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Case Number 24491: Small Claims Court

Buy the The Lieutenant: The Complete Series, Part 1 at Amazon.com

The Lieutenant: The Complete Series

The Lieutenant
1963 // 810 Minutes // Not Rated
The Lieutenant
1964 // 745 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // September 12th, 2012

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• Buy the The Lieutenant: The Complete Series, Part 1 at Amazon.com
• Buy the The Lieutenant: The Complete Series, Part 1 at Amazon.com

 

All Rise...

What a coincidence: Tiberius just happens to be the password to Judge P.S. Colbert's online bank account!

The Charge

"Battles are won by men who can reach down inside themselves and find something: ingenuity, resourcefulness—something that tips the balance, regardless of preparation, odds, equipment, position, or even experience. We call that leadership."—Captain Raymond Rambridge

The Case

Ten-hut!

A few years prior to traversing the final frontier of outer space (and achieving stratospheric immortality with Star Trek: The Original Series), veteran TV writer Gene Roddenberry launched his first television series with an assault on the earth. Most episodes of the military-themed The Lieutenant opened with honest-to-gosh, mud-crawling war game exercises.

Square-jawed, earnest, and career-minded William Tiberius Rice (Gary Lockwood, 2001: A Space Odyssey) graduated from Annapolis and advanced quickly to the rank of Lieutenant, instructing Marine recruits at Camp Pendleton under the command of no-nonsense Captain Rambridge (Robert Vaughn, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). Rambridge, who rose through the ranks, does everything by the book, which apparently means he must treat everyone beneath him with a mixture of polite surliness and disapproval.

Like many of its contemporaries, The Lieutenant functioned primarily as an anthology series, with weekly guest stars taking center stage. Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk) breaks the ice in the premiere, "A Million Miles From Clary," as one of Rice's childhood friends, a ne'er do well cad trading on his relationship with brass in order to get out of grunt work. Smarmy, abrasive, and hyperactive, Bixby's performance here ranks among his best, creating someone who would make shame itself feel ashamed to know him.

Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider), Linda Evans (Dynasty), Robert Duvall (The Godfather), Pat Priest (The Munsters), Chad Everett (Medical Center), and future Star Trek: The Motion Picture alumnus Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, and Walter Koenig, all did basic training here before going onto earning their stripes down the road. One notable veteran listed in the guest ranks was real life Marine Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, whose own WWII exploits would become television legend, courtesy of the classic action series Baa Baa Black Sheep.

Seldom seen since its prime time run, this short-lived series has been resurrected as a Made-On-Demand (MOD) release from the Warner Archive collection. The series twenty nine original episodes have been split into volumes, to keep the price point managable.

The Lieutenant: The Complete Series, Part 1 features 16 episodes on 4 discs:

• "A Million Miles From Clary"
• "Cool Of The Evening"
• "The Proud And The Angry"
• "To Take Up Serpents"
• "A Touching Of Hands"
• "Captain Thomson"
• "Instant Wedding"
• "A Troubled Image"
• "Fall From A White Horse"
• "Alert!"
• "The Art Of Discipline"
• "The Alien"
• "O'Rourke" • "Gone The Sun"

The Lieutenant: The Complete Series, Part 2 features 13 episodes on 4 discs:

• "Between Music And Laughter"
• "Interlude"
• "Capp's Lady"
• "Green Water, Green Flag"
• "To Set It Right"
• "In The Highest Tradition"
• "Tour Of Duty"
• "Lament For A Dead Goldbrick"
• "Man With An Edge"
• "Operation Actress"
• "Mother Enemy"
• "The War Called Peace"
• "To Kill A Man"

Chalk it up to the growing pains of a new series looking to find its niche, but The Lieutenant seems to suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. Take the opening credits, for example. Lockwood addresses himself in a mirror—one image in full officer's dress, the other in mufti. Cut to a close-up of Lockwood (in civvies) snarling at the camera for a beat before breaking into a wide, "Aww…shucks!" grin. The intention may have been to show the duality of Rice's existence, but the effect is creepy, bordering on psychotic.

With its tendency to give prominence to characters who would inhabit one episode before moving on, the series was in some ways indistinguishable from its period peers, competing for ratings with the likes of Route 66, The Fugitive, and Wagon Train. Episodes primarily devoted to field exercises invite comparisons to Combat!, and one particular story—in which Rice was required to act as defense counsel before a court martial tribunal—bore jarring similarity to the routine goings on of Perry Mason, right down to an eleventh hour confession to clear the accused.

Derivations aside, The Lieutenant certainly isn't a bad show. The weakest episodes are more than watchable, and the strongest make for astoundingly good television; namely "Between Music And Laughter," which shows much more of Capt. Ramridge's vulnerable human side than he'd like. Things start off with a bang, when the Captain's ex-wife Susan (Pat Crowley, Money From Home) reappears, making no bones about her wish to reunite with her husband. This exploration of a marriage born from love, passion, and two people who couldn't possibly live together, has been tried countless times on both the big and the small screen, but seldom so successfully. Credit an expert script from veteran writer Sy Salkowitz, and superior performances from Vaughn and Crowley.

Arguably the best episode of the series features Paul Burke (The Naked City) as Captain Ken Thomson, just back from a tour in Vietnam, training Camp Pendleton troops in counter-insurgency tactics. A tightly-coiled ball of rage, Thomson shows blatant disregard for chain-of-command and procedure, while running his recruits ragged with drills not found in the Marine corps' training manuals.

"Guerrillas know your book as well as you do!" Thomson hisses at Rice, when the Lieutenant questions his commanding officer's unorthodox methods. Watching all this transpire in the harsh light of hindsight, I was chilled by the knowledge that rank-and-file's refusal to heed such advice lead to considerable loss of life.

Vietnam hits closer to home by the series' final episode, "To Kill A Man," which puts Rice into the jungle thickets of South East Asia, after his helicopter is shot down. It might have been interesting to see how The Lieutenant dealt with this "police action" going forward, but those stories were not meant to be. I've read rumors the show was pulled by NBC not because of low ratings, but due to pressures from top network brass who were nervous about dealing with this very subject. It's certainly possible, though I suspect the real reason for the show's demise had to do with competition from then ratings giant Jackie Gleason on CBS.

Each episode is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. Aside from some slight black level issues, these black and white episodes have aged remarkably well, though one must allow for the fact that some of the stock footage used is somewhat more depreciated. The Dolby 2.0 mono track is reliable, which is fortunate as no subtitles have been provided.

Warner Archive has thoughtfully tacked on the feature-length version of "To Kill A Man," released cinematically to foreign markets in 1964. About forty minutes longer than its television incarnation, the feature adds two romantic subplots, giving Lt. Rice a potty mouth and sexual edge the series did not. I was pleasantly surprised by how much more I enjoyed this fleshed out version than the original; a true "Bonus Feature" indeed. The film's theatrical trailer has also been included.

Though this collection may prove cost prohibitive to all but die-hard Gene Roddenberry fans, The Lieutenant: The Complete Series is a fine representative of its period, and arguably one of the finest shows in TV history.

The Verdict

Dismissed!

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Genres

• Classic
• Drama
• Television
• War

Scales of Justice, The Lieutenant

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, The Lieutenant

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 810 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Lieutenant

• None

Scales of Justice, The Lieutenant

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, The Lieutenant

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 745 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Lieutenant

• Feature Film
• Theatrical Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb








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