50th anniversary of the best TV theme

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Apapted and updated from a 2013 post.

Sept. 20 is the 50th anniversary of, arguably, the best television theme of all time: Hawaii Five-O by composer Morton Stevens.

The Five-O theme is one of the most famous pieces of music in the world. People who’ve never watched an episode recognize it when just a few notes are played.

Over the decades, it’s been used in commercials and been played by marching bands. Yet, the vast majority of those who’ve heard it probably couldn’t name the man who wrote it.

In the 1960s, the likes of Stevens, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin were busy doing scores for television. Of that quartet, three became big-time film composers. Stevens didn’t.

In the spring of 1965, CBS hired Stevens to supervise its West Coast music operation. It was in that capacity that Stevens scored the Hawaii Five-O pilot. But Stevens couldn’t do every job himself. Thus, he hired Williams to score 1969’s The Reivers, which CBS released under the Cinema Center Films label. The Steve McQueen movie helped Williams transition from TV to films.

Stevens died in 1991, at the age of 62, of cancer. His lasting music achievement was the original 1968-80 Five-O series. Not only did he write the theme, he created the music template for the series.

Stevens delivered episode scores for 11 of the 12 seasons. The Five-O theme was often used by Stevens and other composers in the background music. It showed up as an action riff. It would also be slowed way down for reflective moments in a story.

This decade, Stevens got attention for his other work. The DVD set for the 1960-62 Thriller anthology series with Boris Karloff featured a number of episodes where viewers can isolate the scores of Stevens and Jerry Goldsmith.

A Morton Stevens title card (for music supervision, not for his theme) for a first-season episode of Hawaii Five-O

Jon Burlingame, who has written extensively about film and television music, did a commentary track about each composer. He discussed Stevens’ work in detail.

In 2016, the blog did a post about Stevens as part of its “unsung figures of television” series.

Stevens’ work on Hawaii Five-O represents a paradox. It’s a famous TV theme. Million of people know it. Yet he’s relatively obscure. Stevens had a successful career. Yet his contemporaries — such as Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams — achieved more fame than he did.

Regardless, the Five-O theme is a crowning achievement for Stevens. Watching a Hawaii Five-O theme is akin to viewing a James Bond film scored by John Barry. In both cases, the composers established a music template that thrills viewers decades later.

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Wo Fat 2.0 to be part of Five-0 pilot remake

A still from the Cocoon remake posted on social media by executive producer Peter Lenkov.

You can’t keep a good man — or arch villain — down.

Mark Dacascos, who played Wo Fat 2.0 in the current Hawaii Five-0 series, will be part of a Sept. 28 episode that remakes Cocoon, the pilot for the original 1968-80 Five-O series, according to Entertainment Weekly’s website.

The original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) was the villain of the 1968 pilot and would bedevil Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) until the show’s final episode.

However, in the current series, which began in 2010, the Dacascos version of Wo Fat seemed to be definitively killed off in a 2014 episode.

This begs the question. Has executive producer Peter Lenkov devised a way to bring his Wo Fat back from the dead? Or will Wo Fat still be dead but appear in a flashback?

Naturally, there are no answers now.

Decascos tweeted out the Entertainment Weekly story. Lenkov, in turn, did a “quote tweet.” (Sunset on the Beach refers to an annual outdoor showing of the first episode of a Five-0 season.)

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Hawaii Five-0 to remake original show’s pilot

Khigh Dhiegh, Soon Tek-Oh, Andrew Duggan and Jack Lord in a scene from the original Hawaii Five-O pilot in 1968.

Hawaii Five-0 is doing a remake of the original Hawaii Five-O pilot, Cocoon, the current show’s executive producer said on Twitter and Instagram.

“For those who guessed it… we’re redoing the 1968 pilot “Cocoon” for our season 9 premiere of #h50 – best way to celebrate our 50th anniversary- honoring the original and creator Leonard Freeman,” Peter Lenkov wrote on Instagram.

The original Hawaii Five-O was a police drama that often had espionage story lines. That was established with the two-hour TV movie pilot, written and produced by Freeman and which aired in September 1968.

In the pilot, Chinese agents are abducting U.S. intelligence agents and subjecting them to a new form of torture, dubbed the cocoon. They’re suspended in a pool, wearing a mask (with a tube supplying oxygen) with their ears, nose and eyes covered.

The lack of sensory impulses eventually breaks them and they provide crucial intelligence information. They are then killed, with their deaths made to look like an accident.

