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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Honey West

It lasted just one season, but Honey West was such a breakthrough TV program that it easily overshadows Forbidden Planet as star Anne Francis’ best remembered role. The 1965-66 ABC Network series, spun off from Burke’s Law, was probably too expensive to renew, but it presented, for the first time, a female action heroine as the lead of an American network television show. Yes, she had an assistant, played by John Ericson, who helped her out in fights and also managed the electronic gadgets, but the hierarchy of their relationship was clear. She was the boss, and not some Avengers-style sidekick.

VCI Entertainment has released all thirty black-and-white full screen 25-minute episodes in a four-platter set, Honey West Complete Series. Each platter has a ‘Play All’ option and the chapter encoding jumps reliably over the opening credits. The picture transfers look very nice and the monophonic sound is solid. The music utilizes only a handful of cues, over and over, but they have a nice jazzy feel to them. There is no captioning. A total of 5 minutes of publicity photo montages are featured on the first and second platters, and all four platters have a total of 34 minutes of wonderful Sixties commercials (how come they don’t advertise hosiery on the TV anymore?) and plugs for ABC’s weekly lineup.

What is surprising is how well the series has held up over time. Perhaps having to jam a complete narrative into the half-hour time slot has something to do with it, but most of the episodes are fully entertaining (some, usually ones with good plot twists, were written by Richard Levinson and William Link), with clearly established characters, a brisk pace and efficient action sequences. Francis’ outfits are terrific, and while her karate chops and judo tumbles are a little arch, she nevertheless projects a blend of unashamed femininity and take-charge confidence that made an indelible model for all who followed her path.

The episodes are varied in tone, with some having strong comical underpinnings (and involving gorillas, robots and such) and some being straightforward crime dramas. The heroes use advanced (for the time) gadgetry, including having rotary phones in their cars. Francis plays a dual-role in one episode and is visited in others by guest stars such as Michael J. Pollard, Dick Clark, Bert Parks, Kevin McCarthy, a very young Joe Don Baker, Edd Byrnes, Bobby Sherman, Wayne Rogers, Everett Sloane, Alan Jenkins, Richard Kiel and so on.Ida Lupino directed an episode. One of the high points of the series is a terrific after-hours fight in the sporting goods section of a department store, as the characters grab everything that is available to them in the displays. Francis’ character also has a pet ocelot, one of the icons of the show, and it is fairly amusing to note, assuming the episodes are presented in pretty much the order in which they were shot, that when every new director comes on board he tries to use the ocelot creatively. The ocelot, however, clearly wants nothing to do with filmmaking, and thereafter, in that director’s episodes, its presence is minimal.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon