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Paramount Home Video presents
Hawaii Five-O: The First Season (1968/1969)

"Book 'em Danno."
- Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: June 22, 2007

Stars: Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Zulu, Kam Fong
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 21h:12m:03s
Release Date: March 06, 2007
UPC: 097368891647
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-AA+ C

DVD Review

The fall of 1968 would see the launch of what would become one of the longest running police dramas in television history, holding the record for over twenty years. Created by Leonard Freeman, bold and well ahead of its time, Hawaii Five-O would change the face of the police genre, and set the standard for years to come with its slick production, gritty dialogue and no holds barred action.

Taking full advantage of the islands' scenic beauty, historical landmarks and Polynesian atmosphere which permeate the series with exotic imagery, Hawaii Five-O would be the first series to be shot entirely outside the studio system, necessitating construction of a complete production facility on the island. The use of local extras and existing locations gave the show a previously unseen realism, and despite the series' focus on criminal activity and the seedy side of island life, is credited with increasing the tourism industry. As instantly recognizable as the cresting wave in the opening credits is one of the most memorable theme songs in television history, which is used throughout the series in different arrangements.

Once home to the kings and queens of the island, Iolani Palace serves as headquarters for the fictional Hawaii state police—Five-O—helmed by former Navy Intelligence officer, Steve McGarrett. Rugged, square-jawed Jack Lord would land the role he would own for the show's entire twelve year run, becoming an island icon in the process. Answering only to the governor, McGarrett's razor sharp detective skills and unrelenting quest for justice is aided by his three man team consisting of Danny Williams (James MacArthur), along with Chin Ho Kelly (former real life police officer Kam Fong) and Kono Kalakaua (Zulu), both of whom are often relied upon for their cultural contacts.

The first season covers a lot of ground in its storylines. This set kicks off with the original pilot movie, The Cocoon (later reedited into a two part episode), which introduces the Five-O organisation. When McGarrett's friend is found dead on the beach, the diagnosis is a drowning accident, but Steve knows better. His investigation reveals a sinister plot to assasinate undercover intelligence operatives, and introduces his series-long nemesis, Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh). This installment is unique in that it features Tim O'Kelly in the role of Danny. Full Fathom Five finds guest star Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as part of a husband and wife duo staging a deadly con on rich widows. Island heritage becomes a focus point in Strangers in our Own Land after a Hawaiian official is killed by a car bomb, leading the Five-O team through the changing face of the Hawaiian landscape. Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause) guest stars as a young singer who stages his own kidnapping as a publicity stunt in Tiger by the Tail, but his plans go awry when his accomplices realize there is more to be gained than some free exposure. Ricardo Maltoban (Fantasy Island) dons asian atire as a Honolulu mob boss being prosecuted by McGarrett in Samurai, only to find himself needing the protection of the state police when a series of Japanese hit men show up to put him out of business permanently.

After Danny is accused of shooting an unarmed teenager, the Five-O squad work to clear his name in ...and They Painted Daisies on his Coffin, and in Twenty Four Karat Kill (the episode that debuted his trademark "Book 'em Danno"), Mcgarrett and company try to lure in a team smuggling gold into the country. Tommy Sands plays a lounge singer doing a bit of cat burglary on the side (No Blue Skies), while Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H) guest stars in The Big Kahuna where Kono's distant uncle is being haunted by ghostly apparitions.

There is undercover work on queue for the Five-0 team when Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat) makes his first guest appearance as criminal "Big Chicken" and McGarrett goes behind bars playing a convict to crack a murder case involving the theft of crown jewels (The Ways of Love). After failing to stop a young girl high on drugs from plunging to her death, Danno becomes the groupie of a cult guru (Up Tight), then Steve inflitrates a gang hired to pull off a daring robbery at sea, filling in for a recently deceased safe cracker. The Box finds McGarrett back in the slammer with Big Chicken, this time as a hostage.

Five-O members cling to life in a couple of storylines. In one of a few episodes to pack a punch in the opening frames, McGarrett is shot down on the beach while jogging, leaving Danno to lead the invesigation into Steve's assailant (Yesterday Died and Tomorrow won't be Born), then Danno is at the mercy of a marine suffering from post traumatic stress who shoots him while hallucinating he is back in Vietnam, leading to a hospital standoff in King of the Hill.

In one of the few episodes to delve into family affairs, things get personal when McGarrett takes on the medical charletains in the two-part Once Upon a Time. Heading to Los Angeles at his brother-in-law's urging, Steve discovers his sister has fallen prey to the promises of a healer claiming that her machines will magically cure his infant nephew's terminal cancer.

The bubonic plague hits Hawaiian shores in Face of the Dragon, McGarrett takes on the peace movement when a protester is shot during a rally (Not that Much Different) and a G.I. on leave gets mixed up in the numbers racket after his buddy is killed (By the Numbers). A young girl's boyfriend is the obvious suspect in her murder, but McGarrett has a hunch there is more to the story in Pray Love Remember, Pray Love Remember and with a dead prosecutor and the key evidence missing in a mob case, McGarrett has his hands full keeping his star witness alive in Deathwatch. In One for the Money the sons of a missing baroness fall under suspicion, while McGarrett has to track down the killer of the prize fighting son of a police officer before he takes the law in his own hands.

Even in its inaugural season, and nearly forty years later, Hawaii Five-O delivers great action, compelling stories and memorable performances, and amply demonstrates why it became the classic that it is. The writing is fairly even throughout, with only a few episodes showing their age. Although timely in its subject matter when first released, the series still holds up extremely well today. The principle cast click in their roles from the opening episode, but it is easily Lord's dominating presence that drives the series. This is one series police drama fans will not want to miss. Aloha!

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Paramount has rarely let me down in the image department, and this release is no different—for a show of this vintage the transfer here is excellent. Colors are bright and punchy, without looking overly enhanced, and clarity is quite good. Athough there is a fair amount of grain present, it is rendered naturally, and any print defects are only conspicuous due to their rarity.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishno


Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio track is very well presented in both English and Spanish. The tonal balance is well rounded with a warm bottom end and no glassiness in the treble frequencies. The show's highly memorable theme song comes across beautifully in all its variations. No problems here.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 0 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, Portugese with remote access
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
7 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Season One of Hawaii 5-O is presented on seven single sided discs housed in four cases, which include a brief episode synposis and original airdate listings for each episode.

The lone extra is an episode of Emme's Island Moments from 1996 entitled Memories of Hawaii Five-O (42m:28s), hosted by Emme Tomimbang and James MacArthur. This feature includes interviews with members of the cast and crew, including creator Leonard Freeman's widow. There is a good deal of insight into the casting and creation of the long running series, including a number of technical challenges faced by the crew on location. The show also pays tribute to its star, Jack Lord, who was unable to participate, but is represented by his wife.

Promo trailers for Paramount's TV drama on DVD line up (CSI, CSI:NY, CSI:Miami, Numb3rs, NCIS, Medium and The 4400) plus Mission Impossible and MacGyver can be found on the first disc.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

Even forty years after its inital aring, Hawaii Five-O packs a punch as one of the finest police dramas ever produced. Led by the charismatic Jack Lord and set against the stunning Hawaiian backdrops, the first season has plenty of action, a good diversity of storylines and while a couple of episodes may feel a bit dated, the overall standard is high. If you haven't already got your orders in, my recommendation is to book 'em...

 


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