Oct 15, 2013

Title Sequence From a Peter Graves Spy Series that Never Was

Watch this credits sequence and tell me this wouldn't have been the best show ever. No! You're wrong. It clearly would have been.

Call to Danger was filmed as a pilot in 1973 for CBS and would have seen Peter Graves follow up his successful run on Mission: Impossible with another spy series. Had the show gone to series, it would have once again seen Graves as a team leader recruiting citizens to spy week after week. He played a government agent who used a supercomputer (those were big at the time) to find ordinary citizens whose unique abilities qualified them to take on specific missions. The premise is indeed similar to the original premise of Mission: Impossible (after seven seasons, it was easy to forget that Willy and Barney and Paris and Cinnamon and the rest of the gang were not meant to be professional spies, but amateurs enlisted for their unique talents), and to the short-lived 1980s spy series Masquerade, with Rod Taylor. It was also more or less the premise of Warren Ellis' popular comic book series Global Frequency, which was filmed twice as a pilot (the second time with 24's Michelle Forbes) but never went to series. Apparently this concept lends itself well to multiple interpretations, because the Call to Danger pilot was actually filmed three times!

A half-hour version in 1961 starred Larry Blyden in essentially the same premise. According to Patrick J. White in his essential Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier, producer Perry Lafferty described it by saying, "If you had perfect pitch, could speak Spanish, and ride a unicycle, you'd be in this computer bank. When there was some kind of situation they couldn't solve with their own personnel, they would go to this computer agency and see if any of these people could match their plan." Though the half-hour version didn't sell, the concept was revamped as an hour-long black and white pilot in 1966, produced by Paul King and starring Graves. (You can see the opening credits for that one, with a theme by Hawaii Five-0's Morton Stevens, at 4:05 in this video.) That version didn't sell, either, but it was his performance in that pilot that landed Graves his starring role on the second season of Mission: Impossible! And when the handwriting appeared to be on the wall for Mission after seven seasons, this third attempt was commissioned, again starring Graves and this time written and produced by Mission: Impossible's Laurence Heath. As it happened, Mission: Impossible was cancelled, but sadly Call to Danger wasn't picked up. CBS ended up airing the third Call to Danger pilot as a TV movie in 1973. Man, what I wouldn't give today to have another Peter Graves spy series to work through on DVD! In some alternate dimension, Graves kept right on spying on the Syndicate throughout the Seventies.


dhbmx5 said...

Hey Tanner,

That "Call To Danger" theme actually appears on the Hawaii 5-0 soundtrack (released in 1969) under the title... "Call To Danger"! I vaguely remember CBS using this for some kind of "Special" announcements back in the 70's.

Bob said...

It's good to see 'The Rap Sheet' blog mention the 'Double O Section' blog regarding this news item.

David Morefield said...

Cool, but that music isn't doing it at all for me. Way too peppy and chipper and not at all "tough guy" like Mannix or M:I.

The 60's version wasn't much better, with its "let's see how close we can get to the M:I theme without being sued" approach.

But I agree, the more Graves the better!

HMSS Weblog said...

The theme for Call to Danger No. 2 was written by Morton Stevens. He gave some thought to using it as the theme for Hawaii Five-O (much the way Dominic Frontiere used his theme for the unsold pilot The Unknown for The Invaders).

Stevens' wife talked him about it and Stevens went on to write the classic Five-O theme. But Stevens, as head of the West Cost music department for CBS used a very short version to introduced specials on that network.


joeK said...

You do know there was anothere series based on call to danger in the 80s that starred Rod Taylor. It was called "masquerade" and ran 13 episodes.

Tanner said...

I've seen Masquerade and mentioned above that it had the same premise, but no, I did NOT realize that it was actually a version of the same pilot! That's very interesting to know. They shouldn't have changed the title. (And I'd prefer Graves to Taylor, but then it just would have been M:I in that version.) My favorite part of Masquerade is the walkie-talkie apple in the credits.