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Catherine Mary Stewart,
Two New Yorkers are accused of murder in rural Alabama while on their way back to college, and one of their cousins--an inexperienced, loudmouth lawyer not accustomed to Southern rules and manners--comes in to defend them.
Fred Gwynne plays detective Jake Tekulve, a bow tie wearing erudite genius for solving murders who has to solve a series of seeming random killings with many taunting clues.
He is a bit of a snob who constantly corrects other people's grammar and drives around in a very ugly car (all that he can afford) which is actually a repainted taxi.
The plot has to do with a series of random murders in New York City by a killer who leaves poems as taunting clues, and it is up to the underpaid Jake to find a pattern to the crimes and catch the killer. All this, while he is at odds with the city for funds he doesn't have, and a crew of detectives whom he finds below him in terms of mental acuity.
We watch the puzzle unfold and go along with Jake as he quips and thinks his way methodically through the cases in order to catch the killer. For him, it is a chess game with a master.
Long before "Manhunter" and the Hannibal Lecter film series, there was this fascinating detective Jake Tekulve with his sharp intellect pursuing the more intellectual murderer.
Because of my addiction to detective films, particularly those with a quirky lead character, I had to tape this for my massive video collection when it originally ran on the network, and I do believe I got a gem of a film.
It has been a while since I'm viewed the film myself, but I do remember the crisp dialogue and methodical plotting that kept me riveted throughout, not to mention the excellent acting of the much underrated Fred Gwynne. Long before his role as the no-nonsense judge in "My Cousin Vinny," I knew him as a marvelous thespian and it is only a shame that this film, besides being relatively unknown, was not made into either a series for television or more films featuring the same great character.
Kudos go to the writer, Lane Slate, whose father I know as the owner of a successful chain of stationery stores here in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
It is that good.
You must see this movie. You won't regret it.
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