Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: The Original Jason Bourne!

With Jason Bourne in theaters now and marking the return to prominence for the Matt Damon-starring action franchise (though I personally was pretty underwhelmed by it), I thought I'd take a look back this week at the first time author Robert Ludlum's character was brought to the screen, the late '80s TV miniseries adaptation of The Bourne Identity. Starring miniseries maestro Richard Chamberlain (Centennial, Shogun, The Thorn Birds) in the title role of the memory-impaired spy searching for his identity, the production aired on ABC over two consecutive nights in May of '88. Here's a TV spot hyping the movies' impending arrival:


At that point Chamberlain was an old hand at playing a straight-ahead hero type, and he had some nice chemistry with Jaclyn Smith as love interest Marie (played Franka Potente in the films). As you can tell just from the short snippets above, it's a far cry from the shaky cam, martial arts antics we've come to associate with Jason Bourne, but the trade-off is that we get a pretty darn compelling espionage story in the classical mould (courtesy of director Roger Young, a TV vet) that stays pretty true to the basics of Ludlum's original 1980 tome.

(FYI, the film also featured Denholm Elliott of the Indiana Jones films in a key supporting roles.)

With the subsequent novel The Bourne Supremacy published in '86, it had to be somewhere in the producers' mind that they could turn this into a franchise, but I'm assuming the film didn't do well enough in the ratings to justify turning the sequel spigot to "on." Given the zeitgeist-shaping success of the modern Bourne franchise, it's understandable that the TV version kind of gets left by the wayside. As these things go though, it's a pretty engrossing "alternate reality" version of the story that I hope finds a new life one of these days. Re-Bourne, if you will.

While the mini was released on DVD back in '02 to tie in with the first film's release, that's since gone out of print, but if you're interested, you can watch it in its entirety (for now) via the embed below, albeit in twenty minute chunks:

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Fantastic Four's First Cartoon!

Two Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Invaders Are Here!

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: A Mash Note to Trapper John, MD

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Masters of the Universe: The Motion Picture Turns 25

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