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Kinescope Kabuki
rrichr25 April 2004
Television from the mid '50's to the mid '60's, probably due to its roots in the theater, was far more stylized than today's fare. Most of us who watched it then, certainly as kids growing up, were probably not really aware of this aspect. We just watched and enjoyed. But in retrospect, or through seeing various classic shows on disc or tape, this stylistic aspect becomes very clear. Also lacking then was today's bottomless well of technological possibility, giving most productions of the time a rather cut-and-dried feel that might seem hopelessly lacking in dimensionality to the young viewer of this time. But there were true gems lying about in this older, rougher ground. It was this era, lest we forget, that spawned the peerless, original Twilight Zone, a series that perfectly sampled the over and undercurrents of its time as no other ever has, and which owed much of its power to the stark realities of low-tech TV. Also produced in this era was the superb Have Gun Will Travel with its perfect blend of psychological and physical intensity, one of several excellent western series that aired then.

But in terms of pure style, no TV series of that time, of any genre, could match the half-hour crime drama Peter Gunn, a production so stylized and stylistically detailed, and so measured, that it almost resembled Japanese Kabuki. Every aspect of this Blake Edwards-produced series was meticulously detailed and managed, from the near-blank style of its acting to even the visuals that preceded and terminated breaks for commercials. In fact, it was the pre-commercial segue that became my favorite. In the sequence, a musical G-clef unwound itself and morphed into a Giacommeti-like human figure, all against a slowly-arpeggiated, extremely cool jazz guitar chord. This very slick sequence got past me the first time around, when the show was in its network run and I was too young to really appreciate it. But years later, when the series was in local syndication and airing at midnight, I stayed up just to watch and listen to it. It was that cool.

Most Peter Gunn episodes were cut from a similar template: the caper to be addressed transpired in a pre-credit sequence (Peter Gunn was one of the first shows to jump directly to story before rolling opening creds.) Then Craig Steven's almost impossibly urbane private eye, Peter Gunn, would step onto the case, always bending the law just enough to keep Herschel Bernardi's way dour NYPD detective, Lt. Jacobi, unsure of whom to arrest first: Gunn or the perps in question. The often-repeated sight of Jacobi arriving on the scene, snub .38 drawn, ready to arrest the suspect, only to find Gunn already there and in control, never failed to amuse. When Gunn was not effortlessly staying two steps ahead of Jacobi, he was lizarding at Mother's, a waterfront jazz club, and getting his flirt on with its sultry headlining singer, blonde neutron bombshell Edie Hart, played by Lola Albright, a type of lady that might be defined as Marilyn Monroe's far more experienced sister. The show's sense of cool was almost too much, but not quite, a fact that made it eminently watchable then, and has allowed it to live on even now in syndication.

Underpinning and significantly defining the series was Henry Mancini's superb music. Mancini passed away in the mid 90's and is just now getting his due, including a postage stamp in his memory. His Peter Gunn theme is still being covered today but it was his incidental music for the series that I loved best, especially the stuff that played as the pre-credit story opened. Mancini took the then-popular West Coast, cool jazz sound and further iced it down, doing things like blending flute and tremoloed vibraphones to sustain a menacing, ever-darkening cloud behind the plot. Mancini was a master of all moods, which he crafted with lush harmonies and gliding melodies (The ageless Days of Wine and Roses and Moon River are his; lyrics by Johnny Mercer.) Mancini was very prolific and did many great things that sort of slid by while no one was really looking, probably because he never tried to acquire the spotlight himself, as himself. He mainly let his work do the walking and talking. His soundtrack to the movie Hatari (an intermittently very entertaining action flick with John Wayne as an African big game capture expert) remains worthy and remarkable to this day. As a freshman at the University of Idaho, I watched Mancini guest-conduct the university orchestra; the Maestro forbearing graciously as his `Baby Elephant Walk', an incidental piece from the Hatari soundtrack that became an international hit, was butchered by the inept flute section. It was heart-rending. Mancini also did the music for another similar but unsuccessful TV series, Mr. Lucky, based on the Cary Grant movie character from the mid-forties. Mr. Lucky died fairly quickly, but its theme music, featuring the squishiest, most liquid Hammond organ voice ever recorded, lives on, in my memory at least.
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Terrific film-noir-entertainment in short form
lqualls-dchin21 April 2002
"Peter Gunn" was one of the most enjoyable TV-detective series of all time! Every week, the black-and-white cinematography (by Hollywood veterans like Philip Lathrop), the jazzy music (by the incomparable Henry Mancini; the album won the first Grammy "Album of the Year" in 1958), and the sharp writing and directing (contributed and supervised by the creator, Blake Edwards) combined, along with the incredibly "cool" performances of Craig Stevens, Lola Albright, Herschel Bernardi, and Hope Emerson, to create a mini-movie, a little "film noir" that took the elements of the big studio thrillers and condensed them into 24 minutes! There was always time for a little musical interlude, with Lola Albright's Edie performing a standard. It was all done with style, wit and verve. Now, the entire first season is available on DVD, and it's as sophisticated and seductive as such movies as "Double Indemnity" or "The Killers" or "The Big Sleep", only in short bursts.
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Noir In Small Segments
ccthemovieman-127 December 2004
Are you a fan of 1940s film noir? If so, check out this Peter Gunn compilation. You'll find a lot of the same type of snappy dialogue and great black & white cinematography complete with shadows and interesting camera angles. Also featured are interesting stories, a "cool" (or "crazy" as the expression of the time period was) lead character in Craig Stevens and an absolutely dead-gorgeous blonde in Lola Albright.

