Frank Cannon was unlike any detective we’d ever seen on television before, or since. He was known as a high priced PI with a taste for the finer things in life, particularly fine food. His appearance was counter to all of the rules about rock-jawed handsome detectives who ran around shooting it out and beating up the bad guys. Cannon was a big man and wasn’t about to do much running and fighting. He wasn’t totally different, however. Cannon had a lead foot and could run a car chase with the best of them. He was smart and often a bit flashy in his technique if not in his appearance. It was also rare for a series to have a lone regular to carry the … um… weight. Conrad was up to the task and made the show and the character a permanent part of our pop culture.
William Conrad was no stranger to audiences when Cannon joined the Quinn Martin stable of television dramas. In fact, most folks knew his voice before they got to know his trademark girth. Conrad was the original Matt Dillon when Gunsmoke was a radio drama. When the drama entered the visual medium of television, even Conrad admitted later that the audience, who thought of him as tall and handsome, would have been disappointed. His voice lent authority to any role he played, and on radio his size was never an issue. He was famous as the voice of the stern narrator in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons who often crossed the laws of the trade and interacted with the title characters. He was also the voice that narrated the struggles of Dr. Richard Kimble on The Fugitive, another Quinn Martin production. He continued to narrate series intros even after his own success. He gave us the informative opening dialog in Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. As a voice, Conrad, was one of the best, but when CBS approached Quinn Martin asking for a television vehicle for Conrad, it was a huge gamble. The gamble, of course, paid off… well… huge, and Cannon became an iconic figure in television. Cannon was so popular he was showing up on other shows as well. He appeared on the pilot for Barnaby Jones. The show ran 5 seasons and returned with appropriately enough The Return Of Frank Cannon tele-film in 1980. It is also interesting to note that Conrad, while greatly overweight, lived to be 74.
This second half of season 1 finishes with episodes that put the character and settings more at ease. You’ll find Conrad is really fitting into the part by now, enough to make us identify him with the character forever. In The Nowhere Man, a mild mannered accountant decides to become a somebody by releasing a nerve gas compound. Cannon unwittingly becomes a pawn for a cop on a vendetta against the crook who shot him in The Devil’s Playground. When an arms dealer wages war on his own kin, it’s up to Cannon to save the man in Cain’s Mark. These are just a few of the stories you’ll find in these last 13 episodes of season 1.
Each episode of Cannon is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. The early 70’s nature of the series is unmistakable here. Unfortunately the transfer has plenty going wrong for it. Colors are unstable, and everything is rather soft. There are also signs of compression artifact. Black levels are poor. This is likely as good as it will get, however.
The Dolby Digital Mono track delivers exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. The dialog is clear, and that’s all you’re going to get out of this minimalist presentation.
Each episode gives you the option of watching a very short network promo.
Again both of Conrad’s iconic shows get released on the same day. If it works, you’re likely to see the trend continue. I’m not sure that his star power today is quite up to selling 2 releases at a time, but someone must think so. If you’re having trouble deciding, I’d go with this one. Cannon was by far the better role, and the cases were far more groundbreaking here. So celebrate William Conrad release Tuesday with the second half of season 1 of Cannon, “if that name means anything to you”.