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Thursday, April 3, 2014

'Probe' DVD: TV Pilot Adventure of Super Spy Lockwood, Hugh Lockwood

Probe (1972/TV)
This review of the Warner Archive DVD release of the 1972 TV movie "Probe" nicely ties in with two recent Unreal TV posts. The first (and more obvious) connection is with the review of the DVD release of the 1972-73 spyfi (thanks again Archive for coining that very apt phrase) action-adventure series "SEARCH" for which "Probe" is the pilot.

The second review into which this one ties is of a non-Archive title. This post comments that going beyond offering DVD releases of well-known series and films is one way that Archive outshines rival Shout! Factory. An example of this is Archive releasing a complete series DVD set of the recently reviewed sitcom "Flo," which is a spinoff of fellow Archive sitcom title "Alice."

A much more recent example of Archive adopting "cancelled too soon" series is this week's release of the 2006-07 CBS Monday night sitcom "The Class." This one stars John Ritter son and current "Parenthood" star Jason Ritter and Jesse Tyler Ferguson of "Modern Family."

Episodes of this shouldabeena classic about a adults resuming their relationships 20 years after being in the same third-grade class include a hilarious plot about Ritter's timid character (who is the Chandler in this group of friends) being goaded into requesting an absurd number of free samples at a frozen yogurt shop.

Unreal TV is offering further thoughts on this exciting release within the next few weeks.

The uber-awesome premise of "Probe" is that the for-profit entity World Securities Corporation (WSC) deploys its world-wide team of agents to retrieve highly valued missing objects. The mission typically relates to locating and returning missing persons, but the plots in "SEARCH" include an urgent hunt for a weapon of mass destruction and a terrestrial search for moon rocks.

The highly skilled probes, who typically have other professions before WSC takes them away from all that and can declare that they work for it, use a very high-tech micro-scanner and other ultra-cool devices to maintain contact with a space-age control room at WSC headquarters.

"Batman" actor Burgess Meredith plays the man who oversees the technicians who monitor the field agents. The extent of that activity extends beyond seeing and hearing all that the probe witnesses to recording the respiration rate and other vital signs of both said probe and those in the vicinity of said individual.

Uses for the data include determining if someone is lying and whether a man or woman is lurking in the shadows or attempting to sneak up on the probe.

One related hilarious scene has Meredith's character asking a probe to remove the scanner from a ring while driving so that the transmitted images do not cause the technicians motion sickness.

"Probe" centers around the quest of former astronaut Hugh Lockwood (a.k.a. Probe One) to find and recover a set of diamonds with which the Nazis absconded during World War II. Hugh O'Brian, who is perhaps best known for playing the titular character in the '50s Western television series "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," provides a great imitation of an American version of Roger Moore in playing Lockwood.

This sense of a James Bond film immediately starts with a pre-opening credits segment in which Lockwood defies orders to continue his effort to rescue a government official despite being in the middle of a gunfight in which the odds are enormously against him. Of course, Lockwood achieves his mission and then demands time off.

Anyone who has seen a Bond film knows that the contract to find the diamonds prompts a speedy revocation of the grant of time off. Another spoiler alert is that the final minutes of "Probe" are straight out of the Bond playbook.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the opening credits of "Probe" provide an even better sense of this truly '70s show. The modern graphics, jazzy theme, and listing (complete with footage) of the guest stars scream TV movie of the week to the extent that anyone over the age of 40 can hear a baritone voice in their head announcing "our regularly scheduled programming will not be shown tonight so that we may bring you this very special presentation."

Watching the DVD of "Probe" on a Friday night further added to this TV movies sense and prompted a vivid image of "The Brady Bunch" and "The Partridge Family" being pre-empted to show it.

The choice of aforementioned guest stars also contributed to the overall cool vibe and stereotypical early '70s action-adventure show feel of "Probe." The very British Shakespearen actor and "Arthur" star Sir John Gielgud plays a gem expert who tags along with Lockwood. '60s sex kitten Elke Sommer portrays the daughter of a woman who likely knows more than she is sharing about the diamonds. It is fortunate that Lockwood has (humane) ways of making the former darling of high-ranking Nazis talk.

Additionally, the flirting between Sommers' character and Lockwood provides both a catty WSC technician and the "Probe" audience wonderful entertainment.

The epilog to all this is that "Probe" is as rare and special as the diamonds around which it centers. It is a both terrifically fun reminder of the days in which suave tough guys were a regular part of a well-balanced television diet and a chance to see a highly entertaining production about which most people have never heard.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Probe" or "SEARCH" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.