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Category:    Home > Reviews > Super Hero > Martial Arts > The Green Hornet (1974/PAL)

The Green Hornet (1974/Prime Leisure/PAL Region Zero/Free DVD)


Picture: C+     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 version.


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 rediscovery.





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 Samurai.


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


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