Sunday, 4 November 2012

KOOL TV REVIEW: 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - THE '89 TV SEASON' DVD BOX SET

Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) and his bold team accept their next season of adventures in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: THE '89 TV SEASON. Images: CBS PARAMOUNT/REVELATION FILMS.



MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE- THE ’89 TV SEASON. DVD BOX SET (4 discs)

Starring Peter Graves

Released by CBS PARAMOUNT via REVELATION FILMS


Reviewed by Scott Weller


Silver haired mastermind Jim Phelps and his shoulder padded heroes of the eighties MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TV series re-imagining are back for their second and final season of adventures, courtesy of CBS PARAMOUNT and REVELATION FILMS, and once more pitting their wits and unique talents against the worlds nastiest post-Cold War super-baddies of money and power.

Sprightly lead star Peter Graves clearly enjoys returning to the title role for which he would become so synonymous, as well as showing a more paternal side to his nature as leader of his modern team (including Tony Hamilton as action beefcake Max, Thaao Penglis as master mimicker Nicholas, Phil Morris as tech wizard Grant and lovely Jane Badler as decoy Shannon), as well retaining his skills as a master manipulator.

No longer hampered behind the scenes into remaking a mass of classic original series episodes as they were in their first year, due to the crippling US writers strike of 1987/88, our globe-trotting gang come across on screen as a now much more comfortable ensemble, though suspension of disbelief is always a vital requirement when watching this show as well as nostalgia at seeing the teams use of then high tech wizardry- a time of cassette decks and floppy discs no less- now seemingly a little low brow with today’s continuing advances. But it’s all fun regardless.



Jim Phelps is back in the infiltration game.

The series overall baddies are mostly Australian names and not quite so well known as previous season stars. Still, there are a few noteworthy non-Aussie exceptions playing strong antagonists, including Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Albert Salmi, Alex Cord, Lewis Fiander, and Michael Greene.

As much a central star as our heroes, the series now set Antipodean location successfully continues its weekly behind the scenes transformations into various countries, from Ireland to the Congo, with much greater success than the often tired backlot-ness of the shows earlier seventies incarnation. Shrewdly, the old series decreased in telling worldwide set stories, eventually saving costs with US based tales instead. Here, the eighties series has no such restrictions and enjoys its travel.

Max and Grant emerge into the underground base of The Golden Serpent.

In and out of the locations, Special Effects veteran Dale Duguid pushes his team to the limits in Season Two, sometimes with mixed success from the technology then available to them behind the scenes. Model and matte painting work are of very variable quality here compared to the digital age. Still, you have to admire Duguid’s pluck in conceiving the ambitious volcano script Cargo Cult, which sees the gang try to save a lost tribe of stone agers from being exploited for their gold by greedy entrepreneurs.

Among the scripting newbies joining the series is STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION writer/ producer-to-be Frank Abatemarco, also American supervising producer for the new run, whilst returning veterans to the Jeffrey M. Hayes produced series include writers Ted Roberts and experienced Aussie director Colin Budds, helping Jim Phelps light the fuse to adventure all over again…

The series may have ended with a shorter episode run count-16 compared to the previous 19- but it’s continued success proved to PARAMOUNT that Bruce Geller’s original winning format for the series still had continued potential, a fact that would be recognized a few years later with the first of Tom Cruise’s exhilarating theatrical adventures from 1995 onwards.

Picture and sound quality for the non-widescreen DVD release episodes is once again acceptable, considering that the two eighties seasons were converted from film to videotape. Amongst the sparse but welcome bonus features accompanying the four-disc set are several episodic trailers and a nice, specially shot at the time Happy Holidays message from the cast to US viewers.

Here’s KOOL TV’s look at some of the years most notable episodes…

The cast of the eighties MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. Left to right: Phil Morris as Grant, Thaao Penghlis as Nicholas, Peter Graves as Jim Phelps, Jane Badler as Shannon and Tony Hamilton as Max.

The Golden Serpent (Season Two opening two-parter)

Much better than I remember seeing it on UK rental VHS tape in 1989, the opening two-parter of the new season is ambitious and enjoyable, with a bit more money noticeably spent on it by PARAMOUNT than with previous episodes. There's a bit of James Bond about it all, too-very You Only Live Twice and Thunderball, what with its underwater scenes, laser defended underground base, uniformed baddie soldiers and lethal henchmen (and woman) as the IMF team have to destroy the Asiatic based Golden Serpent drug empire/trafficking ring from the inside out. The mission proves a real family affair, too, for some team members, with the last re-appearance of original series veteran Greg Morris as Barney Collier, having infiltrated the baddies domain and re-united for more adventuring with his son in real-life and on the show, Phil Morris as Grant Collier.

The shows format has several slightly tweaked format changes, and the IMF have a few revised gadgets to work with as part of their non-killing arsenal. The story also makes worthy use of its Australia set locations, especially the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge for an exciting action sequence cliffhanger to part one, involving Tony Hamilton as Max.

The links to other spy-dom series continues with the return of British sixties THE AVENGERS series director Don Chaffey, who keeps the proceedings fun and lively to its explosive end.

