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Green Hornet DVD

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A single season TV show, originally aired in 1966-7, The Green Hornet was produced by William Dozier as a stable-mate for his more popular Batman series. Originally a 1940s radio character (and the grand-nephew of the Lone Ranger), the Green Hornet was another masked crime fighter with a secret identity and a sidekick (not to mention a cool car, the Black Beauty, and a memorable theme, a jazzy riff on "Flight of the Bumblebee"). Newspaper magnate Britt Reid (Van Williams) dons a mask and slouch hat to fight corruption in the big city. In place of Robin or Tonto, GH has Kato (Bruce Lee), a martial arts expert-chauffeur whose name inspired Inspector Clouseau's assistant and who seems to blow the secret identity gaff by using his real name in both civilian life and masked adventuring. While Batman was a colourful exercise in camp, with over-the-top villains played for laugh and a pop art hipness, The Green Hornet was a mundane pulp adventure with very little humour and very little in the character and plot departments. After the superstardom and early death of Bruce Lee, 20th Century Fox decided to cobble together a couple of theatrical feature films from this property, of which this 1974 effort is the first. The bulk of the film consists of four episodes crudely spliced together. Scattered throughout are bizarrely irrelevant fight scenes from other episodes, which make the already disjointed plotting quite surreal. The television image was cropped to make a widescreen film, which means the tops of heads and hats are lopped off the frame with alarming regularity. Though an interesting curio, fans might have preferred a release of individual episodes. On the DVD: This letterboxed transfer is probably the best the film could ever be made to look, considering it was probably shot on 16mm, then blown up and cropped for widescreen release. The quality varies notably from scene to scene, suggesting that the source episodes were in wildly different shape. The extras include thorough cast notes on Williams, Lee and under-used heroine Wende Wagner, still-image and film photo galleries, a quarter-hour featurette on the Black Beauty (flawed by the fact that the current owner is one of the dullest speakers in America), some shots of the Black Hornet Corgi model (oddly available in the UK in the 1960s, though the show didn't air on British television), a solid essay on the history of the character, notes on "The Bruce and Brandon Lee Association" and a funky if incomplete trailer for Black Samurai. --Kim Newman

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