Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Spies Lies - 50 Episodes|
Genres: Television, Mystery & Suspense
Star Packed Collection! While the Cold War raged during the 1950's and early 1960's, television reflected this by featuring these amazing and intriguing programs. African Patrol - 2 Episodes — Starring John Bentley (1957) B... more »
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Cold War TV Spies from the 1950s
Robert Huggins | Suburban Philadelphia, PA United States | 07/22/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the United States, the new medium of television began mass broadcasting just a few short years after the conclusion of World War II and more or less coincided with the rise of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe in the modern historical period that came to be known as the Cold War era. So it came as no surprise that television, looking for topical subjects for entertainment purposes, would use this real world backdrop as inspiration for a number of early shows during the medium's first decade. Before the full blown television spy craze of the mid-1960s that was inspired by the James Bond films (notably "The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - The Complete Series," "I Spy - Season 1 and Mission Impossible - The Complete First TV Season," among others), television viewers were offered a number of shows, mostly non-network syndicated series, that dealt with the Cold War threat.
Mill Creek Entertainment's "Spies & Lies" 4-DVD set rounds up 50 episodes from a number of these 1950s era series, including Brian Donlevy's "Dangerous Assignment," Cesar Romero's "Passport to Danger" and Robert Alda's "Secret File U.S.A.," among others. A couple of the series represented, "Mr. & Mrs. North" and "African Patrol" aren't really in the espionage genre, but one can make the obvious comparisons with "Mr. & Mrs. North" and "Biff Baker U.S.A.," with both series featuring a husband and wife team battling domestic criminals ("North") or evil foreign agents ("Baker"). "Counterspy" is an unsold pilot that's well produced with an exciting story, and it's somewhat of a surprise that it wasn't picked up as a regular series.
The best series in this collection, in this reviewer's opinion, is Sheldon Reynolds' "Foreign Intrigue" a/k/a "Dateline Europe" which, like "Secret File U.S.A." (Amsterdam) was produced in post World War II Europe (Paris and Stockholm). Reynolds is arguably better known as the producer of the 1954 "Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Series" (also produced in Paris) with Ronald Howard and H. Marion Crawford, but "Foreign Intrigue" is one of the great unsung syndicated series of the early 1950s. Scripts are taut and the series has a genuine noir feel to it throughout. The series' leads were played by Americans in its various incarnations (Jerome Thor and Sydna Scott in the first version, James Daly in the second, and Gerald Mohr in the final version) and at least one episode from these various versions is included in this set. But the vast majority of supporting actors are English speaking Europeans including, among others, renowned Swedish actors Eva Dahlbeck and Ingrid Thulin. In addition to saving money on production costs by filming the series on location in Europe with European crews, the casting of so many European actors in this series adds greatly to the show's authentic feel. "Foreign Intrigue" ran from 1951 to 1955, and served as the basis for a feature film of the same name produced and directed by Reynolds in 1956, perhaps the first time that a theatrical film was inspired by a television series.
A number of these series have had selected episodes previously released on DVD by Alpha Video (with corresponding duplication of some episodes in this collection), and "Dangerous Assignment - Complete Collection" has been released by the Infinity Entertainment Group, but this set represents the first time that so many shows from the spy/espionage genre have been brought together in a single collection. To the best of my knowledge, this release also marks the commercial DVD debut for "African Patrol" and "Wire Service." The cover artwork for this DVD release shows Barry Nelson as "Jimmy Bond" from the 1954 "Climax!" television series' live presentation of Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale" (the screen debut of "James Bond"), but that episode is not included in this collection.
This set is comprised of episodes that are in the public domain and, as is the case with most public domain material, the source material is typically derived from worn, but watchable 16 millimeter prints. Those who have purchased other TV collections from Mill Creek Entertainment like "Best of TV Detectives 150 Episodes" or "Classic TV Westerns 300 Episodes" will have a pretty good idea of what to expect with respect to the audio/visual quality of this set. The series represented in this set include the following (a few are represented by just a single episode):
1. African Patrol
2. Biff Baker U.S.A.
4. Dangerous Assignment
5. Foreign Intrigue
6. Mr. and Mrs. North
7. Passport to Danger
8. Secret File U.S.A.
9. TV Reader's Digest
10. Vise, The
11. Wire Service
Despite the less than stellar source material, this is an enjoyable collection of (mostly) espionage series from television's early years and is highly recommended to fans of the spy genre and/or vintage TV fans, in general. My rating is closer to **** & ½.
Great Collection - If only Mill Creek had included 150 Episo
David Bassler | Richmond, VA USA | 10/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Spies and Lies features 50 episodes from eleven action-packed 1950s television series. Although most of the shows are set in exotic locations (and some were even filmed overseas), the emphasis is adventure rather than espionage. Many of the shows included in this boxed set can't be found in other inexpensive collections. As most buyers of Mill Creek Entertainment products already know, the quality of the audio and video for these shows ranges from fair to very good. About the worst thing I can see for this offering is that I wish Mill Creek had included 150 episodes in the set as the company has done in most of their other TV collections. The TV series sampled are:
African Patrol (1957) - John Bentley stars as Chief Inspector Paul Drake, the stiff-lipped Britisher responsible for investigating murder and mayhem in the Kenyan bush for two seasons. The series was shot on location in East Africa. Episodes include: Murdered Landowners (aka No Place to Hide) and Rivals (aka Snake in the Grass).
