Mission: Impossible-Fallout: A film Bruce Geller might love

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

As I watched Mission: Impossible-Fallout, I kept wondering what M:I creator Bruce Geller would think. My guess: I think he would approve.

The best episodes of the original 1966-73 series featured slick plans devised by Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) and Jim Phelps (Peter Graves). While the plans were brilliantly devised, the Impossible Missions Force would be forced to improvise when things went wrong or surprises occurred.

Previous Mission: Impossible films, which debuted in 1996, have this same feature. But in the newest installment, IMF leader Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has to improvise more often, more quickly than ever before.

The new film also has a personal angle (an apsect Geller wouldn’t have been fond of) — something the 007 film series has featured constantly since 1989. But for M:I-Fallout, the personal angle doesn’t overwhelm the proceedings.

As a result, Hunt isn’t out for revenge (a la Licence to Kill, GoldenEye, Die Another Day and other 007 films). No readings of poems (a la M in Skyfall). No villain with a “personal” connection to the hero (SPECTRE’s new version of Blofeld).

The trailers for Mission: Impossible-Fallout have emphasized that evoke set pieces from 007 movies (Licence to Kill and Tomorrow Never Dies). Some fans complain that’s ripping off Bond.

But, in the end, they’re only set pieces and don’t take up that much screen time. What’s more, there are twists involved that weren’t shown in the trailers.

Mission: Impossible-Fallout still is mostly its own thing. It tips its hat to the original show via a Lalo Schifrin-inspired score by Lorne Balfe. It’s not the first time the movie series has embraced Schifrin. Joe Kreamer, composer for 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, also weaved Schifrin into his score. Balfe does it his own way. (CLICK HERE for a feature story Jon Burlingame did for Variety about Balfe’s work.)

Meanwhile, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, who also worked on M:I Rogue Nation, keeps things at a frantic pace. The movie has a 147-minute running time. That’s almost as long as SPECTRE’s 148 minutes. But M:I-Fallout, overall, moves more quickly. At the same time, McQuarrie’s movie isn’t just set pieces strung together.

As a fan of the original TV show, I still don’t care for how the first movie in the Cruise series made Jim Phelps into a traitor. At this point, I just have to rationalize the film series is an alternate universe.

At 56, you’ve got to wonder how much longer Cruise can keep the Mission: Impossible film franchise going. But that’s something most viewers won’t think about until after they’re headed home from Mission: Impossible-Fallout. GRADE: A-Minus.

Advertisements

1988 Mission: Impossible series gets a soundtrack release

Mission: Impossible soundtrack from 1988 revival series.

A soundtrack to the 1988-90 Mission: Impossible revival television series is coming out from La-La Land Records, the company said July 23 ON FACEBOOK.

The price is $29.98 and sales will be limited to 1,988 units, La-La Land said. The new soundtrack includes music by Lalo Schifrin (composer of the famous Mission: Impossible theme) and Ron Jones.

The sets will include liner notes by film and TV music expert Jon Burlingame, who has worked on other La-Land projects, including a soundtrack for the original 1966-73 Mission: Impossible series.

The 1988 series starred Peter Graves, reprising his role as Jim Phelps of the Impossible Missions Force. In the first episode, he returns to the IMF after a protégé was killed. At the time it began production, there was a Writers Guild strike. As a result, the initial stories were based on scripts written for the original show. The revival series aired on ABC while the original had been telecast by CBS.

The revival soundtrack will go on sale July 31. Presumably, it will be sold (like other La-La Land offerings) on the company’s website.

Joe Kraemer won’t score M:I-Fallout

Mission: Impossible-Fallout promotional image featuring Tom Cruise performing a stunt.

Joe Kraemer, who scored 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, will not handle music for the franchise’s new installment, Mission: Impossible-Fallout.

“There seems to be confusion in the film music community re:my assoc with MI6:Fallout. Here’s the deal: I wasn’t hired, fired, or replaced,” Kraemer wrote in a post on Twitter.

“I was notified by email that I was not being asked back,” he wrote. “That is the full extent of my involvement with the film & the filmmakers.”

Kramer’s music was one of the highlights of the 2015 M:I adventure. The composer, in addition to using Lalo Schifriin’s iconic theme from the original show, also utilized one of Schifrin’s underscore compositions from the series.

