Detective “Iron” Mike Stone (Karl Malden) is a seasoned veteran of the San Francisco Police Department. He’s an old fashioned no nonsense detective whose life has taken some bitter turns of late. Much to his aggravation he gets partnered with Keller (Michael Douglas), a green detective who hasn’t lost his belief that he can make a difference. Together they just might be able to teach each other something. Before long the two develop a teacher/mentor relationship that works well enough to solve the cases and get the bad guys.
If you weren’t around in the 1970’s you might be surprised to find out that film superstar Michael Douglas was once in a television cop show. It was this influential crime drama that allowed Douglas to show off the acting chops that would earn him a spot in the Hollywood elite for decades to come. It didn’t hurt any that he was able to team up with Karl Malden, an undervalued talent in his own right. The two of them literally bring the show to life. The series was run by Quinn Martin, himself no stranger to groundbreaking television. Martin was the same talent who created the crime drama with The Untouchables. His uncanny ability to come up with a clever premise was responsible for such milestones in television history as The Invaders and The Fugitive. Later he would continue to shape the look of television with shows like Tales Of The Unexpected, The FBI, and Most Wanted. He was the Steven Bochco of his time. Long before NYPD Blue, Martin was able to make San Francisco, the city itself, an iatrical character for Malden and Douglas to interact with. The show had tremendous style, even if the cases were purely formula. Certainly you won’t find anything in these plots you haven’t seen a hundred times before. What you will find is a unique presentation that somehow makes even the most mundane story appear quite compelling. If you enjoy the Bochco and Wolf dramas or fall in with such classics as Starsky and Hutch or Miami Vice, you owe a tremendous debt to Martin for setting the table for all of those fantastic meals that would follow.
I’m not sure I like the idea of splitting seasons into two sets. Some of the Irwin Allen shows were handled this way, and it seems to me I just ended up spending more money. I would rather get my shows a full season at a time. With that said, if you already own the first part of season one, you have no reason not to at least complete the year with these final 13 episodes. If you’re looking for a sampler, which I guess these half season sets might provide, you are almost always better off with the first half of the first season, because that initial episode more often than not sets the stage for what follows. That is without a doubt true here.
There are at least a couple of standout episodes here. Coincidentally, the episode I remembered most can be found in this set. Beyond Vengeance is a break-out episode on many fronts. Stone must deal with a psycho he once put away, and the crimes touch home as his visiting daughter becomes a target after losing her best friend. The episode might be the turning point where Malden and Douglas begin to exhibit the depth of their relationship and the chemistry just clicks. Another good one is Act Of Duty, where Keller’s cop girlfriend is killed and he has to stop her roommates from taking justice into their own hands.
Each episode of The Streets of San Francisco is presented in its original full frame broadcast format. Let’s be realistic here and admit that the picture is incredibly dated. There’s plenty of grain and colors are often washed out. Still, you might be impressed with the level of detail the transfers are capable of. Nothing is really consistent here at all, but it holds up as well as you can honestly expect it to. Black levels might be the only real constant in each episode, holding steady, again making allowances for the 35 years of age. This isn’t going to dazzle anyone, but it is more than watchable, capable of delivering an entertaining experience if you are not too spoiled by the Hi-Def images delivered on a routine basis today.
The Dolby Digital Mono track serves merely as an adequate delivery system for sound. Dialog is clear and not at all distorted. Some of the music contains slight high end distortion which can be ignored without too much trouble. I also heard a bit of warble at times; that’s actually more common than you might expect even in far more recent productions. Again there isn’t anything high fidelity about this audio, but it does give you the bare essentials to enjoy a bit of classic television.
Move along. Nothing to see here. You do get 13 episodes on 4 discs.
I don’t think I ever appreciated this series until years later when I began to see the effect it had on the landscape of prime time drama. Certainly there have been many shows that left their mark on what followed, and The Streets Of San Francisco is merely just one of them. It was unmistakably Quinn Martin, from the separation into acts to the hard boiled dialog. You should at least check out the first installment of the series, and I think you just might find yourself adding this second volume soon after. If you’re looking for a little history, if you want to understand the evolution of the cop drama just a little more, well…”I’ve got just the spot for you”.