Cannon: Season One, Volume 1 – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

William Conrad had a body that made him perfect for the microphone. From 1952- 1961, he was the voice of Sheriff Matt Dillon on the radio version of Gunsmoke. CBS passed on using Conrad on the TV version. His tough voice didn’t match the flabby body. James Arness wore the badge when the series premiered in 1955. For the 16 years, Conrad was reduced to a trivia question. After a successful career as the narrative voice on The Fugitive and Rocky and Bullwinkle, Conrad stepped in front of the TV cameras. He ascended to primetime stardom with Cannon.

The 97 minute pilot introduces us to the private eye who devours clues like donuts. He’s an ex-LAPD who has moved into the private investigator business. However his first case hits close to home. His ex-girlfriend (Psycho‘s Vera Miles) is charged with killing her husband. When we meet Cannon, he’s working out in his home gym, nailing the bullseye at his living room’s shooting gallery and devouring a breakfast the size of a Vegas buffet. He lives large. He’s not the usual skinny and starving detective. He’s also got plenty of folks wanting his services as seen by the pile of mail. He drops all the requests to work for his ex-lover. The local cops aren’t happy that Cannon is on the case. In a weird coincidence a major suspect is Lieutenant Kelly Redfield played by actor J.D. Cannon. It’s Cannon tangling with a real Cannon. Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will be excited to see Ross Hagen (Rommel in Sidehackers). They packed the pilot with additional stars including Earl Holliman (Police Woman), Lynda Day George (Mission: Impossible), Barry Sullivan (Planet of the Vampires) and Keenan Wynn (Dr. Strangelove).

Salinas Jackpot has rodeo clowns going bad. They rob the box office. It’s up to Cannon to discover who stole a dead clown’s make up style. A very young Tom Skerritt Alien takes his shots at Cannon. His only hope for survival comes in the form of Vincent Van Patten (The Six Million Dollar Man‘s Bionic Boy). For a heavy guy, Cannon’s a physical player. Where did they find such a huge stuntman for Conrad? Is it all padding? Or did they have two guys stuffed in Conrad’s pants when it came time to tumble?

Did George Lucas steal the opening of Star Wars from “Country Blues?” Mark Hamill plays a boy stuck on the family farm. One day he sees an object fall from the sky and it changes his life. Doesn’t that sound like Luke Skywalker? Although instead of two androids in a spaceship, Hamill’s earthly farm gets hit by plane carrying a country singer. It’s up to Cannon to find out what made this superstar tumble from the heavens. “No Pockets in a Shroud” has a murder mystery wrap around a Howard Hughes character. Roy Scheider is stunning as the man assigned to protect the privacy of his important client. He’s more of a shark than his co-star in Jaws.

Cannon: Season One, Volume 1 proves that if you stick around long enough, eventually you’ll find a proper role on TV. William Conrad would have been completely miscast as Sheriff Dillon on Gunsmoke. But he’s completely believable as the pudgy P.I. with a taste for the good life and justice. Oddly enough, my memories of Cannon involve food. The show ran on Wednesday nights. This meant it played in the background while my parents finished baking the pumpkin pies for Thursday’s Thanksgiving feast. Whenever the smell a fresh from the oven pumpkin pie crosses my nose, I hear the show’s jazzy theme music. Cannon would appreciate such an aromatic connection.

The Episodes
“Pilot,” “Salinas Jackpot,” “Death Chain,” “Call Unicorn,” “Country Blues,” “Scream of Silence,” “Fool’s Gold,” “The Girl in the Electric Coffin,” “Dead Pigeon,” “A Lonely Place to Die,” “No Pockets in a Shroud” and “Stone Cold Dead.”

The video is 1.33:1 full screen. The transfers are not up to the usual sharp and detailed standards found on Mission:Impossible or Mannix. It appears that they merely used the old video masters instead of going back the 35mm negative to strike an Hi-Def image. It’s not painfully bad on your eyes. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You can hear Conrad’s stomach rumble when he runs.

Episode Promos (0:30) remind us how they teased America with Cannon being an action star.

Cannon: Season One, Volume 1 takes us back to a time when a man with a huge gut could solve big crimes. Conrad broke the mold of what America expected from a private eye. He wasn’t a rough and tumble character. But he wasn’t a helpless flabby boy. He needed that extra padding to absorb all the blows. If you like your ‘70s detective with a side of bacon, Cannon is your man.

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CBS DVD presents Cannon: Season One, Volume 1. Starring William Conrad. Boxset Contents: 12 episodes on 4 DVDs. Rated Not Rated. Originally Broadcasted: March 26 – Nov. 30, 1971. Released on DVD: July 8, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.