A fellow film composer also took to Twitter to compliment Kraemer’s work.

“I think the confusion would be based on everyone wanting more @joekraemer MI music because Rogue Nation was so good!” Daniel Pemberton wrote in a Twitter post. Pemberton’s work includes the 2015 film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

Kraemer’s Twitter post is embedded below.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Some Rod Taylor spy movies on TCM early Friday

Rod Taylor from the main titles of the Masquerade television series.

Friday, Aug. 18, is Rod Taylor day on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. And some of Taylor’s spy movies will be part of the proceedings.

As an aside, TCM’s programming day starts at 6 a.m. New York time. The spy movies start early. Sorry for the late notice, but the Spy Commander just found out himself.

6 a.m.: 36 Hours, World War II espionage movie. Germans kidnap an American officer (James Garner). They make him think World War II is over to trick him out of information about the invasion of Europe. Taylor plays the German performing the deception. Based on a story by Roald Dahl.

8 a.m.: The Liquidator. Rod Taylor as John Gardner’s Boysie Oakes. Music by Lalo Schifrin and a title song performed by Shirley Bassey.

10 a.m.: The Glass Bottom Boat, a Doris Day comedy involving spies seeking secrets from a Tony Stark-like character played by Taylor. Cameo by Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo.

Noble failure: The Richard Boone Show

Logo for The Richard Boone Show

On occasion, television shows attempt to punch above their weight. They may not succeed, but they deserve a salute for the effort.

That applies to The Richard Boone Show, which ran for one season (1963-64).

Boone (1917-1981) was at his height of popularity in the early 1960s.

He had starred for six seasons as Paladin in Have Gun — Will Travel. With the end of that popular Western, Boone pretty much could write his own ticket.

The actor was not a typical star. He had quirky tastes. What he wanted to do was the television equivalent of a theater company performing different plays each week.

Boone had a receptive audience in Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. The duo supervised popular game and panel shows such as What’s My Line?, Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth. But they also wanted to break out of the genre.

In that regard, the Goodson-Todman track record was mixed. They produced a Philip Marlowe series that lasted one season. They also produced The Rebel, a Western series that ran for two series today best remembered for a Johnny Cash title song.

Goodson-Todman was determined to turn The Richard Boone Show into a prestige series.

As producer, Goodson and Todman hired Buck Houghton, the producer of the first three seasons of The Twilight Zone. Clifford Odets was brought on as story supervisor, to line up scripts for the new anthology show. Odets, unfortunately, died in August 1963 during production of the series.

For the “company of players,” the regulars included the likes of Harry Morgan, Robert Blake, Jeanette Nolan, Ford Rainey, Lloyd Bocher, Laura Devon, Warren Stevens and other familiar faces on early 1960s television.

Many of the episodes starred Boone, but not all. When Boone wasn’t the lead player, he would portray a secondary character. Meanwhile, the cast had plenty of opportunities to display their acting abilities.

In many ways, the “company of players” was like an actual theater company with the actors playing around with makeup, include bald caps, fake mustaches, putty noses, wigs and such.

In terms of music, the production team hired Henry Mancini to come up with a theme while episodes were scored by composers such as Bernard Herrmann, Fred Steiner and Lalo Schifrin.

Today, in the 21st century, it’s easy to image an undertaking like The Richard Boone Show being televised on Netfilix or Hulu as an original series (depending on the headliner). But, during the 1963-64 series, the series ran for a year before disappearing.

In a commercial sense, the show was a failure. Artistically, it was a noble failure. What follows is the unusual opening and end titles of the show.

 

Mannix vs. spies

Mike Connors in a first-season episode of Mannix, an iconic image used in the show's main titles.

Mike Connors in The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher, a first-season Mannix episode.

This week’s death of Mannix star Mike Connors spurred the blog to take a look at some spy-related episodes of the private eye drama.

Mannix mostly mixed it up with hoods and other crooks. But, on occasion, there were espionage-related stories.

The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher (first season): Intertect, the large detective agency Mannix works for in the first season, is hired by Germans representing a European industrial concern. They’re after a missing scientist.

Mannix doubts the motives of the agency’s clients — with good reason, it turns out. The reality is there are a group of Nazis from World War II and Nazi hunters. Mannix is in the middle and has to figure out who is who.

Deadfall (first season): A two-part story involving industrial espionage.

