As I was putting this disk back in its tray, I noticed the episode summary on the inside of the sleeve. It claims “Soviet killers pursue her from Hawaii to the Hardy Boys’ home town of Bayport, Massachusetts.” Um, no. No, they don’t. This episode doesn’t even make it from Hawaii to the mainland, much less the other side of the country. The blurb for “Scorpion’s Sting” has another howler, claiming that Craig Stevens’ character is an “international assassin,” when the story specifies he has never killed any of the victims that he’s held for ransom. I wonder where these writeups came from. Old, inaccurate TV Guide listings, perhaps?
And “Soviet killers” does this story a disservice. Marie commented that this episode is pleasantly free from cardboard bad guys, although six of them do give David Gates a mild workover for keeping quiet about the defector. Nehemiah Persoff is really watchable as the Russian intelligence officer, primarily because he isn’t playing the role as a villain. He’s a sharp operator quietly doing his job, and he isn’t being “evil” at all.
I’m no fan of the music – if we’re talking American acts in 1978, give me Talking Heads or Television before Bread – but other than its very convenient plot holes, this was certainly the best of the five two-part Hardy stories. And yes, our son did think it was pretty good as well. Our heroes don’t smooch anybody at all; that had to help.
The weird finger of coincidence was at work again. Last time we watched a Hardy Boys episode, I thought it was cute that the stars of two big 1950s TV series were appearing together, but I came embarrassingly close to misidentifying Craig Stevens’ hit show. The post nearly went out claiming that Stevens was the star of 77 Sunset Strip, not Peter Gunn. So who shows up in the very next episode? Edd Byrnes, from 77 Sunset Strip.
In the season opener, we got to hear “If” by Bread about a half-dozen times. This time, David Gates and Bread – the show was filmed during a short period they were billed under that name – appear as characters in the show. The plot centers around a defector who gets smuggled out of the Soviet Union in one of Bread’s speaker cabinets, but as soon as the tour lands in Honolulu, she gets cold feet and loses her bodyguard. Nehemiah Persoff plays a KGB officer who comes to Hawaii to execute her rather than let her secrets into American hands, and for the first time, the Hardy Boys have some conflict with their boss, because Harry is keeping lots of secrets.
I thought this one was clumsy and sloppy and full of characters having very easy access to each other, but it was probably just one rewrite from shining. However, no amount of rewriting would convince me that Bread’s manager was going to book them to fly from Moscow to Honolulu for a gig that very night! There’s a good story in here, just one told clumsily. Our son wasn’t really engaged with it, but maybe he’ll enjoy part two a little more…?
I sincerely didn’t think that we’d ever watch anything stupider than the Medusa episode of Land of the Lost, but friends, this was it.
There’s a lovely bit toward the beginning of this adventure where a farmer in a lonely corner of northern Wyoming, his horse and dog freaking out over some strange noise or other, is suddenly confronted with a Russian-made space probe that thinks it has landed on the planet Venus. The silent machine, looking like the bastard offspring of a Dalek and the tank-thing from Damnation Alley, sends the farmer scurrying to his pickup truck to get away, and the old codger takes a moment to roll up his truck’s window before starting the engine.
So the Death Probe is the last great recurring nemesis for the bionic heroes. The big machine kind of takes a back seat to the story of all the Soviet sleeper agents that are trying to track it down. The group is led by Major Popov, played by Nehemiah Persoff, and it was designed by a scientist named Irina, played by Jane Merrow. Irina had actually been introduced in a season one episode that we skipped, “Doomsday and Counting.” Merrow did quite a lot of American television in the seventies. Earlier in her career, she had been frequently cast as a guest star in many of the ITC adventure shows, and had been considered for the role of Tara King in The Avengers. And there in a single scene and not credited, you can’t miss John de Lancie as an army medic.
This two-parter was written by Steven E. de Souza. It was one of his earliest credits; he’d later find fame and fortune writing hugely successful films like 48 Hours, Die Hard, and, err… that crappy Judge Dredd movie with Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider. Honestly, I was pretty underwhelmed by this one. There isn’t nearly enough mayhem with the Death Probe smashing its way through farms and cars and houses, and far too much of Soviet sleeper agents running rings around hick sheriffs. On the other hand, our son was positively freaked out by the machine and was so excited – slash – worried by Steve looking like he wouldn’t be able to stop it that he missed the cliffhanger entirely from behind the sofa!
I’d like to claim that we made peace with the reality that our son has absolutely no memory for faces whatsoever, but for pity’s sake, he just saw Patrick Macnee last night, and he still had no idea who that guy playing number one on the doomed SS Queen of Glasgow was. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s me, spending half my life wondering what episode of what ITC action show that one guy playing the henchman in this other ITC action show was in. Maybe ignorance is bliss.
Macnee spent the late 1950s doing lots of work for American and Canadian television. He was seen frequently in the sort of sponsor-driven drama anthologies common to the era, with titles like Alcoa Theater and General Motors Presents. He was in a couple of Playhouse 90 features, and had a small role in Disney’s mini-series The Swamp Fox. He had to go back to the UK for fame and fortune, though. The first episode of The Avengers aired thirteen months after this episode.
For what it’s worth, this story is about a man played by Nehemiah Persoff who’s suffering from amnesia and deja vu in 1942, convinced that a U-boat is due to sink the ship where he’s awakened without memory at 1:15 in the morning. It’s a grim twist this week, and, unlike what we saw in the much better known “Time Enough at Last,” this fellow has his cruel fate coming.
We’re going to take a short break from The Twilight Zone, but stay tuned! We’ll return with more episodes from season one in October!
Several months ago, I read a detailed episode guide to Wonder Woman and was surprised that this episode, in which Steve and Diana fly to Argentina – and boy, does California do a laughable job pretending to be Argentina this week – to obtain a secret formula that will make rubber as strong as steel, didn’t sound at all familiar. Watching it tonight, it kind of rings a bell, but nothing in it stands out at all. It’s a “heroes tied up in the basement while the Nazis threaten to kill the professor’s daughter” story, and it is the most ponderous hour of this series, by leagues.
It is talky and long and basically a half-hour of plot padded out to an hour. I’d say it’s a tedious bore, but with the exception of a long scene at a formal party at the professor’s house, our son really enjoyed this one, somehow. Good, I’m glad that he enjoyed this more than us.
Of note on the production front: the story is by Elroy Schwartz, brother of sixties sitcom superstar Sherwood. Guest stars include John Devlin as the Nazi-of-the-week and Maria Grimm as the professor’s daughter.