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5 Surprising Influences on THE A-TEAM

Prep forTHE A-TEAM

By Rob Worley     June 11, 2010

5 Surprising Influences on THE A-TEAM
© Mania/Bob Trate


"I love it when a plan comes together."
What Maniac among us hasn't uttered that phrase in a moment of triumph? Indeed, that famous catch-phrase of Colonel Hannibal Smith will be reintroduced to audiences as an all new A-Team comes together in theaters this Friday.
But if you're wondering where "The A-Team" came from you might want to check out these movies first:

5. The Road Warrior

The second in director George Miller and actor Mel Gibson's Mad Max cycle, this movie is a grungy, post-apocalyptic outback version of the classic western Shane. Gibson plays the titular warrior, who specializes in modifying vehicles for the post-apocalyptic outback and then deriving them into combat on the open highway.
B.A. Baracus is in some ways Mad Max, a road warrior who babies his van, welds on new attachments to suit each episode's mission and drives the A-Team into battle.

4. The Dirty Dozen

This 1967 film stars Lee Marvin as the leader of an off-the-books military squad made up of criminals serving life sentences and/or awaiting execution. They're given top secret missions by the government that nobody else can execute. Marvin's Major John Reisman is a master strategist and born leader who has to corral the wildly diverse temperaments of his men to keep them on mission.
Colonel Hannibal Smith is surely a close cousin to Major Reisman. In addition to a physical resemblance, he too has to manage the quirky personalities of quarter-dozen (who are also considered criminals). And we all know Hannibal can lay down a plan!

3. Mission: Impossible (The TV Series)

This show was famous for its many iconic beats ("this tape will self-destruct"). It featured Peter Graves as the silver-haired leader of an elite group of spies who specialized in operations whose outcomes were so unlikely the team actually had the option of not taking it on. They frequently employed misdirection and facial prosthetics as disguises.
Once again the influences are obvious. Hannibal is a master of disguise, just as IMF agent Roland Hand was. Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck is a consummate scam-artist who employed misdirection on a small scale to get whatever goods the team needed. And the team specializes in impossible missions!

2. Hill Street Blues

Well, Hill Street Blues is one of the most acclaimed TV series of all time. It stretched the boundaries of what a TV drama could be and scored nearly 100 Emmy nominations during its run. So what could this possibly have to do with the ultra-schlocky A-Team?
One word: Belker. One of the most compelling characters on the show Belker was a detective whose wildly unpredictable (perhaps crazy) behavior made him the perfect undercover cop to have on the streets.
Belker is a clear predecessor to Captain H.M. Howling Mad Murdock, the crazy, unpredictable pilot.

1. The Magnificent Seven / The Seven Samurai

Akira Kurasawa's The Seven Samurai spawned the 1960 American film The Magnificent Seven. Both movies feature a band of warriors, hired by humble villagers to protect them from bands of brigands.
As such, The A-Team is an obvious derivation. As the intro narration told use each and every week, "they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team."

The A-Team

Do comparisons between The A-Team and the aforementioned films and TV shows seem like a stretch? Check out this comment from series creator Stephen J. Cannell made to Broadcasting & Cable magazine. It talks about how NBC Chief Brandon Tartikoff presented his initial vision of the show:
“Brandon's pitch was very strange,” Cannell told B&C. “He said, 'Have you seen The Road Warrior with Mel Gibson?' I said yeah, Mad Max. He said, 'Yeah, but the idea, it's not that. Have you seen The Dirty Dozen?' I said, yeah, Lee Marvin. 'Well, it's kinda that, but, like Road Warrior, it's kinda not that.' And he said, 'You know that guy Belker on Hill Street Blues?' I said, yeah, the cop that bites everybody at the booking desk? He said, 'Yeah, he could be in this show. And you remember Mr. T from the Rocky movie?' And I said yeah. And Brandon said, 'Well, he drives the car.' And that was the pitch.”
Fresh off the presses, check out A-Team Movie Review.
If you as a human being,need more reason to see the A-Team, then check out 4 Minutes of The A-Team.
The Movie Maven let her opinion be known about The A-Team, check it out HERE

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marcd30319 6/11/2010 3:46:05 AM

Another influence was Doc Savage and his team.

phantomx69 6/11/2010 5:11:57 AM

i would say more like the avenger and his team...

ChadDerdowski 6/11/2010 5:24:16 AM

Interesting.  I've always seen the A-Team as sort of a "television grindhouse" reminiscent of movies like Rolling Thunder, Walking Tall and the original Inglorious Bastards or Kelly's Heroes (which was basically a rip off of the Dirty Dozen) but with a humorous edge.  Obviously all of the influences listed make perfect sense as well.  Doc Savage?  It seems like a stretch, but I get where you're coming from.  Looking forward to seeing this movie! 

asromatifoso 6/11/2010 7:44:25 AM

The real influence for the A Team, I believe, is a little known novel, The Specialists, by mystery writer Lawrence Block, published in the late 60s.  One of his daughters is a friend of mine and I have read most of his books.  The Specialists is about a group of Vietnam vets who take down criminal organizations for money.  It is a violent book and the characters are not at all nice people.  I think the premise was "TV-ized,", hence the wisecracks, and PG-rated violence of the series.  I haven't read the book or seen the tv show in years but am looking forward to seeing the movie this weekend.

Muenster 6/11/2010 6:23:13 PM

The closest you got to a usable analogy was the ronin aspect of the seven samurai. Nice try though.

madmanic999 6/12/2010 9:16:32 AM

This article is reeeeeeealy reaching


ChadDerdowski 6/13/2010 1:35:12 PM

asromatifoso - Thank you for the recommendation.  I'm going to check out The Specialists!

Muenster and madmaniac999 - Way to totally skip the last paragraph, guys.  Try reading instead of skimming.



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