|Index||6 reviews in total|
"Ironside" was an institution in the late 1960's and early 1970's.
Almost everyone watched it. That was before satellite dish television
provided zillions of channels with "Gilligan's Island" reruns on half
of them. Even basic cable was just that in those days. Most of the
local cable companies across the nation provided the three network
channels, the new educational channel, and time and weather channels
with commercials crossing the screen at the bottom. One of the popular
balladeers of the day Tom T. Hall had a hit record "Old Dogs, Children,
And Watermelon Wine" that begins with the singer watching "Ironside" on
a hotel TV in Miami. Many fans of "Ironside" had also been fans of the
long running "Perry Mason" series. Raymond Burr starred in both. Most
of his early movies had Burr playing heavies, sometimes sadistic thugs.
Then he played a lawyer with a flair for drama in "A Place In The Sun"
and his fate was sealed.
It is indeed a pleasure to see the return of the handicapped policeman along with the rest of the cast of the TV series, a fitting swan song for the talented actor who was dying of cancer when making "The Return of Ironside," not unlike another gifted actor's last hurrah, John Wayne's magnificent "The Shootist." Both are tributes to noble individuals who never forgot their many fans.
The story is not so bad either, an above average murder mystery for a made-for-television flick. You won't be disappointed.
Raymond Burr was a great actor. He could say more with a glance, an exhale
or a wry smile than most actors could with an entire soliloquy and some who
have been given entire one-person plays.
To see him reprise his second greatest role, as Chief Robert T. Ironside was most enjoyable. It was also bittersweet as it's obvious that he's thinner here than the recent Perry Mason films he made. He had cancer and he knew he didn't have a lot of time, so he brought his friends from the TV show together one last time.
The plot is rather contrived, but that really doesn't matter a whole lot. There's a definite comfort in seeing the old gang together one more time. It's like when the surviving Beatles got back together in the mid-'90s. You knew they weren't going to create the type of revolutionary music they were making in the mid-60s. There would be no Revolver or Sgt. Pepper, but no one really cared. It was just so damn nice seeing and hearing them playing together one more time, although Free As A Bird and Real Love were very nice records, indeed. The same can be said of this TV movie.
What adds to the enjoyment is that they've all aged so very nicely. Barbara Anderson looks better than she did in the series, and I'd kill to see Liz Bauer on the tube on a regular basis again. There was just something special about her that I liked very much. And she's also an incredible beauty - she was in the 70s and she was in the 90s. Don Galloway and Don Mitchell provide solid co-star support, as usual. A longtime fave, Dana Wynter adds an elegant mature presence as the chief's wife.
But it's Raymond Burr who is the show. I miss his wise, knowing presence on the small screen a great deal. But I am delighted that he was able to reprise this beloved role at least one final time.
While growing up, IRONSIDE was one of my all-time favorite TV series'; it
remains my all-time favorite TV cop show. Not because it was better or
original or even more true-to-life. At the time it originally aired it
the first TV show in history whose lead character was physically disabled
(Longstreet, about a blind detective, was number 2). It remains one of the
very, very few. To a man who spent the first ten years of life in a
wheelchair and still needs a cane occasionally, that's more important than
plots or even originality.
The plot of "The Return of Ironside" serves as a justification for getting all the old characters from the TV series together to solve a mystery again. As police procedural, it's better than competent; as a murder mystery, the solution is translucent, like a window in a bathroom, but it's still a puzzle. But for those few of us who loved the original Ironside character, just seeing him work again is a kick.
Raymond Burr holds the distinction of starring in not one but two of the best written, best produced and best acted mystery dramas TV ever produced; Perry Mason was the first; Ironside was the second. Just as no one will ever play Perry Mason again, no one will ever play Robert T. Ironside again. Burr made a whole slew of Perry Mason movies before he died; Return of Ironside might also have been the first of many had he not died of cancer shortly after filming.
