Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch 24 hours of the Impossible Missions Force in action.
Mission Impossible was one of my childhood staples. The brilliant theme tune by Lalo Schifrin, which must be a strong contender the best TV theme of all time, was an instant clarion call to race for the TV and sit transfixed as Jim Phelps and his team would tackle the impossible.
Although as my daughter, Meggan, pointed out during the marathon viewing session for this review, if the missions were truly impossible they would never succeed. She suggested that the show should have been titled Mission: Almost Impossible.
I may not have understood all the complexities of the plots at that time, but I remember that it made me think while being entertained.
Of the seven seasons that aired between 1966 and 1973, this is the best. It is the last season to feature the classic lineup of Peter Graves (Jim), Martin Landau (Rollin), Barbara Bain (Cinnamon), Greg Morris (Barney), and Peter Lupus (Willy). And season three was when all the iconic ideas that are essential parts of the MI mythos finally came together.
Interestingly, what may be the strongest season of MI was produced during a bitter power struggle over the show's direction and future. At the end of the previous season, network-appointed producers William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter started to demonstrate a tendency to try and introduce social relevance to the show; the IMF take on corrupt union bosses, sports promoters and other examples of domestic corruption.
Apparently this didn't sit too well with creator Bruce Geller; nine episodes into the third season, Woodfield and Balter were replaced by new producer Stanly Kallis, who returned the show to its espionage roots.
With this season's 12th episode "The Mind of Stefan Miklos," the show hit its stride with a complex tale of bluff and double bluff where Jim Phelps goes up against a foe who can match him move for move. This episode has often been cited as one of the finest hours of television. No explosions or gadgets, just a brilliant psychological game in which you have to watch for every clue and twist.
"The Glass Cage" is the classic "locked room" challenge in reverse: how do you rescue a man kept in a glass walled cell and monitored 24/7? You bluff his jailers into handing him over. "The Exchange" answers the question of what happens when a member of Jim's team is captured, and includes perhaps Barbara Bain's best performance.
Even "The Play," one of the weakest episodes in this run, is still notable for the first appearance of the rubber mask that became a trademark device and was so overused in the recent movie series.
If you had to select one season to judge the whole of the Mission Impossible canon by, this is the one.
The prints used on the DVD have been cleaned and restored and look crisp and clear, although some quick closeup shots do show signs of being less focused. According to the fine print on the back of the box "some episodes may be edited from their original network versions." I have no idea what those edits may be, but there is no noticeable impact on the overall viewing experience>.
The DVD boxed set is attractively packaged with each slimline case holding two discs and each of the seven discs having 3 or 4 episodes. That's it. No special features. But then again, with the best single season of Mission Impossible to watch, who needs anything else?
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