Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Buddy Boy

Great news. One of my all-time favorite shows is coming to DVD on April 3. THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO will also, I believe, be the first Quinn Martin-produced TV series to receive a DVD release. Oscar winner Karl Malden and future Oscar winner Michael Douglas, mostly known back in 1972 as Kirk Douglas' son who had appeared in a couple of small films, were perfectly cast in this solid crime drama, which was filmed on location. I grew up watching STREETS in late-night reruns when WCIA-TV aired it weeknights following the late news. The series has almost always run in syndication since it left ABC in 1977 after a five-season run, but it will be great to see it uncut and looking sharp on DVD.

The bad news is that we aren't getting the full first season. It's THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, SEASON 1, VOLUME 1, meaning the box includes only the full-length pilot episode and the first 13 regular hour episodes. The pilot is a very good mystery guest-starring Robert Wagner, Kim Darby and Tom Bosley and features a particularly suspenseful climax that director Walter Grauman milks as much for horror as for crime drama. Among the episodes included are "45 Minutes From Home," a particularly tight suspenser guest-starring William Windom, Stephen Oliver (of Russ Meyer's MOTOR PSYCHO) and knockout Jo Ann Harris (RAPE SQUAD), who was just about the sexiest woman on TV during the 1970s; "The Takers," with guest star Harold Gould turning in terrific work as a meek middle-aged salesman; "The Bullet" with Carl Betz (THE DONNA REED SHOW) as a blackmailed college prof; and "Hall of Mirrors" with David Soul (STARSKY & HUTCH) as a hotshot young cop.

THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO was one of the best television crime dramas in a decade filled with them and for several reasons. Quinn Martin Productions was one of Hollywood's classiest, willing to spare extra time and expense to punch up scripts, spend more time shooting on location, and hire talented name guest actors. The series had enough chases, gun battles and squealing tires to keep action fans happy. Patrick Williams' blasting jazzy theme song never failed to get each episode off to a rousing start. But, most of all, it was the performances of and the chemistry between its stars that gave the show its humanity and warmth and made the characters people you rooted for and wanted to spend time with. Despite their age difference, Malden as cool-headed veteran detective Mike Stone and Douglas as the brash younger Steve Keller were completely in synch right from the pilot, and you can see Malden's gentle tutelage of his less experienced co-star echo the giving father/son relationship between their fictional counterparts. Though Douglas was somewhat stiff and tentative in the early episodes, he was never less than believable on-screen, particularly in the action sequences and in his banter with Malden.

THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO was a very good cop show, and it will be very nice to have them on DVD.


Anonymous said...

I've never seen this (at least actively, as an adult) but having spent a great deal of time in Frisco over the last few years, I'm REALLY looking forward to it -- Malden and Douglas is a great sounding team. Was it really filmed on location, or was it S.F. stuff mixed with Hollywood backlot?

Marty McKee said...

According to Jonathan Etter's book QUINN MARTIN, PRODUCER, not as much of it was shot in San Francisco as I thought. I think the standing sets of the police station and maybe Stone's house were on a soundstage in L.A. (probably the Burbank Studios), but it's obvious just from watching the shows that a lot of it was actually filmed in San Francisco. Each episode has a lot of location shooting, and while some of it could have been faked in L.A., a lot of it couldn't have been.

It's not like what they do today with NYPD BLUE and CSI: NY going to New York for two weeks to shoot second unit with a couple of actors. Malden and Douglas did a lot of shooting in San Francisco.