Friday, April 9, 2010

HUNTER - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

Debuting in the Fall of 1984, Stephen J. Cannell's HUNTER (1984-1991) was, bluntly, a television knock-off of Dirty Harry, no doubt inspired by the huge boxoffice success of SUDDEN IMPACT the year before. Created by Frank Lupo, the show's first season is an unabashed imitation of the iconic Clint Eastwood movie series, albeit produced on a limited television budget.

That's not to say it's not fun.

Ex-football star Fred Dryer (DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR), who bears a slight resemblance to Eastwood, plays Detective Sgt. Rick Hunter of the LAPD. He is - get this - a maverick cop with a reputation for breaking the rules and defying his superiors, but also has the best arrest record on the force. Additionally, he has relatives in organized crime, which makes him a pariah among his fellow officers. He totes a non-regulation sidearm, and frequently spouts his catchphrase, "Works for me." In the pilot he is partnered with Sgt. Dee Dee McCall (the luscious Stepfanie Kramer), another tough, rebellious cop, nicknamed "The Brass Cupcake" by her colleagues. Together, the pair fought crime for seven(!) seasons, several TV movies, and even a five-episode revival in 2003.

Pretty good run for such a derivative concept. Of course, the show did eventually evolve into something more than a simple Dirty Harry clone, becoming a very solid (and obviously popular) police drama. But this first season is pure B-Movie action, and is loaded with great, old school car stunts, brawls, shoot-outs and comfortably familiar storylines. There are also plenty of recognizable guest stars, like Brian Dennehy, Bo Svenson, Wings Hauser, etc.

Previously released on DVD by Anchor Bay, the license for HUNTER (and many other Cannell shows) is now held by Mill Creek Entertainment, and the first season of this long-running series has been reissued in a solid, if no-frills, box set. The first season's 19 episodes (including double-length pilot) are presented in perfectly satisfactory 1.33:1 full-frame transfers across four discs. Audio is clear, original mono. There are no extras, although, unlike the Anchor Bay discs, the Mill Creek release appears to include the original music. And it's a lot cheaper.

If you're a fan of the series - or 80s' action-adventure shows in general - the new release is an improvement over prior editions, and is very reasonably priced (usually between $10 and $15). I had a lot of fun revisiting the show, myself. For those aforementioned fans, HUNTER - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is recommended.


BUY: Hunter: The Complete First Season