Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Season 2

Ice Princess: Cinnamon radiates her usual warmth
















MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Season Two. 1967.

"You and I are so used to lying that we seldom know when we're telling the truth."

They kidnap people, frame them, drug them, lie to them, imprison them, and arrange for them to be murdered, without their victims having any trial or counsel whatsoever. And these are the good guys! Yes, the "impossible missions" team is back for a second season of improbable but enjoyable adventures in nasty espionage.

Although there are times when Barbara Bain is called to play a fake character as part of a mission, she mostly goes through the series with one patented expression: a kind of glacial, face-frozen look that one imagines is supposed to be the epitome of "cool" -- after all, you'd have to have nerves of steel to go on some of these missions! Her big fake eyelashes add to the chilly effect. The big change in this season is that the difficult Steven Hill was replaced by the more amiable and professional Peter Graves, who does fine work for the series as new leader James Phelps.

Most of this season's episodes are a solid "B+" in quality and there are a few "A's" as well. Among them: "The Bank," in which a truly loathsome villain takes money from people desperate to escape the country but leads them into a death trap instead of freedom; "The Slave," in which the team stop the slave trade in a small nation by kidnapping the princess and placing her on auction [!]; "Money Machine," in which they save an African nation's economy from ruin by stopping a gang of counterfeiters; "Sweet Charity," with Fritz Weaver and Hazel Court as phony and greedy philanthropists; and "Recovery," in which Bradford Dillman offers a fine portrait of a traitor with a bomb that the team needs to reclaim. The season's worst episode was "The Killing," with the group trying unconvincingly to spook a hood with phony supernatural stuff, but wouldn't you know some fans think this is one of the best stories and it even received a few inexplicable Emmy nominations. "The Seal" features an adorable and literal "cat burglar," a pussy who figures in the episode's most suspenseful sequence. Guest-stars for season two include Edmond O'Brian, Pernell Roberts, Kate Woodville, Wilfrid Hyde-White, John Randolph, and Darren McGavin.

Verdict: A slick and entertaining program. ***.

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