Hawaii Five-O - The Fourth Season is something of a minor surprise in that the series shows little sign of running out of steam. Usually cop and international espionage shows like this, particularly from this era, tend to shoot their wad pretty early on. Mission: Impossible (1966-73) started going downhill in its fourth season; Kojak (1973-78) was really interesting for about five episodes then got bad faster than you can say Irwin Allen. Though you'd think its troubled paradise setting would lend itself to a finite number of stories, Hawaii Five-O is as enjoyable as ever. Though it falls well short of greatness, the average episode tends to be the TV equivalent of tasty comfort food, and by '70s television production standards Hawaii Five-O is exceptionally well-produced; at its best episodes are like mini-crime and spy movies.
As before, Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) heads Five-O, Hawaii's (fictional) state police force investigating everything from serial rapists to Chinese super-spy (and McGarrett's arch-nemesis) Wo Fat, played with articulate amusement by Khigh Dheigh. Answering only to Hawaii's Governor, Paul Jameson ('50s sci-fi icon Richard Denning), Steve's crack team includes Detective Danny "Danno" Williams (James MacArthur), seasoned Chinese-American Detective Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong), and imposing native Hawaiian Detective Kono Kalakaua (Zulu). Also on board are semi-regulars Jenny ('40s Universal starlet Peggy Ryan), a secretary, and medical examiner Che Fong (Harry Endo).
Hawaii Five-O's fourth season (1971-72) is very much like the previous three. The only real differences are that opening titles have a slightly different orchestration that's barely perceptible, and Jack Lord's facial features are becoming increasingly wax-like and his Surf's Up! hairstyle distractingly unnatural. (Lord was in his early fifties but seemed reluctant to age on-camera, not easy considering Five-O's unusually long run.)
Around the end of the fourth year, Zulu (born Gilbert Lani Kauhi) got into a fight with the show's publicist; reportedly Zulu used racial slurs during the incident, and the actor was fired. For his part, Zulu said at the time, "I need something different. I've had it with the 'Yes boss, no boss' routine." He had a point. Hawaii Five-O unequivocally was Jack Lord's show; the supporting cast did just that, support its star. This was apparently true behind-the-scenes as well; he had a reputation as something of an imperious martinet on the set, with some affectionately/derisively calling him "The Lord" behind his back.
Likeable or not, Jack Lord's Steve McGarrett was a great character: intense, curt, unrelenting, caustic, consumed by his job and demanding the same dedication from his staff. Maybe the Actor's Studio-trained Lord was merely staying in character, living the role all those years.
Fourth season shows exhibit a real confidence in the material by the cast and crew, and the series' huge popularity is now apparent in some of the location work. During the first season nobody paid much attention to Lord, MacArthur and the crew, but here you'll often see throngs of vacationers gawking at the stars from a distance.
Perhaps with the added incentive of a paid Hawaiian vacation, the series was also beginning to attract European actors and character stars not limited to TV. For instance, season opener "Highest Castle, Deepest Grave" features Herbert Lom, France Nuyen, and Jeff Corey, all of whom were, arguably, busier at that time making movies than guesting on TV shows. (Indeed, this may have been Lom's only TV guest shot between 1967 and 1982.) The show itself is a retro-noir with some elements (though not its central one) lifted from Laura.
Khigh Dhiegh is back as Wo Fat for the two-parter "The Ninety-Second War," another show touting an impressive guest cast that includes Dana Wynter, Donald Pleasance, Tim O'Connor, and Roger C. Carmel, the latter reprising his Soviet spy character from the previous season's "F.O.B. Honolulu." "The Ninety-Second War" exemplifies another Five-O standard, the international espionage show, and this John D.F. Black teleplay is terrific fun, outrageous and exciting, capturing much the spirit of a mid-'60s spy thriller. It's got a mini-submarine, ICBM and rocket launchings, a British-Chinese double agent who becomes McGarrett's exact double (though voiced by Paul Frees in an excellent vocal performance).
The very next episode, "Skinhead," starkly demonstrates Five-O's almost jarring versatility. This gleefully sleazy show - How did it get past Standards & Practices? - revolves around the brutal beating and rape of a local girl, apparently at the hands of a racist skinhead soldier (Lee Paul, in an impressively creepy performance). Out of control, sexual predator soldiers, not exactly a popular topic for prime-time television, racism, victim blaming, impotence, and racial slurs abound - even Kono goes nuts when the skinhead asks McGarrett, "What are you so upset about? She's not even white!" Zulu doesn't look like he's acting here.
This episode is followed by another winner, "While You're at it, Bring On the Moon," featuring Barry Sullivan as a vaguely Howard Hughes-type, a billionaire with a germ fixation (though he's not nearly the recluse Hughes was). This show is structured like a conventional mystery, and the suspects include three great character actors: Ed Flanders, Milton Selzer, and H.M. Wynant.
Other guest stars this season include Bill Quinn, Soon-Tek Oh, Marie Windsor, Buddy Ebsen, Vic Morrow, John Ritter, Jeanne Cooper, Marion Ross, Michael Strong, Barney Phillips, James Hong, Jack Kruschen, Jackie Cooper, Lou Antonio, David Opatoshu, Moses Gunn, Hume Cronyn (back again as wily bank robber Lewis Avery Filer), James Olson, Loretta Swit, Malachi Throne, Jason Evers, Jay Robinson, Ray Danton, Joanna Barnes, Albert Paulsen, Simon Oakland, and David Birney.
Video & Audio
After CBS DVD's poor decision-making and gross mishandling of The Fugitive's second season music replacement, classic TV fans are now understandably cautious about the label's subsequent releases. In this case, Hawaii Five-O: The Fourth Season appears unaltered. All the original music cues seem intact, though this reviewer didn't watch every episode before writing this review, either. The full frame image gets high marks, like previous seasons, and as before the episodes don't appear to have been time-compressed or edited. The "big wave" prologue bumper and "episodic promos" are available on most episodes. The Dolby Digital mono is fine, with a much weaker Spanish audio track also included, along with optional Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles. The 24 second-season shows are spread across six single-sided, dual-layered discs.
The only supplement are those spoiler-filled episodic promos. You might want to do as I do, watch an episode then look at the promo for the next episode as a kind of preview for "next week's show."
Four words for Season Four: More of the same. If you already like the show, Hawaii Five-O: The Fourth Season fits the bill with another round of fun episodes. Recommended.
Note: This reviewer is indebted to Mike Quigley's terrific Hawaii Five-O homepage.
Film historian Stuart Galbraith IV's latest book, The Toho Studios Story, is on sale now.