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

Thursday, April 11, 2013


The original cast minus Peter Lupus
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Season 1.1966. CBS. 28 color episodes.

Daniel Briggs (Steven Hill) returns from somewhere [it is never revealed] to again head up a covert "Impossible Missions" task force that tackles dangerous undercover operations apparently assigned by the "secretary" [of state?] in the U.S. government, although why the CIA wouldn't handle these assignments is never made clear. Briggs has a large number of agents but he always seems to pick the same group: Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), strongman Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus), electronics expert Barney Collier (Greg Morris), and master of disguise Rollin Hand ("guest star" Martin Landau). While Mission: Impossible was a bit more "serious" than, say, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., there were times when the show should have been called "Mission: Highly Improbable." Suspension of disbelief is required on the vast majority of episodes. A supposedly impregnable prison that has no security cameras? No one ever recognizes famous former model Cinnamon Carter or actor/celebrity Rollin Hand? And in one episode without any explanation a gangster is not only familiar with the Impossible Missions team, but knows Briggs is the head of it and where Briggs lives! And you have to wonder what is the point of those super-secret openings where Briggs gets general info about the mission when somewhere and somehow he'll have to get the details before he can assemble his team or come up with a plan. But what the hell, the fans of this very popular program didn't care as long as the show was entertaining, which it was. The pilot episode, with its cheap wobbling sets, seemed a little unreal, but it held the attention and that's what mattered.

Most of the first season episodes were "B+" in quality, and there were a few "A"s as well. "A Spool There Was" has Cinnamon and Rollin working alone in a hostile country to find a wire that has information about bacteriological warfare on it. The team pretends to have a machine that can perfectly duplicate diamonds in "The Diamond," which features a very suspenseful sequence concerning an exchange of gems. A fascinating fake train ride figures in "The Train," in which the team must eliminate a prime minister's dangerous successor. "The Traitor" concerns a U.S. defector with an important cryptic message. Other memorable episodes concerned a training center for foreign spies, a race to acquire Nazi gold, and the rescue of an imprisoned cardinal in a jail located across from a carnival. The actors are all competent, if unspectacular, with the exception of Martin Landau, who easily walks off with the acting honors.

In one episode Cinnamon gets the assignment info at the opening, because apparently it was decided that a difficult Steven Hill would have to be replaced, which he was in the second season. Lalo Schifrin's sexy and exciting theme music is just wonderful. NOTE: The remastered DVDs of this series looks stunning.

Verdict: Far-fetched but intriguing and entertaining suspense show. ***.

No comments: