Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On DVD: Famous TV Detectives (1957-63)

For once, Alpha Video didn't completely deliver the goods on one of their video compilations. "Famous TV Detectives" brings together episodes of Peter Gunn, Burke's Law, & Richard Diamond, Private Detective, but while the episodes themselves are entertaining, there are a couple of issues I have with this package. We'll start with Richard Diamond, which finishes the disc.

There are two episodes of Diamond presented here, neither of which features Diamond's sexy "secretary", after a fashion, Sam, so any hope of seeing some early Mary Tyler Moore goes out the proverbial window. One episode, "Picture of Fear", appeared on an earlier compilation I'd acquired from Radio Spirits a while back, but the advantage Alpha has on their print is the use of original commercials as they were first presented, in this case for Maxwell House coffee. Diamond had started on radio with Four Star co-founder Dick Powell in the title role. The TV version launched David Janssen (later of The Fugitive, among others) into stardom. Regis Toomey (Burke's Law) turns up in the 2nd episode.

Updated, 9/10/13: Here's "Picture of Fear:

Speaking of Burke, "Who Killed Jason Shaw?", from 1963, features the likes of Tammy Grimes, Keenan Wynn, and Burgess Meredith among the guest stars. However, the villain of the piece is a suspect you'd least expect. A classic whodunit done right. Where Alpha fails, however, is deleting the Four Star logo at the end of the show (the famous banner logo had not yet been created during Diamond's run). Sci-fi fans will remember Gary Conway for his later starring gig on Land of the Giants.

Updated, 9/17/13: Here is "Who Killed Jason Shaw?":

The biggest, most glaring problem comes with Peter Gunn, which still airs 5-6 days a week on RTV (check local listings), making it easy to recognize that Alpha subbed out Henry Mancini's famous theme song for a bargain basket imitation, done strictly on the piano. I discussed this with my brother the other day, and he opined that it might be because Alpha wasn't willing to pony up royalty fees to Mancini's estate. Certainly seems that way. I had a VHS compilation of Gunn that had the iconic theme intact. Of course, Alpha shamelessly acknowledges their "special edition" of Gunn was issued in 2008.

We cannot overlook the fact that the 2nd of the two Gunn episodes offered here features Ross Martin (Wild, Wild West) who was co-starring on another series from the same producers, Mr. Lucky, around the time Gunn was on the air, I believe. Has anyone ever wondered if Craig Stevens (Gunn) was separated at birth from Jack Webb (Dragnet)? In some cases, their facials are almost the same.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's "The Fuse", with Ross Martin:

So, out of the three shows, only Richard Diamond goes unscathed.


Richard Diamond: A-.
Burke's Law: A. (We'll forgive the lack of a logo)
Peter Gunn: B--(points taken off for phony theme music).

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