Every Saturday, The Savvy Screener’s Boomer Box is counting down “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960s,” in reverse chronological order, as researched and written by Todd M. Pence. (This series ran originally in the Classic 1960’s TV Facebook group.)
Few series in the late 1960s and early ‘70s epitomized cool like CBS’s Mannix. Mike Connors starred as private eye Joe Mannix on this series, which breathed new life into a genre that had become by the mid-sixties considered rife with hoary clichés.
The initial conception had Mannix working for a detective agency called Intertect, a state-of-the-art outfit which relied on highly sophisticated (for the time) computers to assist with its various investigations. The show aimed to contrast Mannix’s old-school sleuthing with his antiseptic place of employment, and clashes between Joe and his boss Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella) over the former’s unorthodox methods and maverick style were common.
After the first season, however, Mannix became a more traditional show as Joe quit Intertect to ply his trade on his own in more traditional P.I. format.
Joe would turn out to be one of television’s most durable heroes. Over eight seasons, he would numerous times be beaten up, shot at, involved in high-speed car chases, framed for murder, and even drugged and brainwashed.
Connors’ portrayal of Joe Mannix carried the perfect balance of iron-hard toughness and sensitivity, and the show boasted cinematic production values and intricate scripts which blended action and ingenuity.
One of the show’s best episodes took place early in its first season, on October 7, 1967. In “The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher,” Intertect is hired by three men who introduce themselves as German industrial scientists. They want Mannix to locate a colleague of theirs, Ernst Stasos, who has absconded with a chemical discovery which is legally the property of their firm.
Mannix learns that the man has a daughter (Linda Marsh), who may be a key to locating him. Mannix stages a pickup of the girl to try and pump her for information, only to find himself developing genuine feelings for her as he proceeds with his investigation. Mannix soon learns that the men who hired him are not what they pass themselves off as, and their true motivations for trying to locate Stasos have their roots in an atrocity committed by the Nazis 20 years previously. The episode builds toward a spectacular and thrilling conclusion in which twist is piled upon twist.
“The Many Deaths of St. Christopher” is top-notch Mannix, and contains one of the series’ most memorable musical scores by composer George Dunning. Oh, and if all that isn’t enough to sell you on the episode, it also features a cameo by Neil Diamond who treats us to a musical number:
You can stream the entire episode on the Internet Archive.
Mannix also airs weeknights at 2 am ET on MeTV. To find your local channel number, either over the air for free via antenna, or on cable, visit MeTV’s Where to Watch page.
(Top photo: Neil Diamond on ‘Mannix.’ Source: IMDb)
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