Film producers tend to hit pay dirt when transforming classic TV shows into feature films. "Maverick" and "The Flintstones" are now burning up at the box office. And producers are already pinning their hopes on the big-screen "Mission: Impossible" and "Green Acres."
But mining the small screen for features is nothing new. The first was "Dragnet." No, not the 1987 Tom Hanks-Dan Aykroyd comedy. The cop series was actually a 1954 feature film, starring and directed by Jack Webb, who played deadpan Sgt. Joe Friday in the original 1952-59 cop series.
Other series similarly spun off movies while the shows were still on the air, among them: "Our Miss Brooks," which went to the big screen in 1956, its final year on CBS, with series regulars Eve Arden, Gale Gordon and Richard Crenna starring.
Not until 1983 did we first see the practice of taking a television series and redoing it from scratch, with big budgets, big directors and big stars. That's when four names of filmdom--Joe Dante, George Miller, Steven Spielberg and John Landis--lent their talents to the 1983 "Twilight Zone--the Movie." It featured new versions of classic vignettes from Rod Serling's 1959-65 CBS anthology series. Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers and John Lithgow starred.