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DVD Review: Hawaii Five-O Season 6

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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.

Cast:

  • 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
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About Jet Gardner

I like collecting books, music, movies, chess sets and friends
  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Here’s some Hawaii 5-0 trivia that I decided to edit out because the article was too long…

    Trivia:
    In some stock footage you can spot McGarrett’s original two-door 1967 car instead of the four-door ’68 by its red interior. Until the end of the 1974 season, Steve drove a 1968 Mercury Park Lane Brougham 4-door Sedan, with power steering, power front disc brakes, power windows, power seat, A/C, AM/FM, and cruise control. For some unfathomable reason the actual “hero” car was blown up as part of the final episode of that season instead of a double. Even after it was destroyed, footage of the Park Lane flying down the street was used as stock footage in later seasons.

    Jack Lord was offered the role of Captain Kirk on Star Trek and turned it down.

    Sammy Davis Jr. did a vocal of the famous theme song that never aired.

  • ok-auguste

    Rah! Rah! for a new 5-0 series release!
    Unhappily tantalising for us in Uk/Europe who are several months behind each release.
    But…
    the wadding’s worth it.

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Thanks auguste, if you’re a music lover, the “Bachish” electronic fugue used to accompany the 30,000 room episode is well worth the price and the wait.

    Jet

  • ok-auguste

    “waiting’s worth it” natch.
    who knows though…with all the good reviews I’m reading about Hawaii 5-0 series 6, it is getting wadded up to mucho great expectations.

  • ok-auguste

    Thanks for the tip-off re “30,000” room” ep, a Bachish (the best) fugue sounds sublime.

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    No problem, how long is the release delay in Europe?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I always liked Jack Lord. Wasn’t there some tragedy connected with his death?

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    He died of what almost took me-Congestive heart failure, rumors flew that he had Alzheimer’s but they were never confirmed.

    At one time he ran for governor of Hawaii.

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Despite what you may have heard, his hair did move on occasion.

  • ok-auguste

    Aloha Jet ~ lol at the Lord’s hair moving, on occasion.
    Woeful blues: We seem to lag behind by about 4 or 5 months. (Could you have a word?)

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    August; doesn’t Europe have a different video format than the U.S.? That may be why there’s a lag… but four or five MONTHS????

    Wow!

  • ok-auguste

    Yes, Jet ~ it’s a BIG lag. Especially when you look up Amazon and see a film/DVD set – then see it’s in dollars. Hopping on to the UK site, no release yet. Europe vids are PAL 2 and DVD’s are for zone 2; different formats to yours.
    Could be something to do with demand? You have these vintage show’s running all the time in some TV stations or other, so the shows have original fans as well as collecting new ones. Good side is that just as we’re getting ready to pull out the boots and mufflers in the autumn, we’ll be set for a trip to the islands via 5-0!

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    On the other hand there are DVD titles of American TV shows in Europe that may never come to America because they’re in the wrong format.

    I have a whole shopping list of movies etc. that I used to look for that I can only get over there and they’d only play-over there.

    It gets frustrating because 5 years later I can’t afford them.

    I wonder if it’s possible to get a European formatted DVD player over here-Then again it probably wouldn’t be compatible with our TVs

    When I think of it, I’ll have to see if someone on the internet sells format converters… then again the picture would probably be really shitty after all that processing.

    alas

  • ok-auguste

    Ah ha Jet, please don’t get me going on that one! Seriously, I’m gob-smacked that there are US films & TV prog s unreleased in DVD in the States? That’s a shocker. You’ve a continent of a mass market which caters to so many tastes; demand must be far greater there. For US markets, I’d have thought Europe was even more a diminished market than Britain, where, small though we are, we share the same language. And the UK has a large appetite for American TV.

    Last winter a review turned me on to the 5-0 releases. Since then have acquired a few vintage TV shows in boxed-sets. Several British shows, like The Avengers, Secret Agent, even a super Brit sit-com with fabulous Elaine Stritch (Two’s Company), is only available in the US! As I’m getting into DVD sets, my lists too grows frustratingly longer. When – WILL they make compatible players for these things? After all, we’re only separated by the Atlantic. Great idea about the converters, but think you’re right about losing picture quality.

    That said, we’re fortunate so many of the quality show’s are being harvested, and great that people like you write these public reviews so people like me buy them. Then the companies go on to release succeeding new seasons.

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    No no, There apparently are companies that record things over there off the air that are formatted for the European TV broadcast system-either that or they don’t think they’ll sell here.

    A good example is the EXCELLENT pilot movie by Abby Mann, “The Marcus-Nelson Murders” which became the “Kojak” series in the 70s. It was based on a real mystery that had a lot of plot twists and turns, but apparently it can only be found over there.

    There’s a Richard Burton movie called The Medusa Touch and The Robert Wagner series “It takes a thief”.

    By the way, if I forget to tell you, I’m going into the hospital again this thursday so I’ll be gone for a while after that…

    alas

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    As for British TV series, I have the entire collection of the Emma Peel episodes of “The Avengers”, all of “Are you being served?” “Space 1999″ and of course “Blackadder” on DVD.

  • ok-auguste

    Was curious about “To Catch a Thief so on googling it, came across a tip where you might find it available? http://www.hulu.com/watch/12204/it-takes-a-thief-a-spot-of-trouble.

    Nice one! I feel the Emma Peel series are the best, and most humorous. There’s also something special about the sharp black & white shows. (Some episodes available in Uk, thought not all the collection).

    Jet, sorry to hear that you have a hospital stay coming up. Always a challenge and a hill to climb. Wishing you all the very best, and leave you with an Irish blessing,
    “May the road rise to meet you
    May the wind be always at your back”

    Keep on truckin’
    (Patricia)

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Thanks Patricia, I’ve watched “It takes a thief” on Hulu, it’s a great site, especially with the season 2+ episodes of Kojak.

    If you get a chance checkout “I want to report a dream” on the Kojak series there. There’s a piano piece used in the soundtrack that was the first think I learned how to play.

  • Bliffle

    5-0 is proof of my contention that TV is about VISUAL effects and has little to do with sound or (heaven forfend) plot.

    Best to watch TV while listening to something else or reading a book.

    An exception is listening to the audio during the opening credits of 5-0 when those Hawaiian guys are pouring it on and roaring through the surf in a dugout canoe. Best part of the whole show.

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    As a matter of fact Blif, there are very few visual effects in 5-0 so the only thing it had going was its plots and story lines.

    That’s what made it so successful through 12 seasons, compare that to nearly any other TV show’s longetivity and you’ll see what I mean. It had appeal.