Saturday, January 1, 2011

Unseen Turkey Day, Hours 19-20: Code Name: Diamond Head (#608, 1994)

You've got to admire the chutzpah of made-for-TV movies that so believe they're going to series. It's like one of those dramatic productions that thinks it's gonna be the next best thing and is trying, really earnestly, ever so hard, to be the best it can be, and yet everything about it is pretty laughable and easily dismissed, but by golly, the thing's got spunk even as it bursts into flames around you. I'm looking at you, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.

Code Name: Diamond HeadYou could say the same thing about Code Name: Diamond Head, a Hawaii-based private detective/spy mashup TV pilot starring Roy Thinnes (The Invaders, other such failed pilots as The Norliss Tapes and Satan's School for Girls...okay, that last one wasn't a failed pilot but I like to think it was) as private eye or secret agent or maybe secret eye Diamond Head.

Code Name: Diamond Head

It also features Ian McShane as a killer Catholic priest ("Hey look!" cry Mike and the bots. "It's Lovejoy!" "Hi Lovejoy!").

Code Name: Diamond Head

The formula would be perfected much later by Magnum, P.I., but Code Name: Diamond Head is little more than a Hawaii 5-0 wanna-be produced by the 1970s chief importer of deadly earnest crime dramas, Quinn Martin.

Where 5-0 and Magnum took extensive advantage of the exotic shooting locales of Hawaii to showcase the beauty and uniqueness of the landscape and peoples of the islands, this turkey appears to have been filmed on all of Hawaii's back lots, warehouses, and offices that look exactly like the settings of any other crime drama's locales. There's a competition among Mike, Crow, and Servo to name movies that were more Hawaii in look than CNDH: "The Eiger Sanction had more Hawaiian locations than this movie." "He lives in Hawaii, but somehow he has a furnished apartment in St. Paul."

Code Name: Diamond Head

Much fun is had from the special guest villain appearance of Ian McShane, TV's Lovejoy, who is created with cries of "Lovejoy!" upon each appearance. To the best of my knowledge, this meme never gained the popularity of shouting "Mitchell" when you see Joe Don Baker (and then running away as Baker lumbers towards you like a sleepy, angry bear). It has, however, made my friends bar me from watching Deadwood with them.

Code Name: Diamond Head

Clunky as the crime drama is, it's exceptionally good riffing fodder and one of my top dark horse choices for funniest MST3K. During a hula dancing sequence: "A salute to careful shaving!" When Ian McShane declares "I take risks." Crow retorts "I'm in this movie, aren't I?" Mike, during a scene where the hero discovers his sidekick bound and gagged: "So, how was your date with Madonna?" And, one of those lovely locked-in-retro-time references that just tickle me pink: "You know, when this originally aired, everybody had turned by now to Carter Country."

Sure, I laugh, but we'll probably get a DVD boxed set of Carter Country before we ever get one of the 1966 Batman TV series.

Code Name: Diamond HeadThere's also a preceding short film: A Day at the Fair (1947) documenting a farm family's single social event of the year: attending the county fair. If Ingmar Bergman had State Fair, you'd wind up with a more cheerful film than this. Like a stale Oreo, this one's black and white, dry, dull, dreary, and hard going down.

Plus, Dr. F. and TV's Frank take a bath together.

Code Name: Diamond Head

Also: Lovejoy!

Code Name: Diamond Head

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