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One of those NBC-TV "World Premiere" movies that also served as the pilot for a series. Richard Widmark plays Brock, a weary N.Y.C. detective who retires to a farm in California where he hopes to grow oranges, but, wouldn't you know it?, he finds crime there, too. Widmark is good, as always, as is Henry Darrow, whom the tough former cop assists when he is framed for murder, but the best moments are at the beginning when Widmark is still on the Manhattan beat, finding the average law-abiding citizen as disagreeable as the criminals. It's little wonder that when Widmark did enter the TV series sweepstakes, it was as "Madigan," the N.Y.C. detective he had memorably played several years earlier in a Universal theatrical film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Spoiler Warning!" This movie was filmed in the City of Coachella and the Coachella Police Department was used as back prop. Les O'Neil was COP, and I was one of the escorting officers during the making of the movie and can say that Mr. Widmark was total professional during the entire time. I enjoyed watching him work, along with Henry Darrow and Mike Burns, who showed quite a bit of interest in the operations of the police department. During the making of the movie, I took approximately 100-150 pictures and it does bring back memories. One of the best was the court room with Dub Taylor and Beth Brickell, when she shot the arrow into the picture of Dub Taylor over the entrance into the court. My wife and I sat in the courtroom when that was done. I had that picture up until a couple of years ago, when it finally came apart and I had to throw it away. All the cast and crew members were fun to work with and were professionals.
This film was recently aired on Channel 5.It is at its best when it is based in New York.Although there is the usual fun when a city dweller goes to the country it starts to run rapidly downhill at this time.The action sequences are to my mind tedious and seem to go on for eternity without really reaching any climax.By the time this film reaches its finale one simply does not care about who is the culprit and his motives.The one thing that shines out of this film is Widmarks professionalism and sheer durability.He was always a favourite of mine.It is a shame that he is now retired and so we have no more Richard Widmark films to look forward to.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Is it the old times ? Is it your certainty that there'll be no nudity,
profanity or violence ? Is it the uncomplicated nature of the whole
thing where the end must be happy and the good guys must win ? Is it
(Richard Widmark) as a memory from the good old 1950s, or as a symbol
of the noble lead who just doesn't do nudity, profanity or violence ?!
Or is it just (Widmark)'s good face ? Is it the nostalgia for a safer
place in time where shows like this you have watched several times as a
kid in your bed before sleep without much worries ? I think it's a
combination of all of the above.
The writers (Martin Donaldson) and (Alex Gordongood) created a lovely formula : the private eye meets the western. Their script is a bit nice. I loved the idea of turning the retirement of that old investigator who wants to be a farmer into unbroken investigations and a tormenting farming. The characters around him were interesting whether as suspects for the whodunit plot or as parts for the world of the never-made series that this was a pilot for. Loved Pat Morita's as Japanese restaurant's owner who can't make Japanese dishes and serves nothing but Japanese canned foods. The scene of the cell, where the Indian assistant was kept, was so serene; its detailing caught me. The way the heroine proved her point in the court is unforgettable. And the last scene is a delight, with the lead looking to the sunset from the porch of the house which was being built by his new neighbors / friends / family.
On the other hand, the direction was slack. The action scenes were almost terrible (recall the fight between the killer and the young cop). And the rest didn't impress me at all. I hated the moment in which the Indian knew about the murder of his love, director (David Lowell Rich) didn't do a thing there, not even a sad harmonica in the background ! Despite how brisk (Widmark) seems for a 59 year old man, he wasn't at his finest hour. I believe the negative reception for that, as a pilot, came from the totally indifference performance he gave as Brock. Look at the scene of viewing the house for the first time, he should be shocked in a comic way, however he gave one unchangeable cold reaction. The thing is he paused that reaction till the end of the movie. So his supposedly funny moments went wrong with that dry dealing (the one-liner about lawyers after catching the killer near the lake as BIG instance). He didn't change it unless when he smiled, for the one and only time, in the car before the last scene !
