The Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment DVD Review: Laurence Luckinbill, Desk Jockey

Possibly beget as one of three bullets loaded in the chamber of a short-lived ABC wheel series The Men, where it revolved along with Assignment Vienna and Jigsaw, The Delphi Bureau starred Laurence Luckinbill – best known to old-school Star Trek fans as the least-effective big-screen villain ever, outranked only slightly by a certain Voyager spacecraft – as government agent Glenn Garth Gregory. Well, he’s kind of an agent. In fact, the Delphi Bureau has only one employee (guess who), but the department is so obscure that they don’t even have an office or phone number.

Nevertheless, Gregory, along with the help of his only arsenal – his faultless photographic memory – is determined to do the job, so long as it doesn’t involve danger, danger, danger, or danger. Well, as you can probably imagine, Gregory’s assignments always seem to lead him down that path – as the pilot’s subtitle should more than indicate. For his initial small-screen adventure, our hero – who is really nothing more than a wisecracking desk jockey continually sent out into the field, a premise I’m more than comfortable with – is asked by his DC society hostess superior (Celeste Holm, who was replaced for the series by actress Anne Jeffreys) to look into some missing army surplus weaponry.

The investigation leads him into a surplus of a different kind: a heaven or venerable television and b-movie favorites, including Dean Jagger, Cameron Mitchell (who gets to perform an assassination in a crowded airport while disguised as a cop in the telefilm’s opening), Bradford Dillman, David Sheiner (who is always a blast), Lucille Benson, Dub Taylor, Kevin Hagen, and temptress Joanna Pettet. Why, even Bob Crane is here – cast as the very man who asks brings the missing surplus weaponry up in the first place, and who is constantly making limericks (which leads to a disturbingly greater-than-life joke about what he does in the bedroom!) – a gimmick which was carried over into the actual series itself.

Our heroes at the Warner Archive have brought this gem – which is just as unknown today as the Delphi Bureau itself – to DVD-R in a very crisp presentation that preserves the original television exhibition of the program. A low-quality bootleg that has wandered from the hands of collectors over the years is said to be much longer, and the fact that we only get the pilot of the series here as opposed to the series itself (all of The Men would be a genuine hoot to see, to be perfectly frank) is a bit of a letdown. That said, however, this is an entertaining piece of ’70s TV non-history just the same. Luckinbill is in fine form as our reluctant hero, and the television-friendly (read: predictable) twists and turns and stellar supporting cast of old familiar faces make for grand good guffaws with Glenn Garth Gregory.

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Luigi Bastardo

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