Banacek: The Second Season – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com
In 1974, Banacek vanished from TV sets like the insured objects he sought to recover. After two seasons, George Peppard walked away from the bon vivant investigator role. Other shows from the legendary NBC Mystery Movie such as Columbo, Quincy, and McCloud had long lives. Banacek became a trivia question. “What show starred Peppard before The A-Team?” The answer could only come from a devoted TV viewer. Thankfully with the release of Banacek: The Second Season, all 17 of his Mystery Movies are no longer missing.

Thomas Banacek wasn’t a normal TV private investigator. He specialized in recovering stolen items for insurance companies. Unlike the poor TV detectives, he was wealthy since he collected 10% of the insurance value of the properties as reward. He only went after the big prizes. He didn’t locate missing cars. His success rate irritated the staff investigators for the Boston Insurance Company. He was suave instead of gruff, but he wasn’t a priss. He’d kick your ass if you challenged him. He didn’t mind getting dirty, but he’d change his clothes promptly. While dealing with the posh Bostonians, he dropped Polish proverbs while on a case. He didn’t try to pose as old money.

The insurance companies had dozens of investigators on a claim. Banacek didn’t have a major support staff to help him solve mysteries and claim bounties. His prime source of research was Felix Mulholland (Murray Matheson), a rare books dealer. Jay Drury (Ralph Manza) chauffeured him to the various crime scenes and clues. Jay dreamed of going into the recovery business himself, but Banacek made sure the driver realized it’s a tough racket. Banacek just made it look easy. This small, crack unit kept his expenses low and his bank account fat.

While most other TV detectives are chaste on the case, Banacek was a stud. He had a competitive relationship with Carlie Kirkland (Christine Belford), the prime investigator for the Boston Insurance Company. But that didn’t stop him from uncovering her in a hotel room or two. She viewed these seductions as a way to get a peek into Banacek’s suspicions. Anything to beat him to the lost property. She sacrificed her body in an attempt to save her company the 10% recovery fee. Even Rockford didn’t have that kind of mojo.

The final season begins with “No Stone Unturned.” A giant sculpture disappears before it’s unveiling. Banacek has to figure out how a three ton statue can just wander out of the building. He gets a little assistance from a frisky documentary filmmaker played by Candy Clark (Man Who Fell to Earth). The crane operator is Don Stroud, beloved as Dash Rip Rock on The Beverly Hillbillies. “If Max Is So Smart, Why Doesn’t He Tell Us Where He Is?” features a medical computer vanishing from a very secure lab. Remember when computers had to be so big to be powerful? “The Three Million Dollar Piracy” brings us the sea heist of a jewel encrusted coach. “The Vanishing Chalice” is exactly that gone missing from a museum. Banacek has to deal with Cesar Romero (The Joker from TV’s Batman and John Saxon (Enter the Dragon).

“Horse of a Slightly Different Color” pulls the switcheroo between a $5 million thoroughbred with a normal pony. Harry Carey Jr., who appeared in so many classic John Wayne Westerns, is part of this horse tale. “Rocket to Oblivion” has an experimental engine disappear from a technology show. Linda Evans plays the manager of the exhibition. She knew Banacek as a teenager and now she’s interested in experiencing him as an adult. Dick Van Patten plays an inventor that created a laser to dry clean clothes. “Fly Me – If You Can Find Me” demonstrates how an entire passenger jet can disappear. Banacek has to figure out the trick decades before David Copperfield performs it on TV. “Now You See Me, Now Your Don’t” finally brings a bit of magic to the show. Banacek has to uncover a magician who disappeared during his vanishing act.

What’s amazing is how Banacek solves the most complicated of heists. “I love it when a plan comes together!” Peppard would say on The A-Team. On Banacek, he loves it when he deconstructs another’s plan. These culprits love using farfetched mechanisms used in the stealing plots. While he wasn’t the rough and tumble detective template that dominated ‘70s, Banacek still got the job done. He was so damn suave in pursuit of his 10%.

The image is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers look good. Very little dust pops up on the screen. The colors of Banacek’s outfits dazzle the eyes. You’ll know how good your set is when he wears a yellow turtleneck with sky blue pants.

The sound is Dolby Digital Mono. The levels are good and clean. You’ll be able to hear Peppard light his cigars without cranking the volume.

Detour to Nowhere (1:36:38) was the two hour movie of the week that launched the show. A security truck loaded with gold disappears in Texas. Banacek hits the trail to claim a fat payday. Carlie Kirkland tries her best to outsmart and outwit him. Banacek didn’t come all the way to Texas to dig up fool’s gold. People who bought the first season were disappointed that the pilot was skipped. It does make sense to have the pilot on this set since Kirkland wasn’t a character during the first season.

If you enjoy seventies TV detectives, you need to discover Banacek’s caseload.

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Arts Alliance America presents Banacek: The Second Season. Starring George Peppard, Murray Matheson, Ralph Manza & Christine Belford. Running time: 576 minutes. Released on DVD: January 22, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.