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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Action > Romance > Hart To Hart – The Complete First + Second Season Sets

Hart To Hart – The Complete First + Second Season Sets


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+/D     Episodes: B+/B



For years, TV was trying to recreate the chemistry that made The Avengers with Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in particular so huge and hugely successful.  They tried copying the witty dialogue and failed.  They tried creating a sexy male/female pairing up, sometimes even adding a third wheel character.  They even tried to have a couple of male leads with wit a few times and just add sexy women all over the place.  The results of a few of the shows, even down to The New Avengers had their moments, but none of them came close.


Then something remarkable happened.  Robert Wagner was the commercially super hot star of series like It Takes A Thief and Switch, plus other films (theatrical and TV) going back to the 1950s and his star was still on the rise.  Writer/producer Sidney Sheldon had even been in the business longer writing early B-movies and comedies before hitting it big with novels and TV series like I Dream Of Jeannie and The Patty Duke Show.  After a break from TV, he was looking to pull off a new hit.


In his corner was the writer Tom Mankiewicz, who had brought James Bond into the 1970s with Diamonds Are Forever, Live & Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, then turned around and added key layers to Richard Donner’s Superman – The Movie in 1978.  With the greatest cycle of detective TV hits having yet to peak and The Rockford Files in full swing, they went back to basics and to the likes of Nick & Nora Charles (from The Thin Man) and The Avengers.  A witty couple but like one we had not seen before.  Leonard Goldberg and Aaron Spelling joined on as producers as well.


Robert Wagner saw the script and was on board, playing a rich man with a beautiful wife.  The two were in love with each other and also loved playing detective despite their wealth.  This was not out of boredom, but out of fun.  He was a hands-on self-made millionaire and could look rich or like he always was getting his hands dirty.  All that was left was finding the female lead.  Immediately, he thought of Stephanie Powers, the sexy, smart, reliable, popular actress who had starred in the brief-lived (now cult spin-off) The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (with Noel Harrison) and just lost out to the equally great Lindsay Wagner for the lead in The Bionic Woman.  Powers loved it as much as he did, so they tied the contractual knot and Hart To Hart was born.


Starting as an A+ TV movie, which was a hit, it was an instant classic.  Last October 2005, Sony issued The Complete First Season and as a no-brainer TV on DVD hit, they have added The Complete Second Season DVD set to their catalog and both are very strong seasons.  Including key guest stars and character actors, episodes include the following, first for Season One as follows:


1)     Pilot telefilm (with guest stars Roddy McDowall, Jill St. John, Eugene Roche, Michael Lerner, Stella Stevens, Natalie Wood and Clifton James)

2)     Hit Jennifer Hart

3)     Passport To Murder

4)     Johnathan Hart Jr. (with guest stars Dee Wallace and Randy Gray)

5)     Death in The Slow Lane (with guest stars Jeremy Brett and Murray Matheson)

6)     You Made Me Kill You

7)     Murder Between Friends (with guest stars Don Galloway and William Prince)

8)     Cop Out

9)     Max In Love (with guest stars Rene Auberjonois, Madlyn Rhue and Daniel J. Travanti)

10)  A New Kind Of High (with guest stars Paul Rudd and Georgann Johnson)

11)  With This Gun, I Thee Wed (with guest stars Michael Alldredge, Christine Belford, Richard Johnson, Nick Dimitri, Vincente Schiavelli and Tommy Lasorda as himself)

12)  The Man With The Jaded Eye (with guest stars Edward Mulhare and James Hong)

13)  Color Jennifer Dead

14)  A Question Of Innocence (with guest stars Jeanette Nolan and Jameson Parker)

15)  Night Horrors (with guest stars Mews (Marya) Small)

16)  Which Way, Freeway? (with guest stars Peggy Pope and Hugh Gillin)

17)  Downhill To Death (with guest stars Juliet Mills and Michael Des Barres)

18)  Raid (with guest stars Jordan Rhodes, Gilbert Roland and William Bogert)

19)  Sixth Sense (with guest stars Roscoe Lee Browne and Joe Mantell)

20)  Does She Or Doesn’t She? (with guest stars Eve Arden, Frank Marth and Grace Lee Whitney)

21)  Cruise At Your Own Risk (with guest star John Hillerman)

22)  Too Many Cooks Are Murder (with guest star Lloyd Bochner)

23)  Death Set



Season Two offers:


1)     Murder, Murder On The Wall (with guest stars John Gavin, John P. Ryan, Don Gordon and Sid Haig)

2)     What Murder?

