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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Honey West

It lasted just one season, but Honey West was such a breakthrough TV program that it easily overshadows Forbidden Planet as star Anne Francis’ best remembered role. The 1965-66 ABC Network series, spun off from Burke’s Law, was probably too expensive to renew, but it presented, for the first time, a female action heroine as the lead of an American network television show. Yes, she had an assistant, played by John Ericson, who helped her out in fights and also managed the electronic gadgets, but the hierarchy of their relationship was clear. She was the boss, and not some Avengers-style sidekick.

VCI Entertainment has released all thirty black-and-white full screen 25-minute episodes in a four-platter set, Honey West Complete Series. Each platter has a ‘Play All’ option and the chapter encoding jumps reliably over the opening credits. The picture transfers look very nice and the monophonic sound is solid. The music utilizes only a handful of cues, over and over, but they have a nice jazzy feel to them. There is no captioning. A total of 5 minutes of publicity photo montages are featured on the first and second platters, and all four platters have a total of 34 minutes of wonderful Sixties commercials (how come they don’t advertise hosiery on the TV anymore?) and plugs for ABC’s weekly lineup.

What is surprising is how well the series has held up over time. Perhaps having to jam a complete narrative into the half-hour time slot has something to do with it, but most of the episodes are fully entertaining (some, usually ones with good plot twists, were written by Richard Levinson and William Link), with clearly established characters, a brisk pace and efficient action sequences. Francis’ outfits are terrific, and while her karate chops and judo tumbles are a little arch, she nevertheless projects a blend of unashamed femininity and take-charge confidence that made an indelible model for all who followed her path.

The episodes are varied in tone, with some having strong comical underpinnings (and involving gorillas, robots and such) and some being straightforward crime dramas. The heroes use advanced (for the time) gadgetry, including having rotary phones in their cars. Francis plays a dual-role in one episode and is visited in others by guest stars such as Michael J. Pollard, Dick Clark, Bert Parks, Kevin McCarthy, a very young Joe Don Baker, Edd Byrnes, Bobby Sherman, Wayne Rogers, Everett Sloane, Alan Jenkins, Richard Kiel and so on.Ida Lupino directed an episode. One of the high points of the series is a terrific after-hours fight in the sporting goods section of a department store, as the characters grab everything that is available to them in the displays. Francis’ character also has a pet ocelot, one of the icons of the show, and it is fairly amusing to note, assuming the episodes are presented in pretty much the order in which they were shot, that when every new director comes on board he tries to use the ocelot creatively. The ocelot, however, clearly wants nothing to do with filmmaking, and thereafter, in that director’s episodes, its presence is minimal.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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