Vancom Industries is developing an advanced laser. It has hired Intertect to provide security. A Vancom lab technician is killed in an explosion caused by sabotage and the lead Intertect operative apparently has been killed in an auto accident.

Vancom rival Berwyn Electronics demonstrates its own version of the device. The laser only fires at a target spot and won’t fire if blocked from the target by a human being.

Mannix picks up the trail. The question is whether the Intertect operative was involved with the sabotage and who at Vacom participated in the theft of the system.

Meanwhile, Intertect chief Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella) is behaving erratically as the result of a medical prescription. Toward the end of Part I, Wickersham explodes in rage at Mannix and fights the detective viciously.

Mannix must not only solve the case but find out the reason for Wichersham’s behavior.

To the Swiftest, Death (second season): Mannix is participating in an amateur auto race. One of the race cars is involved in a fiery crash, apparently killing the driver. Mannix is hired to investigate the crash. But U.S. authorities are taking an unusual interest in the case.

Race Against Time (seventh season): The first two-part story since the first season of the series.

Mannix is recruited by the U.S. government. Mannix knows Victor Lucas, who is leading a resistance movement inside a repressive country.

Mannix recruits a famed heart surgeon (John Colicos) and smuggles him into the country. Mannix and the doctor meet up with members of the resistance movement. Before the doctor can perform the surgery, the pacemaker that Mannix brought with him has been smashed.

Mannix must now find another suitable pacemaker and find out who the traitor is within the resistance movement.

Bird of Prey (eighth season): Producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts acquired the rights to a Victor Canning novel as the basis of this two-part episode.

A case takes Mannix to another country. He becomes aware of a plot to kill the nation’s leader. In Part II, the plot succeeds and Mannix is framed as the assassin.

The detective now is on the run, trying to clear his name and bring the conspirators to justice. The two-part story also marks composer Lalo Schifrin’s final original score for the series.

M:I’s 50th: ‘Your mission, should you decide to accept it…’

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Mission: Impossible, 50 years after its first telecast this month, still resonates with some viewers.

Part of it is Lalo Schifrin’s memorable theme. Producer-star Tom Cruise retained it when he began his M:I movie franchise in 1996. In the most recent installment, 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, some of Schifrin’s score from the series was also carried over.

Part of it is that many people still remember the 1966-73 original fondly. In September 2014, the MeTV channel brought M:I back for a year as part of a programming block called “The Spies Who Love ME.”

The channel hired Martin Landau, who played disguise expert Rollin Hand for the show’s first three seasons, to do promos. “Watch me on Mission: Impossible,” Landau said.

Some of the images and catchphrases certainly are still remembered. Among them: the main title with its burning fuse; the team leader (Steven Hill the first season, Peter Graves the final six) being briefed in an unusual manner; and the mysterious voice of the never-seen voice saying, “You mission, should you decide to accept it…”

The original series was a tense place to work.

The show chewed up producers (Joseph Gantman, Stanley Kallis and Bruce Lansbury among them). Those day-to-day producers had the primary task of maintaining a steady supply of elaborate stories. They had a tough act to follow after the pilot where the Impossible Missions Force steals two atomic bombs.

What’s more, Bruce Geller, the creator-executive producer, had a falling out with the talented writing tandem of William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter. Woodfield and Balter had received attention for their intricate tales.

But, in the show’s third season (when they were promoted to producers), Woodfield and Balter soon departed after conflicts with Geller. A few seasons later, Geller himself was barred from the Paramount lot because of his battles with studio executives.

Despite all that (because of all that?), M:I had an impact on television audiences.

When Steven Hill died last month, his obituary in The New York Times, detailed more about his one year on M:I than it did his 10-year stint on Law and Order as stern D.A. Adam Schiff.

The Tom Cruise film series is less team-oriented than the TV show. Most notably, its first installment turned the Jim Phelps character played by Peter Graves in the series into a villain. Regardless, the movie series is still around. The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website reported last month that a sixth installment may have hit a temporary snag as details get worked out.

But M:I 6 seems more likely than not. Paramount is struggling right now and needs a hit. Cruise, in great shape at 54, isn’t getting any younger. Both sides have ample incentive to get a deal done.

None of this, of course, would have been possible without Bruce Geller (1930-1978), who managed to make a weekly series where nothing was impossible.