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After the success of BATMAN on ABC,William Dozier's Greenway
Productions/20th Century-Fox crew looked around for something to
develop into another hit. Instead of the pages of Batman & Detective
Comics,they looked to Old Time Radio.
There were a lot of series in the early days of TV that were developed from Radio Programs. Some were successful, but for the most part, did not have staying power in the video medium. Ah, but this LONE RANGER guy went on for about a dozen years and remained strong in re-runs. What would there be that was sort of like The Masked Rider of the West and maybe had some characteristics of Batman?
A little nostalgia for the Radio Days and research of the old series would have any potential revealed a like candidate. Sitting right there on the LONE RANGER Family Tree was a property that would have the potential to bring in another success.
THE GREEN HORNET was the product of the same Radio creative team as was The Lone Ranger.* In fact, he was said to be a relative. Inasmuch as his setting was the contemporary times and not the "Western United States" of "those thrilling days of yesteryear." **He was said to be a great-great-grand nephew to L.R., or something like that.
The Lone Ranger, John Reid, was the only surviving member of the group of Texas Rangers massacred by the notorious Butch Cavandish Gang. Left for dead along with the others, including his own brother. Tonto, his future Indian companion, recognized John Reid as having been boy hood friends. (John's ring was the object recognized) The young John Reid had done some heroic feat for the young Tonto, who dubbed him "Kimo Savee", translated into 'faithful friend'. Tonto stood by, helping Reid to recovery and burying the dead. (No need to go any further with this story, we all know it!)
The Green Hornet was in reality Britt Reid, the youthful, crusading Publisher of The Daily Sentinnel, a great metropolitan newspaper in a great, un-named big American City. The Hornet had as an assistant, his Valet/Chaueffer, Kato, who was Japanese *** and was both responsible for creating The Green Hornet,s arsenal of weaponry****, but also caring for his super fast auto, The Black Beauty.
The little extra twist in The Green Hornet legend is that he maintained a pose of being a wanted criminal.His real identity and role as a Costumened Crime Fighter known only to The District Attorney and to Britt Reid's Personal Secretary, Miss Lenore Case or usually called just "Casey".
The casting of the regulars for the series was very good and would have been deemed so, even in the old movie serial days.Youthful, good looking and athletic Van Williams, a former Warner Brothers contractee,was cast as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet. Stunning Beauty, Wendy Wagner was Lenore Case, with Lloyd Gough as retired Irish Cop turned 'reporter', Mike Axford. Walter Brooke portrayed District Attorney Frank P. Scanlon. But the true genius of casting (or just plain old luck) was having the young, martial arts exponent, Bruce Lee as Kato.
New to films and inexperienced in front of a camera, Bruce Lee, nonetheless, brought a lively, exciting interpretation to the role of the second banana hero. His action scenes were outstanding as he demonstrated his Karate as weapon against the baddies during at least one confrontation each episode. The fabulous looking physical maneuvers he executed so well were no big deal for a man of his training. He could have phoned in the role.
It was a little different for the spoken word as Mr. Lee was given few lines at first, though his speech became more eloquent as the series progressed. He had worked at it and he learned to modify the Chinese accent that he came by so honestly.****
Like THE LONE RANGER's co opting the finale of Rossinni's WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE, so THE GREEN HORNET Radio Show took Rimsky-Korsakov's FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLE BEE as its theme.***** Mr. Dozier left it to the talents of Famous New Orleans Trumpeter extraordinaries, Al Hirt to come up with and play an original theme which had a certain resemblance to the classical piece.
All the parts were in place and THE GREEN HORNET debuted on ABC on Friday evenings. It developed a certain loyal, though not a very large one. THE GREEN HORNET was not renewed, and faded away by the Fall Season of 1967.
It has since then taken on a legendary reputation and a large cult following, made up of many fans born long after the call by Mr. William Dosier (who doubled as show's announcer, quite handily,too!) This at least in part due to the career and premature death of Bruce Lee.
