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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > Thriller > Action > Adventure > Mission: Impossible – The Complete First Season (DVD)

Mission: Impossible – The Complete First Season (DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: A-



There is a great story about how Mission: Impossible first come to be.  The spy craze was at its peak and there were several hit shows already on TV in the U.S. and U.K. while so many hit theatrical films were arriving left and right.  In order to expand her production company, Lucille Ball (who had taken total ownership of Desilu by buying out Desi Arnaz) wanted to do such a show and knew it could be a hit.  How to make one that would stand out and also be practical with the limited budgets of the weekly grind of TV production was key to greenlighting any show.  It was Lucy making the show, not just the network and she would own the final product.


So hugely popular and successful was Lucy as star and producer that she was the first female movie mogul when taking over RKO to convert to Desilu, Queen of TV and The Lucy Show was a relentless hit.  This put her in a position with CBS to limit her contract to one-year annual limits.  This way, she could raise her asking price as her shows made a mint for CBS and push for additional monies to produce pilot to new shows of any kind she pleased.  That is how Star Trek got made, Mannix got made and the grossly underrated The Immortal got made.  CBS went with her because they did not want her to defect to another network and being #1, she and they knew the money was there.


Bruce Geller had a great idea for a spy show, which we now know involves a special unit with a multi-talented crew so secretive that anything they did could be ignored, thrown-away and disavowed if any project went wrong.  They would have a head figure to gather the team, then they would go into action.  Lucy read the first script and liked it very much, but even though it was not as elaborate as a James Bond epic, she kept asking Geller if he was certain that the show could stick to a budget.  He assured her and part of what sold the show was the incredible intelligence and complexity of the scripts.  Rivaled only by Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner and wittier episodes of The Avengers (both reviewed elsewhere on this site), Mission: Impossible was the most complex Spy show ever made, rivaled the usually spoofy feature films that the craze had inspired and remains a landmark of great American television that has never been surpassed.


Outlasting ever other such show produced on both sides of the ocean, it became the longest running Spy show on U.S. TV (only rivaled by The Avengers) and though it did not endure as expected.  However, the succession of stars and general situation kept it popular and the show is one of the biggest non-Lucy hits Desilu ever had.  I guess Geller was right about that budget.


The original cast forming the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) included Barbara Bain as model Cinnamon Carter, Greg Morris as electronics expert Barney Collier, Peter Lupus as strongman/good henchman Willy Armitage, a few appearances by soon-to-be-regular Martino Landau as master of disguise Rollin Hand and original head agent coordinator Steven Hill as Dan Briggs.  He would only stay for one season, objecting to some subtle changes that eventually affected the show by late 1970.  He was excellent here, underappreciated and any show he is in as follows is guaranteed to be a genre classic and more.


This set contain the entire season of shows as follows:


1)     Pilot (9/17/1966) – Wally Cox (Underdog, Mr. Peepers) joins the team for their first mission as a safecracking expert infiltrating a third-world dictatorship country that has suddenly gained a couple of nuclear warheads.  They have to find a way to steal them and escape without being detected.

2)     Memory (9/24/1966) – Albert Paulsen joins the cast as memory expert Joseph Baresh, as the team penetrates another dictatorship to get rid of its lead tyrant.  Since assassination will not work, the idea is to discredit him so he will lose power.  This is not as simple as that, but they have a great idea on how to achieve this.

3)     Operation Rogosh (10/1/1966) – Fritz Weaver plays the title target, a mass murder who has decided to visit the U.S., giving the team a chance to intercept him.  Luckily, he has just been hit by a motor vehicle!

4)     Old Man Out (1; 10/8/1966) – Mary Ann Mobley (the original Girl From U.N.C.L.E. April Dancer before the role went to Stephanie Powers on the spin-off series) joins the team for her athletic abilities as the team tries to save an imprisoned freedom fighter behind a movement to overthrow a very oppressive regime.  Done in two parts, Oscar Beregi and Monte Markham also star.