Lawman Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) gets involved when Hennessey, a friend of his and an intelligence agent, turns up dead, apparently the result of a drowning. McGarrett doesn’t buy it. Hennessey never learned to swim because he sunburned too easily.

The pilot also introduced Wo Fat (Khigh Dheigh), who’d be McGarrett’s arch foe during the series.

The remake is going to have to make one major change. The Wo Fat of the current show (Mark Dacascos) was killed off in a 2014 installment that was also the 100th episode.

The current series debuted in 2010 and, as Lenkov noted, will begin its ninth season this fall. In 2013, the show also did a remake of an episode of the original series, Hookman, about a killer with no hands.

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): Lenkov posted a photograph on Instagram from the remake. McGarrett 2.0 (Alex O’Loughlin) is undercover doing repair work inside a ship, the same way Jack Lord’s McGarrett did in the 1968 pilot.

Five-0 Cocoon remake

Soon-Tek Oh, busy actor, dies

Soon-Tek Oh as an ill-fated secret agent in the Matt Helm film Murderers’ Row.

Soon-Tek Oh, a Korean-born actor whose career extended decades, died April 4, according to an obituary in Korea JoonAng Daily, an English language newspaper in South Korea.

The publication listed his age as 85. The Internet Movie Data Base listed his age as 74.

(UPDATE: Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have listed his age as 85.)

Korea JoonAng Daily said Oh graduated from  Yonsei University in 1959 with a degree in political science. He then went to the University of California-Los Angeles, where he ended up studying acting, the newspaper said.

The actor made his rounds in spy and international intrigue related movies and television series.

He played Lt. Hip in the second Roger Moore 007 film, The Man With The Golden Gun. Before that, he appeared in I Spy, the Matt Helm movie Murderers’ Row (an uncredited role as a Japanese secret agent who’s killed early in the film), It Takes a Thief, The Wild Wild West (a small role as the villain’s houseboy) and eight episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

Lt. Hip assisted Moore’s Bond on a mission in Golden Gun. Often in Bond films, that’s the type of role that ends up being a “sacrificial lamb.” Oh’s Lt. Hip avoided that fate. The character also had two nieces whose martial arts skills helped Bond get out of a jam.

With Five-O, the actor was present at the beginning. In the pilot episode, he played a lab technician for villain Wo Fat, who has devised an unusual torture method involving a “cocoon.”

His parts got larger as the series progressed. Oh returned in a first-season Five-O episode, Face of the Dragon, He played a Chinese agent who is spreading Bubonic plague. Oh also portrayed a “young Maoist” who is being manipulated by Wo Fat as part of a plot in the fifth-season episode The Jinn Who Clears the Way.

The actor’s IMDB.COM entry lists 116 acting credits, extending from 1965 and running through 2006. He was also billed as Soon-Taik Oh (as he was in The Man With the Golden Gun) and Soon-Teck Oh.

MI6 Confidential, 007 Magazine out with new issues

The World Is Not Enough poster

Two separate publications are out that may be of interest to James Bond fans.

MI6 Confidential No. 44 focuses on The World Is Not Enough, the 19th James Bond film. The 1999 movie was the final 007 production of the 20th century and the third Bond film to star Pierce Brosnan.

Articles include a look at how Brosnan felt about the Bond role the third time out; a feature about Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards and the characters they played; and a story about how Robbie Coltrane returned to the series and his character was expanded.

The issue also has stories going beyond the movie, including one about production Peter Lamont and how he became involved in the film series and another about former United Artists executive Jeff Kleeman and his involvement with Bond in the 1990s

For ordering information, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 or 8.50 euros.

Meanwhile, 007 Magazine is accepting pre-orders for a 007 Magazine Archives Files issue devoted to Luciana Paluzzi, who played SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball.

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

According to the publication, Paluzzi “discussed in detail her varied life and career.” Other highlights for Paluzzi included a pre-Thunderball appearance on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as another femme fatale. Toward the end of her career, she was a guest star in the original Hawaii Five-O series as an Italian journalist. On that episode, she played opposite Jack Lord, the first screen Felix Leiter.

For ordering information, CLICK HERE. The price is 9.99 British pounds, $15.99 and 11.99 euros. The issue is to begin shipping on March 26.

 

Joseph Gantman, early M:I producer, dies

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Joseph Gantman, the day-to-day producer for the first two seasons of Mission: Impossible, died Dec. 26 at 95, according to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Gantman came aboard Mission after the pilot was produced. Series creator Bruce Geller supervised the show, but it was up to Gantman to get things going, including securing a scripts that could be filmed. He would end up winning two Emmys for his work on the show.

