By Chaz Lipp
The Warner Archive is a great source for obscure titles that have a cult following, but aren’t exactly going to fly off the store shelves. They manufacture these titles on demand, providing professionally mastered DVDs that eliminate the need for collectors to seek them out on the pirate market.
If you’re a fan of ‘70s primetime crime dramas, you’re in luck. Warner Archive recently made Harry O – The Complete First Season available as a six-DVD set containing all 22 regular season episodes that aired from 1974-75. The late David Janssen, TV’s Dr. Richard Kimble for four seasons of The Fugitive, plays the title role (the O stands for Orwell) of a cop forced into retirement after being injured in the line of duty. Now he’s a private detective, working cases in and around San Diego. (Preview clip after the jump.)
As a bonus, the set includes the first (and rejected) pilot movie for the show, Such Dust as Dreams are Made On. There is, in fact, room to quibble with the “Complete” claim of the release’s title. After the 1973 pilot didn’t result in the show being picked up, ABC commissioned a second pilot. That one, Smile Jenny, You’re Dead, co-starring a young Jodie Foster, is NOT part of this set.
Obviously some fine-tuning was done to the show between the first pilot and the show’s fall 1974 premiere (including Harry’s frequent inner monologue, via Janssen’s skillfully delivered voiceover). Having that second pilot to bridge the gap would’ve been nice. Oh well, maybe on the second (and final) season release (should Warner decide to release it). As for Such Dust…, it’s a cool, atmospheric film with a moody, jazzy score. Martin Sheen plays a featured role (as the man who shot Harry four years earlier, leaving a bullet still embedded near his spine) and Margot Kidder turns up as well.
Harry O is highly episodic, typical of its era. Harry finds a new case pretty much every episode. Guest stars pepper the season, most notably Kurt Russell in “Double Jeopardy” and Cab Calloway in “Sounds of Trumpets.” In one of her first significant roles, Farrah Fawcett joined the regular cast very late in the season (she continued playing the character, Harry’s neighbor Sue, into the show’s second season). A mid-season overhaul relocated Harry to Los Angeles, though still found him residing in a beachfront cottage. Janssen is the main reason to revisit (or perhaps discover for the first time) this show. His smart, wry performance as Harry Orwell is a reminder of what a great actor he was.