It sounds like nothing new. Hard-boiled detective uses computers and other forms of technology to solve cases. It isn’t anything new, except the detective in question is Joe Mannix, and the series started in 1967. The computer that Mannix used took up an entire room and was queried using cardboard punch cards. This wasn’t science fiction. We’re not talking some newly discovered Irwin Allen series. Mannix didn’t go after aliens or robots. This was a down-to-earth gritty detective show. Mike Connors played the tough-as-nails detective. He was perfect for the part and blended into the role seamlessly for 8 years.
The show was created by the team of Link and Levinson, who later gave us the detective in the rumpled raincoat, Columbo. It was groundbreaking in so many areas. While it might not be remembered today as one of the top detective shows, there can be no argument about the impact Mannix had on the genre. A decade later one of my favorite television detectives, Jim Rockford, would borrow rather heavily from Mannix. Like Rockford, Mannix was getting beat up a lot. They both had the same sense of style, wearing rather ugly sport jackets. Neither was afraid to bend the rules, or the law, when necessary. Again like Rockford, Mannix often falls for the wrong girl at the wrong time. Mannix was good with a gun and equally adept with his fists. The show received a ton of controversy from the start for the amount of violence it employed. Tame by today’s standards, Mannix was quite aggressive for its time. The joke was that the show’s producers mandated a fight or car chase every 15 minutes whether it was needed or not. I’m sure that wasn’t true, but nonetheless the show opened the floodgates for the detective shows that followed. In this first season, Mannix worked for the enigmatic detective agency, Intertect. They supplied him with the latest in modern technology and with his cases. His main company contact was Lou Wickersham, played by Joseph Campanella. Now Mannix is on his own and begins to resemble more and more these detectives that would eventually follow in his tire tracks.
Season 2 saw a lot of changes for Mannix. He has left Intertect, and gone now is friend and boss played by Campanella. Papa Brady, Robert Reed, joined the show as a police contact for Mannix, Lt. Tobias. Ward Wood played another police contact, Lt. Malcolm. Gail Fisher would join the cast as his faithful secretary and confidant, Peggy Fair. There are a lot of parallels between Peggy Fair and Perry Mason’s Della Street. Both were completely loyal and were instrumental sounding boards. Campanella showed up a few times in this season but was eventually completely gone from the series. Mannix relied more on his fists and his gun now than he did his brains, and the show became more of an action show than it had been.
By season 5 Mannix was now comfortably situated in its new format, and the show rarely hinted at the events of the first season. It’s like it never happened. This season you’ll find a few classic episodes. In Wine From These Grapes we meet Mannix’s father. He goes home only to get tangled up with a local labor war. Mannix goes to work for the syndicate as part of a plan to rescue Peggy, who has been taken hostage in A Choice Of Evils. Mannix unwittingly sets up a gang leader to be killed and ends up in a gangland war. You’ll find that story in Cry Pigeon. On his way to London to recover some jewels, Mannix is kidnapped, and a fake Mannix is sent in his place to claim the loot. It’s a case of which is the real Mannix in Scapegoat.
Each Mannix episode is presented in its original television full frame format. We’re talking about a 40-year-old television show, and your expectations should be adjusted accordingly. Overall the transfers are remarkably solid. While colors are a bit soft, the picture itself is rather clean. The most notable standout is the rather generous level of grain, but this should never be considered a defect, but rather the result of the film’s stock and a legitimate part of the presentation. Print defects are minimal when you consider the age. Black levels are relatively weak but do not seriously take away from the experience.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track does what it needs to do, nothing less, nothing more. You get to hear the dialog and the energetic and jazzy theme perfectly, even if not in a more modern dynamic presentation. The show never sounded better and is not likely to at any time in the future.
Sadly, no extras this time.
Mannix was operating on all cylinders by its 5th season. The new format is complete and the cases even get a little international. You can really start to see the influence on future detective shows now. We missed getting a copy of season 4 here, but it really doesn’t matter. The cases are pretty self-contained, and this is the kind of show you can start almost anywhere at all, even the next season. “If there is a next time.”