• S.W.A.T. The Complete Series



    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: January 16th, 2018.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Steve Forest, Robert Urich, Rod Perry, Mark Shera, James Coleman
    Year: 1975
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Series:

    Friends, Romans and countrymen! I come not to bury S.W.A.T. but to praise it.

    This 70’s cop show that only ran one and a half seasons in the mid-70’s has never received much love in the DVD era. I’ve read quite a few reviews that called it rote or even boring. T.J. Hooker seems to get more love. Absurd.

    The setup is simple. Team leader Hondo Harrelson is a grizzled (well not really but he’s old by 70’s cop show standards - he could be 45!) vet running a SWAT team compromised of right hand man Sgt. Deacon (Rod Perry), sniper T.J. McAbe (James Coleman) and utility men Dominic Luca (Mark Shera) and future TV star Robert Urich playing officer Jim Street. Every episode saw the team tackling the usual 1970s criminal shenanigans from armed robberies to kidnapping schemes to my personal favorite setup - evil satanic hippies on a murder spree.

    The show was originally a spinoff of The Rookies, a more serious and sober police drama about young cops starring future Charlie’s Angels star Kate Jackson. But S.W.A.T. was that show’s rambunctious kid brother. Wilder, more violent and prone to irreverent humor with a focus on thrills and car chases and explosions. This was an Aaron Spelling show, and the man was an entertainment legend for a reason. From the show’s killer opening theme tune (which was a major radio hit in its day) to the starting credits which see the team rolling into action from what I call the “bread truck of whoop-ass” (er, police van), this show was pretty balls to the wall.

    What really made this show though, was screen star Steve Forrest as team leader Hondo. Forrest was a good looking macho leading man cut from the same stolid stock as greats like Glenn Ford and Robert Stack. What separated him from the pack was his terrific sense of sly amusement. Forrest always had a bit of a mischievous gleam in his eye and really looked like he was having a blast in this show, charging around taking down bad guys and alternating between being a no nonsense taskmaster and borderline father figure to his young coworkers. His outfits while socializing down at the local cop bar are period perfection as well. Amazingly, Forrest was the brother of actor Dana Andrews - whose serious demeanor could not have been more different. Early on, the show gave Hondo a family man angle with scenes of him hanging out at home with his wife and two sons. There were even some couples nights with his African American second in command Deacon and that man’s family. But by season two that got canned with the producers occasionally playing off some hilarious sexual tension with various pretty female witnesses flirting with him.

    The rest of the cast bring enough to the table to make things fun with the standouts being Rod Perry’s African American second in command and Robert Urich as the initially conflicted young recruit. Perry and Forrest have great chemistry together with a hilariously homoerotic undercurrent. That may just be me projecting, but once you read some of their scenes together that way it really sticks with you. Urich shows his burgeoning acting chops on this show when he’s given the heavy dramatic lifting, like an episode where he falls in love with a victim he’s protecting and has to deal with a young woman whose brother was murdered. Shera as Luca is the comedy relief and while many found his pizza loving skirt chasing “Italian Flash” act corny, I thought he was funny. Coleman is a bit bland but slots in well enough and is highly convincing in his sniper scenes by looking and moving the way you figure a guy doing that job would.

    So let’s get to the main draw here. Guest stars! Boy has S.W.A.T. got ‘em. Some of the true character actor greats are here. My favorite episode sees Cameron Mitchell as Bo Pritchard tearing off full chunks of on set furniture as Hondo’s old ‘Nam buddy who’s moved into the police ranks and wants to join the S.W.A.T. team. The only problem is that Deacon already has the team slot Bo wants. But when Deacon gets sidelined with an injury Bo gets his wish. The problem is that he’s a highly unstable hot dogger prone to shooting suspects when unnecessary with an unhealthy obsession with Hondo. This is the episode where, if one is so inclined, the homoerotic subtext is almost insane. Cameron actually has lines like ‘We belong together!’ about Hondo when told he’s out of the team due to his erratic behavior. He visits Deacon in the hospital to give the “stay away from my man” speech when he fears he’ll be returning to his old post after recovery. The episode culminates in an utterly nutbar showdown in an abandoned warehouse after Bo has kidnapped Hondo’s wife and is holed up with her as a hostage. This leads to a mano-a-mano where Hondo utters the unforgettable line “You want me Bo? Come take me! Let’s get rid of these guns and GET IT ON!”.

    Who else have we got in other episodes? Try Robert Loggia (SCARFACE) as a hard as nails bomb disposal expert with a crippling fear of heights in the same episode as Andrew Robinson (the Scorpio killer in DIRTY HARRY) as a violent “counterculture” revolutionary who’s taken over a radio station with a band of misfits. We’ve got the Riddler from Batman as a mob stooge being hunted by his former associates stranded in the desert with Hondo after a helicopter crash that happens en route to a court appearance. Stuart Whitman and Leslie Nielsen (THE NAKED GUN) and Donna Mills in the two part “The Running Man” about a deep cover cop trying to start a new life after bringing down a huge chunk of the mob. Then there’s the great Sal Mineo in not one but two episodes first playing a deliriously OTT satanic hippie running a murder cult and then as a giggling sociopathic criminal in “Deadly Tide” which also stars Christopher George from Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. George is also in the show’s most crazily plotted episode “The Bravo Enigma” as an international assassin with a deadly bubonic style plague. And then there’s “The Steel Plated Security Blanket” which is about an attempted jewelry heist at a beauty pageant. Look out for a young Farrah Fawcett and future WKRP In Cincinnati star Loni Anderson there.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Mill Creek bring S.W.A.T. the complete series to DVD in a fairly bare bones affair. But considering the dirt cheap MSRP, this is still a good deal. The main issue is the compression necessary to bring this entire series of 37 episodes to DVD on just 6 discs. When Sony and Shout! Factory previously brought this show to disc in individual season sets, they put 3-4 episodes on a disc. Mill Creek are stuffing 6 and occasionally close to 7 (the two part episodes are edited into one long episode) shows on each disc so something is going to give on these full frame presentations. That said, I didn’t find the occasional compression artifacts and other minor issues unduly distracting. I caught a couple of instances of edge enhancement as well.

    Audio is listed as Dolby Stereo but sounded mostly mono to me. Nothing shrill or painful to the ear however. That awesome theme tune sounds pretty good. And everything was clear in terms of dialog and sound effects.

    Extras? Zilch. Just the shows.

    The Final Word:

    I love this show and am baffled by its cold reception in most critical quarters. It was action packed with a great array of guest stars and deft touches of humor. Steve Forrest and Rod Perry are clearly having a blast. Highly recommended. At this price anyone with an interest in 70’s cop shows really has no excuse.