The Green Hornet (1974/Prime Leisure/PAL Region Zero/Free DVD)
Sound: C+ Extras: B- Film: C+
PLEASE NOTE: This is
a DVD that could only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that
can handle Region Zero/0/Free and the PAL format software,
Only 26 episodes of the Van Williams/Bruce Lee Green
Hornet series were produced in its 1966-67 season. The brother show of the 20th
Century Fox/Greenway hit Batman even had a cross over story, but the
series failed to catch on, in part due to its underplaying of Lee. When Lee suddenly became a huge international
movie star, two theatrical films were edited out of a few episodes of the show
and issued theatrically. This first one
was issued in 1974. Prism Leisure has
issued the film in a letterboxed edition with extras.
Though the actual series is still not out yet and the sad fiasco of The Weinsteins exiting
Miramax put Kevin Smith’s theatrical film revival on hold preceded by the sad
cancellation of a more serious version with Universal with Mark Wahlberg and
Jet Li attached continued the turnaround on the revival until the Seth Rogen
film arrived in 2011 to weak returns (see more below) and those delays has not
stopped the cult following and skyrocketing value of memorabilia for this
Watching Lee’s fight sequences then, I cannot believe the
producers were clueless in how to make this show work, especially with what
they pulled off with Batman and having the services of the great Lorenzo
Semple, Jr. at their dispose. Either
way, this is still good TV in a time when people when color television was just
making it to the masses. Needless to say
the 35mm prints looked much better than the best analog television of the time.
As in the grossly underrated radio drama of the 1940s
created by George W. Trendle, the deadly duo battles more insidious gangsters
in the main storyline, but the second main science fiction storyline is less
impressive. Eliminating the commercial
breaks helps this move a bit better than on TV.
Van Williams was well cast as Britt Reed, the powerful publisher who is
secretly Hornet, but Lee was a phenomenon and it is the only time he worked
under the circumstances of such a colorful, commercial production.
This is also a great moment of the 1960s deserving
The letterboxed 1.85 X 1 image is from the 35mm reels, but
they are unavoidably down a generation from the original materials from the
episodes, common for such edited-together films. Usually, this was done for TV to have
additional telefilm product, but since the original 1950s Superman with
George Reeves went into production, filmed shows sometimes did this. Though by 1974 this was belated for a show
like Green Hornet that was not a hit, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was
so successful at it that a half-dozen or so films were cut from episodes and
did fine business. Hornet was a
half-hour show, so it took more shows to edit together an 84 minutes long
feature film, but that’s just more storylines for your money.
The only problems here are that this is not anamorphically
enhanced and these shows were usually framed for 1.33 x 1 narrow-vision
TV. In this case, the only giveaway is
trouble with headroom, but this looks good otherwise, helped by the fact that
this is a PAL format DVD. Though this is
from three episodes with three different directors, the cinematography is by
Carl Guthrie, A.S.C., and looks good.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is about right for this kind of
compilation film, with score by Billy May still roughly based on Flight Of
The Bumblebee and theme by the great Al Hirt. Fox’s Lionel Newman was the conductor. It is ironic that sometimes the sound can
actually be a bit better on these “films” than on the original episodes. For whatever reason, when Universal combined
four episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker into two artificial
telefilms, the audio was transferred very well.
That is regardless of new dialogue and voice-overs by Darren McGavin and
Simon Oakland. It will make for an
interesting comparison when Fox finally issues the series on Blu-ray and DVD.
Extras are the other big highlight outside of Lee in
action, including text on the three leads, 43 stills, more stills in a montage
set to music for about 3 minutes, a Black Beauty section with a choice of text,
a montage of color images of the Corgi Black Beauty toy recently reissued and
videotaped segment on the active, original car (thankfully surviving and
thriving) that runs over 14 minutes.
Additionally, there is text on the character’s history, text on The
Bruce & Brandon Lee Association and a trailer for the amusing-looking film Black
The Green Hornet comeback was not what fans
might have hoped for since it was a comedy, but diehard fans will not be
deterred no matter what. This older
release is a fun DVD worth your time, available in two different covers.
For more on the 2011 remake, try this link:
- Nicholas Sheffo