Mission: Impossible (1966) – Pilot, and Memory

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

This week I begin my travels with the original Impossible Mission Force, as I explore The Complete Series on blu-ray available now from Paramount Pictures. The series originally debuted on 17 September, 1966 with the Pilot episode written by the series creator Bruce Geller.

We are introduced to Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) an IMF team leader, who is requested to go to the fictional country of Santa Costa to recover two nuclear devices from a hotel where the local dictator, General Dominguez is staying, and from where he’ll give a speech to the nation.

Briggs recruits his team, Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) – a master impersonator, who will pose as the general, international beauty Cinnamon (Barbara Bain) to run distractions, Barney (Greg Morris) an electronics expert, comes in as a pest controller (as the hotel suddenly has a mouse and pest problem), Willy (Peter Lupus) as the muscle and back-up, and master thief, Terry (Wally Cox) to be smuggled into the safe and break the safe open from the inside.

There are tons of recognisable music cues and themes by Lalo Schifrin And this delighted me because I’d only heard them in context of the films. From the beginning the series is fairly well imagined, and it’s also great to see that not everything goes smoothly all the time for the team, and watching how the improvise is almost as fun as their actual plan.

Landau is only listed as a special guest star, something that continues through the first season, and it’s great watching him pull off multiple roles covered in latex, makeup and wigs.

The series opener gives us a good bit of cold war espionage, misdirection, and tense moments, and it’s very entertaining, and held up better than I thought it would. I imagined watching this series today would have a bit of a camp feeling to it, but no, it still works.

I’ll take another mission please!

Memory sees Briggs and his team trying to frame an Eastern Bloc official, Janos Karq (William Keene) as a traitor to have him removed from power where he currently threatens the peace of the western world.

First airing on 24 September, 1966, this episode was written by Robert Lewin. Albert Paulsen guest stars as Joseph Baresh, an alcoholic actor with a photographic memory that Briggs brings aboard to help on the assignment.

Under Briggs coaching, he gets Baresh prepared for his inevitable capture, and interrogation, as he’ll be posing as a long sought for spy, codename, Sparrow. His part of the mission will be to hold back in his questioning just long enough to be believable and then spill information that makes it seem as if Karq is truly guilty.

And while he does that, he’s to keep his eyes open for any information that can be used by western governments, including a list of undercover agents.

The rest of the team will be in tasked with getting Baresh out! Including getting a VW Beetle to masquerade as part of a fire response team (that seems like a bit of a stretch).

And speaking of stretches, I think it’s kind of curious that a lot of the team are actually well known internationally. Cinnamon, for instance, is a world famous model, while Rollin is a famed impersonator and actor.

That’s a little odd, because one would think spies shouldn’t be prominent public figures… or maybe that’s the best way to hide.

I will say this, two episodes in and I think Barney is probably the best spy of the bunch so far, and he’s quickly becoming a my favourite character in the series.

There are plenty more missions to come, should you decide to accept them! I know I will when I take on another two next week as I explore more of Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray, now available from Paramount Canada!

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