Grant is reunited with dad Barney (Phil Morris) in The Golden Serpent.

Command Performance

It’s Circus, Circus as Jim and the team use the colourful environs of the Big Top to rescue a revolutionary priest and his priceless golden cross from the clutches of a corrupt military official. A lively yarn from series newcomer Robert Brennan, if a little similar to some earlier classic episodes of the past. A fun finale makes it all worthwhile, along with a solid foreign baddie from Grigor Taylor in the form of Savitch. Plus another sexy performance from Jane Badler. What more could you want?

War Games

Military maneuvers of the deadliest kind from writer Walter Brough, playing well to the modern series strengths, as our team use astrology, infiltration and technological sabotage to prevent an invasion by the warmongering Sardavian Republic against their peaceful neighbours.

Lovely Jane Badler returns for Series Two, and gets lots more to do.

Target Earth

Classic STAR TREK and seventies MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE writing stalwart Stephen Kandel makes his talented return. Terrorists threaten a European space shuttle mission and Shannon becomes the first IMF woman in space in order to stop a saboteur from using an of-its-time, real-life STAR WARS DEFENSE INITIATIVE-like weapon against the planet. It’s a barmy episode but it works overall and proves likeable. Amidst the NASA stock footage there’s some occasional good new model work from the show’s Aussie effects team.

The Fuehrer’s Children

Albert Salmi gives a strong performance as an American Neo Nazi leader on the worldwide rise, Richard Kester, who must be stopped at all costs; especially with regards to the “secret weapons” he has under his charge. Pity poor Grant when he has his first run in with the baddies, tied up and about to be used as practice fodder in a manhunt, whilst Jane Badler, having previously been an outer space version of a Nazi villainess in V, now plays a character who has to take on the real thing…

Frank Abatemarco crafts an interesting tale, again well directed by Don Chaffey, but it ultimately lacks a truly satisfying ending.

Nicholas often enjoys coming back from the dead during the two seasons.

Banshee

Ted Roberts excursion to Ireland is a bit of a mis-step in its stereotypical, sometimes romanticized, presentation of Ireland and its people, as well as the conflict between Catholic and Protestant beliefs, layered around the story of a gun merchant playing profit off both sides. But Banshee does have its memorable laugh out loud fun moments beyond the clich├ęs. Especially the finale, involving the baddies being scared out of their wits by Badler’s playing of the title role: the spectral legend of Irish mythology, as well as Peter Graves as a ghostly charge of a deathly horse and carriage. Think THRILLER but badly done. Best enjoyed with a few beers, tongue held firmly in cheek and brain strictly in neutral…

For Art’s Sake

So as to smooth tensions between the US and the state of San Marco, the team, in particular Shannon, have to recover a stolen, priceless Latin American painting from a clever and resourceful art thief, wealthy Daniel Travers (AIRWOLF’s Alex Cord, who also played a villain in the seventies show). The team has a fine baddie to pit their wits against, with Badler getting some good material to work with as another art fence that soon falls foul of Travers. Phelps final trap against the murdering anti-philanthropist is ingenious.

The Assassin

In their efforts to stop the continued work and profits of an assassination bureau, Nicholas unwittingly becomes a mind-controlled assassin himself in this original series reminiscent episode that just about holds its story duration. It’s a good vehicle for Thaao Penghlis in a season where he doesn’t really have enough to do compared to year one.

Tony Hamilton returns as stalwart adventurer Max.

The Gunslinger

Ride ‘em cowboy! Jim and his posse go western as they get to work within a theme park in Nevada, so as to stop it's corrupt owner/political Ian McClintock (Michael Greene) from using his nearby mine to steal nuclear materials for terrorists. The cast enjoy the offbeat story setting from writer Ted Roberts and director Colin Budds, especially Graves, used to the genre from the fifties, whilst Jane Bader looks sexy and has some fun as a bar girl.

Church Bells in Bogota

Here comes the amnesiac bride! Not a classic episode by any means but a nice acting/singing showcase for Badler as Shannon, who, undercover as a night club singer on a mission to capture a major drug dealer, loses her memory after a plane crash and falls in love with the kingpin’s nephew. Can her teammates help her recover her memory and finish the mission?

The Sands of Seth

With five VIPs dead from strangulation, the IMF team uses the ambitions of an insane Egyptian professor, Doctor Salim (beaky-nosed Tim Elliott) against him, as he begins his hell-bent scheme to resurrect the cult of the destructive Pharaoh Seth in order to restore his country’s power base position in the Middle East.

It's THE MUMMY RETURNS meets INDIANA JONES in this lively genre- crossing tale from long-term series producer Jeffery Hayes, his only script for this final year. The villain is a strong one, the assembled cast has lots to do- master of disguise Nicholas even gets the fun opportunity to become a Mummy! - and it all ends with a big finish amidst memorable set designs from the series notable Production Designer Stewart Burnside. The Sands of Seth ultimately proves a fitting and successful end to the series.

KOOL TV overall series rating: enjoyable hokum getting a solid 3.5 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment