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Kojak - Season One

Universal // Unrated // March 22, 2005
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted March 24, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Series:

Telly Savalas first played police Lieutenant Theo Kojak in a made for TV movie called The Marcus-Nelson Murders that was shown on CBS in 1973. The movie did well, the character proved popular, and a TV series was born so that Kojak's adventures could be enjoyed every week.

A tough as nails lollipop loving (Savalas reportedly started with the lollipops to help him quite smoking) big city cop, Theo Kojak would bring a new crook to justice every week with a wink and a nod and a good sense of humor. While the action was never as intense as it was in other cop shows of the era (Starsky And Hutch and Baretta being prime examples), Kojak had something the others did not, and that was Savalas. He kept the streets of New York safe, and he had a good time doing it.

While he's probably best remembered for this series, Savalas got his start in front of the camera (after working in show business behind the scenes in various capacities) usually playing villains in many different films. A successful stint in Italy found him popping up as the devil himself in Mario Bava's Lisa And The Devil (shot the same year as The Marcus-Nelson Murders ) and he appeared in a few Euro-crime films around the same time such as Violent City with Charles Bronson and Redneck (certainly one of his strangest performances, that one). He did Spaghetti Westerns like Poncho Villa and war films like Kelly's Heroes. But Theo Kojak remains his signature character, and with good reason. The bald headed former soldier was made for the part – he had just the right combination of attitude, coolness, and looks to really make the role his own and despite the upcoming 'reimagining' of the series starring Ving Rhames (who I like), Kojak will always belong to Telly. Kojak was slick, and the reason Kojak was slick was because of Telly Savalas (and his tailor – the man had great suits).

Kojak was always finding himself in all sorts of predicaments – whether it be defusing a hostage situation in Siege Of Terror, helping a young lady stop her fiance from doing something she knows is going to go horribly wrong in Down A Long And Lonely River or stopping a thug from hassling his niece before she's about to tie the knot in Conspiracy Of Fear. The writers of the show obviously had a lot of fun with the material as did the performers and it shows in the wise cracks and banter between Kojak and his collaborators. Part of the reason it worked so well is Savalas' dead perfect delivery but a lot of the credit needs to go to the scriptwriters as well for coming up with the material in the first place.

Another thing that makes the series so enjoyable is the amount of interesting guest stars that pop up throughout the episodes. Sally Kirkland, James Woods, Harvey Keitel, John Ritter, Jonathon Hillerman, Paul Michael Glaser and even the lovely Tina Louise all show up in bit parts as the first season scrolls through your DVD player.

This set compiles all twenty-two episodes from the first (of five) seasons. The episodes in this collection made up of three double sided discs and are spread out in the following order (in which they were broadcast):

Disc 1 - Side One
Web Of Death
One For The Morgue

Disc 1 - Side Two
Girl In The River
Requiem For A Cop
The Corrupter
Dark Sunday

Disc 2 - Side One
Conspiracy Of Fear
Cop In A Cage
Marker To A Dead Bookie
Last Rites For A Dead Priest

Disc 2 - Side Two
Death Is Not A Passing Grade
Die Before They Wake
Deliver Us Some Evil
Eighteen Hours Of Fear

Disc 3 - Side One
Before The Devil Knows
Dead On His Feet
Down a Long and Lonely River

Disc 3 - Side Two
Therapy In Dynamite
The Only Way Out



Each of the episodes was shown fullframe on TV back in the seventies and that's how they're shown here on this set, as they should be. Overall, I was very pleased with the way that these episodes all look in DVD. The series never really went over the top with the colors, instead opting to leave the locals used in the show looking as they would being in the big city and all – rather drab. This DVD collection reproduces that look quite faithfully and it does so with style. There's a nice level of detail present throughout and print damage is limited to just the odd speck and scratch here and there. Edge enhancement is minor, and there are no problems with mpeg compression that I was able to notice. Black levels stay reasonably strong and deep, and flesh tones look lifelike and natural.


While the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English language soundtrack is reasonably clear without any hiss or distortion, the levels are just a hair low on this set. That's easily corrected by simply turning up the volume to accommodate this though, and once that's done there aren't any problems. Obviously with an older mono TV show you're not going to get a lot of effects or any channel separation but the dialogue is easy enough to follow and it's never overshadowed by the sound effects or background music at all. It's a 'no frills' mix but it takes care of business.


Universal hasn't supplied a gosh darn thing as far as supplements go for this release. And if you ask me, that's lame.

Final Thoughts:

Extras or no extra, Kojak holds up well and having the entire first season (with the glaring omission of The Marcus-Nelson Murders TV movie….grrrrrr) on DVD at least is a very, very good thing. The episodes look and sound pretty decent and the content is top notch seventies cop show gold! Kojak: Season One is easily recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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