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DVD Review: HART TO HART: THE COMPLETE SERIES

Jun 06 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

“This is my boss, Jonathan Hart – a self-made millionaire. He’s quite a guy. This is Mrs. H. She’s gorgeous. She’s one lady who knows how to take care of herself. By the way, my name is Max. I take care of both of them, which ain’t easy; ’cause when they met… it was MURDER!”

That iconic, gravelly voice-over introduces each episode of Hart to Hart, a fun mystery series created by Sidney Sheldon (The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeanie), starring Robert Wagner (It Takes A Thief, Austin Powers) and Stefanie Powers (Girl From U.N.C.L.E.).

Hart to Hart follows the misadventures of Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a rich socialite couple and amateur detectives. The couple was often assisted by their older, loyal servant Max and their intelligent dog Freeway. Glitz, glamor and exotic locales feature prominently as the Harts investigate murderers, drug traffickers, kidnappers and more, all while surviving their own brushes with hitmen, poisonings, brainwashings, kidnappings and all sorts of attempts on their own lives.

This well-loved show aired on ABC for 5 seasons from 1979 to 1984 and was revisited in the early to mid 1990s through a series of eight made for TV movies.

I was only four years old when the series first aired, but I do recall enjoying an episode or two of the later seasons when I was younger and up late, sick on the couch with my parents and seeing the show in reruns. I was also a big fan of the later TV movies in the 90s. The clothing, hair styles, cars, décor and Jonathan Hart’s giant corded car phone all scream early 80s, but they add to the fun, and despite its age, the show really holds up well. It was great to be able to now check out the series as an adult. With its affable leads, engaging storylines and well written dialog, the show continues to be captivating and I found myself wanting to binge the episodes and watch more and more. A predecessor to other fun amateur detective series like Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Murder She Wrote and Father Dowling Mysteries, Hart to Hart sort of blazed the trail for other series in which the leads stumble into inordinately high numbers of murders.

It was great to see a bunch of famous guests stars who were either already famous at the time, or who would soon star in series of their own like bond girl (and Wagner’s later real-life wife) Jill St. John, Charlie’s Angels‘ ‘Bosley’ (David Doyle), Roddy McDowell, Benson stars James Noble and René Auberjonois, and even tennis great Martina Navratilova.

While all five seasons have been previously available on DVD individually, this new box set from Shout! Factory collects them into a single box set containing all 5 seasons of the original series including the extended pilot and 110 regular episodes. The set, which retails for $159.99 can be purchased on Amazon for about $88, appears to be simply a rebundling of the previous stand-alone season releases with the same nice, remastered transfers.

At just over $17 a season, the box set can potentially save new purchasers a little money over buying each of the seasons individually, however I really wished Shout! Factory had taken this opportunity to add additional extras or better yet, the eight made-for-TV Hart to Hart films which aired during the early to mid 90’s. This would have really rounded out the box set and made it as comprehensive as possible. Unfortunately right now the made-for-TV films appear to only be available as expensive on-demand DVD-R offerings and this would have been great if Shout! Factory could have acquired the rights to include these as well. Hopefully they’ll offer them in their own decently price box set in the future.

The DVDs feature remastered full-screen transfers which look impressively good—of course there is the occasional graininess or color issue here and there, as you’d probably expect from a nearly 40 year-old series. I have no doubt this is probably the best this series have ever looked. While the stereo soundtrack isn’t likely to blow you away by today’s standards, it is nice and clear, with good sound levels that allow for easy to understand dialog.

The set is fairly light on extras, in fact there appears to be only two of them. The first is a rather interesting commentary track for the Pilot episode which features stars Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as well as writer/director Tom Mankiewicz. The second is a nearly 23 minute featurette entitled “The Hart of Season One”, recorded in 2005, in which series creator Sidney Sheldon, stars Robert Wagner & Stefanie Powers, producer Leonard Goldberg, and writer/director Tom Mankiewicz reflect on the making of the series.



