Television and the feature film world have always had a symbiotic relationship. Since its inception, TV has transformed movie hits into series. And as far back as the early '50s, filmmakers have adapted small-screen shows for the big screen.
In fact, Universal's "McHale's Navy," opening Friday, is based on the hit 1962-66 ABC slapstick service comedy that starred Ernest Borgnine, Joe Flynn and Tim Conway. Big-screen versions of "Leave It to Beaver" and "Lost in Space" are on their way later this year, and Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman begin production in June on a new version of the '60s British import "The Avengers."
Several of the live TV dramas that aired during the so-called Golden Age of television in the 1950s made their way to the big screen--most notably Paddy Chayefsky's acclaimed 1953 drama "Marty," which starred Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand. Two years later, Chayefsky adapted his story about a lonely Italian butcher into a feature film. Shot on a shoestring budget, the movie version (MGM, $15) swept the 1955 Oscars, winning best film, best actor (Borgnine), best director (Delbert Mann) and screenplay. The TV version ($20) is available through Movies Unlimited at (800) 4MOVIES.
The 1993 blockbuster "The Fugitive" (Warner, $20) is the only film based on a TV series to be nominated for the best picture Oscar. Harrison Ford stars in this exhilarating thriller based on the classic 1963-67 ABC David Janssen series about a man wrongly accused of murdering his wife. He escapes from custody during a train wreck and sets out to find the killer. The film features some breathtaking action sequences and Tommy Lee Jones' Oscar-winning turn as the police lieutenant hot on his trail. Episodes from the series are available through Movies Unlimited for $13 to $20.
Sometimes a TV series can still be on the air when the big-screen version hits the theaters. Universal's "McHale's Navy" isn't the first theatrical version based on the series. More than 30 years ago, the original cast starred in the features "McHale's Navy" and "McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force."
Even the stars of the 1964-66 CBS comedy series "The Munsters" headlined the forgettable 1966 flick "Munsters, Go Home!" Back in 1954, Jack Webb starred in, wrote and directed a film version of his then-current series "Dragnet" (Universal, $15). Thirty-three years later, Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd starred in the disappointing spoof ($15) of Webb's series.
Though definitely lightweight fare, the two films based on the kitschy 1969-74 ABC family sitcom "The Brady Bunch" capture the goony spirit of the original series. The 1995 hit "The Brady Bunch Movie" (Paramount, $15) and 1996's "A Very Brady Sequel" (Paramount, priced for rental) are fun, innovative comedies featuring deliciously deadpan performances from Gary Cole and Shelley Long. Four volumes of "The Brady Bunch" also are available on tape (Paramount, $13 each).
Last year, Paramount raked in the dough with the high-tech "Mission: Impossible" ($20), starring Tom Cruise. But this slick thriller, based on the Emmy Award-winning 1966-73 CBS series, is so confusing you need a decoder ring to figure out what's going on. It's much more fun to watch the original series on tape (Paramount, $13 each).
Even series that weren't hits on TV have found new life in features. Paramount has scored phenomenal success with its lucrative "Star Trek" franchise. Though the original NBC series aired only from 1966-69, "Star Trek" has spawned six feature films, the best being 1982's "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" ($15) and 1986's "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" ($15). The 1988-94 syndicated series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" has also made the leap to the big screen with 1994's "Star Trek Generations" ($15) and 1996's "Star Trek: First Contact," which is due out on video May 20. Episodes of "Star Trek" ($13 each) and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ($15 each) are also available on video.
ABC's slapstick comedy "Police Squad!" lasted all of two months on the air back in 1982. Paramount, though, struck box-office gold with its three film versions of the cult series: 1988's "Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad" (Paramount, $15), 1991's "Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear" (Paramount, $15) and 1994's "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult" (Paramount, $15). Episodes of "Police Squad!" are available on tape (Paramount, $20 each).