The pilot movie for the TV series Starsky and Hutch is roughly equivalent to low-budget theatrical features about cops from the same era, thanks to a pulpy mix of attitude, automotive fetishism, intrigue, and sleaze. Among other enjoyable qualities, the pilot movie—which is meatier than the average episode of the ensuing series—takes place in an overcast, trash-strewn vision of downtown Los Angeles, rather than the antiseptic, sun-drenched version of the city that dominates most vintage screen representations. Starsky and Hutch opens with a wonderfully creepy scene. As a young couple makes out in a red-and-white Gran Torino, hitmen Cannell (Michael Conrad) and Zane (Richard Lynch) casually stroll up to the car and shoot the lovers to death. Cut to our heroes, LAPD detectives Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (David Soul) and Dave Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser), the latter of whom drives a Gran Torino just like the one at the murder site. This connection is the first in a series of clues revealing to Starsky and Hutch that they’ve been targeted for murder. The cops scour the underworld for information, allowing writer William Blinn to showcase the detectives’ extensive stool-pigeon network and their willingness to get tough with bad guys even as they display a soft touch with hard-luck cases.
At least in this first adventure, the differences between the leading characters aren’t particularly striking, although Starsky is a bit more slovenly than his pretty-boy partner. The stars’ performances draw crisper distinctions than their written characterizations, with Glaser doing a bit of a dese-dem-dose accent while Soul coos his lines smoothly. The most iconic scene from the pilot, at least in relation to the franchise’s kitsch value, is a bit during which Starsky and Hutch invade a gangster’s steam room, wearing only towels and shoulder holsters. To the credit of all involved, the moment is played completely straight. Also noteworthy is the relative lack of gunplay; Starsky and Hutch don’t engage in a shootout until the climax, relying instead on connections, endurance, and wiseass wit. Oh, and while the pilot includes future series regular Antonio Fargas in the familiar role of flamboyant hustler/informant Huggy Bear, the detectives’ boss, Captain Dobey, is played in the pilot by Richard Ward, rather than Bernie Hamilton, who assumed the role for the run of the series. Although Starsky and Hutch (which later altered its title to Starsky & Hutch) ran only four seasons, leaving the airwaves in 1979, the franchise has lingered in pop culture; Hutch’s golden mane and turtlenecks, as well as Hutch’s knit caps and lumpy cardigans, resurfaced in the hit 2004 comedy movie Starsky & Hutch, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
Starsky and Hutch: FUNKY