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It Takes A Thief- The Complete Series DVD Review

“It Takes A Thief” is an entertaining 60’s television series.

For those that are unfamiliar with the show, “It Takes A Thief” is a 60’s thief series starring Robert Wagner as super thief Alexander Mundy. The series premise involves Mundy being taken out of prison so that he can work/steal for the U.S. government. Throughout the 66 episodes, Mundy steals murder information, a list of enemy agents, weapon plans, microfilm, defense plans, a corpse, documents, photos, fuels, keys, a film print, a treaty, scrolls, a black box, a mob journal, microdots, an SIA codebook, and missile base plans. Other non theft plots involve stopping jewel thieves, helping a scientist defect, taking down dictators, teaming up with a female thief,  rescue missions, detectives Noah and Wally, bombs, politicians, blackmail cases, helping a double agent, breaking into a bank, political cases, jail (again), missing person, lasers, a hit man, communism, traitors, poison, defectors, a casino heist, Alexander’s father Alister, other SIA agents, other thieves and spies, and dying scientists.

‘Thief’ also boasts an impressive cast of guest star appearances by the likes of Leslie Nielsen, Raymond Burr, Bill Bixby, Ida Lupino, Ricardo Montalban, Joseph Cotton, Richard Kiel, George Takei, Julie Newmar, Teri Garr, Peter Sellers, Fred Astaire, Bette Davis, Cesar Romero, and NBA legend Bill Russell.

At first glance, “It Takes A Thief” comes off as a James Bond wannabe complete with beautiful ladies, international locations, spies, Bond esque henchmen etc. To be honest, ‘Thief; does owe a lot to Bond, but the show manages to have an identity of its own thanks to a variety of stories and a smooth lead character.

Make no mistake about it, Alexander Mundy is the reason this show works. Whether he’s stealing, disguising himself or pulling off some neat tricks, the character is flat out charismatic and likeable. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that viewers actually get to see some genuine characterization here when Alexander’s father Alister shows up. I never expected to see a father and son team-up in this show, but it was a welcome surprised and added depth to an already interesting character. As an added bonus, Alister is played by song and dance man Fred Astaire whose episodes are arguably the best of the series.

On the subject of favorite episodes, I have to say that I was quite partial to the pilot episode and “The Thingamabob Heist” and “The Galloping Skin Game” as well. The pilot does a wonderful job of setting up the plot and the tone. It honestly feels like it could have been a theatrical film. ‘Heist’ and ‘Galloping’ are fun because the episodes contain Richard Kiel (Jaws from 2 Bond films), basketball player Bill Russell, and Ricardo Montalban (best known as Kahn from “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn”) as the smart, confident fence Nick Grobbo. Grobbo is a truly memorable character and it’s a shame he didn’t appear more as his scenes with Mundy were always thrilling.

If I had to make a few criticisms, I would say that the show is somewhat dated. In addition to some dopey humor, fashion, and music, the pacing of the episodes can be somewhat awkward. You always feel like 5 or so minutes could have been cut out easily. Additionally, it became quite clear in season 3 that Alexander was running out of things to steal when he started stealing the same item twice in a different scenario. Alexander seemed to run into old friends and past acquaintances far too frequently as well. Basically, the show had run its course by the time season 3 ended. I’m rather glad it didn’t go on any further as it would have been unnecessary.

Summary: If you’re a fan of shows about thieves or James Bond esque characters, you may want to check out “It Takes A Thief”. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly a cut above most programs out there.

Note: I should mention that I found the box set design to be very creative. It’s nice to see that some real thought and work went into the case. For those wondering, the discs are encased in a rectangular cardboard box that contains 4 coasters, a film frame, and 3 flip cardboard cases for each of the 3 seasons. While I’m not a huge fan of cardboard sleeves, I will give it a pass here because the set is so impressive.

Video/Audio:

“It Takes A Thief” has been digitally remastered and it really shows here. Despite the presence of some dirt specs and scratches that pop up every now and then, the picture has been cleaned up and it looks mighty impressive. It’s always nice to see classic shows getting the remastered treatment. Not only does it make the show look better, but it shows that that great care was put into the product.

Most Dolby Digital Mono tracks are flat, but this one is fairly lively. There are some scratchy audio moments, but the music, dialogue, and action always puts the speakers to work.

Extras:
* 4 coasters.
* A film frame.
* “Ellery Queen” trailer.
* A booklet featuring a fantastic essay by Dean Brierly.
* Extended version of the pilot episode “Magnificent Thief”.
* “The King Of Thieves: Interview With Robert Wagner”- Wagner chats about how the show came about, the series, Al Mundy, his experiences, Fred Astaire, Rome, etc. Well worth watching.
* “A Matter Of Larceny: Interview With Glen A. Larson”- Glen Larson chats about broadcasting, the show, Hollywood, network TV, genres, etc.

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December 19, 2011 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , ,

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