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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hawaii Five-O - The Fifth Season
Hawaii Five-O - The Fifth Season
Paramount // Unrated // November 18, 2008
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted December 12, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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Hawaii Five-O - The Fifth Season is another year of strong and varied episodes. The series underwent some fortuitous changes, giving it a little shot in the arm just when it needed it. Not every change is for the better, though most add a bit more depth to Hawaii Five-O and its characters. If you've been buying and watching Hawaii Five-O up to now, you won't be disappointed here. (Friends and readers tell me the series really only went downhill dramatically during its 11th year, and straight into the toilet for most of its 12th and final season.) The transfers rate the same high marks as before, and the packaging is identical to previous releases.

Recapping, Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) heads Five-O, Hawaii's (fictional) state police force that seems to have a hand in everything - from shoplifting to theft of nuclear weapons. Answering only to Hawaii's Governor, Paul Jameson ('50s sci-fi icon Richard Denning, Yea!), Steve's crack team include right-hand man Detective Danny "Danno" Williams (James MacArthur) and seasoned Chinese-American Detective Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong).

Unfortunately, Gilbert Lani Kauhi, better known as "Zulu," was booted off the series at the end of Season Four, reportedly after an altercation with the show's publicist, and so gone from the series is native Hawaiian Detective Kono Kalakaua. An explanation for his departure is, far as I can tell, never even mentioned on the show, though Zulu did return as Kono in a 1997 Hawaii Five-O reunion TV-film. His absence was keenly felt, however. He was big and tough like a sumo wrestler but also rather cuddly. He added a strong native Hawaiian flavor to the series, and his blue collar wit and unassuming nature were major assets to the show, especially in how Kono contrasted McGarrett's no-nonsense approach.

Zulu was replaced by Al Harrington (born Tausau Ta'a, in Pago Pago) as Polynesian Detective Ben Kokua; Harrington had played other characters in five earlier episodes. In early fifth season shows he doesn't have a lot to do, partly because for season five the series really ramped up the presence of other supporting, continuing characters. Besides Jenny ('40s Universal starlet Peggy Ryan), Five-O's secretary, and medical examiner Che Fong (Harry Endo), other continuing characters include Honolulu Police Department Sgt. Edward "Duke" Lukela (Heman Wedemeyer), Doc Bergman (Al Eben), and District Attorney John Manicote (Glenn Cannon).

Zulu's departure also necessitated new opening titles, these probably the most iconic of Five-O's long run. MacArthur now peers through the broken glass of an upturned car (from a fourth season episode) while Chin Ho, formerly in a staged shot identical to McGarrett's, is seen on a rooftop with a walkie-talkie. Gone too is Hawaii Five-O's pre-title prologue sequence. Maybe they wanted the show's famous theme and title design up-front to grab viewers, but I miss the anticipation leading up to it in seasons 1-4.

Other than that, it's business as usual at Five-O. We see a bit more of Steve's office (and Danny's swingin' singles apartment!); bushy sideburns and loud '70s fashions are starting to creep in while dated Hawaiian ones permeate McGarrett's off-duty wardrobe. Jack Lord himself is a real contradiction, the epitome of cool, and yet every season he gets waxier and less lifelike.

And yet as a character, Steve McGarrett is great fun to watch. His resolve is steelier than ever in season five; more than in the past he's pissed off and obsessed with bringing criminals to justice. It's like McGarrett hasn't slept since the hiatus between seasons 2 and 3 and is pumped up on amphetamines.

The season is probably best-known for its epic three-parter, vaguely inspired by The Godfather (released earlier that year and still in theaters when it aired) but which reminded this reviewer more of an Hideo Gosha, Hunter in the Dark type samurai drama. In "'V' for Vashon: The Son," McGarrett is investigating a series of daring and impeccably-planned hotel robberies - only what's stolen is piddling in relation to the scope of the crimes. Evidence points to Chris (Robert Drivas), the spoiled, bitter son of rich crime boss Honore Vashon (Harold Gould), who has gone legitimate in recent years. (Spoilers) When McGarrett is forced to gun down Chris in a shoot-out, Honore vows, "McGarrett dies!" and in "'V' for Vashon: The Father," Honore hires an Australian hit man (Don Knight) to take him down. Unsuccessful, in "'V' for Vashon: The Patriarch," Honore's Don Corleone-like father (Luther Adler) picks up the baton, ingeniously framing McGarrett for murder.

