RARA-AVIS: Leonardo DiCaprio IS Martin Kane

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 06 Oct 2009

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    Mark wrote:

    > Picked up Best of TV Detectives Collection Vol 2. Six episodes of
    > Martin Kane, Private Eye. Any good?


    Depends which actor's playing him. William Gargan was the best. But generally, they're all pretty lightweight, as though the producers were still trying to figure out how to present 30-minute private eye stories on television. They'd been doing it for years on radio, of course, and often quite effectively, but it took them a while to figure out this new medium. Hell, most of them were shot live, which meant there were some great flubs, like gun shots before a trigger is pulled, sets that wobble visibly, laughable fight scenes and even a camerman or two caught in a mirror filming himself.

    One other fun thing to watch for. The sponsor of MARTIN KANE was a tobacco company, so right in the middle of a show he'd stop for smokes, and chat about the case and some new brand of cigarettes with the tobacconist. Years later Gargan, who by then had developed lung cancer, became a rather outspoken spokesman for the cancer society.

    If you want good early private eye shows from the forties and fifties, don't expect to find anything as goof as ROCKFORD or HARRY O. PETER GUNN is probably the most entertaining, thanks in no small part to the fact Blake Edwards ran a tight ship, and knew exactly what he wanted for the most part. (DRAGNET was also essentially one man's vision, which probably accounts for it's quality, as well). A great cast, a sense of style, some groovy fifties-era jazz and some surprisingly effective violence made the show quite memorable.

    MIKE HAMMER's also pretty good, and some of STACCATO is worth catching
    -- although the style and pretension that made it so compelling and such a critics' darling years later at times also occasionally sank it
    (Cassavetes might have been some genius auteur, but man, what a hambone), and produced some unintentionally hilarious episodes. In fact, even these three shows could be erratic, but all in all they were a cut above most of the other early P.I. fare. Shows like MARTIN KANE, RICHARD DIAMOND, MAN AGAINST CRIME, BOSTON BLACKIE, et al -- they all had their moments, but the interest for modern viewers is more historical than anything (though that can be fun, too).. Flashes of innovation and good writing diluted by hours and hours of formulaic writing, cheapo production and get-it-over-with acting.

    Bad TV is not a new invention. But if you wait long enough, even bad television can be entertaining.

    Kevin Burton Smith Editor/Founder The Thrilling Detective Web Site
    "Wasting your time on the web since 1998."

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