What’s Included:
Episodes: (5300 min)

  • 480i / Full Frame 1.33:1
  • Audio: English Dolby Digital
  • Subtitles: None
  • Closed Captioned

  • Pilot + All 22 Episodes of Season 1 (1979–1980):
    “Hit Jennifer Hart”, “Passport to Murder”, “Jonathan Hart Jr.”, “Death in the Slow Lane”, “You Made Me Kill You”, “Murder Between Friends”, “Cop Out”, “Max in Love”, “A New Kind of High”, “With This Gun, I Thee Wed”, “The Man with the Jade Eyes”, “Color Jennifer Dead”, “A Question of Innocence”, “Night Horrors”, “Which Way, Freeway?”, “Downhill to Death”, “The Raid”, “Sixth Sense”, “Does She or Doesn’t She?”, “Cruise at Your Own Risk”, “Too Many Cooks Are Murder”, “Death Set”
  • All 20 Episodes of Season 2 (1980–1981):
    “Murder, Murder on the Wall”, “What Murder?”, “This Lady Is Murder”, “Murder Is a Man’s Best Friend”, “‘Tis the Season to Be Murdered”, “Murder Wrap”, “Murder in Paradise”, “Ex-Wives Can Be Murder”, “Murder Is a Drag”, “Hart-Shaped Murder”, “Slow Boat to Murder”, “Murder in the Saddle”, “Homemade Murder”, “Solid Gold Murder”, “Getting Aweigh with Murder”, “The Murder of Jonathan Hart”, “The Latest in High Fashion Murder”, “Operation Murder”, “Murder Takes a Bow”, “Blue Chip Murder”
  • All 24 Episodes of Season 3 (1981–1982):
    “Harts and Flowers”, “A Couple of Harts”, “Hartland Express”, “What Becomes a Murder Most?”, “Murder Up Their Sleeve”, “Harts Under Glass”, “Rhinestone Harts”, “Hart of Darkness”, “Hartbreak Kid”, “From the Depths of My Hart”, “Hartless Hobby”, “My Hart Belongs to Daddy”, “Hart of Diamonds”, “Harts and Palms”, “The Hart of the Matter”, “Blue and Broken-Harted”, “Harts on Their Toes”, “Deep in the Hart of Dixieland”, “Vintage Harts”, “Hart, Line, and Sinker”, “Hart and Sole”, “The Harts Strike Out”, “To Coin a Hart”, “Harts and Fraud”
  • All 22 Episodes of Season 4 (1982–1983):
    “On a Bed of Harts”, “With This Hart, I Thee Wed”, “Million Dollar Harts”, “Harts on Campus”, “Harts at High Noon”, “Harts’ Desire”, “Rich and Hartless”, “In the Hart of the Night”, “One Hart Too Many”, “A Christmas Hart”, “Hunted Harts”, “Emily by Hart”, “Pounding Harts”, “Chamber of Lost Harts”, “Harts on the Scent”, “Bahama Bound Harts”, “As the Hart Turns”, “The Wayward Hart”, “A Change of Hart”, “Hartstruck”, “Too Close to Hart”, “A Lighter Hart”
  • All 22 Episodes of Season 5 (1983–1984):
    “Two Harts Are Better Than One”, “Straight Through the Hart”, “Hostage Harts”, “Pandora Has Wings”, “Harts and Hounds”, “Love Game”, “Passing Chance”, “Long Lost Love”, “Highland Fling”, “Year of the Dog”, “Trust Your Hart”, “Harts on the Run”, “Whispers in the Wings”, “Max’s Waltz”, “The Dog Who Knew Too Much”, “Silent Dance”, “Death Dig”, “The Shooting”, “Slam Dunk”, “Larsen’s Last Jump”, “Always, Elizabeth”, “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch”

Extras:

  • Audio Commentary on Pilot
    Recorded for the original 2005 DVD release and features stars Robert Wagner & Stefanie Powers and writer/director Tom Mankiewicz.
  • The Hart of Season One (22:28)
    This retrospective featurette was recorded for the original 2005 DVD and features interviews with series creator Sidney Sheldon, producer Leonard Goldberg, writer/director Tom Mankiewicz, and stars Robert Wagner & Stefanie Powers.

 


Final Thoughts:

My Rating
Episodes:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:
Recommended

Hart to Hart is fun, well written and acted murder mystery series that offers both suspense and a nostalgic early 80s feel. Fans of other amateur detective series like Columbo, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Murder She Wrote will find a lot to love about this series which likely inspired future TV shows in this genre. While it’s unfortunate that no new extras nor the TV movies were included in this box set, however I can still easily recommend picking up this set if you don’t already own any of the previous individual season releases. This is a delightful series that is sure to thrill and entertain new and existing fans for another forty or more years to come.