You may know the Mission: Impossible movies, but if you haven't seen the Cold War-era TV series that launched the mega-franchise, you're missing something very cool. It's time to catch up, because the first season is now available on a seven-disc, 28-episode DVD set. In these 1966-1967 episodes, daring Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) heads the Impossible Missions Force, a team of shadowy operatives who take on life-or-death assignments that, for political reasons, our government can't officially acknowledge. Many of these missions are set behind the Iron Curtain or in some south-of-the- border dictatorship, which our heroes handily infiltrate while adopting vaguely foreign accents and, as was the custom at the time, wearing super-thin neckties, chain-smoking and felling their adversaries with a single sharply executed karate chop.
Created by Bruce Geller, this sleek, snazzy, Emmy-winning series ran on CBS through 1973 (and was revived on ABC from 1988-1990). The first-season team varies from week to week but usually includes electronics ace Barney Collier (Greg Morris) and strongman Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus). Barbara Bain, as the curvaceous Cinnamon Carter, is the group's all-purpose distraction: Whenever the IMF needs a guard to look the other way, she bats her sultry peepers at him. Guest star Martin Landau appears as master of disguise and utility trickster Rollin Hand, who comes in handy when, for example, the team needs a merciless despot to appear to do something he wouldn't otherwise do.
These agents have day jobs and Rollin's is acting, but, really, most of the agents pretend to be people they're not, and their hypercritical audience is the enemy. Ostensibly, this is a program about espionage, but on a basic level it's about putting on a show ' which often becomes a sort of magic show. Mission: Impossible invites you to share the thrill of high-stakes make-believe.
There are no 'extrasâ?� in this set, but there are discoveries. It's interesting to see that one of MI's signature lines ' 'This tape will self-destruct in five secondsâ?� ' took time to evolve. In various episodes, Briggs receives his instructions via phonograph records, a nickelodeon machine and a printed card (which crumbles), as well as from tapes (reel-to-reel ones) that he must destroy himself.
Although you can fast-forward through the opening credits, you probably won't want to. No matter how often you hear Lalo Schifrin's pulse-quickening, bongo-enhanced theme song, you have to hear it again. It's also fun to watch the performances of such guest stars as George Takei, Eartha Kitt, Ricardo Montalban, William Windom and Wally Cox.