True, you can't develop character studies or much of an intricate plot in 25- minute stories, but if you just "dig" the atmosphere, you'll find a real sleeper of a DVD series here. Wonderful stuff for film noir buffs.
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Grown Up Detective Drama For Beat Generation, The Martini Set and All Fans of Cool Jazz!
redryan6417 November 2007
Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Mike Hammer and Rocky King (Roscoe Karnes) were all just a few well-known Private Detectives of our Popular Fiction. Though there were some obvious similarities, each one had some individually unique characteristics that gave them their own "personalities". All the above mentioned were multi-media characters, save for Roscoe Karnes' clever, under-stated everyman character from the DuMont Network's "ROCKY KING INSIDE DETECTIVE" series of the early 1950's. The 3 others were first gum-shoeing it first in the pages of the Detective Novel; then were adapted to Radio, Film, Comic Strips/Books and Television.

In the ensuing years we saw some string of original, 'Made for TV' Private I's. There was Ralph Bellamy as Mike Barnett- "MAN AGAINST CRIME" (1949-54), Don Haggerty in the title role in "THE FILES OF JEFFREY JONES (1954-55) and Frank Lovejoy portraying the main guy in "MEET McGRAW" (1957-58).

But it was a case of the cool, urbane and cerebral "PETER GUNN" (1958-61) who brought the sleuthing business to an unprecedented high on the little, living room screen. The series was a creation of a young writer by the name of Blake Edwards. And if Peter Gunn has a middle name, it surely must be "Style".

A typical GUNN episode was a murder mystery and like a good citizen, Mr. Gunn (Craig Stevens) always worked closely with the Local Police; especially with a certain Lieutenant Jacoby (Hershcel Bernardi) who is a regular and the number 1 supporting player. Gunn's home away from home was Mothers, the coolest of cool Jazz Clubs. It was there that he met with girlfriend, singer Edie Hart (Lola Albright).

Peter Gunn was a successful Detective, so there was never any doubt that he could take care of himself and shoot with the best of them. But the gun-play and fisticuffs were played down, though not eliminated. The series instead relied on well constructed plot, clever dialog, skilled direction and fine performances by the fine cast.

The production was also on of contrasts, for there was a lot of real film making skills being put into play to create mood, which could vary a great deal from scene to scene. Most scenes were shot in dark, shadowy lighting. This worked well for both setting up the scenes feeling and taking advantage of being rendered in good, old Black & White.

One Trademark of "PETER GUNN" was the teaser opening that was utilized. In a typical one of these "grabbers", the camera would slowly close in on the subject or subject, often with no dialog. Then the murder would suddenly occur with a shot or some other means, just as the background music would be growing to a crescendo, then suddenly the music changes to the famous Peter Gunn Opening Theme while simultaneously the Peter Gunn opening Title and Credits would rapidly flash across the screen.

And about this music, we just can't say enough for the score written and performed by Henry Mancini and Orchestra. The incidental music was properly exciting and lively or eerie and menacing as needed. And as for that haunting, infectious Peter Gunn Theme, well we just don't have enough superlatives in the English Dictionary to describe it. This is such a fine instrumental that its fame is spread far and wide and surpassed the familiarity of the GUNN Series.