Longtime TV scribe Alvin Sapinsley's structure is ingenious, with three completely different stories tied together with common characters spanning three generations with entirely different motives and means. All three Vashons are great; Luther Adler especially is a joy to watch; it's like he's already auditioning for a role in Godfather, Part II. And Knight is also terrific as the no-nonsense assassin. Indeed, all three shows, all directed by Charles S. Dubin (later a prolific M*A*S*H helmer), exhibit a lot of ingenuity in the way each crime is perpetrated, a hallmark of the best Hawaii Five-Os.

More of this kind of thing can be seen in the fifth season opener, "Death is a Company Policy," in which a gangster (Michael Ansara, sans toupee), with the aid of hotshot assistant DA Chris Lahani (George Chakiris) engineers framing Duke as a cop on the take. Despite an overuse of unbelievably advanced computer technology (possible today, but back then more in the realm of James Bond), this is another complex, intriguing show.

Predictably, arch-nemesis Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh), the wily, intellectual Chinese super-spy, is back for another fine appearance in "The Jinn Who Clears the Way," about the theft of an ICBM guidance system. Lord's frequently pissed-off performance is exemplified by the end of the show, a confrontation with Wo Fat that's a classic moment of McGarrett rage.

Other great shows this season include "Pig in a Blanket," featuring a tour de force performance by McArthur; and "I'm a Family Crook - Don't Shoot," a comical show akin to the two with Hume Cronyn's rascally thief, featuring Andy Griffith this time out.

Trivia Department: Though "Book 'Em, Danno" became the show's famous catchphrase, it's said only once during the entire fifth season, and used only a handful of times, less than half a dozen, in the 120 preceding episodes.

Other guest stars this season include Ricardo Montalban, Diana Muldaur, William Shatner, Soon-Tek Oh, Clu Gulager, Michael Conrad, Linden Chiles, Dirk Benedict and Richard Hatch, Keenan Wynn, Philip Ahn, Joyce Van Patten, Grady Sutton, Harold "Oddjob" Sakata, Richard Anderson, Patty Duke, Larry Kert, Carol Lawrence, Robert Foxworth, Greg Mullavy, Radames Pera, Monte Markham, Sandra Smith, Madlyn Rhue, Douglas Kennedy, Richard Basehart, Nehemiah Persoff, Mark Lenard, Malachi Throne (I guess the last three weren't doing a Mission: Impossible that week), Bill Edwards, Jackie Coogan, the late Nina Foch, Milton Selzer, Leonard Stone, John Howard, Irene Tsu, Erik Estrada, Simon Oakland, Eric Braeden, Beulah Quo, Herb Jeffries, Ed Binns, and Arthur Malet.

Video & Audio

Hawaii Five-O - The Fifth Season looks great. The show is bright and colorful, sharp and detailed, capturing the exquisite (and sometimes seedy) Hawaiian scenery. The show is on six single-sided, dual-layered DVDs running three hours and 20/22 minutes apiece. Though there's the usual warning that "some episodes may be edited from their original network versions," I didn't notice any alternations, cuts or altered music, in any of the shows I watched. The Dolby Digital mono is fine, with a Spanish audio track, and optional Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles.

Extra Features

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 of the next episode, as a kind of preview for "next week's show."

Parting Thoughts

In its fifth year Hawaii Five-O still has all the same varied action, mystery, and intrigue. If you liked the first four seasons you may well regard season five as the best yet. Recommended.


  Film historian Stuart Galbraith IV's latest book, The Toho Studios Story, is on sale now.

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