At any case it does leave me hungry for more. Along side the formula this movie had potential to launch a comic cop drama; which could have had some singularity among the many crime-solvers shows back in the 1970s. But I was wondering about the title ? Why every episode has to be Brock's Last Case ?! Bad title and omen, noticing that this one was his first and last already !
It's a feel good movie from the American TV in a time maybe all of its products were of the same kind. Its feel of coziness is unmistakable; by its end I was as comfortable as Brock in the finale. I miss that feel. So I search for these movies all over the channels every night to meet one rarely every year, and always aired before the dawn. My only consolation is that no commercials to interrupt whatsoever. The sponsors think these are old news Great news for me though !
In the early 1970s, TV wanted Richard Widmark and "Brock's Last Case"
was a made for TV movie that might have become a TV series. However, it
wasn't received so well by the powers that be and instead they gave the
green light to a different Widmark show, a TV version of "Madigan". I
have never seen the TV version of "Madigan" but movie-wise, the
original "Madigan" is much better than "Brock's Last Case"...so I can
see why they made the choice they made.
When the film begins, Brock (Widmark) is working on his final case for the NYPD. He's had enough and is retiring to an orange ranch he bought some time ago. However, apparently Brock is a total moron and never visited the place and just assumed it was peachy...which it wasn't. Instead it's a dump and Brock knows nothing about orange growing. However, soon his focus is on a murder--and the local police would love to have Brock's help...and so would Brock's supervisor at the ranch, as he's the accused killer.
The film is just okay. Part of the problem was using arrows to kill people--it just seems silly. The rest is that the killer was some fat old guy who was about as scary as the Pillsbury Doughboy. Not brilliant but passable entertainment only.
I first saw this one back in the early 90's when it showed up on
midweek daytime TV here in the UK. I remembered it being an enjoyable
enough, if unremarkable, effort. Having just seen it again I do have to
say that that original assessment still holds. Brock is a burnt-out NYC
cop who retires from life in the firing line of the Big Apple and
retires to a ranch in the Californian countryside. On arrival, his
Native American ranch hand is arrested for the murder of the local
sheriff. The situation appears fishy though and before long Brock is
recruited to investigate.
This is one of a very specific type of TV movie which was a pilot for a series that never was. I can see why they thought they might have a workable idea to be honest, as detective dramas were ten-a-penny back in the 70's, while the whole fish-out-of-water idea is one in which many plot-lines can sprout from. Yet it remained a one-off film and was not picked up. Truthfully, they could have worked out a better story-line I reckon, as the central mystery is not especially interesting. Nevertheless, it's still a decent enough film which benefits from its TV movie charm and, in Richard Widmark, it had a good main star.
Richard Widmark stars as a New York City detective who is not happy
with the new trends in law enforcement, things like Miranda you know.
Also citizens aren't showing the same kind of respect for police as
they used to. This last arrest he swears will be Brock's Last Case as
he retires to an orange grove in southern California that he put money
As it turns out though Widmark's professional expertise is needed because the sheriff was murdered and the man looking good for it is Henry Darrow the American Indian who has been looking after Widmark's orange grove and not too successfully I might add. The acting sheriff is young Michael Burns and he needs all the help he can get.
In this sleepy town in which folks like Will Geer and John Anderson are trying to get a real estate boom started Darrow and his tribe aren't very popular. A lot of people would see it most convenient if he was guilty. Darrow looks good because the sheriff and two more people are killed during the course of the film with his arrows.
Brock's Last Case might have been a good television series, but it was never picked up. With the cast list I wonder how it could not have been. I did like Beth Brickell who was a neighboring rancher and an attorney who has ACLU instincts. She would have been law and order cop Widmark's romantic interest and professional rival.
Widmark did do a series based on Madigan one of his best films, but the series wasn't a patch on the Don Siegel classic.
Brock's Last Case though is not in Madigan the movie's league, but still pleasant viewing.
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