Tuesday, June 24, 2014

TUNE IN JUNE: Condor (1986)

Note: Here on Shlock to the System, June is TUNE IN JUNE, which is really just an excuse for me to catch up on some TV series I've been meaning to watch for a while. But I will also be watching a number of TV movies, particularly ones from the hey-day of the TV movie, the 70s and 80s.

Condor (1986)
Director: Virgil W Vogel
Starring: Ray Wise, Wendy Kilbourne, James Avery

Format: Streaming (Netflix)

Plot: In futuristic Los Angeles, a crime-fighting organization known as Condor goes up against the Black Widow, a female master criminal. The Black Widow steals the national security code and threatens to blow up Hollywood unless her old enemy, Proctor, a Condor operative, is turned over to her.

This ABC made-for-TV movie was intended as the pilot for a TV series, but it never happened. Which is a shame, because if this was a series, I'd watch it.

Sure, Condor is pretty damn cheesy but it's also good fun. Most of its appeal is due to leading man Ray Wise (it's hard to believe this is just four years before he'd portray Laura Palmer's dad on TWIN PEAKS), who plays a suave and wise-cracking detective, Proctor.

Attractive blonde Wendy Kilbourne (TV's MIDNIGHT CALLER) is his android partner, Lisa. Naturally Proctor doesn't like having a robot for a partner, and they constantly bicker, as is usually the dynamic in these sorts of shows. Proctor's prejudice against his android partner reminded me of the dynamic in the TV series Alien Nation (as well as Wise's minor resemblence to that series' star, Gary Graham). The late James Avery (Uncle Phil on FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR) turns up in a minor supporting role.

Aside from the good work by Wise, the main reason to watch this is to see how they handle "the future" in 1986. There's plenty of hokey "future" scifi stylings (hands-free driving, robot servants, laser guns, androids, hologram TV) and while the clothing might have seemed quite futuristic at the time, 30 years later it just seems like a slight variation on awful 80s fashions. One funny moment is when Lisa asks Proctor where his PC is. "My what?" he asks, and she replies "Personal Computer". In 1986 this was probably futuristic speak, but today it just seems quaint.

My only real complaint is with the pilot's villain, Rachael Hawkins (Carolyn Seymour), who is as bland as they come. A stronger antagonist might have helped this series get picked up.

Condor isn't anything special, but I was a kid of the 80s who grew up on the TV of the time. This reminded me of any of the various early-80s scifi/crime shows (Street Hawk, Automan, Knight Rider, Airwolf), minus the cool vehicle, but with the overall same sort of vibe. For that reason I enjoyed it, although it's probably not to everyone's tastes.

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