A made-for-TV movie that would be turned into the TV show Search,
Probe is an interesting high-tech spy flick that tries
to be a
mystery/action/SF adventure and nearly succeeds in pulling it off, but
quite. Created by Leslie Stevens, the man
behind the original Outer Limits, the
story had a lot of potential. And while
the futuristic technology that's a cornerstone of the film is
today, the real reason the film doesn't work better is that the lead
Hugh Lockwood (Hugh O'Brian) is an agent for P.R.O.B.E., and
international retrieval agency. If
something or someone is lost or stolen, P.R.O.B.E. will retrieve it for
for a price. They are very, very good at
what they do because of some high tech gadgets that they've invented. Each Probe agent comes equipped with a
'scanner,' a device the size of a stack of three quarters that is a
movie camera/microphone and can read a person's medical data
pressure, amount of adrenaline in their system etc.) and wirelessly
info back to Probe HQ, as well as an implant behind his ear so that he
his boss and a signal button implanted in a tooth so that he can send
messaged back to HQ non-verbally.
Probe headquarters looks like a smaller version of NASA's
Command Control. There are rows of
computers and desks with multiple displays where technicians monitor an
every move. At the helm is V.C. Cameron
(Burgess Meredith), a by-the-book leader who tells Hugh what to do
of the way.
This first adventure has Hugh being sent to Austria along with diamond expert
Streeter (played by Sir John Gielgud) to locate the Entourage Diamonds,
collection of precious gems that were stolen from France by the Nazis during
never seen after the war. The first
place Hugh visits is the last known caretaker of the collection,
Frieda Ullman. There he encounters her
lovely granddaughter Heideline (Elke Sommer).
When the countess disappears and a thug tries to machine-gun
Streeter, the agent knows he's on the right track.
Soon he discovers a plot to not only sell the
diamonds, but to use the money to revive the Nazis!
I remember sitting enthralled in front of the TV watching
this when it first aired. Maybe it's the
fact that I'm no longer 9 years old, or maybe the film just hasn't aged
but watching it again I was able to see all the flaws that I didn't
Yes, the technology is laughable today. My
smart phone can do nearly everything that
the Probe devices do, and a whole lot more.
That doesn't hurt the movie though; it firmly places it in a
time and brings the viewer back with it.
The way they used the technology was nice too, and it was fun to
various ways they employed the 'scanner'.
The main gripe I have with the show is that Lockwood wasn't
a great spy. He basically did everything
that his boss told him to (with the exception of running head on into a
of rebels with machine guns at the very beginning (his logic being that
never expect him to do that) and getting it on with Heideline while
telling the agent to go to bed and leave the sexpot alone.... Yeah, like
gonna happen.) Cameron is constantly
giving instructions, even when they're laughable. At
one point Heideline tells Hugh that her
grandmother is missing. Cameron
instructs his agent to "tell her you'll look for her grandmother..." and
Lockwood apes the instructions. "I'll
look for your grandmother in the village."
I mean does he really need his hand held to that extent?
The information that Probe control gives (or doesn't give)
to Lockwood is sometimes comical too.
When he's trying to find the Countesses estate Lockwood pulls
road to buy a map. What?!?
He's got a multimillion dollar organization
behind him with a prototype internet and he can't find a house?? (In the film's credit, the do eventually have
Probe Control tell him how to get where he's going.)
Then there's the time that Lockwood is in a
dark basement and his handler informs him that there are two men who
to jump him hiding in the shadows. With
such a warning, he should make quick work of the thugs.
Except he doesn't. They clean his
clock and lock him up.
When I go into a spy flick, I'm hoping for someone who's a
bit more independent and uses the cool spy gadgets to get out of a jam,
totally relying on them. I want an agent
who plays by his own rules, and doesn't blindly do whatever the Penguin
The original mono soundtrack is fine. Background
noise isn't a problem and the
voices stand out well. It's nothing to
write home about, but it sounds good for a nearly 40 year old film.
The full frame image is good but not great. The
colors aren't as sharp and bright as they
could be, but they're not significantly faded either.
The level of detail is adequate and digital
compression artifacts aren't a problem.
While this is a decent made-for-TV movie, and it did spawn a
series (that only lasted a single season) I just couldn't get past the
that Lockwood wasn't cut from the same cloth as James Bond, Napoleon
Jason Bourne or even Harry Tasker (from True
Lies). He didn't have the macho
self-confidence that the other agents possess.
That's my only real gripe. It's
not a bad movie at all and there are some decent parts.
It would make a good rental.