Movie Reviews by David L. Vineyard

   Previously on this blog:

      Part 1:  How I Spent My Summer Vacation (1967).

      Part 2:    Run a Crooked Mile (1969).

PROBE. Warner Brothers/NBC-TV; 13 September 1972. Hugh O’Brien, Elke Summer, John Gielgud, Lilia Skala, Burgess Meredith, Angle Tompkins, Kent Smith. Alfred Ryder, Ben Wright. Teleplay: Leslie Stevens; director: Russell Mayberry.

PROBE Hugh O'Brien

   This was the clever pilot film for the TV series Search (1971-1973), a sort of updated cross between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the first season of Mannix.

   O’Brien was Hugh Lockwood, a suave headstrong operative of World Securities, a high tech firm that implants sophisticated audio and physical monitoring devices in its agents and supplies them with a miniature camera worn either as a ring or on a gold chain around the neck (it was the seventies after all).

   Monitoring Lockwood is B. C. Cameron (Meredith) an armchair genius who envies his agents the good life they lead between dangers; Dr. Laurent, the companies founder (Kent Smith); and technician Gloria Hardy (Angel Tompkins), who provide Lockwood with intel and expertise for his missions.

   In this pilot film, Lockwood is teamed with famed diamond expert Harold Streeter (Gielgud) to find a cache of diamonds stolen at the end of WWII by a Nazi war criminal. Their only lead is the war criminal’s ex wife (Lilia Skalla) and daughter (Sommer). The mission takes them across Europe into the high life and face to face with an underground of Nazis wanting the diamonds for the new Reich, while they are stalked by the shadow of the war criminal Ullman.

   Lockwood proves a smart capable agent with a penchant for following his own head and turning off both his lifeline and camera, to the annoyance of Cameron who sees the agents as little more than his eyes and ears.

   The plot works up to a nice twist that you will probably see coming, but is done so smoothly by the superior cast that it hardly interferes with the entertainment.

PROBE Hugh O'Brien

   Alas, the series added two other agents: Tony Franciosa and Doug McClure, and it never reclaimed the style or the charm of the pilot film. But then it would be hard to have guests like Gielgud, Sommer, and Skala every week. It ran one season and was gone.

   But the pilot film stands on its own and is as good as many theatrical features. O’Brien is charming as a cross between James Bond and Milo March and the supporting cast is excellent. Meredith is a delight as the acerbic gourmand and polymath Cameron, and his war of affectionate disdain with O’Brien’s Lockwood is a delight.

   A novelization of the pilot film by Robert Wervka was published by Bantam as Search.

      In conclusion:

   All three of these superior made-for-television movies this series of columns has covered deserve to be available on DVD.

   While much of what came out of the made-for-television movie craze was either dreck, bad remakes of theatrical features, or over praised soap opera designed to squeeze tears and social issues, there were some entertaining films that deserve to be seen and remembered for doing what the small screen does best — produce light entertainment that lingers on when we have forgotten more important fare.