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 eight 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.
The sixth season would feature some classic episodes of the series. In Cry Silence Mannix has to help out a priest. You see, a murderer has confessed to him, and he can’t break his vow of confidentiality. Unless Mannix can get the answers, the wrong guy may get to pay for the crime. If you kill one of his friends, you better watch out. Mannix goes Axel Foley on a New Orleans crime family when they do just that. He goes undercover to get them in The Inside Man. In The Man Who Wasn’t There, the target is Mannix himself. There’s a hit hanging over his head, and he has to beat the killers to the punch. It gets really personal in Carol Lockwood, Past Tense. Someone kills his girl, and the cops say it’s an accident. Now Mannix is on the case, and that definitely isn’t an accident.
The season has a good fair share of guest stars that include: Fritz Weaver, Marion Ross, Anne Archer, William Shatner, Yvonne Craig, Tina Louise, John Considine, Elsa Lanchester, Abe Vigoda, Ruth McDevitt, Clu Gulager, Kenneth Tobey, Adam West, Harold Gould, Dabney Coleman, and even Joseph Campanella returns for a guest stint.
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.
You know, for me Mannix is perfect comfort television. It never really rises to anything I would call great television, but it is consistently good. I’ll take that any day over a show that has some truly great moments but sits on those few and delivers nothing but crap the rest of the time. It’s an era and a kind of show that sits well on your shelf and won’t let you down. A place where “life is but a stage”, “to quote a dead man”.