The Green Hornet followed the adventures of playboy and media mogul Britt Reid who, as the masked vigilante the Green Hornet, fought crime with the assistance of his martial-artist sidekick Kato and his weapons-enhanced car, the Black Beauty. The motive behind Reid's becoming a crimefighter was explained on-screen that his father had died in prison after having been framed and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The single-season series premiered September 9, 1966, and ran through July 14, 1967, lasting 26 episodes.
Despite character co-creator George W. Trendle's failed efforts to generate interest in a Green Hornet TV series in 1951 and 1958, the success of ABC's mid-1960s Batman series prompted the network to adapt the venerable radio and movie-serial masked crime fighter the Green Hornet. The series starred Van Williams as the Green Hornet and introduced martial artist Bruce Lee to American television audiences as his sidekick Kato. Unlike the campy Batman series, The Green Hornet was played straight. Though it was canceled after one season, Lee became a major star of martial arts movies and his popularity in Hong Kong, where he was raised, was such that The Green Hornet was marketed there as The Kato Show. The Green Hornet and Kato also made appearances on the Batman episode "A Piece of the Action/Batman's Satisfaction", being billed on-screen as "Visiting Hero: Van Williams as the Green Hornet" and "Assistant Visiting Hero: Bruce Lee as Kato" respectively. (This was the only Batman episode that did not feature the usual "Special Guest Villain" billing.)
Differences from radio version Edit
As with the later years of the radio version, secretary Lenore "Casey" Case, played by Wende Wagner, is again aware of Reid's secret, and the Hornet also has a confidante within the law enforcement community, but now he is District Attorney Frank P. Scanlon, played by Walter Brooke. This character was changed from the original's Police Commissioner because the Batman TV series was already using a man in that post as the hero's official contact (the character of Commissioner Gordon), and William Dozier, the executive producer of both programs, wanted to downplay comparisons between the two shows. Michael Axford (Lloyd Gough), the bodyguard-turned-reporter of the radio series, is now solely a police reporter for the Daily Sentinel, the newspaper owned by Britt Reid. In this series, Reid owned a television station as well.
There were visual differences as well. Promotional artwork for the radio program and the comic books of the day depicted the Hornet wearing a mask that covered all of his face below the eyes (the two Universal Studios Saturday matinee serials contained a full face mask with eye holes) while Kato wore goggles. Here, both men wear masks that cover only the upper portions of their faces. These masks initially had a stylized angularity that soon proved problematical – neither man could see much. They were soon replaced with masks molded to the performers' faces.
In a technological update, the Green Hornet carried a telescoping device called the Hornet's Sting, which projected ultrasonic soundwaves. He most frequently used it to open locked doors, although he was also seen using it to set things on fire (presumably by vibrating them and causing friction heat) and to threaten criminals to get information. In the episode "The Secret of the Sally Bell", the Green Hornet actually shot a thug with it, resulting in the criminal being hospitalized. He also has a Hornet knock-out gas gun to incapacitate criminals.
The television version also had Kato using green "sleeve darts" to give him a ranged attack he could use to counter enemies both at a distance and in hand-to-hand combat. In one episode, "The Hunters and the Hunted", Kato is seen to use a pair of black nunchucks, which he may have regularly had at his disposal in his masked identity, but which he is not seen to use in any other episode. In the episode "The Preying Mantis", Kato is also seen to use a veritable arsenal of Oriental martials arts weapons very proficiently as he takes down the various thugs of the Tong Dynasty single-handedly in the climactic battle inside the Buddhist temple while Britt holds the leader of the gang in charge of the Tong Dynasty itself, Duke Slate, at bay. The impression Bruce Lee made at the time is demonstrated by one of the TV series tie-in coloring books produced by Watkins & Strathmore, titled Kato's Revenge - Featuring the Green Hornet.
Theme music and opening Edit
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral interlude, "Flight of the Bumblebee", used for the radio series, was so strongly identified with The Green Hornet that it was retained as the theme, rearranged by Billy May (who also composed the new background scores), and conducted by Lionel Newman, with trumpet solo by Al Hirt, in a jazz style nicknamed '"Green Bee".
Each episode begins with the following monologue, narrated by producer William Dozier:
- "Another challenge for the Green Hornet, his aide Kato, and their rolling arsenal, the Black Beauty. On police records a wanted criminal, the Green Hornet is really Britt Reid, owner and publisher of The Daily Sentinel; his dual identity known only to his secretary, and to the District Attorney. And now, to protect the rights and lives of decent citizens, rides the Green Hornet!"
Years later, the Billy May music was featured in the 2003 film, Kill Bill, Vol. 1, in which Quentin Tarantino paid tribute to Kato by featuring dozens of swordfighters wearing Kato masks during one of film's fight sequences.
- Van Williams as Britt Reid/Green Hornet
- Bruce Lee as Kato
- Walter Brooke as Frank Scanlon
- Lloyd Gough as Michael Axford
- Wende Wagner as Lenore "Casey" Case
- The Silent Gun
- Give 'Em Enough Rope
- Programmed for Death
- Crime Wave
- The Frog is a Deadly Weapon
- Eat, Drink, and Be Dead
- Beautiful Dreamer — Part 1
- Beautiful Dreamer — Part 2
- The Ray is for Killing
- The Preying Mantis
- The Hunters and the Hunted
- Deadline for Death
- The Secret of the Sally Bell
- Freeway to Death
- May the Best Man Lose
- The Hornet and the Firefly
- Seek, Stalk and Destroy
- Corpse of the Year- Part 1
- Corpse of the Year- Part 2
- Ace in the Hole
- Bad Bet on a 459-Silent
- Trouble for Prince Charming
- Alias The Scarf
- Hornet Save Thyself
- Invasion from Outer Space — Part 1
- Invasion from Outer Space — Part 2
Other appearances Edit
Batman TV seriesEdit
Van Williams and Bruce Lee cameo as the Green Hornet and Kato in a 1966 episode of the Batman TV series, "The Spell of Tut/Tut's Case is Shut", in which the pair appear at a window as Batman and Robin climb a building. The following year, the pair starred with Batman and Robin in the episode "A Piece of the Action/Batman's Satisfaction" where the Green Hornet and Kato are in Gotham City to bust a counterfeiting stamp ring. (It is interesting to note that in "The Spell of Tut/Tut's Case is Shut", Batman and Robin recognize the Green Hornet and Kato and identify them as crimefighters, yet in "A Piece of the Action/Batman's Satisfaction" they are believed by the Dynamic Duo to be criminals.) This crossover was part of an attempt by ABC to save The Green Hornet from being canceled, which proved unsuccessful.
The 1993 American semi-fictionalized film biography of Bruce Lee depicts Lee (Jason Scott Lee) meeting fictional producer Bill Krieger (Robert Wagner) after a martial arts tournament, and being hired to play Kato in The Green Hornet series. The movie shows the fictionalized shooting of the first episode, where cast and crew are impressed by Lee's martial arts skills. Van Williams plays the director of the episode.