5)     Old Man Out (2; 10/15/1966)

6)     Odds on Evil (10/22/1966) – As a sort of nod to the first Ian Fleming James Bond book Casino Royale, the team has to break a dictatorship funded by its own tourist gambling operation.  Nehemiah Persoff plays the royal dictator and look for an Aston Martin DB5 as part of the in-joke!

7)     Wheels (10/29/1966) – The team has to unfix a fixed election that will keep a dictatorship in power, one that is holding the elections to make it look like they are a democracy when they are not.  They will have to attack the villains as much as they attack the voting machines.

8)     The Ransom (11/5/1966) – Briggs is threatened by gangsters to get a witness hidden in a protection program so they can kill him before his testimony puts them away for a long time and breaks up their syndicate.  Briggs has a plan to trick the mob and the secrecy of the IMF.  Look for Vic Tayback (Mel Sharples from the TV comedy classic Alice) as one of the henchmen.

9)     A Spool There Was (11/12/1966) – A priceless wire recording has been cleverly hidden by another agent and the team has to go and find what an East Bloc-friendly little nation is using all their resources to find.  They have had no luck, so the team goes in to see if they can beat them to the punch.  At stake is a deadly formula for chemical warfare purposes.

10)  The Carriers (11/19/1966) – In one of the greatest shows ever, George Takei guest stars as science expert Roger Lee, called in to hunt and destroy a deadly operation developing an untraceable biological warfare weapon that human carries will not know they have.  Run by an expert on American culture (Arthur Hill, Steven Hill’s brother, as Janos Passik) running a camp to teach east Bloc agents on “how to be like Americans”, the show is loaded with suspense and a few hoots.

11)  Zubrovnik's Ghost (11/26/1966) – Beatrice Straight stars as a doctor who married an important Austrian doctor and then never heard form again.  Recently, he died in a fire by burning to death and now they really want to know here she is and what she knows.  The team goes in to find out.

12)  Fakeout (12/3/1966) – Lloyd Bridges plays a drug lord (heroin is his specialty) in another country that the U.S. wants to indict very badly, so the team is sent in to bring him back alive so he can face proper trial.  Sig Haig also stars in this solid entry.

13)  Elena (12/10/1966) – Barbara Luna plays the title character, a special agent who was pumping priceless information to U.S. Intelligence until her behavior changed and the flow stopped.  The team is sent behind enemy lines to find out why as it was to stop an unfriendly country from invading hers.  Barry Atwater (Janos Skorseny from The Night Stalker) joins the team as a psychiatric advisor and Abraham Sofaer co-star in one of the most interesting and unusual shows her.

14)  The Short Tail Spy (12/17/1966) – Two East Bloc Spy teams are trying to annihilate each other for power as one side wants to assassinate a valued Professor.  Hans Gudegast (now Eric Braeden) is the assassin, part of the group run by Albert Dekker as a mad Colonel, plus Joseph Sirola also stars in another winner.

15)  The Legacy (1/7/1967) – One of the better “Hitler’s Treasure” stories has the team trying to stop the rise of a Fourth Reich.  Lee Bergere co-stars as one of the new member of this upscale Neo-Nazi movement.  Note the titles is very similar to episode 20, even though the shows have no direct link.

16)  The Reluctant Dragon (1/14/1967) – Joseph Campanella is an East Bloc rocket science expert whose wife has already defected to the West.  When he does not follow, the team is sent behind The Iron Curtain to find out why. 

17)  The Frame (1/21/1967) – Simon Oakland is excellent as a nation Mafia boss the IMF team needs to bring down when he starts ordering political assassinations of politicians and other elected officials to keep the ones who favor him and his organization in power.  Oakland is one of the best villains in the series and the show is terrific.

18)  The Trial (1/28/1967) – Carroll O’Connor is also excellent as the head of a secret police organization who wants to make The Cold War hot so he can grab onto more power, no matter who gets killed.  Known as Archie Bunker, this is yet another example of what a great dramatic actor he was and great villain he could be.  Michael Strong also stars.

19)  The Diamond (2/4/1967) – A huge diamond that could save a nation from starvation and poverty is being held by its dictator head and the team is sent in to change that.  The idea might stretch believability a bit, but it is still a very good show.

20)  The Legend (2/11/1967) – another Neo-Nazi storyline almost as good as episode 15, with Gunnar Hellstrom good in his bad guy role.  Note the titles are very similar, even though the shows have no direct link.

21)  Snowball In Hell (2/18/1967) – Ricardo Montalban plays the most vicious villain of his career as Gerard Sefra, the head of a penal colony with a reputation as the worst on earth.  It has been closed, but Sefra and his crew have a new calling, organic elements to make nuclear weapons.  This includes a deadly fo0rmula, so the team goes in to stop him.

22)  The Confession (2/25/1967) – Kent Smith is a politically extreme Senator who when assassinated, causes his constituency and head financial backer (Pat Hingle) to break off any communications with The East.  The team investigates by finding out who hired the hitman and if some larger plot is at hand.

23)  Action! (3/4/1967) – In one of the most interesting and bizarre show sin the series that directly addresses the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, an East Bloc movie studio intends to cross stock footage with newly shot footage (fans of Eisenstein, perhaps?) to create a propaganda film that shows U.S. soldiers committing atrocities in Vietnam to discredit the U.S. to the world.  The atrocities will be staged in-studio as realistically as possible, unless the team can stop the production.  You have to see it to believe it, staring with Carter substituting for Briggs.  Tom Troupe guest stars as motion picture camera expert David Day.

24)  The Train (3/18/1967) – William Windom plays a next-in-line ruler who is set up to continue a new democracy in a small country, but plans to make it a dictatorship when the current leader dies unless the IMF can stop him.  William Schallert also stars.

25)  Shock (3/25/1967) – James Daly plays a U.S. diplomat who is on the verge of a breakthrough with a neutral country on behalf of The U.S. when he is kidnapped by a clever enemy agent (Sorrell Booke in a solid serious performance) to prevent this, so the IMF must trump his interference before it is too late.

26)  A Cube of Sugar (4/1/1967) – A Jazz musician working for the IMF behind The Iron Curtain on tour obtains an important microcircuit pertaining to nuclear second strike capabilities, but he has been caught, so the team has to go behind the curtain again to get him and the information. 

27)  The Traitor (4/15/1967) – Eartha Kitt joins the IMF as Tina Mara, a circus performer and athlete extraordinaire when the team investigates when an agent defects to the East with a secret message they are clueless as to the contents of.  Mara will have to help them break into The Soviet Embassy before it is too late to stop whatever deadly secret it might hold.  Malachi Throne also stars as the embassy’s Ambassador.

28)  The Psychic (4/22/1967) – Barry Sullivan plays a business man up to no good, taking a ton of money and running to South America.  That would be suspicious enough, but one of the companies makes armaments for NATO so the IMF team has to investigate.  Carter pretends to be a psychic when a poker game is thrown into the mix and Alex Lowell (Sullivan) turns out to have stolen some patents.  Richard Anderson (The Night Strangler, The Six Million Dollar Man) and Paul Mantee (A Man Called Dagger) also star.



The 1.33 X 1 image is color and from a round of new transfers, but is just lacking the total detail throughout one would hope for throughout.  However, the clarity and color on these uncut shows is so good, that they are a constant pleasure to watch with visual surprises throughout.  Though the original show was monophonic and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is included for each show, Paramount has upgraded each show to Dolby 5.1 and the results are not bad.  You can hear sonic limits, but it is a nice alternative.  Some episodes were previously released on VHS and even a couple of 12” LaserDiscs, but these are the best copies to date, looking pretty ready for both HD formats.


Sadly, there are no extras, but this is one of the strongest seasons of any show in TV history, making it a must-see set.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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