3)     This Lady In Murder (with guest stars Andrew Robinson and Johnny Timko)

4)     Murder Is A Man’s Best Friend (with guest stars Martine Beswick and Kenneth Mars)

5)     ‘Tis The Season To Be Murdered (with guest stars Elaine Joyce, Cynthia Sikes and Jack Riley)

6)     Murder Wrap (with guest stars Fiona Lewis, John McLiam and Thaao Penghlis)

7)     Murder In Paradise (with guest stars Noel Harrison and Dolph Sweet)

8)     Ex-Wives Can Be Murder (with guest stars Jason Evers, Joshua Shelley, Ray Stewart and Dana Wynter)

9)     Murder Is A Drag (with guest stars Charlie Callas, George Wendt and James Luisi)

10)  Hart-Shaped Murder (with guest stars Nedra Volz, Lili Haydn and Richard Davalos)

11)  Slow Boat To Murder (with guest stars Joanna Cassidy and Amy Madigan)

12)  Murder In The Saddle (with guest stars John Ireland, Paul Koslo, James F. Griffith, Ray Tracey and Jane Withers)

13)  Homemade Murder (with guest stars Margaret Blye, Keene Curtis, Millie Perkins, Vito Scotti and Don Stroud)

14)  Solid Gold Murder (with guest stars Caesar Danova and Frank Zane)

15)  Getting Aweigh With Murder (with guest stars Ron Moody and Raymond St. Jacques)

16)  The Murder Of Johnathan Hart (with guest stars Peter Mark Richman, Ken Scott and John Alvin)

17)  The Latest In High Fashion Murder (with guest stars Lois Chiles, Shari Belafonte, Lenore Woodward and Joe Pantoliano)

18)  Operation Murder (with guest stars Jared Martin, Nan Martin and Nancy Bleier)

19)  Murder Takes A Bow (with guest stars Anthony Newley, Bibi Besch, Laurene Tuttle and Jerry Stiller)

20)  Blue Chip Murder (with guest stars Ruth Nelson, Maurice Marsac and Bernie Kuby)



Richard B. Scull occasionally surfaced as Lt. Gillis and these shows hold up extremely well.  Then there is the late great Lionel Stander, who played their faithful butler Max, who does the famous (and often changed) voiceover in the opening credits of each show.  He takes care of them and their dog, though it should be noted we think the original voice over was retired.  For the record, we believe the original “lost” version pretty much goes as follows:


“This is my boss, Jonathan Hart - a self-made millionaire.  He's quite a guy.  This is Mrs. H.  She's gorgeous.  What a terrific lady.  By the way, my name is Max.  I take care of them, both of them, 'cause their hobby is… “moider”!”



Someone even suggested he said something like “one hell of a lady” which if true, could go either way.  Now whether this is some early blip of political correctness, we don’t know, because the show was never that condescending.  The above was kept and “moider” became “murder”.  Obviously, Max was not going to talk in dated mis-pronunciations, the change is understandable.  Needless to say the mis-pronunciation also gave it the promise of an old Mystery B-Movie, which is appealing to fans.  Then came the later revision that has actually been spliced into the shows in the second set:


“This is my boss, Jonathan Hart - a self-made millionaire.  He's quite a guy.  This is Mrs. H. She's gorgeous.  She's one lady who knows how to take care of herself. By the way, my name is Max.   I take care of both of them, which ain't easy, 'cause when they met... it was murder!”



That one is too pat and silly, as if Max needed to go out of his way to deny Jennifer Hart’s beauty.  And then murder is no longer a hobby.  Why not?  It was a mistake and untrue to the show and its roots.  Fortunately, they have left the show alone and done a good job of presenting them here.



The 1.33 X 1 image in both sets has rightly driven Sony to the vaults to transfer all the 35mm elements in digital High Definition for these boxes and beyond.  The first set looks good with good color, but some slight detail issues that are so minute as to be micro-detail limits.  The new set is even sharper, while both display the beautiful MetroColor processing the show had while it was being produced at the 20th Century Fox studios.  They got solid cinematographers and productions were rich, even with a TV budget, though more cash was put into the show.  It is important to remember that production was cheaper then too, so some of this would cost much more today.  As a result, transfer quality is on the higher and more consistent side than other filmed (and definitely videotaped) TV on DVD sets we have seen to date.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also as good, clean and clear as expected, with Mark Snow’s classic theme song in full swing on the first set, though it was changed for later seasons.  For the second set, the prints have the original opening cut out and replaced by that for later seasons, something that also happened in syndication that was a bit irritating.  The original theme song was edgier, darker and more about the thriller and danger aspects of the show, ending with a repeated edit of them kissing as they sink into water.  That was on for a few seasons, but the duller later theme song variant and less-exciting credits montage is here instead.  The easiest dead giveaway about this is that the audio is louder here than for the rest of each Second Season show.  Otherwise, these play back well.


Extras include a great audio commentary by Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers, and writer-director Tom Mankiewicz on the pilot episode and a great featurette with interviews on the first set, but nothing on the second.  Most of the participants are still alive who made this show and more extras really should be commissioned for future DVD sets.  This has a huge following, larger than I even think Sony realizes, and they need to realize the potential for more supplements.  However, those in the first set are outstanding as are the shows and that is why both sets are strongly recommended.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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