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Two corpses are found in different locations with their heads severed and exchanged. Frank Janek is called on to head the team of detectives investigating. Meanwhile, Janek is trying to find out why an old friend and colleague committed suicide, which eventually leads to a romantic situation with photographer Caroline Wallace and the discovery of some major corruption among his superiors, all of which has little or nothing to do with the murder story. Written by
Eddi Sommer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Interesting Crime Drama Introduces Crenna As Janek
Double Take is the 1985 mini series shown over two nights by CBS, the first of 7 made for TV movies based on the novels of William Bayer revolving around his fictional NYPD Det Frank Janek. Emmy Winner Richard Crenna, who starred as Janek in all 7 films, is first introduced in the role here.
Two grisly stabbings in separate parts of the city, connected by one common trait (the victims heads were severed and switched), a crime so salacious the Police Chief Jim Hart (played by Lee Richardson) doesn't want the details leaked to the press. He does want Frank Janek on the case, one of the Department's top detectives, one who specializes in crimes with a strong psychological bent. Janek is chosen to head a special task force to solve the grisly murders, reluctantly taking on two local detectives, one of which has made several key mistakes in the preliminary investigation, alongside two detectives of his choosing. Cliff Gorman is introduced as Janek's partner Aaron Greenberg, a regular in the films, although his sarcastic wisecracks and flirtations with younger women that were trademarks of his appearances in follow up films are largely absent here, a more subdued Det Greenberg in this first outing.
Meanwhile Janek is dealing with the suicide of his good friend and mentor, suspicious of the circumstances surrounding his death and the last case he worked on which he never closed. It's here that Janek crosses paths with photographer Caroline Wallace (Beverly D'Angelo), who ends up as the recently divorced Janek's romantic interest, but also holds a key piece of the puzzle surrounding his mentor's death.
The first half focuses mostly on the murder investigation as Team Janek work through the personal lives of both victims, looking for where their paths may have crossed, while undoing some of the mistakes made by earlier Detectives that have hampered the initial investigation. The second half of the film centers more on Janek's own private investigation into his mentor's death, which leads him into a major inter department crime ring involving two high ranking officers and possibly involving a cop's murder. The original murder investigation is still ongoing in the second half however, Janek even sending Greenberg out of state following up on leads involving the most promising suspect. Meanwhile that suspect (who has killed before it's revealed) knows Janek is on to him, soon Janek & Wallace suspect they are both being stalked.
Finally solving the double homicide (and saving the next pair of intended victims) proves easier in the end than unraveling the final puzzle surrounding the police corruption case. Janek is forced to bend the rules a bit in order to leverage one dirty cop against another to solve the case of the murdered cop, finally closing the last case his mentor worked before his death. Wallace, who is tied to one of the victims in the police corruption case, initially doesn't want to be involved but in the end plays a key role in breaking that case open.
Despite it's length (3 hours since it was stretched over two nights) the movie moves at a fairly fast pace, neither case gets lost in favor of another, and Crenna & D'Angelo have a unique charisma and play well together. This film also delves into Janek's divorce, a running undercurrent in future films RE: his reluctance (and bad luck) to get involved in new romances. The good thing about the Janek films is that even though themes and characters are tied together through each film, individual movies don't rely on the viewer having knowledge of past films to be able to understand, they tend to be less serial and more "James Bond" like in that while some traits carry from film to film the individual movies do not require familiarity with predecessors to be enjoyed & understood. There are themes present in the sequels that clearly get their start here however as ardent fans will recognize. Overall, an enjoyable crime drama with just enough twists to keep you involved start to finish. One of Richard Crenna's better TV roles.
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