Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Green Hornet: feel the Buzz

40 years ago (was it really that long?) while all the other kids were enthralled by the campy tv series Batman, I was riveted by the all-too-brief exploits of The Green Hornet.
Based on the 1930s-40s radio / movie serial / comic book series, the show covered the exploits of millionaire newspaper publisher Britt Reid and his aide Kato as they battled "...criminals & racketeers that even the G-Men cannot reach", an opening J. Edgar Hoover himself forced them to change to "...public enemies who try to destroy our America". (You may also note that I adopted his secret identity as my "nom-de-net"!)
The coolest aspect was that the Hornet was thought to be a master criminal himself! None of this "deputized by the police and/or FBI" BS most heroes were burdened with, the Hornet operated outside the law, usually tricking criminals into providing evidence which he then turned over to the police, making look like a case of double-crossing by the crooks themselves!
Though updated for the swingin' 60s with a gimmicked-up auto (the original Black Beauty was just a super-fast car with a busted horn) and additional weapons, the show stayed remarkably-faithful to the source material.
One strangely-backwards aspect was the downplaying of Kato. In the original show and comics, Kato was the scientific expert who developed the gas weapons and souped-up the Black Beauty. In the tv show, he was a martial arts master and auto-driving expert, but that's it!As it turned out, staying too faithful resulted in the show's demise, as the Hornet rarely faced colorful costumed foes which were so vital to Batman's success, instead dealing with bland racketeers and gangsters in plots involving drug smuggling and election fraud! And without campy overacting and POW! THWOCK! BIFF! "sound fx", the straight dramatic acting and comparatively-realistic fights didn't hold the audiences' attention to what was a straight detective show with masks!
Today, the show is best remembered for Al Hirt's jazzy, lip-numbing performance of Billy May's adaptation of Flight of the Bumblebee and the debut of future martial arts film legend Bruce Lee as Kato who choreographed his own fight sequences, laying out a half-dozen foes in under a minute!
Cable's Encore Action ran the whole series a couple of years ago, commercial-free and uncut (except for leaving out the previews and recaps of the two-part stories) and the show is currently in local syndication, usually in conjunction with Batman. Catch it if it's running in your area!
There's no official DVD release, yet. C'mon 20th Century-Fox, get off your asses!
I came across two virtual stores that carry collectibles using the art from two posters for the feature film compilation released after Lee's unfortunate passing.
The Green Hornet & Kato
Kato & the Green Hornet
and thought they would be of interest to the readers of this blog. (I'll be wearing the shirts at comic conventions this summer)