The characterization of Peter Gunn as delivered by Craig Stevens was one of a worldly guy who is highly intelligent, well educated and quite well suited for handling anything that would come his way. In the final analysis, it is almost as if Mr. Craig Stevens was playing it as if Cary Grant were a Private Detective.

Thank God for Re-Run Channels like Nick At Night, Nick's TV Land and local Channels like our WMET TV Channel 23 here in Chicago.
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Peter Gunn (114 episodes)
GeoData1 August 2010
Peter Gunn DVD sets 1 & 2 contain the first 32 episodes of this series. These are reproduced in good quality video and audio, with easy to use menus and good jacket art clearly listing episode titles.

The series is a joy to watch. As other reviewers have already noted, this series displays a good example of early TV production values in an era without special effects. Stories are acted out by excellent interplay between performers. Sets were limited to just a few stock locations and outdoor scenes were nearly always back lot scenes, night. Special scenes are often just talking heads of the actors, looking down, seen from the "corpse's eye view". All tricks of the trade by excellent directors presenting well written scripts, in a short time, on a shorter budget. And, it all works still as artful production.

It would be nice to see the remaining episodes made available in the same high quality professional manner. The 82 remaining episodes would easily fit onto two (or three) additional multi-disc DVD sets.

Anyone out there at A&E listening?
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Kinescope Kabuki Captured It All --
mcd_476 June 2006
A masterful interpretation of a wonderful TV show AND musical experience (thank you, Henry Mancini). And thank you, Kabuki!! This was one of the hottest TV shows of the 1950's, spawning a slew of imitators, a chart-topping record from Ray Anthony, a theme that has been covered by dozens of artists and which caused at least one existing TV series (M-Squad, starring Lee Marvin) to change its theme to a jazzier format (thank you, Count Basie). I grew up with this stuff, and to my mind, Peter Gunn exemplified television's 'golden age' in a way few others could. If only today's television fare could come close.
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Great series! Best music written for TV (Mancini)!
Ludwig-217 January 1999
This was one of the most provocative series ever made for TV, inaugurating a whole new genre. In addition to having the best music (by Henry Mancini) ever written for TV, it was perhaps the first and only film noire series.
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mr. cool
smoothie-413 January 1999
although i didn't get to see pete do his thing when the show originally aired from 1958-61 i have thoroughly enjoyed watching the released episodes on homevideo.peter gunn has the smoothest demeanor about the cases he works,but when he gets riled,look out.he can spar with the best of them.i'm sure it helps his image to be dating the pretty night club singer at the local scene called mothers.this way,it doesn't seem like he's just a hood bustin machine,but also a loverboy on the side.henry mancini does wonders for this show with its slick "crime jazz" that sets the tone at the beginning of each episode.i recommend anyone who is into police or detective stories to get into pete if they haven't already.
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Wonderful not out-dated and never predictable
roguegenius25 April 2014
I have been watching this show. I barely remember it from my childhood days due to it being a bit racy for its time. Mostly, I just remember the great Henry Mancini theme song. However, the plots are very entertaining even in today's time. In fact, unlike many of today's crime shows, which usually last an hour (including commercial time), most drag out showing parts of this and that which really do not move the plot along well, in Peter Gunn, the short 30 minute slot is generally packed with interesting scenes and is generally unpredictable until the very end. The acting is superb by nearly every cast member in every episode. Except for the cars on the street and the wonderful jazz scores and scenes, there is so little to make this show out-dated. Most of the actions that occur could still occur today (if you discount some technology like everyone having a cell phone and being to get information on the internet). The show is in B&W but the show is so gritty the lack of color actually gives it a good film noir feel. It is really a shame that Craig Stevens (Peter Gunn) has not even been given a Star on the Walk of Fame. If you are a fan of gritty crime shows and a lover of good jazz, this is a series you do not want to pass up.
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A Closer Look at an Unusual Series
dougdoepke26 December 2012
Think crime shows of the 50's and you probably think Dragnet (1951-1959). Certainly, it was the most influential, presenting the LAPD as complete police professionals. Of course, there were other lesser known cop shows like Racket Squad (1951-1953) or the Lineup (1954- 1960). However, in terms of private eye crime solvers, there were very few until the end of the decade. Most crime in that decade was of the Old West variety that sheriffs solved amidst the flood of Westerns that followed Gunsmoke (1955-1975).

This remained pretty much the case until the big movie studios decided to get into the TV business. In 1958, Warner Bros. introduced the hip detective series 77 Sunset Strip (1958- 1964). Unlike its predecessors, Strip concentrated on good-looking people, hipster Edd Kookie Byrnes, and the glamorous surroundings along Hollywood's famed Sunset Strip. In short, it suggested that being a private eye doesn't have to be a grimy business, ala Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. The series' success was quickly followed by such clones as Bourbon Street Beat (1959-1960), and Hawaiian Eye (1959-1963), all making use of the same basic formula. In short, the rising prosperity of that post-war decade was beginning to be reflected on the living room screen.

This background is worth outlining in order to provide a flavor of just how unique Blake Edwards's Peter Gunn was to the time and to the genre. Sure, 77 SS had a snappy musical lead-in, but Henry Mancini's driving jazz score signaled a new and more daring sensibility. But more significantly the jazzy motif framed both the characters and their setting as not just hip, but cool, urban cool, like in 'sophisticated'. And Edwards followed that up by wisely casting Craig Stevens as the immaculately sleek and unemotional private eye, the very essence of urban cool. Note how emotionally restrained his private eye is in most every situation.

Also worth noting is how the series populated its urban landscape with not only unusual but sometimes grotesque characters, ones never seen on network TV in those days. Note also that Gunn is portrayed as non-judgmental toward these unconventional types. He simply accepts them as part of the human landscape.

And, of course, there's also Edie (Albright) the sultry lounge singer. It's clear that her relationship with Gunn is both intimate and indifferent to the bonds of matrimony. To my knowledge, this is the first TV series to challenge that taboo even if only in implied style. Something should also be said about Mother, the proprietress of where Pete hangs out. It's clear that Mother, whether played by Emerson or Urecal, is not exactly Donna Reed. In fact she's closer to Mike Tyson, making it clear that producer Edwards is not afraid of a little gender bending, another challenge to convention of the day. In fact, the only conventional continuing character is Lt. Jacoby (Bernardi) as Gunn's cop buddy. This allows Gunn to be separate from law enforcement but not outside it—an important gesture to convention and likely TV's Standards and Practices.

Gunn is also likely the most noirish of the shows of its day. The traditional approach was high-key lighting that cast few shadows. This was also true of the other crime shows. Most of Edwards' production, however, was filmed in low-key lighting, whether dimly lit lounges or darkened city streets. My guess is that as an independently produced series, budget was as important here as was aesthetics. Anyway, the low-key lent not only atmosphere but complemented the rest of the production as a whole.

Put all these components together and Peter Gunn added up to an occasionally brilliant series even though the stories were often unexceptional. It was that overall exotic feel in contrast to those otherwise unadventurous TV years that carried the show, even down to today. All in all, Gunn was also the first series to foreshadow the coming cosmopolitan and liberalizing years of the Kennedy era. In that sense, it proved also something of a cultural milestone, and is thus worth commenting on.
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The predecessor to anime heroes.
TomReed29 October 2003
It's true that anime series like "Cowboy Bebop" have elements never considered in 1950's TV, like a definitive end to the series, foreshadowing and tragedy. But the mood of "Bebop", its music, its eccentric characters and the cynical humor of the hero can all be traced to "Peter Gunn." (And to show that nothing is completely original, some have said that "Gunn" was derived from Will Eisner's classic comic strip character of the 40's and 50's, "The Spirit.")

Gunn had a great supporting cast. There was the old jazz lady Mother, whose jazz bar just happened to attract the best West Coast jazz artists of the day (occasionally mentioned by name in the episodes); her house singer Edie Hart, whose love for Gunn was remarkably passionate; and Lieutenant Jacoby, who had a love/hate relationship with Gunn. There were equally weird characters involved. One episode in the second DVD volume has Gunn protecting Timothy - who happens to be a sea lion, with his own cute little theme song. More typical, in the first volume, was a story about a dead body found in Edie Hart's apartment, which is being painted. The attitude of the painter of all these police and goons in the apartment, and making his job harder, goes beyond comic relief to a featured comic part.
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Film Noir for millennials
Bowserb4618 March 2017
Film noir was really a movie style until Peter Gunn. And PG brought it to the small screen. I was 11 when PG premiered and knew nothing of film noir. Our city had two broadcast channels and no cable TV. My friends and I in the school band mostly noted the Henry Mancini music. I transcribed a simple version of the theme, and our little Jr High talent show group won over a superior-but less pop musical group playing "Put Your Head on My Shoulder".

Now that I'm old but not dead, I've rediscovered Peter Gunn on Amazon. For years a fan of film noir, I was blown away by the pilot episode. Holy cow! 1958 was at or near the end of classic film noir, yet PG may be one of the best of the genre and probably the only film noir TV series. Unlike most TV and a lot of movies of the time, PG's outdoor night scenes were actually shot at night! Like others here, I think it could have been better as a one hour show, as it's a major challenge to tell a whole dramatic story in a half hour program. OTOH, this series is a great way to introduce your millennial friends to film noir. 25 minutes almost fits their attention span. Next thing you know, they'll be looking up The Big Sleep and the Maltese Falcon.
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Absolutely The Best Half-Hour TV Drama EVER!
IanRayonline10 July 2016
How many TV themes from 1958 can be instantly recalled and hummed by today's teenagers? This is the only one I know of. Not only is Henry Mancini's Peter Gunn Theme a jazz masterpiece, his (hot, cool, and sometimes even ethereal) jazz scores for the show are still as gripping as they were when they were composed and recorded - over half a century ago. Combine that with producer/creator Blake Edwards at his up-and-coming very best, big-screen quality cinematography, routinely spectacular stunt work, and just the right cast - and you've got an enduring treasure of a TV series. Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn is several notches smoother than James Bond - but also willing to tangle with anyone and also willing to take his licks. Pete wins some and he loses some. but he's always ready to slug it out with the best of them. Stevens is as athletic as any actor around and, supported by the best brawling stunt men you've ever seen, the fights are as real as you're ever going to get. And on this show violence doesn't just appear - it EXPLODES out of nowhere! With some classics of this era, people still debate whether they're truly "noir" or not. There's no debate here - Edwards gives us noir of a purity seldom seen anywhere else. Quirky character portrayals bring dark urban sets to life - alluring temptresses linger everywhere - and without any inclination to hide their sensuality. Pete, the tenacious, hard-nosed foe for low-lifes and gangsters - is a suave, lusty, gentleman playboy with the ladies. Oh, but for Pete, nightclub singer Edie Hart is special. Pete may earn his living competing in the testosterone driven world of the big-city private detective ... but it's a whole different scene when he slips into "Mother's" place where Edie sings every night. There he's welcomed by "Mother" herself and - wow - "Mother" has no problem with what Pete and Edie are up to! Pete moves effortlessly from the macho world of the mean streets to the warm, female environment of "Mother's place". The dynamic is classic and the transition palpable. The technical quality is always superb. You'll not only see close, intense, intimate scenes - you'll see large scale exterior sets that would normally take half a day for a top cinematographer to light so exquisitely. Yet even with the extra limitations of shooting for the limited contrast range of black and white television, these amazing setups have been created somehow at TV production pace, on a TV budget. The atmosphere is delicious - the sensuality omnipresent - the action stunning. This show was way ahead of its time and, as you might guess, the outcries of "too hot for TV" were loud and many. But fortunately "PETER GUNN" delivers several seasons of stunning, delicious, unforgettable period noir drama we can treasure forever.
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Peter Gunn series
toxicavenger-797-25286320 September 2013
I was aware of this show when it first aired but, since I was a baby boomer, it wasn't on my allowed watch list, being an "adult TV series" in the late 50's. Finally got interested in it while listening to Mancini's music album of the same name. To say that this show was ahead of its time and a forerunner of future series is to do it a disservice. Peter Gunn was groundbreaking in the use of jazz to create the proper mood of the action on screen, and in the way it slyly spanked the censors through witty writing and heavy emotional and physical situations. It brings back memories of the old Mae West and W.C. Fields comedies in the way they battered the blue-pencils of censorship while looking oh so innocent on screen. I recall one scene where Pete is convincing a landlady to let him into the room of someone he is investigating. She asks him, "So, are you a cop?" Pete replies, "Not exactly." She says, "Oh, a private dick then?" And Pete says, "Just private." If that doesn't tickle your fancy to go watch this series from start to finish, you are missing out on one of the great treats that life has to offer. God Bless You, Blake Edwards.
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westerfieldalfred31 January 2019
I watched the show every week as a teenager, but never appreciated the art that went into it. Shooting at night is difficult enough, but for a limited budget TV show, the workmanship has seldom been surpassed. Crane shots, deep focus, unusual camera heights and angles. All show how much care went into production. And the action was quite limited, replaced by excellent dialog and interesting characters. It seems the show used every set on the MGM back lot. Quite a treat for me after recently reading a book on the subject. Great show!
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PETER GUNN: One For The Ages
jacegaffney17 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
In a way, PETER GUNN was (and is) to be enjoyed as Hollywood's own modest version of the virtues of French auteur, J.P. Melville: a dreamily nocturnal jazz-laced exercise of style over content in which the achingly desirable Lola Albright provides counterpoint sultriness to the stone-faced stoicism of Craig Stevens' Cary Grant-like Gunn.

