12 TV shows that made big screen movies with the original casts
Dark Shadows, McHale's Navy and Get Smart were making their own movies long before the reboots.
It seems as if Hollywood announces a big-screen reboot of a popular TV show every week. CHiPs and Baywatch followed in the footsteps of The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, 21 Jump Street, Starsky & Hutch, Charlie's Angels… and so on. Meanwhile, former hit movies like Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon and Westworld have turned into television series. It's a two-way street of limited ideas.
What you don't see much of these days, however, are TV shows that make the leap to the big screen with the original casts intact! Everything is a reboot. Back in the 1960s, it was quite common practice for a studio to spin-off a hit sitcom into a theatrical film.
With the same actors making the leap to the silver screen, these flicks felt like long, big-budget episodes, or sequels. (Other series, such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Battlestar Galactica, literally recut, rebundled and retitled previous aired TV episodes into theatrical releases like The Spy with My Face or Conquest of the Earth. That was different.)
Here are a dozen spin-off movies that featured the casts of hit television shows. A couple are obvious franchises. Which one is the best? (Spoiler: It's The Naked Gun.)
1. Dragnet (1954)
Jack Webb covered all of media with his Dragnet franchise. His Sergeant Joe Friday character began on radio, before featuring in two different hit TV shows in both the 1950s and 1960s. In the midst of all that, Webb directed and starred in this flick, which has Friday taking on the West Coast mob. Years later, Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks would star in a reboot. This original is better.
2. McHale's Navy (1964)
Ernest Borgnine, Tim Conway and Joe Flynn sailed into movie theaters with this comedy, that sees the crew sinking into debt thanks to racehorses and depth charges. A year later, Conway and Flynn would headline a sequel — without Borgnine — in the awkwardly titled McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force.
3. Batman (1966)
Who can forget Adam West running with a massive bomb above his head? That so-often-meme'd moment has made this original camp Batman movie a cult classic. Lee Meriwether stepped into the role of Catwoman as Julie Newmar had a scheduling conflict.
4. The Man Called Flintstone (1966)
Spies were all the rage in the 1960s. Even Fred Flintstone got in on the action with this cartoon spoof of James Bond. Though, as the title suggests, this animated feature was closer to Our Man Flint, which hit screens months earlier. The Flintstones TV show had just finished its run in primetime in the spring of '66.
5. Munster, Go Home! (1966)
Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis and the rest of the cast all appeared in this goofy comedy, which sent the Munsters to England. It was notable for a couple reasons. First, it finally allowed fans to see the beloved monster family in full color, as the TV series aired in black & white. Second, it featured the awesome DRAG-U-LA dragster car. You can sometimes catch this fun flick on Svengoolie.
6. Gunn (1967)
Peter Gunn star Craig Stevens and creator-director Blake Edwards revived the cool character from the 1958-1961.
7. House of Dark Shadows (1970)
Long before Tim Burton and Johnny Depp remade this cult vampire soap opera, the original cast itself made a couple overlooked films, this original and its sequel, Night of Dark Shadows (1971). Series creator Dan Curtis helmed them both. Freed of the constraints of daytime television, Curtis conjured up something far more bloody. The tagline "Come see how the vampires do it" teased a more risque take on the hit show.
8. Pufnstuf (1970)
Sid and Marty Krofft did not direct this movie, rather Hollingsworth Morse, who sounds like a Sid and Marty Krofft character himself. The children's show turned into a full-blown musical, with none other than 'Mama' Cass Elliot playing Witch Hazel.
9. Star Trek (1979)
This one you know. Though, this project initially began as a sequel TV series to the original show. Star Trek: Phase II fell apart for various reasons, but not until after tons of money had been sunk into pre-production, including sets. So, much of that work was utilized to make a movie instead, hot on the heels of Star Wars. This original installment gets a bad rap, but in hindsight, it holds up as a beautiful picture.
10. The Nude Bomb (1980)
You wouldn't know it from the title, but this romp saw the return of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, the man from Get Smart. Barbara Feldon's Agent 99, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen — despite the fact that 86 and 99 had previously married. Instead, Sylvia Kristel, the star of the softcore Emmanuelle movies, stepped in as Agent 34, and Pamela Hensley of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century played Agent 36.
11. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
Not to be confused with The Nude Bomb. Here we have the rare example of a movie that far overshadows its TV predecessor. Though, Police Squad! was just as brilliantly funny, in that same Airplane!-style sense of humor. The Leslie Nielsen comedy had only lasted a mere six episodes on ABC in 1982. Heck, they made half as many movies.
12. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
This certainly came as no surprise, seeing how David Lynch was an acclaimed art director. If anything, the TV show was more of a surprise than his eventual big-screen sequel. At the time, Fire Walk with Me was a commercial and critical failure — booed at film festivals, even. In hindsight, it's a crucial piece of Twin Peaks lore, especially after the events of Twin Peaks: The Return, which cast the film in a new light.
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