Directed by Don Taylor et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 656 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: July 8, 2008
Review Date: June 30, 2008
Frank Cannon was something of an anomaly in the world of TV private investigators. Oh, sure, he could karate chop with the best of them when things got tough, but otherwise, he was nothing like his more sophisticated and stylish counterparts from the 1950s (77 Sunset Strip), the 1960s (Burke's Law, Mannix), or the 1970s (The Rockford Files). Overweight, dour, and operating as a lone agent without secretary or sidekick, Frank Cannon was a most atypical TV private eye. And yet, he flourished in a crime drama series that ran for five very successful seasons, yet another in the spokes of the drama wheel manufactured by TV entrepreneur Quinn Martin.
Character actor William Conrad stepped from the shadows of others’ stardom to become a star in his own right with the role of Frank Cannon. With an imposing presence despite being somewhat short and overweight (which he himself drew attention to often during the course of the series), Conrad’s stentorian voice (which had been used for voiceover work in everything from The Fugitive to The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle as well as starring on radio as the voice of Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke) served him very well as the focal point of this otherwise fairly average drama series. In this first half of the season one episodes, Cannon sometimes goes undercover to get to the bottom of his cases (e.g. posing as a truck driver). At other times, he’s simply digging into the crimes which the police have either abandoned or failed to properly investigate the first time. The shows are all closed ended so that by the end of the fifty minutes of program, the case has always been resolved. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Cannon regularly gets hurt, either by shooting or in fights or ambushes though obviously he will live to fight another day. Such are the comforts in series television of this era.
With no regular supporting cast, Cannon resorts to an unusually heavy load of guest stars. The pilot film, introduced as a CBS movie in the spring of 1971, alone sports the likes of Keenan Wynn, Earl Holliman, Lynda Day, Vera Miles, and Barry Sullivan . Once the two hour pilot got picked up as a series, the usual guest stars of the period made regular stops at this new Quinn Martin production. Among them are J.D. Cannon, Murray Hamilton, Tom Skerritt, William Windom, Wayne Rogers, Robert Hogan, Clu Gulager, Joan Van Ark, Diane Varsi, Tim O’Connor, Mitchell Ryan, Pamela Peyton-Wright, Andrew Duggen, Ron Harper, Andrew Prine, Kim Hunter, Barnard Hughes, Harold Gould, Roy Scheider, Arthur O’Connell, Dack Rambo, Lou Antonio, Don Chastain, and Richard Anderson and seen in some of their early TV work are Vincent Van Patten, Mark Hamill, Max Gail, and Vic Tayback.
Here is the rundown of episodes contained in this box set. This particular Quinn Martin production followed the prolog/four act scenario with no epilog present in the episodes presented here:
1 - Pilot (Parts 1 and 2 which play as a single feature)
2 - The Salinas Jackpot
3 - Death Chain
4 - Call Unicorn
5 - Country Blues
6 - Scream of Silence
7 - Fool’s Gold
8 - Girl in the Electric Coffin
9 - Dead Pigeon
10 - A Lonely Place to Die
11 - No Pockets in a Shroud
12 - Stone Cold Dead
The program’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in these DVD transfers. The pilot episode is in poor shape with widely fluctuating flesh tones (from purple to brown), lots of dirt specks and debris, bothersome softness, and somewhat faded color. Once the series episodes begin, things pick up in terms of sharpness and more stable and better saturated color, but the shows still don’t have the crispness or clarity of other Paramount vault series that I’ve reviewed lately, and there are still dirt specks in every episode. And, as usual, without anamorphic enhancement, patterned coats flash and there is plenty of aliasing. Each episode has been divided into 4 or 5 chapters while the pilot is 8 chapters long.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track sounds very tinny in the pilot episode, but the series episodes sound a bit better balanced and a trifle more alive for vintage TV mono tracks.
Each of the eleven series episodes offers a network promo which runs about 30 seconds. The viewer has the choice of watching the episodes with or without the promos.
Not one of the great crime dramas of the 1970s, Cannon is still a slightly above average action series featuring a less than glamorous leading man taking care of business in a highly professional way. The DVD transfers are fairly average looking and sounding, but fans of the show will no doubt be happy to see the first half of the series’ maiden season now available for purchase or rental.