DVD Review: “Honey West: The Complete Series”
Released By: VCI Entertainment
Release Date: September 2, 2008
Number of Discs: 4
Approximate Running Time: 900 Minutes
Special Features: Photo Galleries, Vintage Commercials
Suggested Price: $39.99
By the mid 1960’s, the cold war was still a hot topic and Americans were becoming obsessed with spies and secret agents. Television was beginning to look for programs that were logical offshoots of the detective and police melodramas that had been popular since the fifties. Enter Honey West, a unique character that would bridge the gap between the two genres and usher in a new era of powerful female characters. The beautiful Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet) first debuted as Honey on the more traditional detective series, Burke’s Law. The intelligent, charming, and tough as nails female private eye had inherited a business, a fortune, and a partner (Sam Bolt played by John Ericson) from her late father, an associate of Mr. Burke. Following her second appearance in 1965, she also got her own series for one quick season but still managed to make an impact.
The Fanboy Factor:
In addition to featuring one of the first serious female private investigators in a television series, Aaron Spelling’s Honey West was infused with enough intrigue and gadgetry to keep the spy fans happy. Whether she was foiling a murder plot, breaking up a narcotics ring, or uncovering industrial sabotage, West was always ready to get herself out of a tough spot with her gas grenade earrings or exploding compact. She was also resourceful enough to turn a convenient fire extinguisher or curtain rod into a formidable weapon and was an expert in hand to hand combat. The show also had a cool jazz score and one of the best pets ever in a dramatic series, Bruce the Ocelot (as himself). At the same time Honey was breaking out on her own in the US, a little known actress named Diana Rigg was being added to an established secret agent program in Britain,The Avengers. Perhaps it was the show’s thirty-minute format or the nonexistent chemistry between Francis and Ericson that failed to hook viewers, but one year later Honey West was canceled and the Diana Rigg / Patrick Macnee team of The Avengers took America by storm.
While not heavily syndicated due to its brief 30-episode run, I was fortunate enough to catch a few episodes of Honey West when they resurfaced in the late 1980’s (during a spy show revival thanks to CBN airing The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). The ground this series breaks is considerable and its influence would be felt for many years to follow on everything from The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. to Police Woman. Some of the plots can get a little dry but the half hour episodes are fast paced and lively enough to carry even the weaker stories. Had this show been given a second season in color, I think it would have hung around for a few more years and developed a cult following.
The Bottom Line:
VCI has given fans a neatly wrapped DVD package containing every episode of the series in crisp B&W as originally broadcast (including the promo spots for the next week’s show). The extras are sparse but color glamour shots of Anne Francis are always appreciated. By adding in a small batch of commercials from the same era, VCI gives viewers a unique opportunity to view the show as it might have originally been broadcast on network television. Anyone who has seen a few episodes of the series probably won’t require much prompting to buy this collection and it is highly recommended to fans of 60’s era spy and detective shows that may never have been able to catch this one before