Biff Baker U.S.A. (1952) - Alan Hale Jr. stars as the title hero, a businessman working as a buyer in Europe and Africa for an American import/export company. His wife, Louise, played by Randy Stuart, joins him on his adventures. Although Biff and Louise aren't spies, they frequently match wits with enemy agents, as well as foreign criminals, black marketers and crooked government officials. Although these episodes are packed with action, there's more than a pinch of humor to leaven the danger and Hale shows, even at this early stage in his career, that he can deliver a punch line with a twinkle in his eye. Another plus is the breezy interaction between the series' stars; you really believe they are husband and wife, and they appear to be having a ball playing their parts. Unfortunately, the series only ran for one season. Episodes include: Blue Mosque, Counterfeit Plates, Crash Landing, Grey Market and Mona Lisa.
Counterspy (1958) - Don Megowan, an actor usually cast as the punching bag for western heros and two-fisted private eyes, stars as David Harding, an American agent charged with running all counterespionage operations for the United States government. So, you ask, what is an American spy-smasher doing in England peeping on the Russian navy? Good question, and this 30-minute unsold TV pilot never bothers to explain this conundrum. This show is based on a popular radio series that ran for 15 years before its producers tried to make the jump to the small screen. The program co-starred Brad Johnson, who was just finished a three-year stint as Annie Oakley's lawman boyfriend, Deputy Sheriff Lofty Craig.
Dangerous Assignment (1952) was another long-running radio series that tried its luck on television in the Fifties. In this case, the series lasted for one season and while the program continued to run on radio for another year after the TV show was canceled. Brian Donlevy starred as Steve Mitchell, a burly globe-trotting operative dispatched by the Commissioner to confront revolutionaries, communists, crooks and spies who would make the world unsafe for democracy. Episodes include: The Art Treasure Story, The Assassin Ring Story, The Blood-Stained Feather Story, The Manager Story, The Memory Chain Story and The Missing Diplomat Story.
Dateline: Europe (aka Foreign Intrigue) (1951) ran for four seasons in syndication, featuring wholesale changes in the cast and, ultimately, scenario over the course of its run. For the first two seasons, trench-coated foreign correspondents Robert Cannon and Helen Davis (played by Jerome Thor and Sydna Scott) reported on stories at exotic locations throughout Europe; the following year investigating journalists Michael Powers and Patricia Bennett (James Daly and Anne Preville) followed in their footsteps. In the series' final season, Gerald Mohr starred as Christopher Storm, an hotel manager in Vienna, who constantly got involved in his patrons problems with lawbreakers and/or law officers, usually settling matters with fists or firearms - and sometimes both. Episodes in this package include: Confidence Game (starring Mohr), Diamond Bullet (Mohr), Disaster Relief (Daly), Dolores (Thor), Flea Market (Thor/Scott), Hall of Justice (Daly), Limetski Forest (Thor), Missing Official (Daly/Preville), and Sleepy Village (Scott).
Mr. and Mrs. North (1952) starred Richard Denning and Pamela Britton as a happily married couple living in New York's Greenwich Village. Mr. North edits a mystery magazine and fancies himself quite the amateur criminologist, while Mrs. North, a slightly scatterbrained housewife, always seemed to stumble upon the critical clue needed to solve the crime. The show ran for two years. Episodes included are: The Man Who Came to Murder, Salt in His Blood, Target and The Third Eye.
Passport to Danger (1954): Steve McQuinn, a diplomatic courier for the United Nations, travels throughout the world carrying important documents and encountering adventure, international intrigue and nasty villains wherever he travels. The series, starring debonair Cesar Romero, ran for one season. Episodes included in this set are: Budapest, Casablanca, Geneva, Monte Carlo, Prague, Rome, Sofia, Tangiers and Tehran.
Secret File USA (1955): Major William Morgan (Robert Alda) of the American Intelligence Service, battles communist agents on both sides of the Iron Curtain in this espionage series that lasted 22 episodes. Episodes are - Mission: Assassin, Mission: Chopin, Mission: Firebird and Mission: M.
TV Reader's Digest (1955): Dramatic anthology series that ran for two seasons. One episode of this anthology series is included: The Brainwashing of John Hayes starring Vincent Price.
The Vise (1954): This British offering started as a dramatic anthology series hosted by Ron Randell where the protagonists are trapped in the proverbial "vise" by their own decisions. After two seasons the series was retooled and a popular character from one of the previous year's shows, one-armed detective Mark Saber (played by one-armed British actor Donald Gray) was featured using a more-or-less conventional private eye premise. Gray's stint as the globetrotting gumshoe lasted the remaining five years of the show's run. Episodes from both versions of the show are included in this set: Bond of Hate, Count of Twelve, Dead Man's Evidence, Farewell to Mrs. Forrest, Gabriel's Choice, The Hostage, If This Be Murder, and Side Entrance.
Wire Service (1956): Three reporters for an international news service scour the globe for interesting stories. George Brent, Dane Clark and Mercedes McCambridge alternated as the episode stars in the one season the program was on the air. One episode from this series' only season is included in this package: The Johnny Rath Story, featuring Clark in the lead role."