Those two seasons featured stories such as Operation: Rogosh. The IMF tricks an “unbreakable” Soviet Bloc operative into thinking it’s three years later so he’ll give up where he’s planted germ cultures that will poison the drinking water supply of Los Angeles.

Gantman departed after the end of Mission’s second season. His successors, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, had written many of the best stories of the first two seasons. The pair bolted after disagreements with Bruce Geller — an indication that Gantman’s work wouldn’t be easy to duplicate. The series would gain a reputation for chewing up producers.

Before Mission, Gantmen worked on the pilot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with with the title of “production assistant.”

During the 1964-65 season, Gantman was associate producer for 16 of the 32 episodes of the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, when that Irwin Allen-produced shows emphasized espionage over monsters.

Later, during the 1968-69 season, he was producer for five episodes of the first season of Hawaii Five-O, including three of the first five telecast by CBS (excluding the pilot, which aired as a TV movie).

Our favorite stock shots of 1960s, ’70s TV shows

Television shows from 1950s through the 1970s meant doing a lot. A typical season meant 39 episodes in the 1950s into the early ’60s, 30 or more into the mid-60s and 26 or so in the 1970s.

It also required working on a leaner budget than feature films. A show may have stories around the world, but you didn’t have the resources films did.

To stretch the budget, production companies utilized “stock shots,” taken from sources available to more or less everyone. In the 1960s and ’70s, it was common to see some of the same stock shots on different shows.

With that in mind, here are some of the blog’s favorite stock shots. Note: The episodes listed are not a comprehensive list. You may remember these from other series and episodes

Stock shot of airplane exploding during a missile test, used in The Man From UNCLE and Hawaii Five-O.

Airplane/helicopter exploding in mid-air: Based on the longest clip of it the blog has seen, this appears to be some kind of U.S. Defense Department film. An airplane (presumably radio-controlled) is shot down by a missile.

Said longest version appears in The Quadripartite Affair, the third episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. You actually see the missile launched and see it hit the airplane.

Examples: The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Quadripartite Affair, The Love Affair (first season; supposedly the villain’s helicopter explodes after Solo has placed a bomb aboard), Part Two Alexander the Greater Affair (airplane exploding in mid-air).

Hawaii Five-O: Death Is a Company Policy (fifth season, supposedly a helicopter with syndicate killers is shot down by police, led by Steve McGarrett), Death Thy Name Is Sam (eighth season, villain John Colicos shoots down a helicopter piloted by undercover cop George Takei with a portable surface-to-air missile).

Frequently used stock shot of a landing aircraft

Aircraft about to land: One of the most common seen stock shots during the period was of the underside of a aircraft about to complete a landing.

It was used a number of times in Hawaii Five-O (the image at right is from the episode Three Dead Cows at Makapuu Part I), where characters were flying into Hawaii all the time.

I know it was used more frequently than that, but tracking them all down in daunting. The whole idea was to communicate movement to the audience. Sometimes, the lead character might be traveling somewhere and this shot would be used to demonstrate he or she had arrived.

Stock shot of exploding car.

Car Exploding on side of mountain: It costs money to blow up a car or truck. One way to save costs was using a stock shot of one going up in flames.

The image at right was used at least twice. In the first-season Mannix episode Deadfall Part I, an Intertect investigator (Dana Elcar) fakes his own death with his car exploding. Mannix (Mike Connors) investigates and finds out his Interect colleague was was involved in an industrial espionage operation involving a new laser.

The stock shot also was used in an episode of Ironside, Poole’s Paradise.

At the start of the series, the wheelchair-bound detective (Raymond Burr) rode in the back of a 1940 truck. Early in the third season, the truck had to be sacrificed (to throw a corrupt sheriff and his thug deputies off the trail). The stock shot was used to show that vehicle exploding.

The sleuth rode (and eventually drove) a more modern van for the rest of the series.

UPDATE: The exploding car shot also shows up in Nine Dragons, the first episode in Hawaii Five-O’s ninth season.

Arch-villain Wo Fat is at the University of Hawaii, posing as an academic who defected from China in the late 1940s. However, a university faculty member who knew the real academic confronts Wo Fat.

Bad move: Wo Fat has his goons kill the Hawaii faculty member. They put him in a Lincoln Continental, shove the car down a ravine and the car blows up.