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Mission Impossible: 50th Anniversary

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

We’ve had a run of 50th Anniversaries of iconic film and TV series over the last few years Bond (2012), Dr Who (2013) and in the last few weeks Star Trek and the Monkees.  I’ve just done a quick search and there isn’t any mention that today is 50 years since Mission: Impossible was first shown in the US on 17th September 1966.  Maybe it all got lost is Tom Cruises pay negotiations for the next big budget film.  That’s a shame as the TV series had a lot going for it.

The characters were ciphers – all we got for a back story was the cover of their folder as the team leader selected who would take on the job.  There would be the core group with an occasional guest star of the week or The Hartford Repertory Players toupe of actors.  They were a team with specialist skills – a style that has since been used in shows such as The A-Team, Charlie’s Angels and Leverage.

  • The brains – Briggs (Steven Hill) and then Phelps (Peter Graves) led the IMF.
  • The brawn – William “Willy” Armitage (Peter Lupus) who doubled as the driver and sometimes assistant to Barney.
  • The tech – Barnard “Barney” Collier.
  • The inside woman – Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), Dana Lambert (Lesley Ann Warren), Mimi Davis (Barbara Anderson) and others.
  • The master of disguise – Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) then The Great Paris (Leonard Nimoy) and Casey (Lynda Day George).

Its structure was usually pretty rigid in the early seasons with the tape scene followed by the dossiers then the briefing followed by the mission and finally the team’s departure.

There was very little use of guns (especially by the IMF themselves) or explosions.  They used their brains to achieve their objective – which might be to get one bad guy to shoot another.

While it may not have relied on guns like Bond or The Man from UNCLE Mission Impossible used gadgets right from the start. The Latex face masks used by the teams Master of Disguise is probably its most iconic innovation.

Lalo Schifrin soundtrack with iconic theme in 5/4 time.

The Gellerese (named after the show’s creator) that appeared on the signs in the made up countries the missions happened in.

It won ten Emmys (38 nominations), three Golden Globes (5 nominations) and an Edgar.

Much that I enjoy the films they aren’t always faithful to the original –treating it more as a source to borrow from than something to emulate.  It has clearly inspired others though – Oceans 11, Now you See Me (and it sequel) and some episodes of Hustle spring to mind.

Anyway the media may have forgotten but I haven’t so… happy birthday Mission: Impossible.

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