But there is one episode entitled "The Comic," starring Shelly Berman as a neurotic funnyman (Danny Arnold) who insists his wife is out to destroy him and enlists the hero's help to prevent it. The show is basically two monologues: the first one is of Arnold explaining the cause of his concerns to Gunn; the second is of a crucial portion of the nightclub stand-up act itself, in which through metaphor and analogy, it becomes increasingly more clear that it is Arnold who is a mortal threat to his wife and not the other way around. His monologue which is "killing" the audience is thus transformed in the story from being merely comic to a confession of first degree murder.

Berman's performance defines what tour-de-force means and is one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) neglected acting job in the history of network television (he received no Emmy). It is also quite possibly the most personal, successfully concentrated expression by Edwards of his divided, comedic/depressive sensibility. So direct, so simple, but the final effect is enormous.

That this half-hour installment is not one of the legends in the annals of the golden age of television is one of the Industry's cruelest mysteries.

Rating for the Series: A generous 8

for this one sterling episode: a steely 10

Composite Score: 9
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Find memories
theladylay17 September 2018
I remember my Mom watching this when I was only five. Even as a kid I loved the sound track. As an adult I find there is so much more to appreciate in this classy, sexy film noir series. Thanks for the comeback Peter Gunn.
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Hot on the case... cool under fire. Should've been an hour!
jbacks3-12 February 2006
I just finished watching 3 compilation series DVD's and was hoping to have a flashback on what I had thought was the coolest show (actually even then in syndication) from my early 1960's childhood. Yup, there was Craig Stevens racing around in his Plymouth Fury convertible (wearing "$30 shoes, a $200 suit and carrying a solid gold cigarette lighter") and guitar strumming Lt. Jacoby, complete with Charlie the Tuna's voice (even he drove a Christine-like Plymouth) and Lola Albright's "Edie" was as sexy as I remembered. Mancini's music is still way cool. But Jeez-Louise, the scripts stink! The problem is the :30 minute format allowed for maybe :22 of story and it appears that the producers just opted for atmosphere over cohesive plot. The series begged for an hour format. Several episodes I watched are completely illogical and/or just plain silly--- some make the revamped Amos Burke, Secret Agent or the 77 Sunset Strip clone, Surfside Six look Masterpiece Theater. Frankly most of the scripts are pointlessly stupid, and follow a format that invariably contain an immediate homicide (victims are quickly dispatched by bullets or the obligatory knife in the back), introduce a superfluous oddball character (Jack Webb used to do this with Dragnet, but usually less outrageously and certainly more sparingly)--- often a stereotypical beatnik, that simply wastes precious plot time. Next comes the fists and cut to a scene at Mother's Jazz Club where Edie makes googly eyes at Pete. Murders are solved somewhere around :19 and you can bet a Franklin half dollar that it was someone Pete met before the first cigarette commercial. It was kind of weird seeing several cast members of future Andy Griffith Show in one episode. In retrospect, it's odd that the perennial 1950's-60's also-ran ABC network (remember it's first #1-rated series wasn't until "Marcus Welby" a decade later) never realized they had all the elements here for a much better hour-long show. Peter Gunn is one of those television memories better left rattling around in a nostalgic corner of your head... I'll look for the two RCA albums of the show's music instead. Blaaech! 3/10 for Mancini, the threads and cool 50's Mopar wheels + the occasional glimpse of a talented-yet-under-employed character actor working for $250 1958 scale rent money. If Herschel Bernardi were still alive I'd love to ask him what it was like to work for 3 minutes screen time every week. Those Starkist commercials would be like Shakespeare.
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Peter and His Gun
StrictlyConfidential23 July 2018
"Bang! Bang! Shoot! Shoot!"

When it comes to the likes of no-nonsense, smooth-talking L.A. gumshoes - Peter Gunn (a very sexually suggestive name) was (Indeed) the coolest, the calmest, and, yes, the most collected P.I. of them all.

