Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Five Best Coronet Blue Episodes

Series star Frank Converse.
A former Cafe contributor wrote about Larry Cohen's cult TV series Coronet Blue back in 2009. The show's premise is brilliantly simple: a young man awakens in New York Harbor with no memory--except for the two words "coronet blue." Taking the name Michael Alden, he spends the next 13 episodes trying to unravel the meaning of that phrase, which holds the key to his identity.

Made in 1965, Coronet Blue sat on the shelf until CBS decided to "burn it off" in the summer of 1967. The network held the show in such little regard that the final two episodes were never aired. Still, it acquired a cult following over the years (as did the catchy title song, where you can hear on our YouTube Channel). Finally, in 2017, Kino Lorber released the entire series on DVD.

It was grand fun to watch it again and to see a very young Frank Converse as Alden. It inspired the Cafe staff to take this opportunity to list our five favorite episodes. By the way, the DVD set includes an interview with series creator Larry Cohen, in which he explains the ultimate meaning of "Coronet Blue" (you can google the answer, too).

1. The Assassins - Michael answers a mysterious classified ad and meets a couple who claim to be his parents. They welcome him lovingly back into the family--and reintroduce him to his fiancee! But are they his parents? And if not, what do they want with him? This absorbing episode reminds me of a later classic episode from Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner called "The Chimes of Big Ben." Actually, there are a lot of similarities between Coronet Blue and The Prisoner.

Frank Converse and Brian Bedford.
2.  A Dozen Demons - Surviving an assassination attempt on his life, Michael awakens in a monastery in New York City. He's befriended by a young man training to become a monk (series semi-regular Brian Bedford). When the men notice Michael's uncanny resemblance to St. Anthony in a stained glass window, they set out to find the artist. The opening scenes in the monastery are the highlight of this episode, which also features Donald Moffat as a rector. Moffat was one of many fine British actors that appeared on the series, along with Susan Hampshire, Denholm Elliott, and Juliet Mills.

Juliet Mills and Converse.
3.  Man Running - After saving a political figure from an assassination attempt, Michael attempts to reunite him with the daughter he hasn't seen in years. Michael finds the daughter (Juliet Mills), but then his house guest suddenly disappears. Like the best Coronet Blue episodes, this one keeps the viewer guessing as to which characters are good and which are bad. Juliet Mills gives a very appealing performance; it's too bad her film career never equaled that of sister Hayley. Juliet is delightful opposite Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder's Avanti! (1972).

4.  Tomoyo - Michael recognizes an Asian woman from his past, but she claims to have never met him. Seeking to learn more about her, Michael enrolls in a karate class and quickly makes an enemy with one of the black belt instructors. Appearing long before Kung Fu or even Longstreet, this episode offers an engrossing look into martial arts. This was one of the episodes never shown on CBS.

Susan Hampshire.
5.  A Time to Be Born - The first episode sets up the premise concisely and provides viewers with the most tangible clues into Michael's real identity. We see him pre-amnesia in the opening scene before he's beaten up and tossed into the harbor. After a long hospital recovery, he assumes the name Michael Alden and sets out to discover what happened to him. A potential clue leads him to a young socialite (Susan Hampshire), whose father may hold the key to Michael's identity.

Here's a two-minute scene from the episode with Juliet Mills from the Cafe's YouTube Channel:



9 comments:

  1. Not that it matters …

    Patrick O'Neal wasn't British.
    Born in Florida, a lifelong Manhattanite by choice.
    He did do that one series in GB (Dick And The Duchess, very short-lived), but that was it.

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    1. Thanks for the correction. I'll update the post. Funny, he always seemed British to me--he just had an air of European sophistication.

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  2. I always liked this show and the star, that voice!, that amazing voice!

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  3. While not a spin-off, "Coronet Blue" was set in the same universe as "The Doctors & The Nurses" as he was treated in the same hospital of that series. Indeed, his last name, Alden, is taken right off the front of the building!

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  4. Brian Bedford! Cool.

    I sometimes watch shows from the past and become so attached that I can't bear that there are no new episodes. Call it the Coronet Blue and sentimental syndrome.

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  5. Great post about an under-appreciated series! I'm only about halfway into the set, and wholeheartedly agree that "The Assassins" was very well done, with the possible exception of a very miscast John Vernon as an Arab.

    My favorite episode thus far and one not on your list is "The Rebels," a prescient 1965 presentation of campus unrest and wow, what a cast: Candice Bergan, Jon Voight, David Carradine, and Richard Kiley.

    I also enjoyed "Faces," a suspenseful mystery story that works as a standalone and guest stars Hal Holbrook and a pre-DARK SHADOWS Mitch Ryan.

    Your post has me wanting to binge watch the rest, but with only 13 episodes this is a series to be savored.

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  6. This is an under-valued series that I found intriguing. I especially liked the monastery setting of “A Dozen Demons”. It is fascinating to see how many obscure references the show’s name inspired.

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  7. Very nice to find your write-up, Rick. By coincidence, my own article on the series was posted earlier this year on (surprise!) the Prisoner/Patrick McGoohan website, The Unmutual: https://www.theunmutual.co.uk/comparescoronetblue.htm

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