Friday, July 24, 2009

12 O'clock High

12 O'clock High (1964-67) was yet another one of those WWII wartime drama that dominated the airwaves during the sixties. The show was based on the movie of the same name. Though the character names were the same, the television series had a completely different feel to it. I can't really compare the two.

The first season remains my favorite, because of Robert Lansing. Lansing's role as Brigadier General Frank Savage, commander of the 918th Bomb Group. Lansing's character had a rough edge, and commandeering presence. To the surprise of little boys everywhere, General Savage was killed off the first few seconds of the first show of the second season. You didn't even see him get it. There was just a body slumped over the controls during a bomb run. It wasn't by Nazi flack or Nazi bullet that did him in - but because studio executives wanted a younger looking lead for the show. Paul Burke replaced Robert Lansing, but get this, Lansing was two years younger than Burke. Burke was prettier than Lansing. I read where studio execs wanted to attract more females to the war watching so they hired on Paul Burke. I also read where Quinn Martin said that Lansing was difficult to work with and that's what got him killed. I missed Lansing nevertheless.

Some of the shows from the second season were pretty good - but that first season, that Savage season is memorable. The series soon went to living color and thus the stock war footage (which was relied upon heavily) had to be colorized. It looked kind of cheesy. I guess there was only so much WWII B-17 footage available at the time, because you saw the same footage from episode to episode. One got very familiar with each stock clip.

I've got a lot of these shows of VHS. One day I'd like all three seasons on DVD. Even though many of these shows are formulaic, they are still very enjoyable to watch.

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