Featuring lots of snappy dialogue, jazzy music, and the recurring elements of "Noir" thrown into the mix for good measure - This entertaining, tough-as-nails, TV crime show was impressively created by Blake Edwards.

Filmed in stark b&w - Peter Gunn starred Craig Stevens as the title character. This show ran from the years 1958-1961.
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The Clones
schappe119 January 2003
TV actors, at least in the old days when they were placed in a separate class from movie actors, often seemed to be clones of their movie brethren. Some were singular in their associations. Nehemiah Persoff seemed to be the Edward G. Robinson of television, getting similar roles and acting them in a very similar manner. Carolyn Jones was the Bette Davis of TV, even to the point of playing a set of sisters one of whom is a murderer on Burke's Law. Other's had company in their pursuits. The western stars were all either John Wayne or Gary Cooper, with an occasional Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda thrown in, (including the real thing on "The Deputy"). There were a whole selection of Clark Gables, including John Russell, Rory Calhoun, Richard Egan , Robert Lowery and others. There were plenty of Brandos, including Burt Reynolds, George Maharis and John Saxon. There were enough Rock Hudsons to fill a theater, with John Gavin, Tom Tryon and Gardner McKay coming immediately to mind. The blonde versions I call the "Redfords", a group of thoughtful , well educated types of which Robert Redford was one along with James Franciscus, Richard Chamberlain and William Shatner. They had varying degrees of success with Redford emerging as the head of the class.

Perhaps the most successful strain, however were the Cary Grants. Grant made an ideal model for the suave detective hero, able to be charming or tough as the occasion demanded. Craig Stevens was hired to play Peter Gunn specifically because of a strong resemblance to Grant. His tightlipped performance was not really very charming but it's surely how Cary would have played that character. Latern-jawed John Vivyan played a role that Grant had actually essayed in the movies, Mr. Lucky. He was competent at best. The heroes of the Warner Brother's detective shows were largely based on Cary Grant. Ephram Zimbelist Jr.'s Stu Bailey was a grant-style role with a lot more charm than Peter Gunn. Richard Long's Rex Randolph on Bourbon Street Beat was much the same. Anthony Eisley's Tracy Steele was a less convincing version of the same character on Hawaiian Eye.

But the best of the Grant clones was Gene Barry. He was male-model handsome, had good breeding and seductive whiskey voice. He was also TV's greatest reactors. He had a series of comic takes that was perfect for Amos Burke, who had to confront an unending series of eccentric subjects. Yet he could turn around and romance the ladies or get tough with the tough guys. And he was a good enough actor to hold up his end when the heavy dramatics intervened.

One wonders what the originals of these clones must have thought as they watched the boob tube in it's infancy.
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Cool Cats, Cool Cars, and... Freeze-Dried Gunn
davidcarniglia21 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Everything's cool in this series: the criminals, the hangouts, the dialogue, the noir scenes, the cars...and, of course, our private eye, Peter Gunn.

He outfoxes both the cops and the criminals, he's got a knock-out girl friend, he fights his way out of tons of scrapes with hoods; crime drama doesn't get much better. Tight plotting builds the suspense; action tumbles out in timely fashion. As other reviewers have mentioned, the transitions are slick--you're set up for the breaks as they occur. Peter Gunn is sort of like if Paul Drake's character from Perry Mason had his own show.

I mention Drake not only because the two series were contemporary with each other, but also because I find William Hopper a more interesting actor than Craig Stevens. Gunn is so cool he's practically glacial. Drake manages the cool panache with enough of an 'everyman' touch to seem more believable. Luckily, Gunn's Edie, the amusing Mother, and even Lt. Jacoby add plenty of spice to the surroundings. The supporting cast and great scripts ensure that Gunn's blandness remains only a minor letdown.