* It was Creative team of George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, the creator and the principal story writer for THE LONE RANGER at WXYZ Radio in Detroit who brought us THE GREEN HORNET.
** The relationship was made known on the Radio Shows, but not mentioned in the TV Era, probably because the rights to the characters have passed to different parties.
*** It has been said that Kato was said to be Japanese, but became Korean on December 7, 1941. In the Universal Pictures Serial The GREEN HORNET (1940); Kato said that he was Korean.
**** We wondered around our House just who got the least dialog: Bruce Lee as Kato, Peter Lupus as Willie (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) or Steve London as Agent Jack Rossman (THE UNTOUCHABLES)?
***** The use of Classical Music as both Theme and Incidental Music was a wide spread practice in Old Time Radio. It's been said that the definition of an intellectual is one who can listen to The William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger!
It was remarkably tough, comparatively sophisticated and genuinely
Comparisons will always be made between "The Green Hornet" and its TV stable mate "Batman". So what were some of the similarities?
To start with, both were made by 20th Century Fox. In keeping with the time-honored super hero tradition, the "real-life" identities of the respective title characters were successful, well-connected and, we assume, highly respected members of the community. When in character as their alter egos, both drove amazing custom-built cars that were veritable killing machines on wheels, armed with a vast array of deadly, concealed weapons. Both had capable, intelligent and gutsy sidekicks who could more than hold their own when the chips were down and the fists were flying.
But there were some major differences as well.
Where "Batman" was decidedly over the top and essentially in the business of extracting squeals of the delight from the younger set, "The Green Hornet" was deadly serious when it came to crime fighting. In the former show, the resident bad guys were exotic fantasy figures who wore crazy and colorful costumes and had cute names like "The Joker" and "The Penguin". Indeed, the Art department at 20th really pulled out all the stops on "Batman" to cash in on the newly-arrived novelty of color TV.
In "The Green Hornet", the villains of the piece were strictly legit. Although, somewhat curiously, one or two of them seemed to be living relics from "The Adventures of Superman". Dressed in snap-brimmed fedoras with feet wide apart and twitching their shoulders, one fully expected to hear something along the lines of "you dirty rat" at any minute. Still, it was a kid's show (or was it?)so broad portrayals were probably needed in a situation where everyone was decked out in street clothes.
Star Van Williams handled the dual role of Britt Reid, Editor of "The Daily Sentinel" newspaper and the Green Hornet with panache. Creating a stern-faced 007 type of character, Williams proved to be no slouch when it came to manufacturing his own brand of ice-cube intensity in the style of James Bond.
Bruce Lee, as Kato, the Hornet's faithful Chinese partner in crime busting, was there primarily to handle the ultra rough stuff. Still, when he did what he did best, he made for good television.
Generally well-written, sharply directed and competently acted by all those in the cast who really mattered,"The Green Hornet" flashed across our TV screens only fleetingly but it made a lasting and favorable impression on a lot of us.
What it lacked was true fantasy and humor - the two key ingredients that made "Batman" a classic.
"The Green Hornet" was good - very good in fact. But it didn't have those special qualities that guarantee immortality.
I mostly watch once in a while this show in a Canadian cable network
and the allure of the show makes me remember the original "Batman" series
the same producer...
Though some noticeable flaws (like those "evening" shots which suddenly become "day" shots in the next frame...), this show is rather entertaining and ahead of his time. This series only lasted one year, but in some way has reached cult status due to the appearance of one Bruce Lee, which Kung Fu moves impressed more than one fan. Have to mention here that the actors are okay here, as Van Williams should have had more better roles at the time with such an exposure.
Even the car, Black Beauty, was a masterpiece of a rolling arsenal at the time. Funny these days of computer advancements, that such a car can have that many gadgets.
Though shadowed by his counterpart "Batman", "The Green Hornet" stills surprises these days, especially with those who want to discover why Bruce Lee became a Martial Arts legend, even after his death in 1973.
