A 1972 pilot film to a short-lived television series, it’s ahead of its time and still a ton of fun.
The title refers to the secret organization PROBE Control — with the acronym standing in part for “Program Retrieval Operations”; the remaining two initials are top-secret — where 007-esque agent Hugh Lockwood (Hugh O’Brian, TV’s “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp”) does his do-gooder duties while a team of technicians and their big-ass, bleepity-bloop-bleep computer command centers soak in all the audio and video and other readings he transmits via camera ring and other Q-be-jonesin’ devices.
Headed by Burgess Meredith (“Rocky”) with hair, they can perform scans that can detect suspects’ pulse and heat levels. They feed him instant results — and even dialogue — that only he can hear via implant. He can “talk” to them — answering yes-or-no questions, at least, by an implant in his tooth, biting once for “affirmative,” twice for “negative.”
Lockwood’s initial mission is locating the stolen “Entourage Collection,” comprised of nine big-deal diamonds. Accompanied by Sir John Gielgud as a jewelry appraiser, his investigation takes him to the Ullman estate, where the rather fetching Uli (Elke Sommer, “A Shot in the Dark”) resides ... and so does danger!
Lots of talk of strudel follows, as do double entendres. In fact, one of the best scenes entails little but suggestive dialogue, when Lockwood and Uli get to know each other a little better, much to the frustration of jealous PROBE technician Gloria (Angel Tompkins, “The Teacher”).
The gadgetry is a large part of the telefilm’s goodness. While the technology may be then-cutting-edge, the PROBE sets is outlandishly garish, and I wouldn’t change a thing. What was “cool” then is “cool” in an ironic way now. The cast seems to have a blast, and their enthusiasm is infectious.
Created by “Outer Limits” founder Leslie Stevens, “Probe” may find a whole new cult with Warner Archive’s MOD release. It gave way to a weekly “Search” not long after, which I definitely would have watched ... had I not been 1 year old at the time. —Rod Lott