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Paramount Home Video presents
Mission Impossible: The Complete First Season (1966)

"And of course, should you or any member of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions."
- Voice on Tape (Bob Johnson)

Review By: Ross Johnson  
Published: December 04, 2006

Stars: Steven Hill, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris
Other Stars: Peter Lupus
Director: Max Hodge, Reza Badiyi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 23h:40m:03s
Release Date: December 05, 2006
UPC: 097360384543
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-AB+ D

DVD Review

So, this is a pretty darn good show. Though I've seen all of the (I now realize, completely unrelated) movies, I had never seen one single episode of the 1960s series with the theme song that everybody knows by heart. Like some other classics that just don't seem to get a lot of airtime these days, this one missed me by about a decade. Well, here comes DVD to the rescue yet again. I honestly didn't expect to be that impressed, but Mission: Impossible is a show that actually seems to have been well ahead of its time in several respects.

This first season is pre-Jim Phelps, so you won't be seeing any Peter Graves (nor Jon Voigt, who played the character in the 1996 film). Steven Hill, later of Law and Order instead plays steady team leader Dan Briggs, who receives his instructions from the famous self-destructing tape that sends the team on their way. In a conceit that was apparently dropped in later seasons, he also flips through dossiers in order to select a mission team. The team coincidentally is the same in every episode and lines up nicely with the characters and actors featured in the opening credits. The team includes Barbara Bain, who teams here with husband Martin Landau as she would later in Space: 1999. I found her performance in that later series glacial, so I was surprised to see how much charisma she displays here as model/secret agent Cinnamon Carter. She won three Emmys with this role, and it isn't hard to see why. Though the character could have easily been played as stock, Bain makes her smart and thoroughly grounded. It's a ground-breaking role, and one that's unjustly overlooked in pop-culture history. Likewise with Greg Morris' character, Barney Collier. Then (as in many ways still now), good roles for black actors were extremely rare, and Morris makes the most of this part by not playing him as a "black" character, but rather as a professional agent. Even Peter Lupus as muscle-man Willy Armitage comes onscreen looking as though he'll only be capable of grunting and throwing some punches, but defies those stereotypes as well. It's impressive to see a 40-year-old series handle such characters with this level of sensitivity and intelligence. Cinnamon is never afraid to use her looks to complete a mission, but she's written and played as much more than a pretty face.

Each week plays like a mini-movie. Many of the plots are similar, often some business about bringing down the leader of some fictional South American/Soviet bloc country. Most employ a routine that the program helped to make standard: tell the audience what the plan is, and then make them sweat when things don't quite go according to plan. And some excuse for Landau to dress up as a bad guy, of course. Nevertheless, I was drawn into all of them, and while a formula definitely develops, there are plenty of exceptions. In one of my favorites, Operation Rogosh, the team creates an elaborate ruse to convince a mass-murdering foreign agent that he's lost years of his memory and that his plan to wipe out Los Angeles was a roaring success.

I expected some '60s-era cheese, but there are 28 taut little thrillers in this set. For the time period, there's surprisingly little James Bond-ish silliness, and every episode builds a fairly elaborate puzzle without losing the audience.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio4:3 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The show looks great. The colors are brilliant and contrasted well, blacks are deep, and there is very little grain and almost no obvious print damage. The episodes are spread out over seven discs is a tremendous boost. This 40-year-old show really looks great.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio has been remastered in Dolby 5.1. There's not a whole lot of action through the rear channels, but the audio is nonetheless quite well done. The show uses music a great deal, and it would have been easy to pump that up too high or make it too low to be effective, but they've gotten that right. An English mono track is also available.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring MacGuyver on DVD, Star Trek on DVD
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
7 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras: Impossible. Nothin'. OK, a couple of ads.

The episodes, around four per disc, can be played individually or via the "Play All" function.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Through the magic of DVD, I've yet again been won over to a pop-culture treasure that I might have missed entirely. I'm kickin' Tom Cruise's sorry butt to the curb to make room for the original. Enough about me, though—if you enjoy the secret agent genre, then this show is absolutely worth picking up. The 28 self-contained adventures on this first-season set are all topnotch, almost without exception. Points taken away for a complete dearth of special features, but the show looks and sounds fabulous, and that's ultimately what it's all about. It just doesn't get much better than this.

 


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