You would have to add ABC and 20th Century Fox to the list of the most stupid business people. They did not know what they had when they had "The Green Hornet." A movie with Bruce Lee would be bigger than Batman, but they did not make it. Lee was very popular in more than one county and a movie with Kato and the Hornet against a group of super villans would still be watched and making tons of money today. They could get someone else, but that would be like replacing Tiger Woods or Ali and it could never be as popular without Bruce Lee. Why did they not see the goldmine they had? If they had the brains, we would have a lot of great Bruce Lee and Hornet films to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have read the other reviews and frankly they scare me. I understand how you can like something because it is nostalgic, or even, in the extreme case, like something bad because it defines a moment in your life (google "stockholm syndrome") but this parade of glowing reviews for this forgettable show sorta scares me. Here is the skinny: 1. The 60s was a crazy time. Things that made sense then would not make sense now. 2. The over-arching theme was re-invention. This is common throughout history. The flip-side of reinvention was the doctrine of Exceptionalism. Essentially, because we are here now, because we are the majority now, because we reinvented this now, it (ergo) must be great. Even if it was not. 3. The phenomenon in #2 is often referred to as "camp." Camp explains the stylized violence and goofy music and cardboard villains in shows like this one, and also Batman. 4. Those that actually watched these shows (eg - Batman) did not do so because they were actually exceptional, but rather because they were all that was available at the time. There was actually a term for this in the 60s, it was called "LOP" or "least objectionable program." One might theorize for example that if you had offered a viewer in the 60s an actual choice between the Hornet/Batman campy stuff and, say, ARROW, from this decade, they would choose the latter and eschew the former. BUT THERE WAS NO CHOICE. That is the key. 5. Those that attempted to watch this show -- the verb chosen suggests an effort and the fact it was cancelled suggests the effort mainly failed -- did so almost entirely because of Bruce Lee, who seemed to, among other things, levitate at will, and be able to knock out an overhead ceiling light with a single kick, much to the astonishment of the camera crew trying to film it. And many of his scenes had to refilmed several times to catch the action. (Lee would ultimately try out for Kung Fu and be passed over for a non-Asian actor with no martial arts training, and be bitter about this for years.)
The Green Hornet. Made by Greenways productions and produced by William
Dozier. The Show has fallen under the myth that it wasn't as good as
BATMAN. Or that the only thing it had going for it was The Legendary
Bruce Lee as Kato. The show wasn't played campy like BATMAN was. and
that makes all the difference.
The Green Hornet was introduced on radio as the nephew to the Lone Ranger. Daily Sentinel publisher Britt Reid takes a page from his great uncle and puts on a green mask and pretends to be a criminal while smashing the underworld. The Radio show proved to be as popular as the Lone Ranger resulting in two movie serials one starring Gordon Jones as the Green hornet and a second one starring Warren hull as the Hornet.
The Gordon Jones THE GREEN HORNET gets as close to anything as to providing a origin for the Green Hornet.
When Dozier got the rights for the Green hornet he wanted to play it straight no campiness. And he found Bruce Lee who rose to fame playing the hornet's trusty aide Kato. Van Williams became such a fan of Lee's he tried to get Lee more scenes or even dedicate a episode to Kato which never panned out.
Together they created one of the greatest shows of the sixties. It has often been a mystery to me as to why did BATMAN Become such a cultural and iconic show? When The Green hornet was a much better show and much superior to BATMAN .
The Stories are thrilling and original the acting is solid and the shows proves it was more then Bruce Lee Van Williams portrayal of Britt Reid AKA the Green Hornet is just as iconic as Adam West's as Batman. The Stories are almost noirish in their telling. Even the worst episodes are fun.
The Green Hornet should have gone on for more then one season. but I'm glad we got what we did. simply because it is one of the finest examples of TV magic at its best.