All I can say is I've watched the movie half a dozen times and I still lik e it. It's not one of the greatest movies ever made; it's not even one of the greatest TV movies ever made. But just as the TV series Ironside was better than most other cop shows, the movie is a lot better than most other cop movies made for TV in the last decade or two. If you don't like Burr, you won't like it; if, however, like a lot us born before JFK got shot, you like Raymond Burr, it serves as a great ending for one of TV's best actors.
Raymond Burr had a great love for Denver and the surrounding area. It
shows in this made-for-TV reunion of a popular '70's police drama. All
exteriors showed off the town and the coming of age of the Lo-Do area.
The film commission (at the time) had to scramble to pick up the
buttons that burst from their vest. ...and proud they should be. We
continue to host two very major film festivals in the state (Telluride
and Denver), and as all festivals spotlight, the indie is gaining in
this state. Sayles and Hardgrove are on the short list. They are missed
and are welcome back anytime. Raymond Burr and Dean Hardgrove made a
series of made-for-TV 'reunions' right here in the Rocky Mountains. Any
Perry Mason you see in full color, you are taking in the Denver metro
view from Raymond's eye. He lived here and was very hospitable to even
the casual fan.
The only contrived moment I could think of was the scenes of the spectacular route of the Southern Pacific/Rio Grande Ski Train (in reality, a route of only 45 miles).. I forgave the movie makers because it WAS beautiful, but to choose a 3-day train ride (as the storyline dictated) over a little snow delay at the airport was laughable. It worked for the story, and it made for great moments consistent with the genre'.
It's somewhat odd for fans of the original series to sit and watch this reunion movie. The entire original cast (including Barbara Anderson, who had quit the show after its fourth season) returns and their performances are the best thing about the film (along with Dana Wynter, written in as Chief Robert Ironside's wife). The show itself is not from the original production company, though -- it's from the team that brought you The Equalizer and the revival of Kojak. The producers' unfamiliarity with the series shows throughout. Ironside's permanent lower-half paralysis, which was emphasized in virtually every episode (sometimes in long sermons) is almost completely glossed over. The San Francisco setting, so important to the original, is mentioned only at the very beginning when Ironside finally retires. (Since the filming of this one was shoehorned between two Perry Mason movies in the winter of 2003, and those films were being done out of Denver to save money, the producers simply created a rather awkward Denver setting -- although the final fight aboard a snowbound train is a nice touch). Even Quincy Jones' celebrated theme song has been dropped from the opening and closing credits. Fortunately, the heavy-handedness of the series (there were so many human "moral" stories done on that show that even fans yearned for a regular crime drama once in a while) is also absent, although most viewers would have to watch the show several times to figure out what's going on.
Writing strictly as a biased fan of the original "Ironside" series, it
was nice for the entire cast, including a few performers that retired
for a number of years, to return for "The Return of Ironside," which
was one of the last projects starring and co-produced by Raymond Burr.
This competent mystery movie involves police officer Suzanne Dwyer (Perrey Reeves), the daughter of Eve Kendall (a still radiant Barbara Anderson). Dwyer may be involved in a possible conspiracy involving the death of the Denver police chief. Ed Brown (Don Galloway) is assigned to temporarily handle the duties of the deceased chief and asks Robert T. Ironside, who just retired consulting for the San Francisco Police Department, to help with the case. The request from Brown came just as Ironside was about to settle down with his wife Katherine (Dana Wynter, in her final performance) to their Napa Valley winery. Also helping in the investigation are former Ironside assistant and now court judge Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell, in his final performance) and retired officer Fran Belding (Elizabeth Baur).
As with most "Ironside" episodes, even if the mystery is not a total success, the presence of Burr and company makes the ride to the conclusion rather intriguing and not too much of a waste of time. I'm no fan of reunion movies/TV shows because I'd like to remember the original series and the people involved in the production. At the same time, after re-watching the TV movie for the first time on the web in nearly 20 years, I think this was Burr's way of letting his long-time colleagues and fans of the show say goodbye to Ironside and to Burr. He would appear posthumously in two more "Perry Mason" TV movies.
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