‘Hart to Hart: Till Death Do Us Hart’ (1996): Light, funny end to the Hart reunion films

Who knew the last Hart would be so amusing?

By Paul Mavis

I’m not a finisher. I like to leave things hanging. But people who sign my checks think otherwise, so at the final goading of my editor to complete, and I quote, “those goddamned Hart to Hart movie reviews, you [redacted] [redacted]!,” I dug out the final one, Hart to Hart: Till Death Do Us Hart, starring of course Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner (with a hilarious assist this time from George Hamilton), and knuckled down for one last reunion. And I’m glad I did.

And hey! Did you miss out on those spendy manufacture-on-demand DVDs of these reunion films that Sony released several years back? You’re in luck–Mill Creek Entertainment has released all eight Hart to Hart reunion movies in a new DVD collection at a price that even non-Harts can afford.

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Pedigreed Euro-trash sovereign Karl Von Ostenberg (George Hamilton) has a royal scam going: he is the executor of the Donner family fortune. Von Ostenberg has blackmailed Simone (Stefanie Powers, in a dual role) to marry Dr. Peter Donner (Dwight Schultz), who will come into millions when he is finally hitched. Once that happens, Von Ostenberg will have Simone off the doc, and off he’ll go with all that loot. Aiding him in his scheme is beautiful, deadly Elsa Hellerstadt (Katja Reimann).

Hart to Hart Till Death Do Us Hart 08

Hart to Hart Till Death Do Us Hart 02

Enter the Harts. Jonathan (Robert Wagner) is accompanying Jennifer (Stefanie Powers) to Munich, Germany, where she is a bone marrow match for ill child, Maximilian (Lukas Langen). When Simone balks at helping Karl with his plans, she’s kidnapped. All fiance Peter Donner knows is that she’s missing, so Jennifer agrees to step in for her at Peter’s big ball…since she’s the splitting image of Simone. Jennifer isn’t the only one who gets to play pretend; Jonathan also gets in on the act, impersonating a crass, crude Texas oilman. You can see how this all is going to shake out….

Hart to Hart Till Death Do Us Hart 03

As far as I’m concerned, Till Death Do Us Hart gets an automatic “A” just for having George Hamilton resurrect his ridiculous Love at First Bite accent, in the opening scene. In fact, just having the talented, hysterical Hamilton around for the final Hart to Hart reunion movie gives this one an enthusiastic “pass” from me. A skilled actor who doesn’t care if he hams it up in questionable material (which is why he’s never taken seriously by the critics), Hamilton is perfectly cast here as a ridiculously smarmy villain who fits right in with the storyline’s fairy tale feel.

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Till Death Do Us Hart begins with Hamilton and Katja Reimann engaged in a comically over-the-top saber duel (complete with fun, silly sexual innuendo), one that sets the tone of this swashbuckling, fluffy, almost Ruritanian piffle. The addition of Stefanie Powers in a dual role only further emphasizes the Prisoner of Zenda vibe, complete with spooky castles, secret passageways, and balloon rides over dizzying Bavarian mountains. Die-hard Hart to Hart fans may object to the lack of even the semblance of a mystery in Till Death Do Us Hart, but after watching the previous seven reunion movies, this spoof seemed a pitch-perfect way to wind things up: without a care in the world.

Hart to Hart Till Death Do Us Hart 05

Hart to Hart Till Death Do Us Hart 06

Powers is a delight (as always), particularly when she’s trying to explain to Wagner how she almost got mugged by Hamilton’s thugs (by the way, the old man and the nun beating on the hoods? Priceless). Wagner is shown to good advantage, too, in his “dual” role, getting big laughs as the loud, obnoxious Texas oil man (“Prost” Hamilton cheers, to which an oblivious Wagner responds, “Whatever…”). The jokey script, from TV vets Bill Froehlich and Mark Lisson, give Wagner plenty of opportunities for his dry, witty line readings (when Freeway proves an adept co-pilot for Jonathan’s jet, he deadpans, “Not bad…if you had thumbs, I’d let you land it,”).

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Till Death Do Us Hart’s only sour note is the entire “dying child” subplot, which is maudlin and clunky in an otherwise swiftly-moving farce (director Tom Mankiewicz, a screenwriter of humorous note—Diamonds are Forever and Live and Let Die—slows down to a crawl with these gunky scenes). And seriously: ditch the dog. When Freeway has an adventure in the park, complete with that plinky plinky music, I headed right for the can (his inclusion must have been a Family Channel requirement). Those are small complaints, though, because most of Till Death Do Us Hart is light and funny, especially any time George Hamilton shows up to sneer in a tight close-up…or filch Wagner’s tip at a restaurant. Overall, Till Death Do Us Hart closes out the Hart to Hart reunion movies on an up note, which is no small feat after seven outings. Now if we could only get them to do one more….

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4 thoughts on “‘Hart to Hart: Till Death Do Us Hart’ (1996): Light, funny end to the Hart reunion films”

  1. I agree with your assessment of Hamilton. He is a very underrated comic actor. Everything he’s ever been in has been hilarious, and even when he’s taken on a serious role, like The Godfather III, he is still at the top of his game. Thanks for this review! I always enjoyed Hart to Hart and this brings back memories.

    Liked by 3 people

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