Made by the same production team as the successful "Batman" TV series
and at around the same time, "The Green Hornet" is similar but
different. Okay, so after getting past a similarly child-simple theme
tune (though someone must have confused their insects as here we get
"The Flight Of The Bumble Bee") we have another masked law-man, with
his younger, also masked sidekick, driving around in a customised
automobile fighting organised crime, employing gadgets and gizmos along
the way, who by daytime is a respected pillar of society. But where
"Batman" went for comedy through campness, the Hornet, while definitely
still identifiable as a comic-book creation, plays it noticeably
straighter, no pun intended.
So there are no costumed villains, no "Biff-Bang-Pow" fight scenes or kooky comedy ("Holy Fortune Cookie!") and instead we get twenty five minutes of entertaining, escapist adventure. The big latter-day selling point of interest to film fans of the 70's is the young Bruce Lee appearing as Kato (although I think a change of name from Clouseau's Oriental valet might have been a good idea), the Hornet's martial-arts-expert chauffeur and junior partner. Lee doesn't get to say, or even do much but his kung-fu kicks, flicks and tricks are great fun. Van Williams makes for a good jaw-jutting lead, a campaigning newspaper editor by day and a frock-coated crime-fighter by night.
The production values are excellent, although no doubt the superior scene locations, interior sets and even choice of cars were swapped around from time to time with "Batman", so similar do they look at times. Unfortunately the Green Hornet's sting somewhat surprisingly didn't connect with its audience, instead it was his rival in the ill-fitting costume over in Gotham City who cleaned up and got the big viewer numbers and a second series. Even a cross-over episode involving both heroes couldn't save old Greenie. That said, due, I think because they were so well made and also avoided infantile audience-pandering, I think this series holds up very well, some nearly fifty years on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like almost anyone else, I was drawn to watching this series because of
Bruce Lee. I will give you a spoiler, I have more respect for Bruce Lee
than I did before, for different reasons.
I am more than willing to overlook some of the low production issues or campiness that any show had in that era. Star Trek and Doctor Who's producers did not spend much on the sets and by todays standards the special effects left quite a bit to be desired, yet these shows were great because of the cast and the fantastic plot lines of the shows. Yeah, Batman was campy as Hell, yet, Adam West and the rest of the cast seemed to be having a great time and the show had such an enthusiasm that it was difficult not to get swept away with it.
I have seen other reviews that have condemned ABC for pulling it. In looking at it I can see why ABC canceled it. The real issue is that Van Williams, the lead, gives performances that are as stiff as a board. He does not put any emotion into his acting. The result is that the stories tend to drag and be kind of flat. There is not energy that there is with other shows.
There are two cool things with this show.
You can really see the evolution on scene fighting. Bruce Lee goes first with his rapid, Kung fu which here more than maybe even his movies has a grace that is almost close to ballet. Elegent and powerful at the same time. Then Williams will fight and his style is closer of the old cowboy movies barroom brawler. The Hornet fights with a slower style based less on speed than force. It is like Ying and Yang and really cool.
The last really cool thing thing is of course Bruce Lee. Unlike, Williams he puts "emotional content" into every scene he is in. One little known fact about Bruce Lee is that he was a former child actor in movies in Hong Kong. But here you really to see that not only was an excellent martial artist he was also very underrated as an actor. He really had acting chops.
I came to this conclusion only because the rest of the show was pretty mediocre. Lee could rise above the mediocrity and really shine. That is why I have more respect for him than I used to.
Let's face it, if anyone other than Lee had been Kato, this show would have trashed and no one would have heard of it.
In summary, Lee was awesome the show left much to be desired.