Peter Gunn does more in its thirty minutes than most feature-length crime dramas manage in an hour and a half. Maybe if Gunn didn't look like he got a haircut every day I'd never stop watching this series. As it is, hugely entertaining, and almost perfect. 9/10.
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Gunn still has heart (and Hulu)
pensman17 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Great music, clipped noir dialogue right out of Dashiell Hammett, solid plots (mostly), black actors when no one was using any, and non PC police (shoot first)--the series deserves a modern audience to appreciate early quality TV. What's nice for me is seeing this show on a 65 inch TV and running the sound through a home theater sound system with top JBL speakers. Just sit back and enjoy that Mancini sound track. Yes the sets are minimal but some great actors getting started--James Coburn, Norman Fell, Ted Knight, Gavin MacLeod--just to name a few. Now thanks to Hulu you can stream Gunn right into your home.
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actionsub24 September 2019
In watching this series and others of the genre that followed, it is clear that "Peter Gunn" filled a particular niche of noirish private eyes on TV that followed: suave, tough but cerebral at the same time, and access to "friends in low places" who could point him in the necessary direction to do his business effectively. Craig Stevens played Gunn with West Coast cool. The initial success of the series, created by Blake Edwards, spawned a number of imitators. Revue Studios particularly threw a number of things at the wall hoping some of them might stick, with minimal success. They took the jazz music element and mashed them up with an Old West setting to create the syndicated "Shotgun Slade", a Western detective show. It did OK, but the jazz background music just didn't fit with the Western theme. Another imitation was "Johnny Staccato", which was almost the polar opposite of Gunn. The only similarity was that both Staccato and Gunn were jazz aficionados. While Gunn had that laid-back SoCal personality, Johnny Staccato, played by John Cassavetes, reflected his New York setting, all twitchy and tense like an over-caffeinated chihuahua. The plethora of Warner Bros. PI shows, like "77 Sunset Strip" and its various clones in other locations, seemed to draw heavily on the Gunn formula, too, while mixing various aspects of the Gunn persona and splitting them up among the ensemble casts of detectives. Even Blake Edwards himself tried to recapture the magic with "Mr. Lucky" a year later. In short, Gunn might not have been a great series in and of itself, but it has held up over the years, far better than the numerous attempts to catch that lightning in a bottle again.
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Lots of action, strict formula
qormi19 June 2019
The formula of the wooden Peter Gunn, his perpetually horny girlfriend, the irate detective sidekick, and the jazz angle gets old after around ten episodes, but it works. Intelligent (mostly) whodunnit with plenty of action.
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A P I with Cool, Stories to Match
biorngm5 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Peter Gunn, the TV series, ran three television seasons, 1958 – 1961, a total of 114 episodes, 38 episodes per season, a thirty-minute drama televised once a week, beginning in the fall of 1958, Season 1, Episode 1, was September 22, 1958. The series ran until the last episode televised was on September 18, 1961. The star was Craig Stevens, appearing in all 114 episodes, and co-starring in primary recurring roles included Herschel Bernardi as Lt. Jacoby, 102 episodes, and Lola Albright as Edie Hart, 84 episodes. Other recurring roles were offered by Bill Chadney as Emmett (piano player at Mother's), with 42 episodes and two actresses in the same role, a total of 45 episodes, between Hope Emerson, 27 episodes, and Minerva Urecal, 18 episodes. A definitive, collaborate effort making the series a success was from Henri Mancini's Grammy Award winning music for the entire series, with the piano played by the future award-winning John Williams. Series creator and producer was Blake Edwards where Blake also wrote and directed episodes throughout the series. Blake cut his teeth on Peter Gunn and certainly went on to success in films and television. The Peter Gunn drama was set in a non-specified city, usually at night, with a private investigator searching for and bringing the perpetrator(s) to a justifiable end, often with a late assist, sometimes timely assist, of a certain police lieutenant Jacoby. The scenes included a stop at the quaint waterfront nightclub named Mother's, that included a songstress Edie, who had a mutual attraction to our Peter Gunn. The title character's portrayal would have been given a thumbs-up by the definition of cool, Steve McQueen. Craig Stevens played the lead role superbly each week, working with whatever script he was handed, and for late fifties television in a half an hour setting, well done Mr. Stevens. The jazz music setting with professional recurring character roles played quite well by the chosen actors and actresses made the series work for its 114 episodes. The viewer has to pay attention from the start since there are no introductory credits, a brief prologue, then with Mancini's theme music, the screen reads "Peter Gunn starring Craig Stevens" then jumping right into the action and usually there were no wasteful scenes throughout each weekly episode. Essential scenes could be in Jacoby's office, Mother's nightclub, but the primary scenery is at or near the action with the perpetrators. Each week you could have a few different roles from a variety of central casting's thespians. Of course, these other roles were usually the bad guys including some innocent characters, wrong place, wrong time. The viewer didn't know some parts were being played by what would come to be up and comers. With so many episodes per season, it left the field open to some actors that would go onto starring roles, although many continued to make a living by going wherever they were called.
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