DVD Review: The Streets of San Francisco (Season 3)

The veteran and rookie police buddy cop theme has been around for a long time. The plots stick to the plucky youngster as he learns each week from his wise partner about how to really work a case. The grizzled vet loosens up to accept innovation of the new generation. It’s a familiar tale which ultimately relies completely on the chemistry of the cast. If the older actor doesn’t give a sense of mature knowledge while the younger actor isn’t pepped up with pluck, the audience doesn’t care. The Streets of San Francisco clicks on talent. Karl Malden (A Street Car Named Desire) effortlessly fits into the role of Detective Lt. Mike Stone who knows more about his town than the mayor. Michael Douglas (Basic Instinct) exhibits the kind of fashion that makes him look like a stock broker with a badge. Together they double team any homicidal maniac lurking on The Streets of San Francisco: Season 3, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Volume 1 has the first 12 episodes of the season. “One Last Show” reminds people that there was a time when Leslie Nielsen wasn’t reduced to farting his way through spoofs. Nielsen is a beat cop whose real partner is his hip flask. He has no problem being drunk on duty. However his alcoholic ways catch up when his liquid lunch break is interrupted by an APB. He screws us so badly when arresting a suspect that Nielsen’s human partner take a bullet. How is he going to explain his way out of this situation to Mike Stone? He’s so sleazy that it’ll be a shocker used to him bumbling through The Naked Gun. Brenda Vaccaro became a sensation in the ’80s being a spokeswoman for tampons. But all she’s selling is bullets in “The Most Deadly Species.” She’s a hitwoman with a lot of business during a mob war. All-star guest actor Joseph Ruskin gets to play the busy undertaker.

“Target: Red” shows what really happens when you make Bill Bixby mad. He doesn’t turn into a green monster. He merely breaks out his sniper rifle to even the score. Even more disturbing is “Mask of Death.” John Davidson was just goofy enough actor who found fame later in the ’70s as the host of That’s Incredible. He’s a female impersonator in this episode. It’s shocking to watch Davidson transform. He could have had a shot on Ru Paul’s Drag Race. What’s disturbing is that his female side isn’t happy being a torch singer. She’s out destroy the ones that no longer lover her. He’s really good in this role that’s outside his TV persona. Now that’s incredible. Bernie Kopell (Doc on The Love Boat) and John Fiedler (Mr. Peterson on The Bob Newhart Show) guest star on this talent bender. “Flags of Terror” takes us back to a time of American terror groups taking hostages. Carl Franklin has a guest role. He went on to make the legendary One False Move. “Cry Help!” gives us Clint Howard (Rock N Roll High School) as a troubled teen suspected of murder. Clint would go on to a successful career of appearing in Ron Howard’s films in bit parts.

Volume 2 has the 11 remaining episodes from the season. “The Twenty-Five Caliber Plague” sends Mike and Steve all over the city as they track a gun that had a busy weekend in Frisco. The people it touches on its journey include Vic Morrow (Combat), Anthony Geary (General Hospital) and Anthony Zerbe (All Star Guest Star). “False Witness” gets Steve in hot water when a cop (A Martinez of Longmire) gets him tangled in a drug dealer case. Mike has to be a moral compass to make sure his buddy doesn’t hit the rocks. “Letters from the Grave” sends Mike and Steve to Alcatraz on a homicide case. Turns out a prisoner listed as an escapee 20 years before was trapped in a wall. Did his route fail or was he murdered by someone on The Rock? This is the joy of the series since they did shoot on location in San Francisco so you get to visit interesting hot spots around town. They don’t visit the Mitchell Brothers this season to expose what’s behind the green door. “Solitaire” gives Mike a new partner when Steve takes a bullet. Tony Lo Bianco doesn’t get along that well with Mike. It’s hard to tell if this season ender was a hint that they producers were looking for a replacement for Michael Douglas. This was his penultimate season on the show and he was already beginning production on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He’d win the Oscar for Best Picture as the producer. There’s not too many Oscar winning producers willing to work long hours on a TV show they don’t own.

The Streets of San Francisco: Season 3 keeps up the dynamics between Douglas and Malden. They fit naturally together and don’t look that unusual while riding around the real life locales instead of a studio backlot covered in Rice-A-Roni boxes and loaves of sour dough. It’s like a travelogue with a body count. They act like two cops that belong on the business side of the police tape at a homicide scene.

Volume 1
“One Last Shot,” “The Most Deadly Species,” “Target: Red,” “Mask of Death,” “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore,” “One Chance to Live,” “Jacob’s Boy,” “Flags of Terror,” “Cry Help!,” “For Good or Evil,” “Bird of Prey” and “License to Kill.”

Volume 2
“The Twenty-Five Caliber Plague,” “Mister Nobody,” “False Witness,” “Letters from the Grave,” “Endgame,” “Ten Dollar Murder,” “The Programming of Charlie Blake,” “River of Fear,” “Asylum,” “Labyrinth” and “Solitaire.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers appear to be HD transfers off the 35mm source. The details of San Francisco pop in the background. You’ll admire the brass platters hanging on bar walls. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The mix is fine for a show that was made on location. The episodes are subtitled in English.

No bonus features.

The Streets of San Francisco: Season 3 is another fine time in the city by the bay. Douglas and Malden keep up their crime solving tag-team tactics. The big shocker is seeing John Davidson transforming into a female singer. You can buy both volumes bundled together. Why would you only buy one volume? Enjoy the San Francisco treat.

CBS presents Streets of San Francisco: Season 3, Volume 1 and Volume 2 Starring: Karl Malden and Micheal Douglas. Boxset Contents: 23 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released on DVD: July 3, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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