Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Sheesh, even sieve-minded I can remember when, right after such films as DEATH WISH and THE VALACHI PAPERS thrusted Chaz Bronson into middle-aged megastardom, rumors of this failed ABC series (running 28 total episodes split twixt two seasons) began circulating in the pages of various local newspaper tee-vee listing q/a sections! Naturally the $98 question goin' 'round 'n round in the head of every newfound Bronson maniac at that time this program gonna be revived by ABC the same way they used to stick DAN AUGUST reruns into their sagging summer schedules in order to cash in on some current hot property? Don't laugh, for the milking of those few 'n far between AUGUST episodes was an idea which worked wonders for a net that lost plenty of moolah on this series the first time 'round since now it was actually zooming straight up the Nielsens, and if that show could get the perennial revival treatment then why not CAMERA?

Well, ABC never did get the hint and MAN WITH A CAMERA stayed buried for quite a longer spell'n any of us would have imagined. No real mystery as to why the net sat on this 'un since a black 'n white series from the late-fifties definitely would have looked outta place in the pukka shell'd seventies whereas DAN AUGUST was in color and at least the late-sixties flash didn't seem too outta place in 1975 living rooms. However, for those of you who still suffer the pangs of missing out on this legendary series heave awe, for whaddya know but the danged thing finally made it out to disque and (thanx to Bill Shute, who sent it to me for X-mas) I've finally digested the thing and have a chance to poop out an opinion which I think will sum up just what this slice of Bronson during his lean, pre-foppy seventies hair 'n mustache days was up to other'n  guest starring on more'n a few episodes of PUBLIC DEFENDER/ONE STEP BEYOND-styled television dramas that have been lighting up cathode connections for a longer spell'n any of us could've imagined.

Truth be told MAN WITH A CAMERA ain't exactly the classic tee-vee wonder that made both beer guzzlin' undershirt easy chair types and brainy Big City tee-vee crits sit up 'n take notice. It actually has more of the charm of a syndicated series your local station woulda stuck into the schedule back when the nets would cut out at 10:30 and they hadda fill the space between that'n the late news. But whatever the situation may be the series was at least rather watchable. Nothing fantastic or jaw-dropping the way a good portion of the competition could get. Maybe proto-brainy before shows like TWILIGHT ZONE and NAKED CITY began probing the inner workings of the mind and started injecting big heaping helpings of psychological whatziz into the mix. Good, at least if you're also watching bizarro aliens givin' ya the creeps but alas, none of 'em appear in CAMERA.

The series is kinda neat though...whereas the folks on CHECKMATE solved problems using psychological skills and deft trickery, Bronson solves 'em with his camera expertise. Sometimes he serves as a surrogate private eye type and others when he just happens to be at the scene or does some camera tricks in order to speed up the process of justice. Yeah, the camera as prop ain't as keen as having a helicopter like on THE WHIRLYBIRDS or that fancy gadget-laden car on SHANNON, but it does its job and I gotta marvel at how the writers were able to milk 28 episodes outta such a seemingly simple premise.

The series did sport some good guests including Angie Dickinson back when she was still a brunette, a pre-Batgirl Yvonne Craig, Sebastian Cabot, Howard "Floyd the Barber" McNear and even Harry Dean Stanton, a guy who acted in a number of great films o'er the years though I never could understand why everybody went gaga over him to the point where even Nick Kent wanted to do a piece on him for the NME. And come to think of it MAN WITH A CAMERA must have been a pretty good series because even when the show gets all brainiac psychological on you (like it does on "Six Faces of Satan", an episode which equals TWILIGHT ZONE at its humanistic worst) you don't exactly feel like heaving a can of tomato paste at the screen like you might've watching just about any early-seventies "relevant" comedy or drama that was so preachy you just know that it was crap like BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN that was the spiritual forefathers of the whiny and deeply moving precocious brats who are littering up the gulcheral landscape these sad 'n sorry days!

Like I said, it sure was too bad ABC sat on the thing when they could at least've syndicated it just so's the Bronson fans coulda gotta an eyefulla it while their hero was hot. It woulda made for a good late-night watch on your fave UHF outlet circa 1975 snuggled somewhere in between the umpteenth rerun of WAGON TRAIN and the late movie, back during a time when monochrome rays were considered the height of broadcast purity and even the snobs who used to up their noses at the boob tube were singing the praises of BOWERY BOYS films. But if you need it now, you got it...check ebay if you wanna good cheap-o deal (I'm sure some idiot has a used copy they just want to unload on ya!), and I'm sure some enterprising soul might have uploaded an episode or two on ebay in case you want a sneek peek before dishing out the $10 a good used copy might run ya.

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