William Dozier was an executive producer in Hollywood for 20th Century Fox in the mid-60s. What made him king of the super hero action shows was his adaptation of the 30s pulp fiction character Batman (Adam West) with his faithful sidekick Robin (Bert Ward). Batman was one of the most successful shows of the 60s and re-runs are still being shown introducing many generations to Batman. Looking for a new vehicle to ride, Dozier decided to executive produce and put into production another 30s radio drama called The Green Hornet. The Green Hornet follows news publisher Britt Reid (who is the great nephew of The Lone Ranger) and his dual identity as he fights crime throughout his corrupt city along with his sidekick (who is also his butler) Kato. Dozier had already cast Van Williams who had appeared on earlier shows such as Surfside 6 and 77 Sunstrip. The character Kato was a part of an Asian who had the ability to do martial arts. William Dozier ended up finding himself at the Long Beach Karate tournament where he would find a new comer to the martial arts, Bruce Lee. Lee had never fought competitively before, but he was blowing away black belt martial artists with his powerful sidekicks, one-inch punches, and two finger push ups (Bruce never held a belt in any martial art !). Dozier automatically knew Lee was meant for the part and caught up with him after the tournament was over. Bruce had agreed to play the part as long as it didn't stereotype asians in any way or make him look less superior to other parts (normally played by whites). The show aired in 1966 and had enormous attention drawn to it mainly because of Bruce Lee's amazing martial arts abilities. Originally, Lee was so fast at kicks and punches that his movements would blur on camera if done too fast. Despite Batman and The Green Hornet's rivalries on t.v, Batman had a stronger fan base and The Green Hornet ran for only one season before being cancelled due to budget problems. I personally am not surprised at the budget of the show. The sets and costumes as well as the Green Hornet's high-tech arsenal The Black Beauty (which shot real rockets !) makes it look as if the show had the production value of a movie. The show, surprisingly, would be forgotten. However, in 1967 Van Williams and Bruce Lee made one last appearance as the Green Hornet and Kato on Batman where they appeared to be portrayed more as villains. Overall, The Green Hornet is a LOT more serious than Batman and not as tongue and cheek or kiddy-like. In the original script of the episode Robin was supposed to beat up Kato, however Bruce refused to do it if that was the case. Although, it has never received the fame of Batman or Superman it still has been widely regarded as a great show. As the decades went on talk of a real Green Hornet movie was made. Throughout the years it was constantly trying to be pushed into production and then finally...... HELL BREAKS LOOSE. With the movie industry of the 21st century being remakes, sequels, TV show adaptations, and just plain bad movies it finally is being made into a piece of trash. Starring the fat short untalented Seth Rogan (star of such crap piles as Knocked Up) the movie just looks awful. The movie is about Britt Reid being a huge party man (of course ! Everything today in America revolves around parties getting drunk etc.) and then his dad dies and he inherits the newspaper and eventually decides to fight crime (is this a comedy ?). This takes away so much of the original essence of The Green Hornet by making him have James Bond-type gadgets and the Black Beauty looking like something out of a cartoon with ridiculous machine guns popping out of it and of course CGI rockets. Kato is being portrayed by an unknown Taiwanese actor named Jay Chou. Well, at least he looks the part. This movie will once again blind this generation into thinking that this IS the Green Hornet and its all an original idea by Seth Rogan. I promise you it will do good (after all, Little Fockers was actually number one at the box office !) and people will love this crap ! And with the original series being tied up in some legal issues and copyright crap along with the original Batman series those episodes will forever have to be watched on crappy dvdr discs taken from VHS tapes sourced from TV re-runs of the episodes. I knew this would eventually happen !
what a show the green hornet was i loved watching him work.the show was a milestone in its time,i just wish it had run more than one season.it just so happens that i have the entire shows run on VHS tape.i have a bit of trivia for hornet fans in the episode called the praying mantis the actor called Mako fought Bruce lee,Kato to a standstill plus he was a mentor/manipulator of Brandon lee,Bruce lees son in the TV movie called Kung Fu the movie.in which he hypnotized Brandon lee in to believing that Kwai Chang Cain was his enemy.And to top it all off Bruce lee wanted to portray Kwai Chang Cain in the TV show Kung Fu.PS i also have the movie called Kung Fu the movie in which Brandon Lee made his film debut.
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