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A&E Home Video presents
Peter Gunn: Set #1 (1958)

Edie Hart: Is it true what they say about you?
Peter Gunn: What do they say?
Edie: Pete Gunn for hire.
Peter: True.

- Lola Albright, Craig Stevens

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: March 25, 2002

Stars: Craig Stevens, Lola Albright, Herschel Bernardi, Hope Emerson
Other Stars: Bill Chadney, James Lanphier, Herb Ellis, Gavin McLeod, Jack Weston, J. Pat O'Malley, Ned Glass, Whit Bissell, Billy Barty, Anna Lee, Ross Martin
Director: Blake Edwards, David O. McDearmon, Lamont Johnson, Paul Stewart

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (TV violence)
Run Time: 06h:39m:58s
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 733961703931
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-B-B- C-

DVD Review

"Sometimes you get lucky. You take a chance on a bluff and it plays off." - Peter Gunn (Craig Stevens)

He was the perfect American private dick: suave, cool, and no stranger to danger. Rather than an office, he operated out of Mother's, a jazz bar on the waterfront, where his girlfriend Edie Hart (Lola Albright) was a regular performer, and the owner, Mother (Hope Emerson), was a wealth of information when it came to leads. He took the jobs no one else wanted, and the police couldn't handle. Everybody knew Pete. His backup was police Lieutenant Jacoby (Herschel Bernardi), who always managed to get there in the nick of time to get Pete out of a jam, and no matter the crime, Gunn always got his man.

For writer-director Blake Edwards, his debut TV series, Peter Gunn marked the first in a long line of successes. The show also marked the beginning of a long and extensive collaboration with Henry Mancini, whose jazzy and instantly recognizable theme music won him the first Grammy® ever for Best Album and best arrangement. Mancini wrote new score music each episode, which greatly adds to the show's character, and Edie is showcased on a regular basis for her singing talents. Edwards and Mancini would team up for future feature films such as Breakfast at Tiffany's (Mancini took the Oscar® for Best Song and Best Score), and the Pink Panther series, with the bumbling Inspector Clouseau and a theme no one could forget.

Peter Gunn inspired a revival of the detective show, laying the groundwork for successors like Phillip Marlow and Richard Diamond. While he wasn't a violent man by nature, Gunn more often than not plugs the guilty with a slug, and isn't afraid to take a punch for his case. Craig Stevens plays the part with a reserved evenness, either when staring down a gun or in intimate exchanges with his girlfriend. His supporting cast add their own flavor, and the writing allowed for many great exchanges. The chemistry between Edie and Pete is great, with many funny relationship-based conversations that add further dimension to the show. Lt. Jacoby also lends humor with his deadpan and uncooperative relationship with Gunn, though he always comes through in the end. An eclectic mix of informers further takes the serious edge off the crime drama, such as Wilbur, the hip owner of another jazz club, whose verbosity is matched only by his penchant for swinging lingo.

Each half-hour installment sets up a new mystery, leading Gunn into run ins with crime bosses, swindlers, and other forms of low life. Only his quit wits and intelligence, with a little help from a snub nose revolver, can get the case solved, and the bad guys their retribution.

Peter Gunn ran three seasons, and 16 of the first season's 38 are included here. The original airdate for each episode is in parentheses.

1. The Kill (9/22/1958)

Dave Green (Jack Weston): "What are you going to do?"
Peter Gunn: "Kill you."


After a hit, There's a new crime boss in town, and he's putting the squeeze on Mother, forcing Peter to take the law in his own hands.

Costars Gavin McLeod, Jack Weston, John Truax, Sam Scar. 4.5 slugs out of 5.





2. Streetcar Jones (9/29/1958)

"I go where it swings." Streetcar Jones (Carlo Fiore)

A jazz musician is murdered, and Peter is hired to find the killer, but the defendant's lawyer wants him off the case.

Costars Patrica Powell, Leigh Whipper, Carlyle Mitchell





3. The Vicious Dog (10/6/1958)

Lt. Jacoby: We just got a report. Someone broke into an apartment. Thought maybe you'd like to come along for the ride.
Peter Gunn: Why me?
Jacoby: It was your apartment.

A columnist who has been leaning on a local syndicate boss is attacked by a dog, and hires Peter to find the man responsible. When Pete's apartment is broken into, he too becomes a target, and has to make sure he isn't barking up the wrong tree.

Costars Virginia Christine, Paul Dubov, J. Pat O'Malley and Tyler McVey.





4. The Blind Pianist (10/13/1958)

"I'm not used to my customer's faces turning blue." - Max (Ned Glass)

A woman is strangled in a restaurant, and the only witness is a blind piano player. Pete gets mixed up with some crazy cats at a swinging dig, and man, it's a profound gas... This is our first introduction to Wilbur (Herb Ellis).

Costars Barbara Stuart, Richard Ney, Herb Ellis, Barney Phillips and Ned Glass.





5. The Frog (10/20/1958)

"I think you need a lesson in good manners." Mr. Swink (Whit Bissell)

The leg man for a local gangster is iced and dumped in the river after arranging to meet with Peter and offering handsome payment for his services. When Peter visit's The Frog's apartment, there's a thug with a knife waiting for him, hoping he'll croak next.

Whit Bissell, Jean Inness and Arthur Kendall costar.





6. The Chinese Hangman (10/27/1958)

"You don't have much trouble with women, do you Mr. Gunn." Joanna (Marion Marshall)

A man is hanged, and Pete finds himself at a temple of peace and meditation. Pete gets roped into finding a beautiful thief who has absconded with $200,000, and sets off for Europe on the trail.

