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

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Troy Donahue, Lee Patterson, Van Williams
SURFSIDE 6 (1961).

This hour-long action-mystery series lasted for two seasons. Dave Thorne (Lee Patterson of The Flying Scot) and Kenny Madison (Van Williams of The Green Hornet) lived on a houseboat in Miami Beach and formed the Thorne-Madison private detective agency. Their rich buddy, Sandy Winfield III (Troy Donahue of Parrish) lived at the yacht club and kibitzed with the other two until he seemed to be working for, or with, them full-time. Each episode would star one of these three actors, although there were times when the others would appear; sometimes all three guys would get involved in a particularly difficult case. Beside the assorted women who would appear in each episode, there were two female regulars: Diane McBain as Daphne Dutton, a pretty heiress who hangs around the boys and occasionally gets mired in one of their cases; and Margarita Sierra as "Cha Cha" O'Brien, a poor man's Carmen Miranda and night club entertainer. Sierra was never a good fit for the program, as sometimes the story would have to stop dead to include one of her numbers while the other actors wore frozen smiles in reaction shots. On rare occasions "Cha Cha" would have something to do with the main storyline. Sierra over-sang everything terribly. In the first season the boys' police liaison was the gruff, nearly barking Lt. Snedigar (Don "Red" Barry), while in the second season he was replaced by Lt. Plehn (Richard Crane), who was a bit more pleasant but just as professional. Both actors offered interesting and adept portrayals, and Crane was especially good.

The most memorable episodes of the series include: "The Old School Tie," with Gloria Talbott involved with murder at a reunion; "Midnight for Prince Charming," with a lonely man conned by a criminal couple; "Race Against Time," with Lee's associates desperately trying to save his life after he's been poisoned on an airliner; "Vengeance is Bitter," concerning a roman a clef about a murder case and the attempts to uncover the author; "Anniversary Special," a twisted domestic drama about a TV host and his unhappy wife, with both roles played superbly by William Windom and Jeanne Cooper; and "Overdose of Justice," in which a ferociously good Mara Corday [Tarantula] plays a vicious beauty involved with a love-sick insurance man played by Ed Platt [Get Smart]. The vast majority of episodes in the series were solid "B"s if not better with a few clunkers along the way. Although Donahue tended to be a bit stiff, he was okay in most episodes, with Williams and Patterson exhibiting a bit more flair and charm. Diane McBain was lovely and talented. I can't make up my mind if the theme music is catchy or really annoying.

Verdict: Entertaining mystery series with handsome studs and pretty gals awash in intrigue. ***.

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