Lock N' Load is a different kind of reality show. Hosted by none other than the salty sergeant himself, R. Lee Ermey (yes, he of Full Metal Jacket and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes), whose loud and in your face demeanor actually suits the content quite well - weapons. Yep. This is a show about weapons. How they work, how they're made, what they do, how they do what they do, and why they do it the way that they do. Anyone interested in the mechanics of design and in technology ought to find the material fairly interesting, while Ermey's often times very over the top narration and hosting style lends the series plenty of entertainment value.
Of particular interest to a lot of people will be when Ermey explains what happens after a particular weapon is fired. Once the bullet or projectile makes its point of impact, the physics behind it all become rather involved and surprisingly scientific. There's much more to this than just a ball of lead leaving a barrel and colliding with its target and Ermey does a good job of elaborating on how and why different guns fire different bullets different ways. More than just a bunch of talking, however, the show also does what it can to spice things up visually. There are plenty of high-speed photography tricks and computer generated graphics used throughout to demonstrate what camera's can't always capture right and of course there's plenty of footage of those same weapons in action and the destruction that they can often leave behind.
The thirteen episodes that make up the complete first season of Lock N' Load are laid out across the four discs in this collection as follows:
Disc One: Artillery / Machine Guns / Tanks / Pistols
Disc Two: Helicopters / Armored Vehicles / Shotguns
Disc Three: Rockets / Blades / Ammo
Disc Four: Rifles / MG2 / Bunker Busters
It's got to go without saying though that as interesting as much of this material is, the main draw here is going to be Ermey himself. His attitude is always entertaining even if he's become a walking, talking cliché at this point in his career because he does what he does so well. No one yells down a camera like he does, and good for him for making a decent living out of it after leaving the service. He also seems to know his way around a lot of the weapons we see in the show. While many hosts would be awkwardly feeling their way around much of this material, Ermey feels like a natural, as if he's right at home around guns, tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers.
It's also interesting to see how Ermey explores the uses of a certain weapon and prove or disprove some of what Hollywood has lead us to believe is possible. A perfect example is the Machine Gun episode where we see him try to cut a tree in half with bullets. Another interesting aspect of the series is the history that Ermey goes into surrounding each weapon. Going back to the Machine Gun episode as a prime example, we don't just learn what modern day machine guns can do but also how they've evolved from their origins as the Gatling Gun to where they're at now. We don't always gets to see each and every one of the older weapons in action, as it probably wasn't possible to locate a working example of each one covered, but we at least learn what their part is in the respective evolution of weapons technology.
The show isn't always perfect, however. It sometimes feels jumpy and choppy in how it's edited and pieced together. There isn't always a perfect flow to the series and as Ermey goes about explaining different histories, we can sometimes make some pretty big leaps through time to get to where the producers obviously want us to be. You sometimes get the feeling that the historical aspect of the production is getting shortchanged so that they weapons demonstrations, likely a bigger draw in the ratings, can get more screen time. The show is also guilty of repeating clips and reusing footage frequently enough that you can't help but notice it. It's not necessarily a detriment to the series and its' done practically and where it absolutely makes sense to do so, but if you wind up watching a lot of this material in one or two sittings, you can't help but get that sense of déjà vu.
Even with those strikes against it, there's still enough here that'll prove interesting to history and war buffs that, when coupled with Ermey's persona, makes for some pretty solid viewing.
Disappointingly, the material in this set is presented in 1.78.1 non-anamorphic widescreen, and on top of that, the transfers are interlaced. The episodes themselves are very clean looking and don't show any wear, tear or debris, though the transfers here are pretty erratic. Some shots look excellent and show nice, crisp detail while others look soft, even a little blurry at times. This has probably got more to do with the different cameras used throughout the show and the rough conditions under which much of it is shot than with the encoding but that doesn't make the shortcomings any less irritating. When the series looks good, it looks very good, but there's obviously been substantial room left for improvement here.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks that are included here are about on par with the video in that they're sufficient but not particularly impressive. There isn't much in the way of channel separation here - it happens infrequently, though it's not entirely absent. Sometimes Ermey's narration is a bit hard to understand. More often than not he belts everything out in full on drill sergeant mode and there are moments throughout the series where you might have trouble figuring out what exactly he just said. The packaging claims that the series has English closed captioning supplied, but there wasn't any obvious way to enable them through the menu or DVD remote control.
Aside from some simple menus and episode selection, this release is completely barebones and offers up no extra features whatsoever.
The presentation won't floor you but it's watchable enough and despite the fact that there are no extras to speak of, the set comes recommended for fans of the series. If you haven't already seen it and are on the fence about it, definitely rent it first as it's probably not a show you'll go back to time and time again, but Lock N' Load With R. Lee Ermey - The Complete First Season is worth seeing at least once.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.