Marion Marshall, Buddy Bear, Theodore Marcuse and Bob Jellison costar.





7. Lynn's Blues (11/3/1958)

"She's scared stiff, and stiff's the word." - Peter Gunn

A lounge singer takes to the bottle when her lover is gunned down in an elevator. Edie hires Pete to look after the girl, which puts him squarely in the sights of a domineering nightclub owner and his henchman. Lawson belts the tunes in this one.

Costars Linda Lawson, David Tomack and Guy Prescott.





8. Rough Buck (11/10/1958)

"When it's rough, it's rough all the way around." - Gus (Arthur Batanidies)

A popular prize fighter is killed in his buddy's car, and Pete is enlisted by his family to find out who the culprit is. He'll take this one to the mat.

Costars Anthony Carbone, Larri Thomas, Ken Lynch and Arthur Batanidies.





9. Image of Sally (11/17/1958)

Edie: Every time you get beat up I ache all over.
Gunn:You ache?
Edie: I have a compatible psyche.

An ex-con fresh out of the slammer is caught with a smoking gun and a hit man is dead. Gunn is hired to track down his old girlfriend. Pete's friend Wilbur turns him on to the chick, but she has a mean new daddy.

Costars Monica Lewis, Phillip Pine, Herb Ellis and Richard Devon. Dig the crazy vibe for an extra half slug.





10. The Man with the Scar (11/24/1958)

"This type of conversation should preclude practical considerations." - Edie

A DA with evidence that will shut down a noted crime boss, enlists Gunn to uncover the truth when his son is set up for murder. There's a gun and a witness, but where is the body?

Costars Joan Taylor, Richard Wessel, Billy Barty, Peter Leeds, Lewis Martin and Charles Horvath.





11. Death House Testament (12/1/1958)

"Information like that could be fatal." - Peter Gunn

Condemned to die, the last remaining perpetrator of an armored car robbery hires Gunn to locate the loot, and deliver the reward money to his daughter. However, there are others who are also interested in getting their hands on the dough, and Pete's well being while doing so isn't foremost in their concerns.

Lucy Marlow, George Mitchell, Sam Buffington, Harry Bartell and Kathy Coombs costar.





12. The Torch (12/8/1958)

Jacoby: You get too interested, I'll get interested in why you're so interested.
Gunn: That's usually the way it works isn't it?

The wife and sole beneficiary of a man killed in a warehouse fire hires Pete to look into the cause. Arson is suspected, and his client is the primary suspect.

Costarring Paula Raymond, Bartlett Robinson, Robert Carricart, Walter Burke and Edward Ecker.





13. The Jockey (12/15/1958)

"Murderers don't come according to type." - Peter Gunn

A successful jockey's girlfriend falls through a skylight to her death. The police claim it's an accident, but the jockey thinks it's murder, and saddles Pete to do his own investigating.

Robert Gist, Frankie Darro and Robin Morse costar.





14. Sisters of the Friendless (12/22/1958)

"You're the only ones that can save him." - Peter Gunn

A young man fresh out of reform school is accused of murdering the boy he swore he'd kill on his release. He hires Gunn to prove his innocence, a task that will require going against convent-ion. Notable for its unique ending, and rock 'n' roll performance, which is out of character.

Marcel Dalio, Anna Lee, Charity Grace, Paul Carr and Colette Jackson costar.





15. The Leaper (12/29/1958)

"He'd never go off and take the big one." - Gussie Warnecke (Katherine Squire)

As a favor to Mother, Pete takes on a case of a human fly who leapt to his death from a hotel ledge. Things get a little more interesting when it turns out he was shot.

Katherine Squire, Michael Ross, James Lanphier and Jean Carson costar.





16. The Fuse (1/5/1959)

"Name me a bomb that ever did good." - Lt. Jacoby

A union boss's birthday starts off with a bang, and the crime boss who is the chief suspect wants Pete to clear his name before the situation gets even more explosive.

Ross Martin, Maxine Cooper, William Kendis and Franke Gerstle costar.



Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: For the most part, image quality is pretty reasonable for a 1950s TV series. There are a number of issues that crop up on an episode-by-episode basis, and with 16 sources, some fare better than others. The look is generally on the soft side, and tends towards dark, but dust and scratches are for the most part removed. Contrast levels are variable, so there are shadow detail problems in places, and black levels often aren't solid and a couple of episodes have rolling bars. There are a few major print defects, interlacing or interference problems, ghosting, or excess edge enhancement. There are also some compression artifacts, and freeze frames in some of the credits are on interlace frame borders. However, in other places, texture detail is very good, and gray scale rendition pretty even. None of the episodes are anywhere near unwatchable or contain every defect.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is pretty good overall. Defects are specific to individual episodes, but include some excess sibilance and distortion, a few dropouts, and some crackling or hiss. Dialogue is easily discerned, and Mancini's cool jazz comes across cleanly except in a few circumstances.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Trivia game
Extras Review: The lone extra is a set of three trivia games where a scene is played, then your powers of observation are tested. Try to get some wrong to see the alternate video.

There are four chapters per episode, but the menu accesses only the beginning of each show.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

"This is the real chick, not just the crazy facade." - Wilbur (Herb Ellis)

Cool, slick and always ready to take up the case, Peter Gunn is the archetypal private dick. The series contains a decent variety of mysteries to solve, and smooth performances from its principle cast. Henri Mancini's theme music sets it a notch above similar shows, and probably lends to Gunn's notoriety over other TV detectives of his day, and you just have to dig the swinging jazz jive from those hip daddies Pete associates with, man.

 


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