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Raymond Burr solves mysteries from his wheelchair.

DVD Review: Ironside – Season 1

Robert T. Ironside was the Chief of Detectives for the San Francisco Police Department until a sniper’s bullet paralyzed the lower half of his body. Though he lost the use of his legs, his mind remained as strong and sharp as ever, which combined with his dogged determination allowed him to stay on the force as a special department consultant. He lived at the police station and used a modified police van to get around town. He was assisted by Sgt. Ed Brown, Officer Eve Whitfield, and on a more personal level by ex-con Mark Sanger, whose two incarcerations Ironside was involved.

The pilot, created by Colin Young, aired as an NBC television movie in March 1966. The series ran from September 14, 1967 to January 16, 1975. Young served as executive producer for the first five episodes and was replaced by Frank Price. A few scenes of the pilot are cut at an extremely rapid pace, causing unintentional humor. Thankfully, that editing style doesn’t transfer to the series. Quincy Jones created the theme song and music for some of the episodes.

When we first meet Ironside, he is man’s man. He drinks bourbon, eats chili, and talks tough, using “flaming” to get around the censors. His drinking and swearing lose their prominence over the season. Ironside provides a lot of the story’s exposition to the viewers as he solves the crimes from his wheelchair, which limited the plot’s action.

Raymond Burr played Ironside after a successful eight seasons as Perry Mason from the show of the same name that ran on CBS from 1957-66. The shows were slightly similar; Mason solves mysteries in a courtroom and Ironside solves mysteries on the streets. Both were excellent at their jobs and almost always prevailed. These factors may have helped viewers accept Burr’s transition, which has always been a notorious one as many actors have failed to have lightening strike twice.

One of the more enjoyable aspects in watching old television dramas is that you’ll never know who is going to show up. Over this first season, some of the more recognizable talent and future television stars are Tiny Tim, Jack Lord, John Saxon, Bruce Lee, Robert Carradine, Norman Fell, Robert Reed, Edward Asner, and Susan St James, appearing as two different characters only a couple of months apart.

Unfortunately, as with many of the Universal Television DVD releases, there are no extras. For those that want to see the series in the order the episodes were produced rather than aired, which will make more sense for those who notice hair and character development, the list is as follows:

Ironside Pilot
Leaf In The Forrest
Eat, Drink, And Be Buried
The Monster Of Comus Towers
Something For Nothing
Tagged For Murder
Message From Beyond
Dead Man's Tale
The Man Who Believed
An Inside Job
The Taker
Let My Brother Go
Light At The End Of The Journey
A Very Cool Hot Car
The Past Is Prologue
Girl In The Night
The Fourteenth Runner
Force Of Arms
Memory Of An Ice Cream Stick
To Kill A Cop
The Lonely Hostage
The Challenge
All In A Day's Work
Barbara Who
Perfect Crime
Officer Bobby
Trip To Hashbury
Due Process Of The Law
Return Of The Hero

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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