It's business as usual as CBS/Paramount ponies up another round of Hawaii Five-O, with The Seventh Season debuting this month. Series star Jack Lord looks increasingly cadaverous, Kam Fong (Chin Ho Kelly) seems to be losing weight while James MacArthur's (Danno) callow youth is slowly giving way to middle-age. Otherwise, it's more of the same. The best episodes of the program's seventh year (1974-75) are as good as any in the series, while the weak ones generally aren't too terrible. The show isn't particularly adventurous; the series sticks to its tried-and-true course, rarely venturing into political-social commentary (which it flirted with sporadically in some early shows) or even delving much into the personal lives of its regular cast, especially Lord's Steve McGarrett, whose enigmatic, all-business leader was key to the show's success.
That said, the show still manages to come up with an impressive array of fresh story material; after six seasons, you'd think Hawaii-based criminal plots would be long exhausted by now, but no - some intriguing, original stories await. And if we know little more about Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O's seventh season than we did in the first, at least the show's expanded cast of semi-regulars give it an ensemble feel that doesn't entirely depend upon Lord, though he's still clearly at the center of the show's universe.
There's not much to add not already stated in my reviews of Seasons One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six, except to note a few particulars about this set and to say, as usual, if you've been buying the earlier seasons all along, you're bound to enjoy this one, too, especially since CBS/Paramount's transfers remain as strong as ever.
At the center of things, Jack Lord's Steve McGarrett is surrounded by [clockwise] Detectives Ben Kokua (Al Harrington) and Danny Williams (James MacArthur), medical examiner Che Fong (Harry Endo), and Detective Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong)
As before, determined, tough-as-nails Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) heads Five-O, Hawaii's (fictional) state-managed police force answerable only to Hawaii's long-serving Governor Paul Jameson ('50s sci-fi icon Richard Denning, getting noticeably older, but always a delight). Steve's trusted right-hand man, Detective Danny "Danno" Williams (James MacArthur) is now more like an heir apparent than reliable disciple, while seasoned Chinese-American Detective Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong) is often tasked with the leg work. Both have been with Five-O from the beginning. The show's fifth season introduced Polynesian Al Harrington (born Tausau Ta'a, in Pago Pago) as Detective Ben Kokua, but he's even in the background more than Zulu, whose Det. Kono Kalakaua Ben replaced. Harrington himself left the series this season, but because episodes aired out-of-sequence from which they were shot, he's on-and-off until the season finale, his last episode. In between are even more shadowy replacements who are like giant holes in the screen, all of which underscores Zulu's unfortunate firing, the first big loss to Hawaii Five-O's makeup.
Conversely, the show's semi-regular characters have increasingly expanded roles, including Jenny (The Mummy's Hand's Peggy Ryan), Five-O's secretary, and medical examiner Che Fong (Harry Endo), a Chinese-American Olan Soule; he's in just about every show, and the late actor coulda shoulda received main title billing. Other continuing characters include Honolulu Police Department Sgt. Edward "Duke" Lukela (Herman Wedemeyer), Doc Bergman (Al Eben), and District Attorney John Manicote (Glenn Cannon).
You'd also think by now Hawaii Five-O would have exhausted volcano stories, but "A Hawaiian Nightmare" offers an interesting twist with its story about a geothermal dynamics whiz (The Andromeda Strain's James Olson) threatening to cause an eruption that will wipe out Hilo Island unless he's paid half-a-million bucks. How he figures on causing the eruption is made quite believable, as are his motives - to please his wife (Sheree North) he lives way beyond his means. It's also an unusually suspenseful, ticking time bomb of a show. Other unique episodes include one about the search for the Peking Man's remains (still lost after nearly 70 years*), and an entertaining late-season episode about ticket scalping, of all things.
"I'll Kill 'Em Again" is another interesting show, about a paranoid schizophrenic/used-bookstore clerk (Danny Goldman, nowadays the voice of "Brainy Smurf") seeking attention with a murder spree duplicating old Five-O cases that were profiled in a local magazine, the unfortunate victims selected solely on the basis of their appearance, occupation, or where they live to fit these older case profiles. In "We Hang Our Own," a post-Forbidden Planet/pre-Police Squad Leslie Nielsen, who also appeared in Hawaii Five-O's pilot, guest stars as an old world rancher who, after his son is murdered, decides to take the law into his own hands.
Jack Lord himself directs maybe the season's best episode, "How to Steal a Masterpiece," with guest star Luther Adler (so good in the fifth season's "'V' for Vashon" trilogy) as a rich and powerful art collector whose Gauguin is stolen - or is the stolen painting actually a forgery? Suspects include grandson Jeff (Michael Anderson, Jr.) and French appraiser Jacob Durkin (George Voskovec). It's a complex, technical, but completely believable show offering a detailed look inside the world of art collecting and forgeries, while making a sad, interesting commentary about obsessive collecting and proprietary "ownership." An unusual, impressive episode.
Guest stars this season, many back for return appearances, include Larry Wilcox, Ivor Francis, Casey Kasem, William Windom, Marc Singer, Linda Ryan, Perry King, Bruce Boxleitner, Jessica Walter, Alan Fudge, Abe Vigoda, Sam Elliott, Gail Strickland, Carol White, Cameron Mitchell, Frank Gorshin, Khigh Dhiegh (back as Wo Fat), James Hong, Bill Edwards, Ossie Davis, John Fujioka, Vic Tayback, Eugene Roche, France Nuyen, William Prince, Harvey Jason, Richard Hatch, Gretchen Corbett, Ed Flanders, Nehemiah Persoff, Tommy Sands, Sal Mineo (one of his last roles prior to his murder), Dane Clark, Linda Purl, and Scott Brady.
Video & Audio
Hawaii Five-O - The Seventh Season looks quite nice, as sharp and colorful as ever (though that Big Wave bumper is starting to look awfully ragged for years of over-printing!). The image is sharp and detailed, near flawless. The season is on six single-sided, dual-layered DVDs running three hours and 20 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 replaced music, in any of the shows I watched. The Dolby Digital mono is fine, with a Spanish audio track, and optional English, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles.
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."
Hawaii Five-O - The Seventh Season offers more of the same, which is to say a pleasing mix of excellent shows, numerous pretty good ones and only a few stinkers. Recommended.
* Sergei Hasenecz helpfully notes, "In November 1941, the bones had been packed for shipment to the US for safekeeping, but disappeared before ever leaving China. One theory is that the Japanese got them and that they were lost when the Awa Maru sank in 1945. In July 2005, the Chinese government established a committee to find the bones. They haven't."
Stuart Galbraith IV's latest audio commentary, part of AnimEigo's forthcoming Tora-san DVD boxed set, is available for pre-order, while his latest book, Japanese Cinema, is in bookstores now.