The Hardy Boys: Season 3
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Teen heart-throbs Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson star as brothers Joe and Frank Hardy in the exhilarating final season of the Hardy Boys televison series.
Detective duo Frank and Joe decide to turn pro in the final season, going to work for the Justice Department. Traveling all over the world, they strive to crack cases involving cold-blooded killers, mob informants, pirate treasure and the KGB! You will Hardy be able to wait for it all!
When the first of many Hardy Boys books was published in 1927, nobody could have imagined this version of the amateur crime-fighting duo: feathered hair, bell-bottoms, the action set to a disco beat. But that's what you get in The Hardy Boys: Season Three, a vintage '70s experience. (The show had begun with the Hardys rotating with episodes featuring Nancy Drew, but she was quietly erased for this final season.) Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson play Joe and Frank Hardy, whose adventures in crime fighting take a new twist when they're recruited to join their dad as US secret agents. There's a lot of globetrotting involved, although stock-footage establishing shots of London, Greece, Hawaii, etc., take the place of actual location shooting. The two-part opening episode sees Joe go after the killers of his fiancée, a trauma that is mostly forgotten by episode three. The stories are serviceable, but frankly the season is most notable for its cascade of incredible '70s style and its wild gimmicks: government-trained killer sharks at a secret California beach? Bring it on! Stevenson and Cassidy (who enjoyed/endured a phase of teenybopper stardom at this time) boast the kind of hair that belongs in a Smithsonian exhibit on what was notable about the 1970s, and if you remember the soft-rock band Bread, be advised that group leader David Gates and the band are featured in another two-part episode that features lots of Bread songs and also Cold War defection espionage ("Bread isn't the only thing on the menu tonight," Stevenson notes at a suspense-filled concert). The season lasted only 10 episodes, and given the shoddy production values and the mostly subpar writing, that is no surprise. Future blockbuster screenwriter Steven E. de Souza worked on the series, and the guest cast is the usual collection of '70s regulars: Nehemiah Persoff, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, June Lockhart, Dana Andrews, Dane Clark, etc. Don't go for quality, but if you have a weakness for Smiley Face camp, this does the job. --Robert Horton
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Filmed almost entirely on the universal backlot, so if you are local to LA, you will know many of the areas and streets where it was filmed.
The changes to season three confused a lot of the show's teenage fans at the time, but re-watching them now, as an adult, one can see the potential that ABC had for the series...and lost by cancelling it. This will be a worthy finish to the Hardy Boys Mysteries.
A quick word about "Last Kiss of Summer": Some fans didn't like it, as it involved Joe having a fiance' (who gets killed in the first ten minutes of the ep anyway) -- since Joe was played by teen idol Shaun Cassidy, who had just gotten married in real life, you can imagine how the hordes of teeny-bop fans reacted to the thought that Shaun was no longer theirs. I stand by my assessment: the acting is tone-perfect (Shaun in particular does a stand-out job of showing the dark side of Joe Hardy), the writing is great, and we're shown the brothers becoming seriously cool & dangerous. ESPECIALLY Joe.
I can overlook the bit about the shark, really. Seriously. It was a small misstep, and it's followed by Frank's blow-up at Joe, with a solid, well-deserved punch -- Frank says "nothing personal" when he and Joe are talking later, but it's obvious from Frank's tone: he did mean it. Joe had crossed lines, trampled on-going investigations, cut himself off from family & his brother; it took his brother to shock him back to reality.
Okay, I'm raving. I like the ep that much.
Anyway, Frank get his Cool & Dangerous in Scorpion's Sting & Game Plan...in SPADES. Scorpion's Sting starts it, but Game Plan just brings down the house. Game Plan involves a securities plot in Atlantic City, NJ, with Frank going deep undercover to bring it down, and the ep leaves you wondering if Frank really has abandoned his brother...and THEN wondering if Frank would've followed through with the abandonment if the villain had taken just one small step. The ep is Parker's bravura performance of the show.
Episode list, if Shout! follows the actual season:
1. Last Kiss of Summer (2 parter)
2. Assault on the Tower
3. Search for Atlantis
4. Dangerous Waters
5. Scorpion's Sting
6. Defection to Paradise (2 parter)
7. Game Plan
8. Life on the Line
Edit: Okay, now that I've gotten the actual DVD and can review the DVD (instead of the eps based on the dubs I've gotten from other sources)...
The DVD is NOT from the original show masters. It is from "best available video sources" (read: syndication dubs from Nick at Nite or Disney Channel). The video quality is much better than the dubs that are out there from *cough cough* other sources *cough cough*, but still a bit on the grainy side, faded & not as sharp -- THAT is Shout's fault, because I was able to improve the color & sharpness even more on my own, just using the simple controls on my computer's DVD software. Shout, c'mon, a remaster means you improve the vid quality to the best you can!
On top of that, these are the versions that have been playing off & on in syndication on channels like Nick, Disney, Antenna, etc. They are NOT the full episodes...and in a couple cases, not even the full episode of a syndication edit. Chunks of the eps are missing, and haven't been restored; typical network shows are 50 min long, allowing 10 min. for commercials (all S1 & S2 eps are 50 min, for example); all the S3 eps are 45-46 min.
It makes for some very jarring edit-transitions between scenes; it's far too obvious when scenes are left out or edited away. Some of the eps have crucial scenes cut out (Scorpion's Sting, in particular, suffers; actors make reference to other scenes and plot points that we don't get to see); Game Plan has the entire opening sequence lopped off (where Joe captures one of the bad guys at an airport). I nearly tossed the DVD across the room at that point -- luckily, I still have those "other source" dubs WITH that scene in it (Disney Channel dub). So I know that the dub exists; did Shout only have access to Nick at Nite?
Now, to give Shout the benefit of a doubt, there was a fire at Universal Studios back in 2008, where a lot of masters were lost; likely the syndication dubs are now the only ones that exist. To the good, the eps here are still much better quality that the "other sources"; the picture is mostly clear with few artifacts, and what video problems I noted can be easily rectified using sharpness/saturation controls available in most DVD-player software. Sound quality is definitely much improved. With that in mind, yes, the DVD is worth the $16 to fans of the show, fans of the Hardy Boys in general, & fans of the two male leads.
To the bad, though: Shout could've done a lot BETTER on the re-mastering; the color is still faded and washed out, the picture gets decidedly grainy in spots, and the sound does drop out (notably in Assault on the Tower, where an entire scene sounds like it was sound-recorded from a distance in an echoey bathroom). These are the syndication edits, not the full original versions, with pieces & needed scenes chopped out (again, not Shout's fault, if that was the best they had to work with).
If there is ANYONE out there with full versions, please please PLEASE make them available, somehow....
Given though, the packaging states episodes mastered from best available sources-assuming that means the syndicated version where the only ones available to put on this set. So, if that doesn't bother you, and didn't totally ruin this set for me, grab it to finish off your collection of a great 70's series!
p.s. my biggest disappointment was the fact that the manufacturer, Shout Factory, lists bonus features of new interviews with the series stars on their website, but it's a bare bones set-kind of confused on that point.
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