This great collection brings back a long-lost era when TV cars weren’t allowed to come to a stop without screeching their tires… even on a dirt road, and nearly all car accidents, no matter how minor, always ended up in a huge fireball. The show had new Chevrolet police cars that would morph into older Fords and back into Chevys during a chase scene unless they were involved in a crash; then they’d turn into a badly painted 12-year-old Ford Galaxy just before impact.
Steve McGarrett’s infamous 1968 four-door black Mercury Park Lane (which he used like the Batmobile of another series) could magically lose and regain hubcaps, move its radio antenna from the front fender to the back quarter panel at will, and never, ever, ever got dusty, dirty, or even wet! Jack Lord could never park between the lines in a parking lot and usually kept a piece of chalk in the car to jot script notes on his sun visor.
This was the golden era when TV cops handled fresh evidence, plutonium in flimsy little clear plastic boxes, and even plague victims with their bare hands. It was also a time when computers with a fraction of the power of a home PC took up whole rooms.
Being produced and filmed entirely in Hawaii meant building the show from the ground up. That meant instead of using Hollywood lots, they had to build their own studios and import actors from the mainland with the temptation of a free week’s vacation in paradise. Because of the production costs, stock footage had to be used wherever possible. This saved money by not having to repeatedly film McGarrett’s Park Lane screaming down the street for every single episode.
In 1972 the executives in charge of Hawaii Five-O began fixing some of its continuity problems. Shortly after, and much to the producers’ chagrin, letters started coming in complaining that those very errors were part of the charm of the show, so in 1973 some were cautiously let back in. McGarrett would run out of his office in a gray suit, and stock footage showed him getting into his car wearing a dark blue one. “Danno” would leave alone for a crime scene in his black Ford detective car with its black interior, and show up in his black Ford with a red interior with Chin Ho Kelly at the wheel instead.
Then there were the college drinking games that depended on whether Jack Lord’s hair moved or not during a close up.
By the end of 1973 Hawaii Five-O’s sixth season was a certified hit for CBS and would enjoy another six seasons of success.
There are two ways to watch this box set. One is for the great story-driven action, trying to see if you could figure out who did it, or how they did it, before McGarrett does. The other is for the memories of better days gone by, those beautiful 35-year-old cars in brand new condition, and those freewheeling, free thinking fashions.
1973 was a year to remember and this collection brings all those fond reminiscences back full force. A warmhearted smile can be had with only a glance of a pretty girl, a brand new Admiral TV, a pristine classic car or a pay phone with a dial instead of touch-tone buttons. President Richard Nixon was just getting tangled up in Watergate, never to recover. The '60s youth movement was beginning to wither as those “never trust anyone over 30” hippies were turning 30 themselves. Best of all, it was a nonjudgmental time of “do your own thing, man!” One guy could wear a psychedelic shirt, striped bell-bottomed pants, gold chains, and an Afro haircut that was 12 inches in diameter. Another man could sport hair longer and better maintained than his girlfriend’s. And yet another could wear straight-legged jeans, a white t-shirt, and a crew cut and none of them were given a second glance. It was a wonderful era of being accepted for whatever you were or wanted to be… and disco was blessedly still four or five years away in the future.
This collection is best watched twice, once for the story, then again for the scenery. The pause button got a lot of exercise, as I’d stop a street scene only to be reminded of a time when I could identify the make, model, and year of every car in a traffic jam. It was also an era, not only in Hawaii but also all over the U. S., when unashamed people became sexy. Hawaii Five-O, like its illegitimate love child Miami Vice, would and did take advantage of the local human eye-candy and the ratings soared in response.
Then there were the heartbreaking scenes that made you want to weep, such as a crane pulling a disposable eight-year-old flawless ’65 Mustang out of the bay, tempting you to scream in astonished protest, “Do you know how much that thing would be worth today?”
This collection has pretty standard fare for the time and every episode is worth watching without a single clinker in the lot. There are also a few standouts worth mentioning because of the great scripts and the trivia that comes along with them.
"Hookman" features an assassin with hooks instead of hands. He’s out for revenge against four young cops who put him in jail for robbing banks by using a bomb once too often to threaten the tellers. One of the men he’s after was a young probationary policeman named Steve McGarrett. This episode also features the unique and famous mid-'60s Pontiac Catalina 2+2 ambulance, which is painted black and regretfully wrecked as a hearse without removing all of the emergency lights and cowling from the roof. My guess is that the production office could finally afford a Cadillac that year so it was disposable.
In "A Bullet For El Diablo" radicals kidnap a much-hated Latin president’s daughter to lure him to Honolulu and then substitute her for his look-alike illegitimate daughter in an assassination attempt. Note the police-escorted limo that the loathed president is using always has it windows down.
In "The Finishing Touch" Steve McGarrett brings in a good friend who is a well known and respected documents expert to help him detect counterfeit city and state bonds that threaten Hawaii’s economy. The viewer is let in from the beginning that the counterfeiter is the expert, but how long will it take Steve to catch on?
In "Nightmare In Blue" a cop uses his uniform to gain the trust of women in order to rape and then kill them. McGarrett must find him before the Honolulu Police Department’s reputation is completely ruined. The script is great, but the execution is terrible, which makes it noteworthy. The phony police car is a brand new and huge gold 1973 Buick Electra luxury car with wide whitewall tires and a flimsy little magnetic blue light on the roof. When an experienced veteran female undercover cop is assigned to the case as a decoy and almost kidnapped, she not only can’t remember later on whether the car was a Ford or a maybe a Buick, but never spots the completely unmarked car as an obvious fake!
In "Mother's Deadly Helper" a deranged vigilante begins killing criminals that are set free due to courtroom technicalities. McGarrett starts receiving bragging fan mail giving details that only the killer would know and the sharp shooter is increasingly convinced that Steve considers him a cherished member of his team. Frank Cady, who played Hooterville’s Sam Drucker on Green Acres, takes on a serious role as the judge, who later becomes the killer’s target in this episode.
"30,000 Rooms, And I Have The Key" is an unusually funny episode that should have been titled “Saving The Best For Last.” A charming and lovable multi-millionaire master thief, master of disguise, and master key maker arrives on the island to expand his fortune. McGarrett is taunted and vexed at every turn with clues such as ten dollar bills and roses as the Frenchman moves from hotel to hotel. The episode’s grand finale involves him sending Steve an engraved invitation to a burglary. This is undoubtedly my favorite of the whole 12-year TV series. You will find yourself actually rooting for the bad guy and hoping that McGarrett doesn’t catch him! What appears at first as canned music that’s been used before was actually reworked and re-recorded with great new arrangements just for this episode. As the tension and the music builds you will hold your breath as a target approaches a well laid trap set by McGarrett… and then you will cheer out loud in laughter at the line, “Why howdy friend; step right on in here!”
This collection contains 24 episodes on six discs. Except for Jack Lord's “Join us next week for…” promos, there are no DVD extras. The transfers are good, but some installments are noticeably grainy and there are skips in the music on occasion as if it was edited in order to get four hour-long episodes on each disc.
Other things in this collection to watch for are the magic green Ford with an equally green vinyl top that appears as a cab, then a detective car, then a victim’s car, then the bad guy’s getaway car. There is also an old, beaten up, white Chevrolet station wagon that makes repeat appearances as either a stolen vehicle or a detective’s personal car. Count also one of my all-time pet peeves — the interior rear view mirror that appears and disappears depending on how vain the guest star is. Speaking of guest stars, some famous actors turn up in their younger days all over the place in bit parts or even as just extras.
Possibly the most noticeable thing about this particular collection is the complete lack of the catch phrase, “Book ‘em, Danno!”
All and all I liked season six. If only for the "30,000 Rooms" episode it’s well worth the price.
- Jack Lord – Steve McGarrett
- James MacArthur – Danny "Danno" Williams
- Kam Fong – Chin Ho Kelly
- Herman Wedemeyer – Duke Lukela
- Harry Endo – Che Fong
- Richard Denning – Gov Paul Jameson
- Al Harrington – Det. Ben Kokua
- Al Eben – Doc Bergman
- Peggy Ryan – Jenny