Thursday, February 10, 2011
The Green Hornet
As our manifesto here states, we regard the two hundred year period from 1766 to 1966 as Earth's last (and probably final) "Golden Age". And that glorious year of 1966 brought us The Green Hornet television show, based on the old film serial which was in turn based on the old old radio drama.
The Green Hornet is Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day who goes out in his masked secret identity at night to fight crime. He is accompanied by his sidekick Kato (Bruce Lee), who drives their Batmobile-like supercar, the "Black Beauty." Kato's ethnicity seems to keep wavering over the years, from Japanese to Filipino to Korean.
Although little mention of this has been made in recent decades, the Green Hornet is actually related to the Lone Ranger in the context of both shows (they were both created for WXYZ by Fran Striker). In the original Lone Ranger radio show, his nephew Dan Reid is the same character as The Green Hornet's father. Britt Reid is the Lone Ranger's great-nephew.
It's a tragedy that only 26 episodes of the Green Hornet's TV series were filmed (27 if you include their guest appearance on an episode of Batman.) The show seemed immensely popular at the time, and its pop culture clout still resonates far beyond that which is usually commensurate for a show that was cancelled after only one season. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any show with similar longevity-to-content ratio other than The Prisoner - and that doesn't really count because it wasn't cancelled, it was deliberately intended to conclude in one season.
The short-lived show also spawned a short-lived comic book, on the Gold Key imprint. I used to have one of the three issues published, and would dearly love to get it again, along with the other two issues. (Other Green Hornet comics have also been published before the TV show, tying in with the serial and radio incarnations of the Hornet.) Two novels tying in with the TV series were also published: The Case of the Disappearing Doctor and The Infernal Light.
Keeping with the spy-gadgetry obsession of the 1960s, the Green Hornet was considerably techno-augmented for the TV show: the Hornet carried a gizmo called his "Hornet's Sting", which would telescope out and project ultrasonic waves that
could somehow open locked doors, set things on fire, and cause guns to explode. He also had a special gun loaded with extremely fast-acting tranquilizer gas. Kato's outfit was fitted with green darts that fired from his sleeves, even though he still tended to prefer hand-to-hand Kung Fu fighting.
Their Black Beauty car could fire explosive torpedos from retractable panels under the headlights, a sleep-gas sprayer in the center of the front grille, and something they called "The Scanner", which was a small flying video/audio surveillance device which launched from the vehicle, went on recon, then returned. This was years before the concept of the unmanned miniature drone become commonplace as it is today.
Surprisingly, the TV series is currently not available in America on DVD or Blu-Ray. However, there is a pricey Japanese box set.