We often forget that Miami Vice did have an impact other than turning Philip Michael Thomas and Don Johnson into ’80s icons. The show forced networks to make their dramas more visually appealing. The editing and camera angles found in hot music videos were now embraced, pulsating synth scores jacked up the action and heightened the tension, and cool cars were allowed to become co-stars with detailed close-ups. In the midst of this revolution came Stingray. Not merely a Vice clone created by Stephen J. Cannell of A-Team and Rockford Files fame, it was about a no-name troubleshooter (Nick Mancuso) that cruised around the country in a ’65 black Stingray Corvette. He was a master at infiltration, memorization and martial arts. He could sneak into a dangerous situation, get the info and kick butts without too much trouble. His fee was simple: you owed him a single favor. Stingray: The Complete Series proves it was worthy of a Vice legacy.
The favor angle came in handy since each episode, there would be a person or two called for assistance. While his name is kept a mystery, the clients end up calling him Ray because of the car. What’s interesting is that there was nothing extra special about the Corvette. It didn’t have a talking computer, James Bond gadgets or even a cassette deck in the stereo. The car was just for driving and looking cool inside. Mancuso looked good behind the wheel, too, which didn’t hurt.
The pilot is a two hour movie that does its best to duplicate the aesthetic styles of Miami Vice. It’s got plenty of shadows, smoke and neon in the frame. Gregory Sierra (Barney Miller) is a ruthless drug lord in Los Angeles. In order to protect his empire, he’s been kidnapping people on his case and scrambling their brains. An intense lawyer is reduced to a babbling child. Robyn Douglass (Galactica 1980) needs to go beyond justice to stop Sierra. She hunts down Ray for the favor exchange. He uses all his stud powers to track down the brainwashing headquarters. But will he lose his own mind? “Ancient Eyes” lands Ray on a farm. Turns out the place grows marijuana which normally isn’t that bad. What makes it truly evil is how the owner kills off the farmhands after the harvest. “Ether” masks him to be a doctor at a hospital with a high mortality rate. “Below the Line” explores a scientist vanishing from a research lab. Trouble is that none of his co-workers remember him. “Abnormal Psych” has Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) plot to kill Ray using college students.
“Less Than the Eye Can See” makes a mad scientist want to infect a water supply with a new strain of small pox. “The Greeter” once more has a scientist vanish from a research company. Except this time Ray has already met the guy. Turns out the company is sending bogus medicine around the world. What’s really interesting is that David Hemming is the director. He was the star of Blow-Up and Dario Argento’s Deep Red. Hemming also served as a producer on the series. “Gemini” has a serial killer cruising around in a black Corvette. Ray needs to stop the guy before he’s forced to buy a new car.
The soundtrack by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter dares to go beyond the usual low budget TV score. They get into the Jan Hammer-esque synth action although there are moments that their syncopated beats devolve into a John Tesh sports event score. It appears that there is music replacement with better known songs have been yanked off. If this is your first time watching Stingray, you won’t notice anything lacking in your ears. It’s hard to feel ripped off at the change since the boxset retails for under $15. While Stingray was a short-lived series, the pilot movie and 23 episodes stretched over three TV seasons. This explains why it felt like there were more episodes before Stingray: The Complete Series arrived. A truly memorable cult series from the no name hero.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer quality is rather good. The low light and artsy angles don’t smear up on the screen. The audio is stereo. The mix between the synth score and Mancuso’s tone is just right.
Stingray: The Complete Series is a fun ‘80s action series with the mysterious agent and his hot Corvette. Nick Mancuso and his car are a captivating tandem. If you enjoy the feel of Miami Vice and got a kick out Street Hawk, Stingray should provide plenty of entertainment. Do yourself a favor and nab this boxset.
Mill Creek Entertainment presents Stingray: The Complete Series. Starring: Nick Mancuso. Boxset Contents: 25 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released on DVD: January 18, 2011.