Opening with a car crash and a decapitation, the story is told in flashback as Jack and Doc become involved with a man who tells them that he will die in just such a manner in three days' ... See full summary »
Opening with a car crash and a decapitation, the story is told in flashback as Jack and Doc become involved with a man who tells them that he will die in just such a manner in three days' time. Of course there is a large amount of money involved, and also an Oriental cult, mysterious women, a peg-legged man, and many deaths. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
Mr. Kerrigan's brief outline should refer to "Jack - not Joe - and Doc" for Jack Packard & Doc Long played by Jim Bannon and Barton Yarborough. These characters were first introduced on an earlier Carleton E. Morse radio series as San Francisco private eyes in "Adventures by Morse". When he returned to the air after WWII, writer-producer Morse added their posh British thrill-seeking buddy, Reggie York (Tony Randall). Most of the female roles, whether good girl or bad, were performed by Mercedes McCambridge who often superbly juggled 2 or 3 different character voices on the 15-min weekday serial and later half-hr weekly program. See more »
[after narrating his bizarre story of confronting "Mr. G.," the leader of the Baru-Kan secret society, who offered him $50,000 for his head]
The whole thing sounds so preposterous!
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There's a good, exotic little mystery buried somewhere inside the jumbled screenplay and the deadly casting of the two leadsBannon and Yarborough. Bannon's career shows a competent action hero. Here, however, he brings down his scenes with a wooden style that's unfortunate, to say the least. Note that he doesn't even move his shoulders during his disguised piano playing. Ditto Yarborough's acting style, and whose Dixie accent is supposed to project, I guess, a folksy charm. Together, they're a zero at the heart of events. Maybe a better director could have gotten a livelier performance out of them-- I don't know. Nonetheless, if there's a single reason the series failed to catch on, I expect it's because of this central casting flaw.
Fortunately, there're a number of imaginative touches in the 60-minutes that almost redeem the flaws. That false face is truly chilling; the secret society and the missing head add real color; plus, the several plot twists are highly original and unforeseen (at least, by me). Too bad they're buried in a script that's really hard to follow with its many underdeveloped characters shuttling in and out of the meandering narrative.
It is a good chance, however, to catch two fine actors, MacReady and Foch, who would combine the following year in the cult classic My Name is Julia Ross (1945). Here, they're not at their best, but still worth watching. I'm just sorry this promising screenplay wasn't sent back for narrative improvements, and maybe a better director. Because the seeds of a first- rate mystery do show through.
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