Mission: Impossible

I see several of my fellow bloggers at PJM are mentioning movies and television shows, so I thought I would mention a series from the sixties that I remember with fondness and which I am now enjoying all over again with our twelve-year-old son. It’s Mission Impossible, which you can find at Amazon in various packagings as well as at Netflix, where you can order the discs or download to your “Instant Queue.”

Many readers will know the recent Mission Impossible movies with Tom Cruise.  What I chiefly remember about the first installment was the assurance during the ending credits that “no fish were harmed” during the scene where doughty Ethan Hunt has to detonate an aquarium in order to escape from the evil CIA (or whatever) boss. The movie (at least the first one) has the terrific theme music — the best, possibly, of any television show — by Lalo Schifrin, in the original 5/4 time and it also reprises a few familiar  gimmicks from the original television series.

But the tone, and the point, of the television series is antithetical to the souped-up, cynical, politically correct movie franchise in which the real enemy is the U.S. or even other members of the team. The television series now seems like a period piece. Most of the actors smoke, for heavens sake, and the beautiful Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain) is a pre-feminist, i.e., a feminine woman who is sassy and smart as well as luscious. The plots tend to involve nefarious Communist tyrants, drug peddlers, or other n’er-do-wells: we, the U.S., are the good guys — imagine that! — and the ingenuity of Mr. Phelps, Barney the engineering whiz, and Roland the “man of a thousand faces” is deftly if also predictably directed to a satisfactory ending in which the bad guys get theirs and our heroes drive or fly off in the nick of time, having once again saved the day. It’s not great theater, but it is, I can confidently report, calculated to engage to unwavering interest of any 12-year-old with the requisite quota of red corpuscles.

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