Shout! Factory // 1978 // 465 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // February 1st, 2013
"Cold-blooded killers, mob informants, pirate treasure and the KGB!"
The Mystery of Witches' Hollow. The Secret of the Jade Kwan Yin. The Strange Fate of Flight 608. The Campus Terror. The Creatures Who Came on Sunday. The Disappearing Floor. Legendary cases, all, and each a qualified success for teenage super-sleuth siblings Frank (Parker Stevenson) and Joe (Shaun Cassidy) Hardy.
But you can't win 'em all, and the eerily gifted sons of world renowned private investigator Fenton Hardy (Edmund Gilbert) fell from grace swiftly and decisively over the course of ten painful installments, aka The Hardy Boys: Season Three:
* "The Last Kiss Of Summer" (Parts 1 & 2) -- While hunting for the hit-and-run driver that killed his fiancee, Joe goes undercover as big money gambler.
* "Assault On The Tower" -- The Hardys are doing double duty in London, tracking down their kidnapped father while trying to foil "the biggest robbery in English history."
* "Search For Atlantis" -- Frank and Joe join an archaeological expedition on a Greek Island, as a ruse to hunt for a missing secret agent.
* "Dangerous Waters" -- Local police are clueless about the disappearance of a pretty young American seafarer who disappeared off the coast of Martinique, so it's H & H on the high seas in hot pursuit.
* "Scorpion's Sting" -- Puerto Rico and Switzerland are focal points for a kidnapping plot involving an American senator and his daughter.
* "Defection To Paradise (Parts 1 & 2)" -- The cold war may get boiling hot unless the defecting daughter of a Soviet general is located. Who else but those Hardy guys can prevent a showdown between the super powers?
* "Game Plan" -- Dateline: Atlantic City. Frank puts on his best disco threads and goes undercover to bust a fraudulent securities scam.
* "Life On The Line" -- The brothers penetrate the high-stakes world of motocross racing to protect the daughter of a witness scheduled to testify against the mob.
No mystery here. Ceaseless tweaking of its cast members and content have taken their toll on the quality of this one time guilty pleasure, (as has the especially shoddy presentation), making this DVD set a burden for The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries completists (presumably the only audience left for a season so unpopular it was cancelled midway through).
Female counterpart Nancy Drew officially joins Aunt Gertrude, Chet Morton, the groovy van, and the super-neato basement crime lab in the pile of characters and plot contrivances never to be mentioned again. Also gone are the days of haunted houses and spooky curses; the boys are now full-time employees of the United States government, working with their father in a special new task force, headed up by seasoned veteran Harry Hammond (Jack Kelly, Maverick).
"You guys are good," Hammond tells them. "How'd you like to work full time for the Justice department?"
How good are they? Well, they're a lippy pair, routinely ignoring Hammond's directives, and getting themselves into potentially deadly situations more often than not. I say "potentially deadly" because even the villains that brandish firearms here apparently prefer pointing them to shooting them, and on those rare occasions when a trigger is actually pulled, rest assured that the bullets will graze their target at best -- but more than likely they'll miss altogether.
For reasons never explained, Justice Department agents never seem to carry weapons of their own. Punches are thrown on occasion, but they're usually the sort one can shrug off without a worry about bruising or serious harm being inflicted. This may very well be down to the fact that many of the special guest stars (Pernell Roberts, June Lockhart, Lloyd Nolan, Nehemiah Persoff, Macdonald Carey, Craig Stevens) are well past the age of action heroics.
And when it comes to gathering intelligence, the junior Hardys' spying skills leave a lot to be desired.
Here's an example: looking to bust a ring of white collar criminals, Joe monitors their activities by renting a room in an adjacent skyscraper, directly across from the villains' office headquarters. In order to get a bird's eye view, young Hardy has brought along a high powered telescope, allowing him to see the suspects talking to and gesturing at each other. "I wish I knew what they were up to," Joe says, watching ruefully. Imagine how much more he'd know had he thought to wire the room for sound!
Stories set in Greece, Hawaii, Switzerland, England, and elsewhere mean lots of stock footage (with wild variations in grain consistency) cut in among many interior set-ups of brick and panel veneer, where characters engage in endless exposition, reducing kidnappers, drug dealers and femme fatales to mere talking points. Of course, scripts that supplant action with over-explanation don't give actors much to work with, and judging by the performances here, I'm guessing that the budget didn't allow for such luxuries as rehearsal or retakes. How bad does it get? During their special appearance, soft-rock superstars David Gates and Bread are utterly unconvincing...as themselves!
The folks at Shout! Factory have been kind enough to advise viewers that "Episodes mastered from the best available video sources." You know, it's kind of like when freeway construction reduces traffic to just one lane, which forces you to pass a large sign explaining that such measures are being employed "to serve you better."
Aside from the aforementioned stock footage, these mono-mix, full-screen presentations are an audio/visual nightmare catalog of dirt, debris, pops and drop-outs. Many night scenes are indecipherable, and the soundtrack often sounds as if was being transmitted from a vinyl platter left out in the sun too long. There are no extras or subtitles.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 465 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Not Rated