the next section of the DVD. As Ron Pickering would say "We're now in the emporium of fitness" many of the sportsmen recalled their time of the gym tests and it shows you them struggling on in the arm dips and the squat thrusts, then the magical moments of Brian Jacks' 100 arm dips in a minute, still a world record even now. And not just that, the 118 squat thrusts that he set in World Superstars to make a record his as well. Although some of them didn't look forward to it, Brian Jacks noted the sliding technique Jody Sheckter used and made special shoes so that he could do the same without oiling his feet or causing damage to his feet. And then Jonah Barrington storming off because he didn't make valid ones. It's great that a fair bit of the DVD is devoted to the gym tests as they are still even now the blue riband event of Superstars.

Then on to World Superstars, with Gareth Edwards and John Conteh competing, and Gareth unluckily missed a fifth penalty that would have made him winner of the event. Then Keith Fielding, the rugby league player, in World Superstars, losing in a 100 metre race that only the judges will know why he wasn't given the win. It's great to see Keith reminisce those events: "I still have letters from viewers that said I'd won!". He later collapsed with heat exhaustion in the 800 metres but fought back and won the cycling the next day. And of course, Brian Hooper's epic win in 1982, when he took on the Americans in their own back yard - and won! He won the rowing and won the cycling, and the Americans accused him of cheating when in fact he won cleanly. Typical Americans - can't take defeat. Great to see Hooper really reminisce about winning it and you can still see the satisfaction inside - only probably equalled by his kayak win in this years' event!

On to the Cycling and in the Ahoy Stadium, in Rotterdam. Electric atmosphere, and the banked track provided many cycling epics and some speed records there, Keith Fielding and Brian Jacks being masters of the banked track. And then the Challenge of the Champions, and you can see the determination from the 100 metres onwards, the rivalry between Keith Fielding and Brian Jacks all the way through, with the rowing and the cycle race being intense, with Fielding winning overall and kicking ass. It wouldn't be Superstars without the light moments, you get the rowing muck-ups, you get Malcolm McDonald hitting his chin in the weightlifting, Stan Bowles shooting the table, and so on. All with many memories.

Finally, although you think the programme has finished, the last ten minutes or so are devoted to how much the presenters David Vine and Ron Pickering made an impact on the show. With Ron sadly passing away years ago, David does a great job in recalling moments as do the rest of the sporting personalities.

The picture quality throughout is pretty good considering the age of some of the footage, and it moves at the right pace, with enough of the personalities featured and many of them recalling the memories, fascinating how much that they all still remember. The narration by Andrew Castle also does enough to give you a taste of the atmosphere and the places that you visit during the main feature However, 68 minutes is a little bit short for me, I am sure that there were more than that in the archives. And I'm not sure that it might have been better rather than mention parts as the story goes along to do it year by year, with maybe highlights of almost every event where possible - there's enough room on the DVD for it, surely?

There are a good number of extras though, as well as getting the profiles of some of the Superstars and indeed a record of the British entrants and their positions in whatever Superstars that they took part in, there's more footage and memories, which include the Kevin Keegan crash in full, an epic bike race in Bath, the gym tests controversy with David Hemery, the shooting decider between Keith Fielding and Mike Hazlewood, an epic bike race around an aerodrome that Brian Hooper won, Gareth Edwards fighting the flu in Vichy, a steeplechase showdown, and just what made pole vaulters and rugby players so successful. Also, a number of them explain just what Superstars meant to them and why it made them so famous in the first place. Most of these extras should really have been in the main feature, to be honest. They would have made more sense there.

Despite the shortcomings, on the whole this does do a decent job of bringing back the memories of the show, but at a short running time (even despite its low recommended price of £12-99, shop around and you'll find it less) you get the feeling sometimes of "is that it?". A few more features and maybe more action and highlights would be required, but nonetheless a decent effort in capturing the flavour of what was the sports show back in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Warren's rating: 71%